When I was 29, I took an at-home pregnancy test. I was living with my boyfriend at the time, and we had known each other for more than three years as friends prior. But I wasn’t ready to be a mom.
As a sexually active teenager and 20-something, the worry about becoming pregnant was always a forethought even when using safe measures. Every late period meant a baby. At any moment, I could become someone’s mother.
I can recall three broken condoms in my life, all of which promptly resulted in the morning-after pill the following day. The first time occurred around 19 years old with a kid I went to high school with. We went from drunk-at-a-party to crying-and-consolation-in-my-bedroom.
In the morning, we headed to the local hospital, St. Vincent’s. (This was before you could get the drug over the counter at a convenience store.) There, the staff refused to give me the morning-after pill unless I claimed rape. I pleaded without tears hoping that the woman telling me ‘no’ would look into my eyes and see all of my recklessness, impulsiveness, and — let’s be honest — craziness and determine I was not fit to be someone’s parent.
To no avail. My new sexual partner had to go to work, while I was supposed to meet my stepdad for our monthly daddy-daughter date. Despite being a drunk, emotional wreck the night before, I found some strength.
Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle it.”
His eyes were suspicious since, like me, he also didn’t want to be a teenage parent but everything was out of his control. Although we’d known each other for years, we were closer to enemies than friends. He hated me in senior English and I continued to be annoyed by his unapologetic hatred for anything not in his bubble. Amazing how alcohol brings people together.
Luckily, there was a Planned Parenthood in the city next to my dad’s town. Although I was still on my parent’s medical insurance, I had no idea how much this situation would cost me. I had a couple hundred dollars saved in my bank account from my high school job, and I was prepared to use it all — and take out a loan — to avoid being a statistic. Fortuitously again, PP was still on the sliding scale for payments, almost donation based, and I could afford the price tag to be child-free.
I continue to go to Planned Parenthood offices despite longer wait times and less bougie spaces. I donate funds at each appointment because I was once that desperate girl.”
The second and third broken condoms occurred days apart from one another. I was living in Los Angeles at these times and the two different men were Tinder dates (or the like — probably OkCupid, that was my jam in 2013). I was 27 years old and falling down a rabbit hole of bad decisions. This same year I would later:
- Try to kill myself and spend several days in a psychiatric hospital.
- Go through a second egg donation cycle, which would result in a family having a child as well as several of my eggs frozen for potential siblings.
- Get arrested for being drunk on an airplane.
Parenthood isn’t for everyone, and taking two doses of Plan B in one week made me conclude that I would probably never have my shit together to be a mother. I know there are shitty parents out there and I’ve never wanted to be the reason my kid is on a therapist’s couch.
In 2015, I was pulling myself out of the gutter I had been face-down in for the past few years. I thought about leaving LA but a friend, who had only ever seen me at my worst, convinced me to not only stay but to also date him. He had been chasing me for years but my free spirit (and his waistline) made me say no to him time after time.
We’re soulmates, Fela,” he says.
“But I don’t believe in soulmates.”
It was time to stop dating pretty boys, bad boys, boys in bands, and –even worse — boys with no future. My new boyfriend was stable, loved me, and could be what I was missing throughout my twenties. If only I played by his rules…
The night before I found out I was pregnant, we had gotten into a huge (but annoyingly calm) fight that reinforced the voice I hear at the end of all my relationships, “Get out. Run. He’s not for you.” However, I’ve learned not to make decisions while I’m upset and we went to bed in our separate bedrooms. So incompatible as romantic partners we couldn’t even be unconscious next to one another.
I couldn’t tell you how many pregnancy tests I’ve taken in the last 18 years. At least once a year and far more when I’m single — maybe 30 or 40, all of which had said negative up to this point to my relief. I even use to joke about how I was the biggest slut of my friends and had never contracted an STD or a fetus. Karma is a bitch.
I sent a picture to my boyfriend of the stick and the text, “This says negative, right.” To this day, I don’t know if it was because I was super high or in hardcore denial but I could not see/recognize the obvious line. My worst fear had finally come to fruition at 29 years old in a committed and fairly stable relationship.
A month and a half earlier, we were in San Diego visiting some of my boyfriend’s friends and family. Both big drinkers at the time, we indulged in the liquid libations, had fun, and went back to where we were staying to close out the night. Since I had twice now gone through the egg donation process, which included taking a gross amount fertility drugs, I had made a choice not to be on a birth control pill, patch, or whatever other hormonal influence was available. Condoms would have to suffice.
I knew it. I thought, ‘I just put a baby in her.”
Without my knowledge or consent, my boyfriend had unprotected sex with me while I was blackout drunk. I remember clearly looking for the condom wrapper the next morning (we were staying with friends and I was trying to be a clean guest) and assuming he had thrown it away in a less conspicuous garbage. If our communication/relationship was better, then I would have gone to the local convenient store and, once again, taken Plan B.
While getting pregnant wasn’t my choice, what I did afterward was exclusively on me. Despite having strong options on what I ate, where I went, who I spent time with, what I wore, and even how hard I peed (seriously), he wouldn’t say anything about what we should do about our baby.
