The Power of Choice
This is my story of choice: the choice of pregnancy, of children, and of abortion. For too many women, the stigma associated with abortion causes them to not speak out, to hide what they’ve done, to not tell a soul. I’m ending that stigma for myself – after all, if one in 3 women will have an abortion by the time they are in their 40s, it’s not such a stigma after all1.
People have this impression of abortion clinics – that it must be some sort of abortion factory, where you walk in, state “Hey! I’m pregnant but I want an abortion!” and the person behind the counter says ‘Sure! Great choice! Follow me.” You go in a room, get in a gown, have a vacuum attached to your vagina, have a screaming baby sucked out of you piece by piece, wipe up, get dressed, get a lollipop and walk on out, with a coupon for 50% off if you refer a friend.
Every single woman, when staring at that positive pregnancy stick, is immediately faced with a choice. To keep, or not to keep? For those who have been trying to get pregnant, who are happily married and will welcome this much-desired child with open arms, the news is joyous. For those in a long-term monogamous relationship, the news can be good news, but a bit unsettling.
For hundreds of thousands of other women, the news is shattering. I won’t even touch on victims of rape, of sexual abuse, of incest … that should speak for itself, and if you are heartless enough to think that a woman who finds herself pregnant by such a repugnant act should be forced to bear that child … I don’t have the words to describe how evil that is, that you think your ideas about her body trumps the hell that she has gone through and her choice to deal with it the best way that she knows how, no matter what that way might be.
That positive stick, that little wand of magic, has just cast a spell on the rest of your life. You begin thinking of the abusive relationship that you are trying to get out of. You think of the promotion that you are aiming for, where the males in charge most likely won’t look highly upon a woman who is about to be “in the family way.” You think of the crazy night where you had too much to drink, let your inhibitions go, and slept with a cute guy who said all the right things and make you feel beautiful, and smart, and funny. Who whispered in your ear and bought you another shot, and smiled at only you. Who suggested going somewhere else to get to know each other better … and who you had sex with, maybe with doubts in your mind, maybe he was more forceful than he should have been, maybe you were a completely willing participant and maybe you weren’t. Maybe you were on a form of birth control – 89% of women who are at risk of unintended pregnancy use contraceptives2. Your intention was not to become pregnant … but now that little positive stick that holds such massive upheaval for your life is staring you in the face.
I was 24 years old and madly in love with a tall, dark, handsome older man who professed to love me as well. I told my parents that I was going to marry this man, and had visions of “together forever” with him. However, 6 months into the relationship, I began catching him in lies, in acts of deceit; things weren’t adding up anymore. Anyone who has had a relationship with a narcissist will recognize what I am talking about. Simultaneously, I found out that he had been cheating on me for our entire relationship, and that I was pregnant.
I had just finished college and began a career with a company where I could have gone to the top. I was with a man who I now knew to be a pathological liar and a cheat … and I was facing an unwanted pregnancy. I had been on the pill for years (I used them not only for birth control, but also to treat menstrual migraines), but in this instance, through no fault of my own, the birth control failed.
We made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. I can recall trying to find basic information on abortion and becoming so frustrated, because all I could find was propaganda from pro-life sites (many initially disguising themselves as factual sites), when all I wanted was clear-cut information about what my choices were. At the appointment, I had an ultrasound to determine how far along I was. I will never forget the tech’s words, as I lay staring at the ceiling, facing my own watershed moment … “Well … it’s twins.”
I instantly burst into tears. I was asked if I wanted to look at the screen – no, I did not. I spoke with the doctor, who assured me that, even though I had heavily drank alcohol and continued to take my birth control pills while not knowing that I was pregnant, that the babies would probably be just fine.
I made an appointment before leaving for the abortion, but called the next day and canceled. I had made my choice. Facing potential single-motherhood, facing the daunting thought of twins, facing the potential disruption of my career, I had made my choice.
2 years later. Twin 13-month old boys, and the father who was showing his true colors of being an alcoholic, abusive and demeaning. Someone who would gamble and drink our money away until there was none left – none except for the dollars that I would hide from him, so that I could buy the necessities, like milk or diapers, when they were needed. The night I found out I was pregnant again was the night that he came home after getting a DUI. He cursed and swore at me when I told him, his voice slurring, my babies down the hall from us. Once again, I was on the pill … once again, it failed. Epically failed – we had had sex once in 4 months. And I got pregnant.
I immediately knew that I would keep this pregnancy. I can’t explain it; I just knew that I was meant to have this child, and abortion was not an option to me. My mother cried when I told her I was pregnant, and asked why I didn’t consider abortion, since I had considered it earlier. All I could say was, it was my choice, and I chose to keep it.
2 years later. Finally get up the nerve to leave the father of my children. Thus ensues a living hell, complete with restraining orders against him and heavy court involvement over custody of our children. Suicide attempts by him, in an effort to keep me nearby and personally involved with me. Many other events not mentionable here.
