My Abortion Story.
I begin writing this post uncertain I’ll publish it. No. I will. But I hold on to the uncertainty. I need it right now. I need to not know if anyone else will read this so that I can keep writing it. Yesterday, a woman running for the senate in Texas spent many hours filibustering a bill limiting reproductive rights. I don’t know, really, what it was all about because I didn’t watch. I know that my twitter stream was vibrating with support for her, and with righteous anger. People were being entreated to “send her [their] abortion stories”. Stories of how abortions had saved lives and families, and spared pain and agony. There are millions of such stories. And I support the right to safe, legal, and reasonably (i.e., minimally but not un-) regulated termination of pregnancy.
But my abortion story does not fit that narrative.
When I was about a year-and-a-half sober, my life was going well. I’d been employed for more than a year. I was already being promoted to Principal Investigator. The turbulence from my drinking days had subsided. My then-wife and I were getting along very well. My stepson was doing well in school. I thought that my life was finally settling into a groove that would last for the rest of it. I was happy. My wife and I talked about having a baby.
We more than talked about having a baby. We deliberated it. At first, I wasn’t sure. She told me that she thought I’d be a wonderful father. I said I thought we’d have a beautiful and brilliant baby. I was nervous. I knew she wanted a career, but she also believed in staying home while babies were small, for a couple of years, at least. She’d worked hard to get her master’s degree, and was just starting to look for jobs. Her own child was twelve. There’d be a large age difference.
I don’t know precisely when the decision was made. I know that we agreed that we wanted a child. And I remember vividly, one night, on the sofa, when she told me: “I stopped taking my birth control.” I remember being flushed with excitement and slightly terrified.
It took about three months. But it wasn’t like I imagined it would be when she told me she was pregnant. She was distant for days. Then, one day, she was crying. She told me she was pregnant. Then she told me that I had a choice. We could have an abortion, or she would divorce me, and take the child away to the city her parents lived in, and raise it alone. This was a lot of information to get in three minutes. She just said over and over again: “I can’t raise a child with you.”
You know what though? I don’t blame her for anything. I can’t imagine what was in her mind that brought her to that decision. That convinced her that laying out that ultimatum for me was the best thing for her to do. Whatever I went through, I’m sure what she went through was worse.
I wanted to save my marriage. I wanted to save this life I suddenly had. A family, a career, a home. The things I’d been in a continuous battle to save since they started. The prospective loss of my family had been the catalyst to my sobriety. I would do anything I could to preserve it. Even if it meant shredding my own heart. And so I sat down on the floor with her and looked her in the eyes and I said: “You’re right. We can’t have this baby.”
We rationalized it in several ways. She was still taking an anti-depressant. That probably wasn’t good for a fetus, right? All the glib things I’ve said and written about not having children I said earnestly then. And then I drove her to Planned Parenthood, and held her hand, and talked to the counselors. And then a few days later we returned, and I sat in the waiting room while she had the procedure. The counselors told me that it wasn’t set up for me to go back with her. But the real reason was that they were ensuring she wasn’t being coerced into the abortion. It’s an appropriate precaution.
I brought her home and she convalesced for a few days. We cried a lot. I talked to my sponsor about it, before and after. He told me the stories of his abortions. That was the beginning of the end of my marriage. For me. I think for her it began before that. But I lost my will to fight to be with someone who didn’t want to be part of a family with me.
I don’t blame her. I made my decisions, and I had different ones I could have made. Maybe she wouldn’t have followed through, if we’d decided to keep the baby. Maybe she’d have stayed and we’d have raised the child and been happy. But I doubt it. What it comes down to is, I made the decision to have an abortion of convenience in order to not have a child being raised far away by a person I feared was emotionally unstable. And that was the choice I made.
So I support reproductive freedoms. I am glad that the government didn’t make those choices for me. But I can’t celebrate them. I don’t see abortion as a casual freedom. Not when, in the long fabric of my life, there’s a poorly-sewn gash where a child might be.