A few weeks ago I had an abortion, and we made the decision to tell you all about it. Here’s why we told you at age 6, and here’s why I’m making the decision to put this here for you for later.
Going into the pregnancy, I felt OK, which was surprising given how sick I was carrying you from the jump. But, somewhere around week 8, I went from “I’m pregnant and feel OK” to full-blown sick. Thinking it was normal morning sickness, I carried onward. I was pretty sick with you – let’s face it, downright miserable as a pregnant person – but I was technically fine. Just sick but not in danger. Starting at week 9 of this pregnancy, I missed two consecutive weeks of work- my assistant covered the classes like a boss, but it was unfair to throw her into the deep end like that, and it was more unfair to the students going forward who signed up for 6 weeks of classes they wouldn’t get. That on its own? I wouldn’t have done it.
But then I rapidly lost 10 pounds I didn’t have to lose. My blood pressure was 74/40. My body was eating itself. I was stuck in a couch for two weeks and couldn’t make it to the kitchen without the feeling of inevitably passing out. Dark tunnels, light-headed, all of it. There was a great risk of passing out with you here… Or worse, with no one home.
It dawns on me that with cell phones, you might not know how to get into my phone to call 911, or might not be able to find my phone in case of an emergency. It’s not like when I was a kid and there was a 12″ magical device with a rotary dial connected to the wall, hanging in the same place, consistent place, with the cord wrapped up on itself from the years of twirling the cord we paced while talking for hours on end.
At week 10, dehydrated, miserable and disgustingly thin, I needed IV fluids which isn’t that unusual in pregnancy. The unusual part was the IV was due to regurgitating water and Gatorade for two weeks. The doctors and nursing staff couldn’t keep anything in my system which was becoming quite problematic.
When it came time to medicate, things went from bad to worse. I threw up every anti-nausea medication the doctors threw at me. Because I’m an overachiever, I even threw up the medication that is designed to dissolve on the tongue so people can’t throw it up. Special, right? It was terrible and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. But when I couldn’t keep the smallest amount of water down for two days in a row and the dissolvable medication wasn’t working, it became quite clear that things were not just “uncomfortable”. I was in real, genuine danger.
The very worst part for me, even beyond all the sickness, vomiting, blood, all of it, was I couldn’t play with you, read to you, color with you. I showed you how to use the remote control to turn on the television and that was it. I had a kid I couldn’t engage with, let alone take care of. That was the worst feeling of all of this.
People stopped on the street to ask if I was OK after yacking up what little I could get down in the median, like an overachieving Bostonian on St. Patrick’s Day in the college district – but instead of a typical Thursday night after the bars close, I was heaving at 2:00 in the afternoon, stone-cold sober, in front of the mailman. The dog was quite helpful in his drive to want to clean it up, but I stopped him.
But here’s the thing, kiddo.
I’m not even sad.
Abortion doesn’t mean you have to be sad. Abortion doesn’t mean you have to be heartless, either. The choices laid out for me were such that I could continue with the pregnancy but likely go back and forth to the hospital for 7 months, being fed through an IV, missing you, not being present for your dad, missing work and letting down my students, not being able to walk our dog… Or, I could terminate the pregnancy and be there for you, the kid I already have. In a way I didn’t feel like there was a choice – but there was. I made the right one for us.
A very smart friend pointed out, “Your body was eating itself. You were dying.”
Do I wish it played out differently? Of course. But if given the same hand, I would do it again in an instant.
I was back on my feet after one week. There were side effects that were not disclosed – like the acne breakouts that brought me right back to being 14 years old, and pants (jeans specifically) were uncomfortable for months. Luckily, leggings were fashionable at the time, so I could be comfortable and go about my day.
More than the luck of a stretchy, forgiving wardrobe, I had an amazing support structure with friends, co-workers and family who I told from the jump because secrets don’t help anyone. And now I’m telling you. Again.
I’m telling you here so when you are older you can see what this was like at the time for me. We did tell you when this was happening because I feel strongly that our country is in a big mess because we hush things up that are uncomfortable. We don’t talk to family members about politics, religion, abortion, women’s health, or race. We just don’t. That stops here. You have been fully aware that I was carrying a baby, and then wasn’t because it was making me very sick, to a point of great personal danger, and you knew that. We never lied to you about this.
The tooth fairy, Santa, sure – those are lies I’ll keep telling you because those myths are, I think, important to childhood. But this? You needed to know now and you’ll need to be reminded when you are older. If it’s not you, it’ll be a friend who will need you there for her and I want you to know the gravity of this. The emotions that showcased in media are sometimes projected what we’re supposed to feel. That’s bullshit. You feel what you feel, and for me, for now, I feel relieved. And that’s perfectly OK. Some women are really emotionally raw after such an event, understandably so. Some are sad, depressed, angry, pissed, and yet others relieved or content. There are many feelings, many that play off each other from day to day, and they are all valid.
I’m sad that I’ll never have another kid, but your dad and I were talking: We consider it quite a stroke of luck and good fortune that we have you. Given the miscarriage before and this toxic pregnancy (a term a friend used and it really hits the nail on the head), it’s quite possible that we wouldn’t ever have had the opportunity before or after you. It’s weird to think about if I’m being totally honest.
And oddly, we’ve been a lot closer since this event. Maybe because you’re older? Maybe because I see things differently? Maybe both? Either way, here we are.
After I publicly came out with my abortion story, I had scores of women email me privately to tell me their stories. They aren’t ready to come forward yet and that’s completely normal, fine, acceptable, and their choice, as it should be. Their stories told privately to me gave me more strength than imagined. Many were heartbreaking. Many were similar in that they found relief. Some had miscarriages and elected (like I did a long time ago) to have a doctor get involved. There are many stories – people make choices like this for so many reasons, and it’s not at all what might be portrayed in certain circles.
So I’m putting this here for you, Little. If ever you are faced with such a choice as hyperemesis gravidarum (or worse) and difficulty with carrying a baby can be genetic. I had no idea going in, but I do now. I won’t let you go in with blinders on.
You need to know you are supported. You need to know you are not alone. You need to know that whatever choice a woman makes is hers to make and does not need to be defended to anyone.
I hope when you are an adult and might need to make such a choice, that all your options are safe, legal and on the table so you can make an informed decision that works for you.
I was particularly lucky to live in a state where abortion services are accessible, where there were no picketers screaming at me, calling me horrible things. I had peace, was surrounded by women who were going through a hard decision for a variety of reasons, and found relief. We had to drive a little out of the way to get such services, but they existed and I recognize the great privilege we were afforded by only having to drive 30 minutes for such an event unlike in other parts of the country where women have to jump through more hoops, face greater blow back, drive for hours just for relief.
So with this, Little, you’re likely going to be an only from here on out.
And that’s perfect.