This is a piece written for us by a member of the infertility, loss, and adoption community.
Due to the nature of the subject matter, she wishes to remain anonymous.
My husband didn’t know about the elective abortion I had 20 years earlier until I started to miscarry. We had been together a year and it just wasn’t one of those topics that comes up in casual conversation. Since it was so long ago, it really wasn’t on my mind as much anymore. On December 23rd, and my husband and I found ourselves in an emergency room going over my pregnancy history. I was supposed to be 9 weeks along.
How many pregnancies have you had? “This is my second.” How many living children do you have? “None.” What happened to the first pregnancy? “I had an elective abortion, in 1995.”
I looked tentatively at my husband. Shame and fear on my face and in my heart. He didn’t care. He was living in the now, worried about the future.
When we went back for extreme pain and further bleeding the following night, it was determined I had a missed miscarriage. I distinctly remember falling while we were hiking the day before I took the pregnancy test. I always hear, “Don’t blame yourself, there was no way you could have known.” But I did. I knew in my heart I had lost whatever started growing in my body, but my body didn’t know it yet.
From that moment on, I started to play the mind games that tend to arise… Was I currently being punished for the choices I made 20 years prior? Was that the only child I would be able to have?
I had the abortion when I was 20. I had just transferred from a community college to a four-year university. I was taking Organic Chemistry for the first time. I was on birth control, but must have missed a dose. I considered myself responsible enough to have sex and was doing my best to prevent it, but we didn’t. The father was going to a different college; we weren’t really together anymore, but had a long history. Things were complicated. I told him about the positive pregnancy test and he automatically offered to help pay for the abortion. There was no discussion of keeping what we had together, in any form. I knew this was the right decision, despite the fact that there was a part of me that somehow hoped the situation could be different.
I was mortified to tell her, but my mom always made it very clear that I could tell her anything. I drove home from college that weekend and sat around the table with my sister, my stepfather, and my mom and told them. I needed the support and I always considered myself lucky to be supported when I needed it the most. I saw my future: I wouldn’t graduate from college, I would need to live at home, I would be a single mother. I imagined resenting a baby that the father didn’t want. I was young. I wasn’t ready to be a mother. I would have been accused of freeloading off the government from the same people who would shout so loudly for me to keep a fetus that would become a baby I couldn’t afford. In that moment, the mass of cells was important to me, but I knew nothing about it and I determined that I was more important, the life I was already living was more important. Following through with the pregnancy would have meant postponing college. I wouldn’t have been able to let someone else adopt my baby once it became a viable life. I felt that I only had one choice, and I was—and continue to be—thankful that I had a choice to control a situation that would have had such a profound effect on my future.
Even as I started to deal with infertility, I never doubted my decision. The person I was, pre-infertility and pre-marriage, taught hundreds of young adults and helped shape the future in a positive way, and took care of a sick and dying relative with the knowledge acquired in the life I chose. I don’t believe it is fair to punish women for not being perfect, for making mistakes, for facing a decision that no woman makes lightly—but I do believe it is a choice unique to each person’s individual situation. No one else was going to have to deal with the consequences of my decision to have an abortion, except for me. My abortion wasn’t the reason I struggled with infertility—it was fibroids and my age, mostly—with waiting to find the right partner, to raise children in circumstances with which I was comfortable.
Now that I have my children, I always want to make sure that they know they can talk to me about anything, the way I could with my mom. I will always provide them with a safe space in which to discuss whatever choices they need to make in their lives. While I will do everything to educate them to avoid making a similar decision as I did, I want them to have the same choices to make whatever decision is best for them. Only they can decide that.