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…all these things led to us having the babies we were meant to have.

by Shawna

May 17, 2019

photo by Ted Zee

I’ve been pro-choice for as long as I can remember. I was always the one who had to take on the young Republicans in debate club, with their “pro-life” bullshit. But I never got pregnant. I was on the pill before I even started having sex. When I was young, some of my friends had abortions; it just wasn’t something that happened to me.

I was a nanny for years and relied on Planned Parenthood for birth control and lady biz because I never had insurance. When I became a childcare director and was finally able to afford insurance, I was really proud. I felt like a grown up, like I’d finally arrived. I chose a primary health care provider and started actually going to the doctor for things unrelated to my vagina.

Then, at 29 years old, I met the man who would later become my husband, and he was really good at getting me pregnant. The first time, the condom broke. I was worried I might get pregnant so I called my new, fancy primary care provider for help. She declined to see me, so I was stuck, calling around to local pharmacies looking for morning- after contraceptives in the days before cell phones. My car happened to be in the shop, so I took two buses to get to a pharmacy that would sell me the morning-after pill without a doctor’s note.

I spent the next 24 hours sicker than sick, doing whatever it was to my uterus that those pills do. I didn’t tell anyone other than my man. Even though I didn’t feel like I was doing something wrong, I was so attached to how others might view my choices that I kept the physical pain I was experiencing to myself.

A few years later, we got pregnant for real. We were married and I had always wanted to be a mother, but the timing was just . . . well, wrong. I had been depressed; I felt like I was drinking too much—we couldn’t afford a baby, let alone childcare. I called that “primary care provider” again. This time she flat-out refused to see me. I called my old standby, Planned Parenthood. They got me in and gave me medication to terminate my pregnancy. They were kind, friendly, competent, and maybe even a tad over-supportive since I wasn’t feeling in the least bit emotional about my choice to terminate.

I took a long weekend from work. My husband rented me a stack of trashy DVDs (The Osbornes, I think), and I took two pills: something to make me miscarry and something for the pain. It was the worst. I remember throwing up and being on the toilet as the pregnancy was wrenched out of me. Physically, it really hurt. But I never regretted it or second-guessed my choice. I also really didn’t tell anyone. My husband knew, and maybe one coworker and a few very close friends. Otherwise, I was very guarded about my abortion. I think back now and wonder why. Maybe it was because I have always been such a mother. Maybe I worried it wouldn’t make sense to people, because everyone knew I wanted to have children and I didn’t want to explain why the timing just wasn’t right.

Shortly thereafter, I got pregnant again, and she was the one. My husband and I were elated. I had my first baby in 2004. After her, we knew we wanted to have one more. I got pregnant again and miscarried, then got pregnant again and miscarried again. It was traumatic to say the least. I woke up in the middle of the night holding my three-year- old, soaking in blood. I drove with my husband in a borrowed Jeep, as my body tried to expel a tiny fetus in a tiny sac. I ended up in the ER getting filled with fluids. I owed nearly $3,000 in medical bills, and I had no baby to show for it.

We finally had our second baby. She is glorious and worth all the work. We came to believe that our five pregnancies—two live births, two miscarriages, and one choice to terminate—all these things led to us having the babies we were meant to have. And still, we only talked about it late at night, in hushed tones, with each other.

When Planned Parenthood and abortion in general came under attack in 2015, I realized I couldn’t be silent any longer. I could no longer be private. I remember making a Facebook post about my abortion and getting a lot of support. I knew that I had to be a part of normalizing women’s experiences of sex, birth, miscarriage, and abortion. I started trying to talk about my own experiences with my women friends and was surprised how many others had had abortions too. And yet we remained silent and private.

For my 47th birthday, I asked my family to attend Shout Your Abortion’s Stomp the Patriarchy Ball at Seattle’s Washington Hall. I knew they normally would’ve never acquiesced—it was the Friday of the first week of school and we were all completely fried. But it was my birthday, and they love me, so they got it together, put on their best outfits, and we went.

 

Attending the event with my family meant I had to explain abortion to my 12-year-old. She was not having it. Despite my best efforts, she thought it sounded horrific. Hoping to finally make a breakthrough, I told her that I’d had an abortion. This was earth-shattering to her. But we attended the event, and my oldest had the time of her life. On her own, she managed to meet Congresswoman Jayapal and had a great discussion about how she didn’t feel like abortion was a choice she would like to make, but that she wanted it to be safe and available for all women. My lesbian 12-year-old! On one of her many trips to the bathroom she also met Lelah Maupin from Tacocat, who performed that night. By the end of the evening she had come to the realization that I had made the right choice for me and that she was proud of me for being honest and comfortable with my decisions about my body.

For me, this is huge. My lesbian 12-year- old, who can’t picture herself getting pregnant accidentally because she knows she will probably have to go pretty far out of her way to get knocked up! She understands my body, my choice. For me, that means that she will also grow up believing that she can make her own choices for her body, and that other women are entitled to those choices too. I want her to grow up knowing that having sex, getting pregnant, miscarrying, and terminating pregnancies are all normal parts of women’s experiences. And I hope that both of my daughters can grow up knowing they can choose to be silent or private or loud. I hope they don’t always have to be loud, but I will be. For them.

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!