Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SPT: The Child I Didn't Bear

One day shy of five years ago, I had an abortion. I was seventeen years old and a senior in high school.

As soon as I began to suspect I was pregnant, I knew I did not want to continue the pregnancy. That surprised me somewhat as I had always felt vaguely anti-abortion, and had always wanted to be a mother.

But I decided to terminate the pregnancy. I told no one other than my boyfriend that I was pregnant. After I had the procedure done, I felt so relieved.

Apparently a lot of women can have an abortion and not feel any long-lasting emotional effects. I am not one of them. A few months after the abortion, in the dark of January, I was hit with grief and remorse. I mourned hard for months, for years even. The medical community does not recognize Post Abortion Stress Syndrome as a real disorder, and the pro-choice movement says it is something made up by the anti-abortion side, but I experienced it all the same. I found an online support group and just realizing that so many other people had the same conflicting mess of feelings and thoughts that I did lightened my mind a lot. I began to be able to process all that I'd gone through.

I went to the clinic and got copies of the ultrasound pictured in my self-portrait during the nadir of that stretch of time. I don't know how much they helped me if at all, but I am glad I got them.

With the maturity and wisdom that five years has brought, I know that having an abortion was the best choice at the time. I do not regret the decision I made, though I do regret carelessly getting pregnant. I still think sometimes about the child I didn't have, but not with the frequency and pain that I used to. It breaks my heart to think about how sad I was. For two years I was a walking wound. But time heals and becoming a mother has soothed the part of my soul that longed to be one after coming so close and turning away from it.

I have kept this a secret because of the strong negative feelings some people have about abortion. I try to live my life free from concern about what others think about me, but this is something I am sensitive about. It weighs kind of heavily on me that there are people out there who would call me a murderer, and, cowardly though it may be, I want to avoid that hatred being aimed in my direction.

It also upsets me that there are people actively trying to take away women's right to make this decision. And so I have added my name to Ms. Magazine's petition: We Had Abortions, giving up a little bit of secrecy in the name of freedom.

More self portraits can be found at Self Portrait Tuesday.

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Blogger Left-handed Trees... said...

I am in complete awe of this post--of your beautiful words, your heartbreaking portrait, and your amazing courage...

8:27 AM  
Blogger Uber Mer said...

wow. Your post is as inspiring as it heartbreaking. I often think if I was ever put in that situation and made the choice you did, I would feel the same.

thank you for sharing.

8:36 AM  
Anonymous S said...

A very poignant post. I blogged about my abortion a while back, if you'd like to read. Thanks for the link to Ms. Magazine ... I will have to check that out.

8:43 AM  
Blogger Deb R said...

I think this is a very brave post and a beautiful self-portrait.

12:32 PM  
Blogger elizabooth said...

Wow. Great post. I think it's important for women to share stories like this -- very brave. And may I say, your self-portrait is absolutely beautiful.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous sarahgrace said...

Wow. Bless you for sharing that, I'm sure it was a very difficult thing to do. Much love and hugs to you.

3:39 PM  
Blogger melba said...

We all have secrets. Everyone. Even those of us who think we don't, we do. We live in a society that for Soooo Long everything was so repressed and pushed down and down and down. I am so glad to read blogs by brave women (like you); everyday revealing the truth. I believe compassion and acceptance will grow from the truth.

Thank you for your post.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

this is so personal - i commend and thank you for sharing.

7:09 PM  
Blogger kate said...

What courage you have to post your story. Thank you for sharing such a personal piece of your life with all of us.

11:35 AM  
Anonymous Janet said...

What a sad and beautiful self portrait. And a courageous post. I think it's important for women to share these stories. Grief and sadness are hard enough without also having to also carry a burden of secrecy, shame and/or guilt.

I ended a pregnancy mid term after testing 4 years ago and it's a decision that I've never been totally comfortable with, but it was the best decision we could make at the time. Writing about the experience this september was unexpectly liberating, even if the sadness never completely goes.

I think ending a pregnancy can be a hard choice (eventhough I will fight to keep that right to decide too) and I'm sorry for your loss. Peace and hugs.

4:18 AM  
Blogger SparklieSunShine said...

I tried to comment on this yesterday, but I lost connection and my comment was lost.

I think you are really wonderful for writing this post. I am also so very glad you signed that petition. I have always been Pro-Choice, but I understand very well the ramifications of abortion. My mom was forced to have an abortion when she was 17 by her parents and her pastor. Every year around the time that it happened she still gets sad.

