4 Pregnancies, 4 Different Outcomes

by Rebecca

August 15, 2018

Content Warning: grief related to adoption

By 2015, when my husband and I decided to divorce, I had experienced three pregnancies, and was parenting one delightful child.


I got pregnant unintentionally in 2003, in college. I wasn’t using birth control because I didn’t want to admit to myself that I was regularly having sex with my ex. Not preparing for it allowed me to absolve myself when sex “just happened” because it meant that I hadn’t planned to make what I knew was a bad decision, I simply gave in to an impulse in the moment. That felt romantic instead of self-destructive. I didn’t see the irony.


My ex pressured me to get an abortion. I decided to carry the pregnancy to term and place the baby for adoption.


I don’t regret that decision, and the now-teenage human who resulted from that pregnancy is a marvel (it’s an open adoption; I see her and her parents regularly). It was also the most painful thing I will probably ever do. After the placement I felt that I had been ripped apart and might not come back together again. My body healed from the birth, but I was in pieces. For months I did nothing but cry. I couldn’t be around babies or small children for years. I questioned my decision and my worth as a person. My emotional landscape was one of utter devastation where self-love and healthy intimate relationships couldn’t grow. To escape the pain I drank a lot and had sex with people I didn’t particularly like. I went to live abroad. The pain followed me. I couldn’t stand to be with myself, and I was sure no one else could either. I didn’t know who I was apart from my brokenness. I didn’t know whether I would ever feel worthy or capable of love or happiness again. Although I knew the decision not to parent was the right one I wasn’t sure I could withstand the pain of the loss.


One thing I was sure of, though, was that I wanted a child of my own someday. This was a surprise because I’d always known, since I was a child myself, that I didn’t want to be a mother. The adoption changed me. I think I wanted to assuage my grief by experiencing another pregnancy and giving it a different, happier ending.


My professional and personal choices were profoundly shaped by my adoption experience.: I had thought I wanted to become an English teacher but after college I got a job with Planned Parenthood as a sexuality educator. I wanted to help young people learn to navigate relationships and cultivate sexual and emotional health. I wanted to help them avoid the pain I’d experienced. I became a doula and childbirth educator, wanting to support others through their experiences but also to learn as much as I could so that I would be prepared when the time finally came for me to be pregnant again. I wanted it to be perfect. Not like last time.


In my late 20s I married a man I loved but knew I shouldn’t marry. I woke up on my wedding day wanting nothing more than to jump in my car and drive west, out of our land-locked state, until I reached the ocean. I told myself “you can always get divorced,” and I stayed put. It was wrong to marry him, and there are a lot of reasons I did it anyway, among them my mounting panic that I might not find a partner in time to get pregnant again and become a parent. My husband was ambivalent about parenting but he loved me and was willing to do whatever it took to be with me. This is not a great recipe for a successful marriage.


About a year after we married I had my IUD removed and got pregnant within a few months. I was so happy. I carried the secret knowledge of my pregnancy like a river rock in my pocket, smooth and reassuring, something solid to hold in my palm as I went through my day. It made me feel whole. One day about 6 weeks into the pregnancy I started to bleed. I called a friend who is a women’s health nurse practitioner; she examined me and determined that I was having a miscarriage. I went home, climbed into a tub of the hottest water I could stand, shut the door, and cried. I didn’t want my husband to console me.  My closest friend came over and made me dinner. When the water got too cold I stepped out of the tub, wrapped myself in my robe, sat at the dinner table with the two people who cared the most about me, and stared out the window, thoroughly alone.


I got pregnant again soon, and had my daughter. Her dad and I separated just after her 3rd birthday. She’s almost 6 now. She’s curious and funny and gregarious and stubborn and I couldn’t love her more. But solo parenting is also incredibly difficult, even with a supportive and involved co-parent, and I often feel resentful of its demands on me. The truth is–even though I’m not supposed to admit this– that while I wouldn’t trade her for anything and I absolutely adore her, if I could do it over again knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t choose to become a parent.  I would find another way to heal.


So when I got pregnant again at the beginning of 2017, when she was 4, there was no question that I would have an abortion. I was having (really great) sex with someone I liked but didn’t love. He’s a caring person but I didn’t think he’d be a great co-parent, and I had no desire to be permanently connected to him, so that factored into my decision. But mostly, I just knew that I didn’t want to parent another child. I didn’t have the financial or energetic resources to do it well, and I knew it would make it more difficult for me to take good care of the child I already have. I knew I would feel resentment and regret about a new baby, and I strongly believe every child deserves to feel wanted. I knew it would change the relationship I have with my daughter, which is precious to me and worth protecting. I knew this pregnancy would be bad for me, bad for my daughter, and bad for a new child. There was no deliberation or uncertainty. I would have an abortion. At the first possible opportunity.


I am incredibly lucky to live in a state with no abortion restrictions and relatively easy access to abortion care. I was able to get an appointment at a clinic near my home within a week. My insurance paid for the entire procedure. I had a choice between a medication abortion and an in-clinic (vacuum aspiration) procedure. The medical staff were incredibly kind and competent. I experienced very little pain, and was able to go back to work the next day. My pregnancy partner supported my decision and didn’t try to pressure, coerce, or shame me. That weekend I went on a trip to the coast that I had planned months before and had a lovely time. Life went on as normal. It felt like routine health care, which is exactly what it is.


I went by myself to have the procedure. I didn’t feel sad or unsure or regretful, though I did text someone I trust from the waiting room to say I felt like I was supposed to feel sadder than I did and was there something wrong with me. But I know that many pregnant people who have abortions feel the way I did: Mostly relieved not to be pregnant anymore and grateful for access to a safe abortion.


In the waiting room I thought about the four pregnancies I had experienced and their four very different outcomes and how, in a circuitous way, not choosing abortion early in my life led me to choose one later. I thought about the work I’ve done in my professional life to support abortion access and compassionate pregnancy care for others. And I thought about going home to my daughter and holding her tight and telling her how much I love her.

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