He gave me the, “Do what you want,” and, “It’s your body, your choice,” lines but all with the veiled/perceived stipulation that I was too old to have an abortion. This baby would be due near my 30th birthday. What type of person would I be if I terminated?
Our relationship changed after but not positively. From the moment I accepted I was with child, I looked at him differently. He was mean, he was controlling, and he treated me like an invalid although I was his senior. I couldn’t spend the next 18 years with him, I couldn’t have a child that he would treat the same way.
After the official doctor confirmation, I schedule an abortion in two weeks to give me time to figure out what I was going to do. I didn’t have health insurance and was more broke than 10 years earlier. I thought, “I’m too poor to afford an abortion, how am I going to afford a baby?”
In the two weeks, I appealed to the state of California to help pay for the procedure. I drove from state department to state department a hormonal mess seeking any financial coverage.
I remember sitting in my car, rubbing the fresh scar on my wrist while crying uncontrollably. My boyfriend didn’t drive me anywhere and didn’t sit with me in the waiting room holding my hand. Even though I was carrying another person inside me, I felt utterly alone.
The two-week period showed me what my life would be. I would be a single parent regardless if my boyfriend was involved or not. I would constantly struggle financially and be dependent on the state for the foreseeable future. Maybe I could handle it, maybe I could do it alone, but was that the best for me? For this fetus inside me? For society?
Getting an Abortion
Since I was only nine weeks pregnant, I chose to terminate using the pill method. In fact, I’m sure if the suction method was the only choice available, I might have carried to term and then given the baby up — although, the quality of that baby may have been rough due to the drugs I was taking; a cocktail of antidepressants and mood stabilizers (as prescribed) as well as a chronic dose of weed, cigarettes, and alcohol.
We drove to the clinic, we sat silently in the waiting room, and I went in to see the doctor. She gave me a shot since I have a negative Rh factor, which can cause many problems if the fetus is positive. I was instructed to take the pills at certain intervals when I got home. I had already purchased the pads, heat packs, and other items that would make the 72 hours that followed — well not better but — survivable.
As soon as we got home, my boyfriend returned a call to his family that lasted more than 45 minutes. I laid down on the couch, cramping and crying, listening to his causal and lighthearted words from his bedroom. My baby was leaving me and he had already left.
Maybe I was dramatic, needy, and being selfish but I wanted — no, needed — him to be there for me. He didn’t help as I sat on the toilet for days, pushing out bloody chunks, physically and emotionally in pain. He didn’t attempt to soothe me as I cried, not just for what was happening but for all of the actions in my life that had led to this. If I had been a better person, then I wouldn’t be doing this. If I had lived like others, then I wouldn’t be breaking from the inside out.
Life After an Abortion
It has always been amazing to me the secrets that women can carry. The only person besides my boyfriend and I who knew about the termination at that time was my direct supervisor. “I’m getting an abortion,” was one of the hardest sentences I ever said and carried out.
My boyfriend and I continued to date for six months but we were never the same. I could no longer trust him so we stopped having sex. I was mad at him for doing it to me as well as not being there, which resulted in me cheating on him. I wore less and went out more — and if I’m being honest — as justification that I was not ready to be a mom and, therefore, what I had done.
For my 30th birthday, I went on my first solo trip to London, England. In one of the bars was a ‘fetus shot’ and I cried-laughed as I downed it. Although I didn’t regret the outcome, I felt guilty. The baby was gone and our relationship was over but the memory would always be there.
I started a new relationship and we drove from LA to Miami to live in Florida. Upon reaching the panhandle, I was berated by Pro-Life billboards, like “Your baby has a heartbeat at six weeks,” as well as highly religious connotations. More than 10 months later and I was still feeling the stigma behind choosing not to bring life into this world.
I didn’t tell my new boyfriend, I didn’t tell anyone. It took me years to process and conclude without the biases of others. Within a short period, I’d tried to kill myself, successfully killed my offspring, given life to another family, and been hospitalized and incarcerated. Every story is unique, but mine just seemed fucked up.
I’d spoken to female friends and family members who had also had one (or more), and their experiences and reactions were both similar and completely different from mine. One of these stories was particularly painful to hear, as this woman blamed the health of her living child on her previous abortions.
Time heals all wounds, they say and I’ll at least agree that it softens the blow. Now 33 years old and still trying to determine if motherhood is in the cards for me, I look back at my choice with a lightness. I wasn’t ready, and I still don’t know if I am or will ever be. Just because you can get pregnant doesn’t mean you should be a mom.
I am no less a woman if I never have my own children.”
In the years since the pregnancy, I’ve asked my former boyfriend if he did it to me on purpose and have never gotten a clear answer. We met up just a few months ago and the interaction reinforced my decision. We would have been terrible parents, we would have been unhappy, and our child would have been caught in the cycle of a shitty upbringing.
I grew up in a very religious family. I also grew up in a broken house (although I like to think of us as pureed). I’ve never met my biological dad, as he never wanted to have children. I’m sure all of these factors and more influenced my decision to have an abortion as well as my reaction following it.
I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like if I had gotten pregnant at 19 or kept my baby at 29. In both situations, I would have been tied to a man whom I didn’t want to be with as well as brought another child into the poverty class. Although I’m Pro-Choice, that choice was NOT easy for me to make but it was necessary.