When I was 20, I was on a lot of drugs. I was a college dropout. I took hallucinogens weekly, smoked marijuana every day, did a lot of coke, and occasionally, heroin. I was also an alcoholic, drinking up to eighteen beers per day. I’d had a hard childhood, and I was trying my very best to forget about it. I had an irregular menstrual cycle, so I didn’t know that I was pregnant until I was almost three months along. I was throwing up, and couldn’t hold down my beers. I thought maybe I’d already damaged my liver so badly I couldn’t drink anymore. I was making macaroni and cheese one night for dinner, and the smell of it made me sick. I remembered my older sister saying that foods she’d liked did the same to her when she was pregnant with my nephews. I didn’t think much about it, but did a test anyway. I was pregnant. On all four tests I took. I was horrified. I knew who the father was, but I wasn’t with him. All I could think of was how I was way too messed up to be a mother, and how I’d already harmed that creature growing in me, and how it would be a tragedy to try to bring it into the world and care for it with no money, no father, and an addict for a mother.
My family was Catholic, and as far as I knew my father would disown me if I told him, but my mother, who was also devout, was a little different. She’d told me once when I was younger about how before I was born, they’d had a nanny for my older sister and brother. The nanny fell in love with a man who got her pregnant. They were married, but afterwards, he started beating her, and said she’d have to move to Iran and live with his family. She was terrified and asked my parents for help. They lived in France, which at the time did not allow abortions. My mom told me she drove the nanny to Belgium to terminate her pregnancy, and that the situation taught her that while her upbringing said abortion was wrong, there are real women who need that option, and that she no longer thought it was.
So, when the guy who got me pregnant wouldn’t return my calls, I called my mother. She didn’t know I was an addict, but she knew I was too young. She gave me the money for Planned Parenthood.
I couldn’t go for a week. I had to bring someone with me, so I got one of my closest friends to accompany me. We went to Washington DC, because their office had walk-ins that day of the week when we could go – I think a Wednesday. They did an ultrasound to determine how far along I was. I knew I was fifteen weeks, because I’d only had sex once that year, and it was the time I got pregnant. For some reason, they didn’t seem to think I was past the three-month mark, and they decided to proceed. After counseling, I had twelve shots to numb my cervix, followed by a dilation and curettage. I remember walking out of there, telling my friend Sam that I couldn’t feel the whole middle of my body. I never looked back. It was by far the right thing to do. I have no regrets. I live with the knowledge that I loved that baby enough to save him or her from my mistakes.
That was the truth two years later, when I was embroiled with a man who would later marry the girlfriend he cheated on with me. I was still irregular, so when I was two weeks late, I wasn’t concerned, until I threw up out of the blue one afternoon. I knew immediately. I was happy. I wanted the baby. I wasn’t using as much anymore, and I knew I could quit for my child. I knew the father would leave his girlfriend for me. I knew this was my chance to have the child I wanted.
Except, when I told him I was pregnant, he said it wasn’t his. And called me a whore. Then I thought about raising the child with no father, no money, no family but me, and I realized I was little better off than I had been the first time. I had gotten myself into a terrible situation, and I felt I had nothing to offer and no one to turn to. He was telling me that if I had the baby, he’d never care for it or give me any money. So I told him that unless he gave me the money to have an abortion, his girlfriend was hearing all about it.
He did. He drove me to Planned Parenthood (this time in California) and I had an aspiration procedure, on full anesthesia because I didn’t want to be awake for it. He was not there when the nurses when to call him to get me after I was done convalescing in the back room. He left me there to go buy cigarettes. He picked me up two hours later and took me to an Indian casino, where he proceeded to play slots and chain smoke while I stood behind him because there was nowhere for me to sit down. I wasn’t sorry I terminated that pregnancy, either. Like I said, I had thought I wanted the baby, but circumstances made it abundantly clear that that would have been a massive mistake. I didn’t tell my mom, though. I just didn’t want her to know I’d made
I’m now 40 years old. Three months ago, I had a baby. He’s in the picture. He is the son I was meant to be a mother to. He was born to two parents who are married, who love one another, and to whom he is the most important person in the world. I have a BA in Art History, and I have one more semester until I have a Master of Library and Information Science. I’ve been working in public libraries for twenty years. I am sober, and I am proud of it. I am ready to give my son the life I know he deserves. And I am not sorry that I waited until I was ready to be a mother, because he deserved that most of all.