I completely believe there is such a thing as Post Abortion Stress Syndrome. It is such a huge thing to go through not to mention all of those pregnancy hormones that abruptly stop.

I think many people on the Pro-Choice side want to say it's not realy because they are worried that it will be something else to be used against the cause.

I hope that once abortion is legal and safe there will be a lot more attention on things like PASS and more support for women who have gone through abortions.

It's important that you shared this. Thank you.

2:13 PM  
Anonymous Paige said...

What a brave and honest post. Thank you. It's important to hear the stories behind the debates. Thank you.

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Janet said...

Thanks for sharing. Your portrait is beautiful and so are your words.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Kim Carney said...

I think others will think you strong, brave, with a sensible head on your shoulders. I know that was painful, but thank you for the post.

I hope future generations can have safe options.

10:20 PM  
Blogger Susan D. said...

You're brave for standing up to be counted. I had an abortion on November 14, 1994. I've never regretted it, never had any grief or other negative psychological effects, but I never ever forget that if I hadn't had an abortion, I'd have an 11-year-old today.

4:04 AM  
Anonymous Mama C-ta said...

Wow you are brave, inspiring, beautiful...I'm so sorry for your heartache, it shows in your portrait.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous gay said...

a brave and beautiful post. thank you

9:23 AM  
Blogger Teri said...

You know what they say: a wound can only heal if it is exposed to light and air. May you find copious amounts of both. This is a big one, I know.

The portrait is heartbreakingly beautiful. Your courage is beautiful.

Lots of love...xoxo

11:59 AM  
Blogger Elaine said...

For some reason, Bloglines dropped you out of my subscription list and I just now stumbled across this entry. Thank you so much for sharing such a deeply personal thing. I always wonder what would have happened if I had gotten pregnant in High School... it so easily could have happened as I was pretty careless. I'm just thankful I never had to find out. I don't know if any of us really know what we'd do in the face of an unwanted pregnancy... thank you for offering your story. I'm so proud of you.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Country Mouse said...

Thank you for sharing this. It takes bravery to open yourself up this much in public, and I'm glad you did.

I'm avidly pro-choice, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize the pain that choice may bring. My thoughts are with you and your 17-year-old self.

4:41 PM  
Anonymous dorothy said...

I hope talking about it helped. I went through many of my friends' abortions, and I don't know anyone who hasn't felt a throwback afterward.

But I also don't know any that didn't regret it at the time.

It's a complicated and deeply personal issue. We can't judge if we haven't been in those shoes. Thanks for sharing your story.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had an abortion too. At the time I was dating my future husband, not knowing whether we would marry, knowing I wasn't ready to be a parent. My abortion triggered an eating disorder and post abortion stress syndrome. Today I have three kids, and 100% regret my choice. I would do anything to undo my decision, even though I have forgiven myself. In my opinion abortion is generally a bad choice, if for no other reason than it is irreversible. Thank you for sharing your story.

3:14 AM  
Blogger Tricia said...

Strength, courage, wisdom, compassion, sorrow, freedom... these are the words that came to mind. Beautiful picture.

8:44 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Thank you for this. Just, thank you.

5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not even sure how I got to this page, but the post and the comments made me cry- I have buried the same secret very deeply in my heart. I was in college, on the pill and still I got pregnant. I secretly closed an old bank account and then lied to my mom about it. I hate that. I felt so cheap and horrible. It's not that I regret the decision, I just wish it could have been different. Maybe now that I can handle a child, I do feel regret, but I could't have a child at the time- or at least I thought I couldn't. So regret is 20/20 in hindsight too. It is such a gift to hold my 2 children- even if it's all night when they're sick, I can't believe I turned that little soul away. I feel your pain and my own for possibly the first time.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous C said...

What a huge thing to share. A huge, powerful and amazing thing to share. Thank you for sharing.

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think after reading this and the following comments, that it is exceptionally important to explain the modern pro-life movement. I am an active pro-lifer and am a member of the group Feminists for Life. Our goal is NEVER to make a woman feel like a murderer or feel bad. The modern pro-life movement is about providing for women so that they don't feel that they have to have abortions by making medical care, clothing, baby supplies, child care, and adoption services more readily available and easily accessible. Women should NEVER feel like they have to have an abortion. Thank you for affirming the truth of post abortion syndrome. I'm very glad that you found the support you deserve and have been able to cope so beautifully. It's true that abortion hurts women, and that women deserve love and support, not abortion. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts with you.

9:38 AM  

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