Valerie’s Story

I was so astounded & relieved to read the post from another woman who had had 10 pregnancies; I thought I was the only one so unlucky/ careless or unfortunate! I have had 11; only one of which resulted in a live birth.

Although “unfortunate” is an inaccurate term; 3 of my more recent pregnancies were planned occasions… One resulted in a fetus with multiple birth defects which my 1st husband & I decided to terminate (one of those ill-famed “partial birth abortions”) at 15 weeks, my next pregnancy was my only live birth, my son (who is now 6), and my last pregnancy I had second thoughts about almost immediately: I took the “morning after” pills which failed to prevent implantation. I confirmed this pregnancy w/my ob/gyn at 8 wks, attempted a chemical abortion but wound up having to go to the hospital for an emergency D & C with heavy hemorrhaging. That was “the end of the trail” reproductively for me – I scheduled a tubal ligation 10 wks later.

As much as I enjoyed the soft-focus romantic fantasy of “a child of our own” with my 2nd husband, realistically I understood that I was 38 yrs old, I worked full-time running my own business, and my living son could not afford for me to put myself out of commission – he deserved my complete & undivided attention during the limited time I have to spend with him…

But back to really ancient history: my 1st pregnancy (1982) occurred on my 18th birthday, since my idea of True Romance was unprotected sex with the high school sweetheart I was so much “in love with” at the time… Happy Birthday! Of COURSE I would not be the one to dodge this bullet. You would have thought this “A” student, heading for a career in medical science, would have known better. I told my (Catholic) mother with much fear and trepidation, but fortunately she supported my decision to terminate. The revelation came to light that she herself had been pregnant & rushed into marrying my father (another infamous broken condom!), but she suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks… (their only child, I was not born until their 13th year of marriage.)

I continued to behave irresponsibly and conceived again 8 months later, on a one-night stand with a guy named Phil whom I met in a bar during my “party hearty” phase following my breakup with my high school sweetheart when he went away for college in the fall. My mother always thought this one was the result of “one last date” when Hector came home from college for the Christmas holidays. I didn’t want to disillusion her THAT much, but we didn’t even have sex on that occasion. My attraction to Hector had completely evaporated.

I married my 1st husband at the ripe old age of 21 after a whirlwind courtship of 5 months… I started out on the Pill, but when I developed migraines and had a scary episode of aphasia (a mini-stroke), I switched to a diaphragm. My 3rd pregnancy (1987) occurred when we experimented with the contraceptive sponge. “At the time” (he rescinded this story later, claiming to have always wanted a “big family”), my husband supported my decision to terminate, drove me to Houston for the procedure, and we told no one. I was in my 3rd year of veterinary school & could not imagine interrupting my education for the birth of an unwanted child.

A few days before my graduation from veterinary school (1989), I was diagnosed with an exotic form of cancer, but that’s another story! Of course it solidified my resolve never to have children… These so-called “heroic” stories of women who continue in their pregnancies, denying themselves chemotherapy and shortening their own lives to leave their child(ren) motherless just cause me to shake my head in disbelief. Maybe I just don’t “get it”? but it seems a peculiar form of extreme narcissism to me.

My 4th pregnancy (1992) was another contraceptive failure w/the diaphragm, and the timing could not have been worse. My 1st husband & I were trying to work through the aftermath of his infidelity; I would never resort to a pregnancy trying to “save my marriage”. So I confided in no one; I went and had it terminated alone. I felt nothing but relief.

I honestly cannot remember whether my 5th pregnancy happened in the fall of ’93 or ’94? But it was due to sheer laziness on my part; I did not get up & put in my (new) cervical cap when my husband uncharacteristic-cally wanted to make love first thing in the morning… Again, I had never wavered from my original desire not to have children (although Michael had begun making overtures about how “wonderful” it would be to have a baby; somehow his biological clock had been triggered!) – so again I kept my own counsel & took care of this one w/a chemical abortifacient.

