Sep 052010

When I was 18, I had a boyfriend who lived about 30 miles away from me. It was a big deal when we could get together and spend quality time, and it was just about a miracle when we could have sex (we both lived with our parents). We were pretty careful, as careful went back in the ‘70s: we used condoms. We used them faithfully. But there’s a reason that the Planned Parenthood sites talk about the percentage of safety of such contraceptives: I got pregnant.

I didn’t know I was pregnant. I had no idea. I stopped being able to eat – I couldn’t even smell food cooking without feeling queasy. I got morning sickness one day while riding in my mother’s car. A few days later, I fainted. My mom, despite her assumption that I was a virgin, immediately put 2 and 2 together, and she took me to her gynecologist for a pregnancy test. And there it was.

I was terrified. There was never any question that I would get an abortion. I was 18, a college dropout, with no career prospects, working in a convenience store. My mom was middle class, fairly observant in her religion, but with no great hope for what my life would be with a child. She was praying that I would return to school and make something of my life. We decided to keep the news from my father, and made an appointment with her doctor.

But she wasn’t going to pay for the procedure: that was up to my boyfriend and me. And we couldn’t afford a private doctor’s fee. So I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic, where they wouldn’t take my word for it that I was pregnant. They made me take another test and then wait to reschedule. So the day we’d told my father that I was going to go off for a simple procedure for polyps (fathers sometimes don’t need to know these things), turned out not to be the day. And my mother couldn’t figure out how to lie to him convincingly. So she told him the truth.

The day of my abortion, my boyfriend picked me up and took me to the clinic. I was really scared. The clinicians were kind and patient. When I woke up, though, I was in the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life. I curled up into the tightest ball I’ve ever been in, hoping it would help, but all I could do was lie in my bed, weeping and whimpering. My boyfriend took me home. My parents were kind; my father wrapped me up in a blanket and brought me ice cream. But within a week he stopped talking to me, stopped even acknowledging my presence in the family. That continued for ten months, until at last I moved out of the house. I broke up with my boyfriend after the abortion. I didn’t want him to touch me. For a few weeks, I had nightmares that I was getting murdered.

But I don’t regret having the abortion. I regret that the abortion was necessary, but I thank God and the laws of the United States of America that I was able to get a safe, legal, on-demand abortion. It took me a long time to figure out what to do with my life. I was in my 30s before I finally got that bachelor’s degree my parents wanted me to have so badly. I spent a lot of time casting around, trying different things, usually not making a lot of money, before I discovered the path to where I am now, the path to the one career in the world that uses everything I’ve ever done and everything I know. I can’t begin to imagine how I would have survived as a mother. My boyfriend wouldn’t have married me – his parents would never have let him: he had a real career already planned out and there was no way I was in it. I was awkward with children, and never wanted to have kids of my own. Forcing a born non-mother into a maternal role would have been powerfully unfortunate for both me and my child. I am not a patient person at best. I would not have given that child a decent life – and I would never have risen above minimum wage jobs to the career I have now. My parents would not have helped me.

I don’t know if this counts as a positive experience. But I can tell you this: I AM NOT SORRY.

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