It's so strange looking back to 13 years ago. How life has changed, where my path has taken me. Still, the memory lingers, haunting me. I'm so glad to be able to share my story if only to add one more voice to the thousands of women who face the need to make a choice.
I was 23 years old. There was a lot of chaos in my life at the time. I was taking a break from school, and I was back at home with my family trying to figure out what to do next. And suddenly this charming young man came into my life.
He was about five years younger than me but wise beyond his years. He swept me off my feet, wooed me, and dried my tears as I wept over my former lover, with whom I had just split. He crept in while I was vulnerable and made damn sure he was going to stay.
However, he was only visiting my town for the summer. In the fall, he went to college. We maintained a relationship. A lot of late night phone calls and spontaneous road trips.
I got pregnant on my period after we were dating about four months.
I had been on birth control that made me very sick, so I discontinued it. He was young and naive and didn't know how to properly use a condom. Yes, we were reckless or whatever you want to call it. But here I was, almost 24, had about 10 partners before him, and never once was there an "accident." Who would have thought the only way I could get pregnant was when I was menstruating? But it happened.
I was terrified. Not so much terrified to tell this guy that I barely knew and not so much to tell my mother, who had been a big women's libber. OK, a little scared to tell my mother. But I was afraid of the kind of life I would be able to offer this little person. I was afraid of the pain of childbirth. I was afraid of never being able to go back to school or become sufficient enough not to have to rely on public assistance. The thought of terminating the pregnancy didn't really cross my mind because I was too busy thinking about the steps I would need to take to provide for the little one.
And then the idea was posed-- or rather insisted upon. I would have to abort the pregnancy because there was no way he was going to be a father at 19. He was a rising star. He had journeys to live and destinies to fulfill. And, oh, he had money, so I didn't have to worry about it. He would take care of it.
And just like that, he did. He made me an appointment in his college town so he wouldn't have to miss school to be with me. He holed me up in his bedroom (in the home he shared with his 40-something going on 20-something mother) so that I could recover. My own family was not part of the process although I would get phone calls every once in a while that this relative or that relative would adopt the baby, etc. I really felt like he had all the control and had convinced me that what I was doing was for the best. His mother gave me looks of both pity and animosity if I ever dared to cross her path on the way to the bathroom. The rest of his family and his friends had no idea. My own mother was wringing her hands from afar and could hardly speak to me about it. My sister was upset I hadn't confided in her. My father... I don't think knows to this day.
The experience was the same as I'm sure most other women on here have had. Cold, sterile environment. Waiting rooms full of crying mothers or friends of the woman having the abortion. A random guy would be seated here or there, perusing the magazines. The actual procedure was not so much painful as it was emotional. I cried. I held the hands of the nurse and my boyfriend. I stared at a poster of a unicorn that was stapled to the ceiling and I don't remember him looking at me, the doctor, or anything in particular.
As we were leaving, he paid for the transaction like he was paying for dinner. We hardly spoke in the car on the way back to his house, where I stayed for about a week, sleeping with him next to me every night and hardly speaking of the "incident." I wrote about it months later in a creative writing class much to the shock of the other students.
Of course, you might think this is where the story ends, that the relationship lasted, at most, another couple of months.
We were together for nearly seven years after that. I figured, if this guy would stand there and hold my hand through that horrible process-- and pay for it nonetheless-- and stroke my head a couple times afterward and tell me it was going to be OK and not bolt out the door, then he must be a keeper. I transferred to his college and graduated, "he" bought a house for us to live in together. I worked while he continued college. And then he decided to become a professional student, a perpetual shirker (mind you, still brilliant and charming and debonair), living off his inheritance.
Through a lot of prodding on my part, he finally decided we should get married. We set a date, booked a reception site, band and photographer and I was gleefully picking out dresses before I even had a ring. I believe it was all too much for both of us and the relationship began to crumble in a major way. I think he was fine with the way things had been to that point, but I wanted the next step. Over the years, I had grown to love him more than anything, but I grew restless and so did he.
I wanted children eventually. I got the feeling, as I was getting older and still five years his senior, that he would probably put off fatherhood indefinitely if I didn't nag him about it. It never was something he dreamed of, although I know some of that Catholic guilt ate at him and ate at him for what he had convinced me to do five years earlier. We never talked about the abortion and the impact it had on each of us separately, and I think that is ultimately what did us in.
But, still, this isn't where the story ends.
Oddly enough, towards the end of our relationship, we tried to make it work. We planned romantic evenings and vacation trips. I ended up getting pregnant-- on my period-- again. And nothing sent him running faster. Technically, he kicked me out of "his" trust fund money house before I told him the news, but I think he had an inkling and that is why he ended things so abruptly and coldly and callously.
He has never met his daughter who is now going on six.
I am single. I have never married. And I'm getting to the age where I doubt I'll ever have another child. That is what I regret the most. That he wasted all those years of my life and is still able to control my emotions, even though we haven't spoken face to face in five years.
But even after taking away so much from me, he left me with the most beautiful daughter-- a precious gift. For that I will always be grateful.
I don't know if anyone will take anything away from my story. I don't know how typical it is. But maybe that's the beauty of a resource like this. I could be anyone to anybody. A friend, neighbor, coworker, sister, aunt, cousin, daughter. And I have had this experience like so many other women, yet my experience is unique to me. I don't for one second regret the decision to not bring a child into a world where he or she would go without or forever be blamed or burdened with its parents' mistake. I don't regret making a decision where the alternative outcome would have probably been two young people feeling obligated to marry and forever resenting each other in the presence of the child.
I made the decision to be a single parent the second time around. I knew I was in a better place financially and emotionally and, even though there's only one of me, my child is far better off than if her parents were together and hating each other.
Yes, the scars are still there. The pain, regret and guilt haven't gone away completely. But they have faded with time, and my new memories are slowly but surely bringing me out of the dark past. And my experiences have made me who I am. A strong and resilient woman and an amazing mom.