Michael continued to apply increasing pressure on me to bear his child until he had me convinced that it would not be too great of a lifestyle alteration to have an only child. So I confided in him almost immediately upon finding myself pregnant for the 6th time in 1996; he was trumpeting the news from the rooftops with glee. However, the embryo failed to develop properly; I was diagnosed with a “blighted ovum” & had to have a medically authorized D & C at 10 weeks. My husband was anxiously inquiring of my doctor “when could we try again”. She said “60 days” and I became pregnant again on our 1st attempt (#7 — June 1996) – but this was my baby girl with hydrocephalus & spina bifida; I had a dialation and extraction at 15 weeks. After two disastrous attempts in less than a year, I thought Michael & I were in agreement that maybe we just weren’t meant to have children – however in roughly 7 – 8 months, Michael began cranking up the pressure on me again. I became pregnant with my son Zachary in September 1997. I felt like a broodmare of questionable value, under the gun to produce that healthy offspring.

This pregnancy seemed to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back since my HUSBAND now suffered what I can only describe in retrospect as a major mid-life crisis: he took up with a woman 10 yrs older than himself (so there was no possibility of her getting pregnant), he increased his already significant emotional abuse (coupled with abandonment and neglect as he took many many out of town trips with his paramour), and alternated threats of suicide with urging me to have an abortion (up until my 7th month); when that failed, he tried to convince me to place Zach up for adoption…

I’m happy to report that he moved out & filed for divorce when my son was 11 months old: a blessing in disguise for me, although of course resulting in a less than ideal early childhood for my son. Needless to say this helped temper any future fantasies I had of adding any half-siblings to our family — perhaps having a somewhat “normal”, less traumatic, more emotionally satisfying pregnancy/childbirth experience?? — with a healthy dose of “Real Life”… I met my 2nd husband in December of 2000 & got pregnant for the 9th time on Valentine’s Day, 2001. How romantic. My 1st contraceptive failure w/the cervical cap. All I could foresee was emotional turmoil & controversy in my new relationship, since my lover had already expressed his pro-life views. (Obviously, he is only aware of a small fraction of my reproductive history. Some things he just doesn’t need to know.) Crushed with that familiar overwhelming sense of my own stupidity, I drove myself to my 5th surgical abortion. I think this triggered a downward spiral of depression/ hormonal turbulence/thyroid replacement difficulties which I still struggle with to this day.

The cervical cap failed me again in Dec. 2001 (#10), but at least this time I was able to self-abort with methotrexate. I explained the heavy bleeding as a spontaneous miscarriage. Again, my fiancé was still in complete agreement with me that we wanted no children of our own. I could only imagine the sibling rivalry issues between my son, being shuttled between his mother & father like a football, and the new baby who would get to stay with Mom 24/7. (Never mind other “minor” issues like a recurrence of my cancer to deal with.)

In the middle of another turbulent summer (July ’02), I allowed my fiancé to console me by making love to me after a tearful phone call from my son without interrupting the proceedings to install birth control. I was in full control of my faculties at the time; I cannot claim temporary insanity or any other excuse. The thought that went through my head at the time was: “This will be the one he can’t take away from me.” However, the next day I felt duty-bound to inform my fiancé and we agreed that I should take the “morning-after” pills… I hastened to Planned Parenthood. For $25 it seemed like a great deal. Unfortunately in my case they didn’t work. As I mentioned above, I tried to follow up with a chemical abortion and wound up in the hospital for an emergency D & C. My doctor and I both agreed (and fortunately my new husband as well) that a tubal ligation was a great solution for me.

It seems strange to me even now ferrying my son to school and soccer games, after so many years of absolute conviction that having children was not for me. I certainly was plagued with doubts during my pregnancy with him, and have suffered many pangs of regret that it is not possible to “switch fathers” – my husband is so much more of a good father to my son than my ex will ever be capable of – but overall I feel I made the right decisions for myself at the time. I am not sorry.