…without abortion, my son would not exist.

by Danielle

November 29, 2018

Content Warning: harassment, suicidal thoughts

When I look at my son, I think about abortion.

His crooked smile reminds me of the receptionist at the Bellingham, Washington, Planned Parenthood, sandwiched between Ellis and York Streets. The way he reaches his small, pudgy hands toward mine as we approach a crosswalk reminds me of the nurse’s hand I held during my seven-minute surgical abortion; her gentle, subtle squeezes letting me know that I wasn’t alone, it was almost over, and I was doing great. The way he says, “I love you, Momma,” reminds me of the profound love I had for myself when I was 23 and decided that I mattered more than an unplanned pregnancy, more than a zygote, and more than my country’s patriarchal expectations.

My son’s room, filled with books, stuffed animals, and action figures, reminds me of my overwhelming privilege as a white-passing Puerto Rican woman living in a liberal state. I didn’t have to endure a mandatory waiting period, forced counseling, or a required ultrasound in order to take my future back. I didn’t have to travel long distances or find money to pay for an overnight hotel stay or research transportation options in order to walk into a clinic that provides safe, legal, affordable abortions. I didn’t have to hide my decision from my mother or my partner, and I assumed I didn’t have to hide it from my friends.

My son’s first hospital visit, when he was almost one year old, after I had carelessly turned my back for a second, forced me to recall the moment I came dangerously close to killing myself to prove I deserved the life I chose. My back alley was the cultural stigma of abortion. My coat hanger was the judgment, the shame, and the near-constant verbal attacks from distant anti-choice family members, friends, and internet strangers. I was a murderer. I was going to hell. I was worthless. I didn’t deserve to live. I should die. All spewed in my direction via callous social-media posts and long-winded emails and factually inaccurate memes shared continuously, endlessly, and without remorse.

My son’s fanatic love of cars reminds me of the night I got in my own after drinking at a local bar.

My son’s make-believe pileups with Lego cars and monster trucks reminds me of the moment I turned down a dirt road, driving 30 miles per hour over the speed limit, and flipped my car three times before landing on the roof, my head hitting the windshield and knocking me unconscious as my seatbelt strap cut into my chest.

The lazy way my son wakes up every morning reminds me of the moment I woke up hanging upside down in my totaled vehicle. The moment I realized I deserved a future devoid of shame and judgment and prescribed guilt. The moment I couldn’t continue self-destructing to appease people who despise the freedom, sexuality, and bodily autonomy of women. The moment I decided to no longer apologize for loving myself more than an unplanned pregnancy, a zygote, and anyone else’s expectations.

My son’s annual trips to his kind, caring, and understanding pediatrician cannot help but revive the undeniable fact that the shame and stigma of abortion care almost killed me before I got the chance to be his mother.

My son’s all-consuming, innate need for me reminds me of how dangerously close I came to never having him at all.

My son’s temper tantrums and potty-training accidents and late-night wakeup calls and defiant tendencies and boundary-testing declarations remind me of how all-consuming, overwhelming, beautiful, difficult, fulfilling, terrifying, and incredible motherhood truly is. And if we are to continue to hold up motherhood as a beautiful life choice, then we, as a nation, cannot position parenthood as a punishment.

My son is not my condemnation for being a sexual being. My son is not the manifestation of “making the best of a worst-case scenario.” My son is not a consequence legislated by rich, white, Christian men. My son is a choice—my choice—made when I was ready, willing, and able to be his mother and as a direct result of easy, affordable access to abortion care.

When I look at my son, I think about abortion. Because without abortion, my son would not exist.

photo by Elizabeth Rudge

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