At the age of 17, I received my high school diploma, rented my first apartment, and met a young man I would soon marry.
One thing I knew for sure was that I did not want to become a single mother, so when we started having sex, marriage followed closely behind. My Catholic high school had offered sex education which consisted of the nuns repeatedly telling us that if you have sex, you will get pregnant. The nuns were right.
We were married on New Year’s Day 1971 in Joplin, Missouri. In spite of our faithful use of condoms and withdrawal, we conceived a child near the end of February. The due date would have come not quite halfway through my husband’s senior year of college, and he strenuously objected and said he would leave me if I had the baby. I didn’t want a baby, either — we certainly hadn’t planned it! Adoption was out — we knew our families would never allow it.
We tried all kinds of things to make me miscarry — doing hundreds of sit ups, pushing our full-sized cars around the block, taking pills with arsenic in them, etc. Nothing worked. I even contemplated suicide.
I was 18 and naïve, but my husband was 20 and already wise in the ways of the world. Since abortion was illegal in the state of Missouri, he took me to a local coffee house to ask what could be done. The folks there told us where we could go in Kansas City to get a reduced rate of $200 for full-time college students facing unplanned pregnancies. Since my husband was a full-time student and I was supporting him, we were able to get the reduced rate. Parental permission was required for those who were not yet 21 — but because I was married and my husband would be 21 years in a couple of months, I was not required to approach my pro-life parents.
The folks at the clinic were wonderful. I was warned that the doctor who performed the procedure would refuse to proceed if the patient started to cry. To prevent that from happening, I laughed and joked a bit, which I’m sure he thought was strange. At one point, he stopped and talked to the attending nurse — it was nerve wracking. I had the procedure without any anesthetic because I was driving — my husband didn’t drive in city traffic, but he did go with me.
We got a divorce a year or so later, but I’m glad I was married at the time or my life would have been much different. I have never regretted my decision — many young women were not as fortunate. For the next 20 years, I lived in abject fear of becoming pregnant. For more than 10 of those years, I was married to a man who said he wanted children — I, on the other hand, had decided I did not. When I was in my late 30s, I finally had my tubes tied.
Over the years, I’ve been amazed to learn how many of my friends have had similar experiences — once I break down and tell them about my experience, they often come back with a similar story of their own.