I have a son and a daughter, but I’ve been pregnant three times. I didn’t miscarry a baby, I terminated a pregnancy. In my early 20s, I got pregnant accidentally, and I exercised my legal right to an abortion. That decision shaped me in ways that make me a better mom today.
To have an abortion is an incredibly difficult decision for many women facing unwanted pregnancy. Sometimes the financial burden of having a child (or another child) is too great. Sometimes the support structures a woman or a couple needs are not in place. Other times, the prospect of becoming a parent is not compatible with a woman’s physical or mental health. For me, none of these things were necessarily true.
I was not a teenager. At 23, I was old enough and mature enough to be able to raise a child. With some stretching and adjustments I could have supported a child financially. I wasn’t married yet but was in a stable and committed relationship with my now husband. I have a large and supportive family that helps me raise my kids every day and would have done so had I become a mother years earlier. My story is not one of hardship or teenage pregnancy. So why did I choose to have an abortion?
Up until I got pregnant with my son I didn’t really know if I wanted to have kids. When I was 23, unmarried, and just starting out in my career, motherhood was the furthest thing from my mind. Actually, at the time, I thought I would probably never want children. Then I missed my period.
I’ve never felt so stupid in all my life. After all, I was plenty old enough to know better than to get pregnant by mistake. I kicked myself for not getting emergency contraception the morning after, for having one two many beers with my boyfriend and being careless, and for thinking I was nowhere near ovulation time in my cycle. (This was in fact true; it was 3 days after my period. Apparently I ovulate early.)
But it happened. I peed on the stick and called my local Planned Parenthood before I even told my boyfriend. I was not prepared to be a mother. Frankly, I was not interested in being a mother. At less than six weeks pregnant I had a medication abortion, which is when you take a pill to stop the growth of the embryo and then take another pill to signal your body to expel the tissue.
Throughout the experience, I was grateful for the doctors and staff at the clinic, their clarity, knowledge, compassion, and thoughtfulness. The clinic staff empowered me to consider multiple options and make the decision that was best for me. Never once did I feel judged or pressured to make a decision, but I knew what I wanted, and it was to not be pregnant.
Years later, I decided I did want to have and raise children after all. After getting married and settling into routines and patterns with my husband, my job, and my life in general, I felt ready to be a mother. Of course my routines and patterns would be swiftly upended by parenthood, but that’s a different story all together.
When we decided to become parents, my husband and I were thrilled to discover I was pregnant. It was just a few weeks after I stopped birth control. Given our history, we probably should have seen that one coming, but it still came as a surprise. Only this time, the surprise was filled with happiness, hope, and planning instead of dread.
I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had been forced to carry out a pregnancy I didn’t want before I was ready for all the joys, responsibilities, and struggles of motherhood. Thankfully, I don’t have to. I was fortunate enough to plan my entry into parenthood. That privilege has given me a level of compassion, gratitude, and perspective that helps me mother my children.
When I look back, I do sometimes feel sad about this chapter in my life, but it’s not for the reasons you think. It’s not guilt, and it’s not regret. Honestly, having an abortion was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I have never regretted it. But I do feel sad that I found myself in the situation in the first place, that I was pregnant once before the joyful experiences of carrying my son and daughter. For me, the truth is that pregnancy has been fraught with both joy and misery.
Many other women in similar circumstances arrive at different conclusions and make a different choice. I respect that. Those “oops” babies are beautiful and perfect. Here’s the thing though – I wasn’t pregnant with a baby. I had a collection of cells invading my body that I needed to get out. And I’m just not sorry about doing what was best for me.
Putting myself first is one of the things that make me a good mother. Maybe that sounds selfish or counterintuitive, but I really believe it. In a world that constantly tells women they don’t matter and they’re not good enough, it’s hard to recognize and practice the idea that you can’t take care of someone else without first taking care of yourself.
We make a million little choices in life, especially as mothers. Abortion is not one of those little choices. Neither is parenthood. For me, both decisions have been the right one at the right time.