April 15, 2024, 46 years after my abortion, I texted a post-abortion text help line to help me process old hurtful feelings. It was the first time that I ever sought such help and was grateful it was available. The person helping me was ever so kind and suggested that I write my story as I was hesitant to talk to my husband about my feelings. Why? Because he went through an abortion, I think the very year that I did, with his girlfriend. I didn’t want to dredge up his past hurtful memories and just make us both miserable. I did the math. There was about a 6% chance that we would both go through an abortion as two separate events. Although I risked scaring off my future husband by telling him about my abortion early in our relationship, I felt that I had no choice. I needed to be honest. It was hard, but it was one of the best decisions of my life. For the first time, ever, I shared that pain with another person who truly understood, and he was still willing to be with me. And he in turn shared his abortion pain. I don’t know if my husband and his girlfriend agreed on their abortion decision. He did mention that his inability to decide was gut wrenching, and he had only himself to blame. We bonded over our pain. To quote my husband’s pre-cana letter to me, he said, “I think we’ve got to be two of the most open people here because we’ve both got pretty shady histories. I think that there must’ve been some kind of mutual understanding and hurt that we both had and unconsciously understood when we first met.”

So where am I going with this story? It sounds like I have the best husband in the world who understands and accepts me, why do I feel bad and need to write?!?! Well, first, I am mad as hell about where abortion rights are going in the United States. We can’t give these rights away without a fight! An unexpected pregnancy is difficult enough to deal with and taking away a choice is not helpful. My choice is not your choice, and your choice is not my choice, but we need choice! Second, we need more sex education, not just on pregnancy prevention and disease, but on “No means no!” when a sex partner tries to coerce one into acts that they don’t want to perform, and what to expect through your entire sex life timeline. We need more education on menopause. We need education on how your sex life changes as you age. So if the sex education is not provided to you through your parents or school, seek it out. Third, I want to urge folks to get pre and post abortion counseling. I did the minimum required pre-abortion counseling and no post abortion counseling. Fourth, I want to let go of my abortion shame. Fifth, I want to let go of grief that I am feeling over the death of the father. The father’s death has been the trigger of me reliving both bad and good memories.

My dad fought in the German ground war during WWII. Glimpses of the horrors he experienced would peek out when his pain got so bad that the doctors gave him narcotics. My dad put his bad memories in a box and stored them in the back of his mind. So that is what I did with my abortion memories. It worked for my dad so why not me. Besides, what is one abortion compared to the horrors of war? Suck it up. Besides it is a convenient solution, until it isn’t. So folks, get the counseling, or at least talk to someone to process your feelings so you aren’t blindsided like me 46 years later. Here is how the abortion went down and how I literally told no one. The father and one girlfriend knew about the abortion. The girlfriend was told so I could set up excuses to leave the house for the abortion. Although two people knew, there was very little conversation going on. The conversation was just transactional stuff of when and where. Don’t do this! Confide in someone! Use a confidential volunteer or use a trusted friend, whatever you are comfortable with. Here are the details:

The father and I met in our first weeks at college in the student center. We talked for several hours, then he walked me to my dorm where we passionately made out on the grass. A short time later we were sex partners. Over time we got to know each other. We were both Catholic. We were both from middle class families where both parents worked. He made it very clear from the start that when he married he wanted a prenuptial agreement, no kids, must live in Florida, and that his law career would come first. Although we were very close, I never had that fall in love moment. By December of my sophomore year I was feeling sick and thought I was pregnant. The father told me if I wanted the baby that it was my problem alone. I had no means to take care of a child, and didn’t want to burden my parents like my cousin did with my aunt and uncle. I was a parent-pleaser who wanted to be their first child to complete college. I was on an academic scholarship, and I felt like a complete failure. I had never failed before. I didn’t want to face the embarrassment and shame of an out of wedlock and unplanned pregnancy. So I decided on abortion. I took a leave of absence from my classes and traveled 1000 miles to get home. I convinced the family doctor that my mono returned, and the doctor didn’t think to ask me if I was sexually active. In secret from my family, I drove myself to and from the abortion clinic twice to get rid of the baby that the father did not want. The father sent red roses, and I had to pretend the flowers were a Christmas present. I remember the morning sickness. I remember stealing some of my sister’s morning sickness pills as she was pregnant with her second child. I remember reading the provided literature. I remember being awake during the procedure. I remember the hum of the machine. I remember the cramps. I remember crying uncontrollably while driving home. I don’t know how I didn’t crash the car. Six weeks later when I came back to college, I moved out of his dorm room and moved back to the women’s dorm. When he touched me in the dorm elevator as I moved my things, I recoiled, a million different feelings flooded my mind, and never having sex again was at the top of the list. The bottom line was that the father wasn’t there for me when it really counted, and the hurt seemed unbearable. There was little discussion about the abortion before or after it, just silence. In a month or two we get back together. Time heals all wounds, right?! Please don’t do this! Get counseling or talk to someone! Don’t just box off those memories in the back of your mind without first dealing with them! And for God’s sake don’t drive to/from your own procedure. You could hurt or worse kill yourself and/or others by doing this!

Although we were using condoms, I wish that I had been on birth control pills. I wish that my parents had helped me obtain birth control pills before I went off to college. Please parents educate and help your kids with birth control!

Also know that during my relationship with the father, he was pushing me to do sexual acts that I didn’t want to perform. I’ll give two examples. Shortly before I got pregnant the father asked me to “be with” one of his virgin male friends. I go to the friend’s dorm room, we talk for hours, but nothing happens. I couldn’t do it. I was so embarrassed and ashamed. I should have ended the relationship with the father right then. His sexual request was wrong and out of bounds. Being naive and wanting to be “mature” I stuck around because “no” was being respected. About a year later he pushes the limit again. He says we are going on a double-date. It is with a couple that I have never met. He gets me high and tries to trick me into a foursome. I realize that he wants to partner swap. I refuse. I manage to get out of the situation but I no longer trust that he respects that “No means no!”. And more importantly, it doesn’t feel like love anymore. A combination of all the disagreements on sex, marriage, kids, location and career is just too much. The final breakup happens a short time later. Again, I wished that my parents had coached me on what to do when being sexually coerced. Please parents educate your kids on “No means no!”. And when a “No means no!” situation happens be prepared to immediately leave the situation. Don’t compromise!

I’m now resolved to volunteer with Planned Parenthood. In this way I should be able to work on items one through four in my list found in paragraph two. The fifth item, grief from the father’s death, well, that is a work in progress. Each day it is less but some days are better than others. But I am confident that I will get through it.

It is time to end my story. My favorite sympathy sentiment comes from President Biden, but I will write it so it applies to abortion. “ May the day come that when you are reminded of your abortion that you have calmness in your heart and that it doesn’t bring a tear to your eye.” Thank you for reading my story. Hopefully it helps someone including myself. By the way, I confessed to my husband last night that I was having bad feelings about the abortion and wanted to volunteer at Planned Parenthood. He was as understanding as the day I told him about the abortion 42 years ago. I am grateful because I know that his pain and shame are as real as mine. He is the love of my life. I am ever so grateful to have found him. May he find calmness with his box of abortion memories.