Disrupting Intergenerational Dysfunction

by Abby

January 10, 2022

When I was 19 years old I underwent emergency surgery to remove my right ovary, which–because of a dermoid cyst–had grown to be the size of a grapefruit. In the months that followed, I noticed some unsettling changes in my body. Despite my doctor’s reassurances, I worried about my fertility–I knew how important it was to me to one day become a mother. In my teenage foolishness, and genuine fear, I decided to push the boundaries.

During the summer before my senior year of college, throughout a single weekend-long visit with my then-boyfriend, I had unprotected sex. I got pregnant. Despite my serious sentimentality around parenting and childbirth, I felt panicked. My boyfriend and I had both come from very difficult (albeit middle class) homes. Not yet having sufficient distance from our experiences, we fought frequently, viciously, and sometimes even physically. My boyfriend–then the father of my unborn child–had a serious drinking problem. As did my father, both of my grandfathers, and several of my uncles.

Despite my deep attachment to my six-week embryo, I decided to terminate the pregnancy. I sensed myself at a crossroads. I knew that if I kept the child–which would mean not finishing college–I would spend much of my life consumed by the same chaos, frustration, and ill-treatment that I had watched my mother and grandmother endure. When I woke up from the procedure, I experienced an endless flow of tears and a surprisingly profound sense of loss. But I knew, deep down, that I had done the right thing.

This year, I will turn 30, and I know that all of the growth and the achievement that this decade has brought me–therapy, healthy relationships, a graduate degree–I still owe to having had the right to make that one very important choice. Now, I look lovingly forward to one day giving my own daughter the safe home and gentle father of which my foremothers–and my younger self–could have only dreamed.


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