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In 2015, I found out I was eight weeks pregnant.
This is the exact amount of weeks that several states, including my home state of Missouri, have legally declared too late for an abortion.
The thing is, for me and I’m sure for many other women, I didn’t know I was pregnant until after eight weeks. I had a light period in those two months that lasted a day and a half. I thought, “Lucky me!” until I missed the next one. When that line on the at-home pregnancy test I purchased showed up, I thought, “No way, this can’t be happening.” I had been on the birth control pill for years, and, while I missed days here and there, it had never been a problem before.
When my pregnancy was confirmed by a doctor, she asked me if it was a good thing. I stared at her for a moment, numb, before replying that it wasn’t.
This part is hard to talk about because there are a lot of feelings involved in what I did after this moment. I wanted to be a mom. I still want to be a mom. I am an adopted child, and the idea of family is so important to me. I loved the potential of that baby inside me as much as I had loved anyone. I loved the father of the baby, even though I knew that he was not a man I would want to be a father for any child.
After years of a toxic and emotionally abusive relationships, as well as unresolved abandonment issues from my adoption, I was not a woman I would want any child to have for a mother. My relationship had ended just the month before, and I made the choice to move to Missouri shortly after.
In the moments after the kindly doctor told me I was pregnant, I knew I was getting an abortion. There was no question in my mind.
Getting adopted as a young child was a miracle for me, and the foster system fails as often as it saves children. Children are abused, neglected, used for a paycheck, and forgotten. Now, there are good, gracious people who take in foster children out of love and a desire to help. Sure, there was a chance that if I chose to continue the pregnancy, the baby who was eventually born would go to a great home, even be adopted. However, I was not going to put myself through months of hormonal and body changes, off of my anxiety and depression medication, only to abandon my own child to the whims of the world. That is, if the father would have even consented to adoption.
Adoption was out.
Keeping the child was out because I couldn’t be a mom. I was barely holding myself together. People say that you need to love yourself in order to love someone else well, and I feel that is so poignantly true when it comes to children. I help care for a seven-year-old boy now, and every emotion I or his dad have reflects in him. The things we say about ourselves, like “I’m fat,” he picks up. Our young children learn how to love themselves through imitation at first, and if we cannot model self-love, they will not feel it for themselves in the future.
I didn’t even like myself at that point in time. More importantly, I didn’t understand myself or even know what I had just been through. The understanding that I was experiencing Complex PTSD from childhood, compounded by the emotional abuse from relationships, would come much later with professional help. Now, after learning about recovering from trauma, I know that I made the best choice I could for my mental health and my future.
I didn’t have the capacity for a child at that time. I was determined not to bring a child into the world with a father who never wanted children.
No, I did not include him in this decision. I did tell him several months after the fact, after I had done some hard work to begin healing. He blames me for “getting pregnant on purpose,” which is ludicrous because what woman would set herself up to get an abortion? I know many men have similar thoughts about other women who have made this choice—that she is somehow to blame for her body doing what it is naturally designed to do.
I did not make a choice to get pregnant. I did make a choice to prevent it with birth control. I did make a choice to have an abortion, and, yes, I made it without the father’s consent.
It was not his choice.
It is not the decision of any politician, male or female, to restrict my choices when it comes to motherhood. I wanted to be a mother, but when I got an abortion, I couldn’t be. It was the hardest, most heartbreaking experience of my life.
At Planned Parenthood, the staff were kind and compassionate. I met women who were also there for an abortion and learned about the reasons they made the choice to terminate. One woman had five children already and also got pregnant on birth control. She and her husband, who was in the waiting room, made the decision to terminate together.
Another girl was young, still in high school, and was terrified. She had her entire life ahead of her and chose to prioritize her future. I felt, and feel, these are completely valid reasons. I feel most reasons that women choose to terminate a pregnancy are valid, because it is her body, her life, her choice.
A fetus reaches consciousness (becoming self-aware) inside the womb at weeks 23 to 28. Before this point, they exist in a state that is comparable to being brain-dead. We will unplug a person who is brain-dead without their consent, despite slight chances for medical advancements that may reverse their condition in the future. Why should a woman be legally bound from making a similar decision about a fetus who has not reached sentience? Completing a pregnancy isn’t a guarantee for a healthy and happy life for either mom or child. However, choosing to terminate can be a guarantee for a better life for the mom.
It was for me. If I hadn’t had an abortion, I would not have the chance to heal from my history of trauma. I would not have gone through the same series of events and decisions that led me to the place I am at now. Now I am beginning to find self-acceptance, pursuing a career I love, as well as higher education, and I am finding my own family in this midst of all the joyful chaos.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think about and feel sorrow about the potential of that pregnancy. That doesn’t mean that taking a few pills and feeling my womb cramp over and over to expel the fetus wasn’t devastating. It doesn’t mean the rush of blood coming out of me wasn’t terrifying. It doesn’t mean that every year on the day, I don’t think about who might have been.
In my mind, I picture a little girl called Claire—and she is always a part of me.
I think about the potential of her, and I miss her all the time. However, I feel so proud that I made the best choice I could in an impossible situation. I don’t regret one of my choices.
Having an abortion is complex, painful, liberating, and frightening. A woman will feel relief and regret, and everything in between. It is not a simple yes or no question, and there is no one right answer. I have the utmost empathy for anyone who has made that choice or who is about to make it. If I have any advice to them, it is that you know. You know what choice you need to make. You know which choice is best for you. Take a deep breath and listen to yourself. Do not let anyone else make this decision for you. You are the only one who has to personally, physically heal from the choice you make.
My abortion has been the driving force behind my personal growth and desire to be the best woman I can be. I know that, when I am the very best version of me, I will bring a child into a loving, supportive, and stable home.
This is the promise I made to myself, and to her, on that day. It is a promise I intend to keep.