My son’s birth story begins with my abortion.
After working in reproductive and sexual health care for over five years, I was a walking contraception encyclopedia, but after trying almost every form of birth control on the market, I knew that the more effective forms of hormonal birth control were not for me. I had successfully evaded pregnancy with a combination of condoms, withdrawal and fertility awareness. However, a whim of passion and attraction had overpowered those methods and with just one mistake, I was pregnant.
I knew I was pregnant within days of conceiving. First, I became lightheaded and had recurring dreams that I had a daughter. Then, my breasts grew tender and I was nauseous on and off, all day long. A dollar store pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions, but for a few days, I kept the news to myself.
My boyfriend was torn. In his own life, pregnancy had always been celebrated and welcomed as a gift. He felt that love was the only necessary condition for parenting. I sat on the opposite side of our decision-making spectrum.
I was on the verge of completing an expensive graduate program, modestly employed by my local Planned Parenthood and barely making ends meet, but truly, my resolve was based on a certainty far deeper than logic. There was not a single doubt in my mind that my pregnancy was due to be aborted. I loved my boyfriend but when I searched my heart, there was no love for the new life inside me.
For years, I had been a dedicated abortion activist. Beyond pro-choice, I felt that abortion was an ancient remedy to a typical condition among women. I considered myself pro-abortion, knowing first-hand that it helped women. To me it was simple, some pregnancies became babies and some did not. In my life and in my profession, I was committed to helping women who did not want babies obtain safe abortions from skilled, compassionate providers.
While I agreed with many of my colleagues, that sharing stories was a necessary part of normalizing a common procedure, I also knew from working with patients, that not every woman is equipped or ready to speak out. Of course, I often mused, if I ever had an abortion, I would shout it from a mountaintop.
My real life put my words in their place. Aside from a few good friends, I told no one. To be clear, I was not ashamed of my abortion, but once I was experiencing the pregnancy and process, sharing that story felt too complicated.
For example, I became pregnant just two months after my sister announced that she was pregnant and planning to have her first child and just one month before my brother planned to marry. Prior to my surprise pregnancy, I had relied on the support of my parents and siblings for every dilemma under the sun, including a decade-long, all-consuming eating disorder and the trauma of living just blocks from the World Trade Center during 9/11. As topics of conversation focused on my brother’s wedding and my sister’s pregnancy, I saw my crisis as an opportunity to remain stoic and allow my family the chance to enjoy a few milestones without worrying about me for a change.
Staying silent was never easy. I still recall sobbing on my kitchen floor the night before my abortion. I had opted to have a surgical abortion but that entailed waiting until I was six weeks pregnant. In the meantime, I entertained several self-abortive strategies from acupuncture to yoga, herbs to diet, meditation to exercise. Yet, the pregnancy persisted beyond every attempt and my symptoms swelled. In the days leading up to my abortion, I developed a particular respect for my pregnancy’s unwavering capacity to overwhelm me and even began to wonder if I was stopping something meant to last. As I sobbed on my kitchen floor, I longed to hear my mom’s voice. I was keenly aware that her support would instantly diminish my questions. Still, my desire to spare her my misery prevailed.
I had the abortion on a Saturday. I took the day off from work and traveled to a sister clinic on my own. My boyfriend and a number of good friends asked to accompany me but I decided to go alone so I could focus on myself. It was simple and painful yet bearable. “Uneventful procedure,” the doctor noted.
The months that followed solidified my decision in ways that the days prior to my abortion could not. I completed my graduate program. I enjoyed my brother’s wedding and marveled at my sister’s growing belly while feeling no comparative regret over my pregnancy loss. My boyfriend and I moved-in together. But it was not that simple. Despite my own resolve, I continued to wonder.
I felt that I had invited a certain level of destruction into my life. My once perfect cycle was erratic and unpredictable. In addition, it seemed there was a lingering spiritual hurdle I was struggling to overcome. I left my job at Planned Parenthood. Despite going into serious debt to obtain my graduate degree, I still had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I broke my foot after falling over a footbridge on my bike.
The feeling of catastrophe persisted until my boyfriend and I went camping in the middle of nowhere just four months after my abortion. We soaked in a spring on the side of the mountain and made love under the stars. Quietly, I wished to be pregnant, and I knew within hours that my son was on his way.
He was born on a Saturday.
For several years, I have fallen into a rhythm of full-time care-giving that has often felt at odds with my former radical self. While I know that abortion is a beautiful, even triumphant fact of life, I have felt indifferent to the brilliant movements that have risen in the wake of my son’s birth. Having lived in one liberal community after another, I have been telling myself (knowing deep down that I am misguided) that we live in a post-anti-abortion world. Sex is everywhere. Abortion is a fact of life. Everyone knows this!
Recently, I moved to Ohio so my son could live closer to family. This past December, the governor signed a 20-week abortion ban. “How dare he?” I questioned. How dare I stop fighting for my rights? I realized.
The time for my comfortable silence has passed. I no longer live in the mountains, but I am ready to shout my abortion from this standpoint.
I no longer wish to keep this wonderful secret. My abortion gave birth to my child.