I met someone else. Someone who presents himself as a hero. Someone who tells me all the magic words: “I’ve never met anyone like you. You’re the woman I’ve been waiting for. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You’re amazing, beautiful, wonderful – my life is complete, now that I have you. Your kids – I will love them like my own.”
We were doomed. My ex caused such a strain on our relationship (and such a strain on me emotionally), that our relationship could not withstand it. I found out that he was seeking sexual relationships elsewhere, and my heart broke. I could no longer put up with behavior like that in my life, and I knew that the relationship would have to end. I was 30 years old.
A week after finding out about his infidelities, I went to a new doctor to get an IUD. I wanted no risk of pregnancy at all, from anyone. During my checkup, the doctor asked if cancer ran in my family, and if I had lost a lot weight recently, and then dropped the bombshell that she had found a tumor somewhere in or around my uterus. We would need to determine where the tumor was located and its size, and what type it was, before focusing on an IUD. Ultrasounds were scheduled, both external and transvaginal. Weeks after the ultrasounds, I got the news from the doctor’s office that I was HPV positive and that my PAP smear had come back abnormal. Tumor …. HPV …. abnormal PAP …. I was thinking cervical cancer. I asked the nurse on the phone about the tumor, as I had heard nothing since having the ultrasound. She said that the doctor was out of the office for over a week, but that she was ordering a colposcopy to determine the cause of the abnormal PAP and would most likely biopsy the tumor at that time.
Colposcopy time. I check in and sit nervously, a million thoughts running in my head. A nurse pulls me aside and utters the words that would change my life … “Due to the invasive nature of a colposcopy, we won’t do it until after delivery.”
“Oh, you’re pregnant. Didn’t you know?”
No. No, I did not.
Turns out the tumor that the “good” doctor felt was actually the pregnancy. She never ordered a pregnancy test, no one told me I was pregnant during or after the ultrasounds … a month went by, valuable time wasted, while I thought I had cancer, thanks to the thoughts this doctor put in my head.
The doctor asked what I wanted to do. I told her I did not want to continue the pregnancy; I was leaving the man, my life was in an upheaval, and I had wanted an IUD to prevent pregnancy in the first place. I had had severe postpartum depression after each delivery and wasn’t sure I could go through that again. (Giving birth and the rush of hormones afterwards brought back issues of sexual abuse when I was younger that I had repressed; I saw a therapist and psychiatrist after the first pregnancy and thought I had dealt with it all, but the second birth brought it all back again, and worse.)
I scheduled an appointment at a local clinic. My mother went with me, and it was at that appointment, during the ultrasound, that I found out how far along I was (much farther than the doctor had told me I was.). I spoke with both a doctor and a counselor, and waited the mandatory time before being allowed to have the abortion.
The day of the abortion is a day that will be seared in my memory for the rest of my life; but I find, as time goes on, it fades. I remember wondering what the story was of all the other women in the clinic. Young, older, all different races, sizes, features. Some quiet, some staring into space. Some alone, some with someone there for support, like I had. I was not alone; I had my best friend for support, who gave me a few anti-anxiety pills to help me get through it. I remember the feelings, the sensations as the abortion took place. My biggest fear was feeling it happen, and I didn’t want to feel anything at all; however, I felt exactly what was happening. I remember the recovery room, again looking at the other women recovering alongside me, and wondering, again, what their story was. Everyone has a story. But who wants to hear it?
Anti-choice people would condemn me for having what they would consider an “abortion of convenience.” Well …. yeah. Yes, my abortion was convenient. By choosing not to be saddled down with an unwanted child, to choose not to become a broodmare to create a child for some other couple, to choose to not disrupt my life, my emotional stability, the future I was eking out for myself and my children … yes, the abortion was convenient. I’m grateful for that. I’m thankful I was able to have a safe, legal abortion here in America.
I am 100% certain that I made the right choice for me. Given the shambles that my life was in at that moment, a pregnancy might literally have cost me my mind. I would have been no good as a mother to the children I already had. I would have been in even more dire of financial straits. The schooling that I had started, to provide a better life for myself and my children, would have had to been put on hold. My mental health would have been shot. My ex may well have gone crazy with the thought of me pregnant with another man’s child, and done something drastic.
But the wonderful thing about the freedom of choice is that we don’t need to justify an abortion with a qualifying reason. As women, if we find ourselves with an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy, we have the CHOICE to do what we see fit with our own body, our own lives.
I cried. I pondered, and wept at the unjustness of it all. I wondered if it was a boy or a girl. Certain songs made me break down in the aftermath. This was around the Christmas season, and the song “Mary Did You Know” sometimes just felt like it shattered me. But slowly, I got better. I healed. I deeply understood that I made the right choice for myself. I’m finishing school to be a RN; I’m a great mom to my boys, who are the lights of my life. Things are exactly as they should be.
Don’t condemn those of whose shoes you have never deigned to walk in. Don’t judge those who have made choices that, God willing, you might never have to make yourself.
Choice. It’s a complicated, beautiful thing. I made a choice, I stand by it, and I support all men and women who stand by the right to choose.
For more information on abortion statistics: