I didn’t even realize that I was pregnant until I missed my period a second time, having never really had regular periods. I had no one to talk to. I took myself to a Planned Parenthood 5 towns and 3 bus rides away to take a pregnancy test and to discuss options. I was alone, scared, and way too tough to admit it. I ended up getting an abortion at 12 weeks, after working hard to raise the $450 I needed to go to a clinic, and taking many, many buses to doctors in towns far, far away.

This story could begin with the guy who impregnated me. I was young, I was naive, and I just wanted to be loved. I had run away from home to spend time with him that summer, and as we approached late August, reality was setting in — I needed to go home, and maintain an A average during junior year of high school so that I could get into a good college. Truth be told, for all my tough girl rebellion, I was also a perfectionist overachiever who wanted to lead a responsible life. This guy saw me pulling away, returning to high school life, and he needed to do something to keep me bound to him. So he convinced me to have unprotected sex. I remember thinking, “It’s not going to happen the first time.”

But should this story really begin with him? Or should it begin with why I ended up with this guy in the first place? I was 16, I desperately wanted a boyfriend, preferably one with a car who could sweep me off of my feet and take me away from the immature and uncool world of suburban high school. So I ended up with this horrible person – he was a drug-dealing tattoo artist who couldn’t pay his electricity bill. I had no self-worth, no sense of healthy boundaries, and no understanding of love. I was an easy target for his manipulations.

Where was my self-worth? Where was my understanding of what love was supposed to look like? Maybe this story should begin there. I could write a memoir blaming my mom, but I’ll leave that for another story. Honestly, for all her unloving ways, I’ve actually come to have empathy for her, after 20 years of therapy. She grew up in an extremely abusive household, had a physically abusive drunk for a father, and never learned to love herself. She didn’t know how to communicate love, tenderness, positive reinforcement, healthy boundaries, or any of that. She shut herself off a long time ago.

So maybe this story begins with my grandfather. The abusive alcoholic that beat my grandmother and their daughters. Maybe he was a product of abuse, or maybe he was the product of a society that condoned this type of behavior. Maybe this story begins somewhere else.

The story does not begin or end with me. When I woke up alone in an abortion clinic when I was 16, screaming in pain, not knowing where I was going to spend the rest of the day because I couldn’t go home, all I knew was how to put one foot in front of the other. I made the choice to terminate that pregnancy because I was not ready to have a child. I was not emotionally mature, I was in an abusive relationship, and the cycle would have just continued. So, I went back to Trigonometry, graduated with that A average, went to college, and got away from that guy. Over the next 20 years, I learned to love myself and to set healthy boundaries. Now that I’m almost 40, I’m having my first child. I’ve been in an incredibly loving and supportive relationship for nine years, and married to that amazing man for five. I also have a beautiful career and have helped thousands of children over the last 20 years. There was no other way, this was the path that was meant for me.