I was scared, becoming a mother just after a breakup was not in my plan. Finding myself, seeing the world, applying to graduate school all seemed instantly tenuous and hazy. I had always wanted a child, and had always wanted to give her the loving mother I never had growing up. My own mother had left my sister and I with scores of memories of being strangled, being thrown into walls, being beaten with chairs and attacked with scissors. There was no reliable hot water, electricity or food and we watched her beauty, spirit and mind disintegrate into oblivion as her drug addiction, her alcoholism and her schizoaffective psychosis overtook her. We were exposed to a dark life of prostitution, violence and chaos. But neither of us wanted that to color our futures. My sister had an abortion before me out of fear that she wouldn’t have been able to deliver the perfect childhood and it had haunted her with depression and remorse for years. I hated her boyfriend for putting her through that.
I never thought it would happen to me. My ex was a doctor, he wrote my birth control prescriptions but was too lazy to write another one when my packs ran out. I asked and he procrastinated, knowing full well the gamble we were playing at. Our relationship was passionate but pointless. He came from a different culture and religion and his family never accepted me, and he was unable to make a decision either way and I finally left for my own health and happiness. There had been tears and messages stating that he loved me, that he hated the circumstances, that there would always be regret and sorrow for losing me. I believed him. I thought I was saying goodbye to a true love for reasons out of my control.
When he pressured me to have an abortion, it was tragedy and shock. I felt I had been conned. I wanted to have the baby on my own and was putting my foot down. But the threats and the pleas didn’t let up over the next few weeks. He would threaten to make child support a nightmare, knowing that a decent lawyer was out of my financial grasp. He would tell me that I would be a terrible single mother, having had my abusive childhood. He would then turn around to threaten having the child taken away from me, then go back to stating a refusal to acknowledge either of us. He would point out that no man would have taken me with a kid in tow, that I would be destined for poverty, that he didn’t love me and that I was cruel and selfish for forcing such an unhappy beginning onto a child’s life. He went as far as accusing me of having planned the whole thing to trap him into marriage and that I was getting in the way of his plan to be a better Muslim. I couldn’t get out of bed, I tried shopping for baby furniture and prenatal books and went to my first OBGYN appointment and sat in the free clinic with other abandoned mothers. I caved. He paid for the abortion pill, and didn’t look at me the whole time. He had promised to stay while the pregnancy ended the following day but he reneged on that as well and left me to bleed and sob and grieve like I have never experienced before. For a few days, I couldn’t get out of bed, I had to crawl because I was so heartbroken that having the energy to stand was impossible. I drank to forget. While I was going through this, my friends stayed close to my ex and I lost all connection to the world I had known for years before my life went to pieces.
Then I let anger guide me. I started running every morning, lifted weights, studied for the GRE, aced a postbacc class and got ready for a job in another country. The guilt haunted me every day, but I pushed it to the back of my mind. It has taken me a couple years to cope, but I know that I’m building the future I initially wanted for myself and my future family. I’ve even started to love and trust someone again. Of course this person who caused so much damage in my life tried to come back into it. He told me he had sex with tens of women in the hospital and the town I left behind. He told me he wanted the baby and didn’t know how to handle it. He never thought to apologize without me telling him that contrition was all I ever thought I needed from him. But life rarely delivers on what we think we deserve. I wish it had never happened, the guilt is still there, the pain over the deception is still there too. Even if I did not want an abortion and felt coerced into having one, I’m grateful every day that it is legal and safe where I was in the United States. I have a second chance to be with a loving husband and father, and to give my future child the world.
I hope my story can help other women out there know that they have every choice they want for themselves. I hope it humanizes the women who have had an abortion, as there are so many who find it immoral and solely the fault of the women facing pregnancy in less than ideal circumstances. Not every man wants or is fit to be a father, and that is rarely discussed. I also hope that telling this story brings peace, because not every story is straightforward or easy to understand and the secrecy and stigma do little to help us navigate all the emotions that come afterwards.