Nicole’s Story

My mother was 19 years old and single when she had me and while largely apolitical in raising me, she was very passionate about a woman’s right to choose. While you can make all the assumptions you like about how she wished it was legal so I wouldn’t be around, the fullness of time has revealed the real motivation – her best friend in high school died from an illegal abortion in 1963. This explains why she says “Some women will have abortions one way or the other, the legislation just makes sure they’re safe and legal.”

When I was 19, in 1985, it was as history was trying to repeat. A broken condom is a pretty common scare for college girls, so I tried to push it out of my head. At my next period, I spotted, and since it was finals, I chalked it up to stress. When the nausea set in, and my next period was completely absent, I knew I had made the wrong guess. I was pregnant.

My boyfriend was great, if slightly conflicted. We talked very honestly, and he said after a great amount of thought, “Listen, I can’t help liking the fantasy of having a kid, but the reality of doing it right now is overwhelming. I’ll back you either way, because I know no matter what I say, you’ve got final say.” We managed to (barely) scrape the 480 dollars together, and I had an abortion at a Women’s Health Center very early one winter Saturday morning. As I sat in the waiting room, I thought about how my mom’s life had turned out okay, and how I liked my life so much – it made the idea of raising a child without a college education or a lot of money – the same way I had been raised, seem perfectly logical. Just as I was about to walk out, they called my name, and when the nurse practitioner asked me how I was doing, I told her the truth. She took me into an office and sat me down and said “Listen, I hear your concern, and it’s clear you did turn out well and your mom’s life wasn’t ruined. Having a baby young isn’t always a mistake. This is about you making the best choice for you and your baby, and potentially your partner.” She offered to cancel my appointment, or reschedule it tentatively so I’d have more time to think and be clear, cautioning me my window of opportunity from that moment was only two more weeks, and saying that should be enough time. I put my head in my hands, thinking I was going to cry.

When I closed my eyes, I got a flash of future me, an educated powerful woman, who had a college degree and a life she designed, instead of one born out of coping. I realized once you start living a reactive life, you might never really get the reins back.

I had the abortion a few minutes later, although it took some convincing to let them allow me to keep my appointment, they were staunch advocates of people making informed decisions. You’d think the progressive attitudes I was encountering were from some blue state, some liberal heaven, but I’m pleased to say this all happened in a rural Midwestern town, albeit a college town. When I was having the abortion, I remember while the doctor worked with the weird sucking sounding machine the nurse stroked my arm and my hair, and spoke in soothing tones, although whatever she was saying was drowned out by my own anxiety. I worried I was letting my boyfriend down, I worried I was insulting my mother’s choice by saying it wasn’t good for me. In the end, when I was walked back out to the lobby and saw my boyfriend, I saw the relief in his face and that somehow allowed me to feel okay about feeling relieved.

What happened to me? I live in California, and work as an editorial and fashion photographer, after finishing my BA and then getting an MFA. The boyfriend from 1985? He’s stock broker, with a BA in history and an MBA from Stanford. He’s also my husband and the father of our two children, now six and four years old. They’re healthy, beautiful, sensitive girls who smile a lot and love to play outside.

When the second one turned one, my husband and I broached the topic for the first time in years – what would have happened if we had kept the baby? Neither one of us would likely have advanced degrees if we got our Bachelors at all. We certainly wouldn’t enjoy the very comfortable lifestyle we were able to build by holding off family until we had made some headway in our careers. It’s unlikely we would have been as informed and excited when our girls were born as we were –- we both felt very ready having done our traveling and working out the kinks in our marriage and life plan before bringing kids into the picture. I’m speaking as if our lives are perfect, as if having an abortion was the key to the happy ending of a fairy tale or morality play, but that’s not my intent. Just like everyone we have good days and bad, our ups, downs and spats. My living room is a mess. But both my husband and I are glad we made the decision to end the pregnancy when we did. Neither one of us carry an iota of remorse, and are convinced it allowed us to create four great lives in the process – our two girls and our own.

We donate to the same Women’s Health Care center where I had the procedure in 1985 and to national causes that endorse freedom of choice. What I’ve learned is respect – I respect my mother’s right to have chosen to have me and my own decision to wait. We both made the best decisions for ourselves.