There is power in simply sharing our stories. So often in our lives, people become eager to cast judgment on decisions they have the privilege of not having to make. The stone that sits restlessly in our hand is easier to cast when there is no name or face to connect with. Stories without a face become abstract as opposed to real, practical, and relational.
I am a mother of two beautiful children. I have been married and divorced. I have been a single mother, and also chose to birth a second child while I was single and a solo mama; I have two children with two different fathers. I had a pregnancy I chose not to carry to term; I chose abortion after already having given birth, and had my second child after my abortion.
These are many pieces of my story, but they are still only pieces. I am comfortable with my story, in all its complexity and fullness.
The narrative for abortion stories is quite disproportionate—the “pro-life” advocates are much more comfortable taking a public stance on the issue. Those who have had an abortion may not be comfortable sharing such an intimate part of their lives—and rightly so. Abortion is in no way an easy choice, so it is not uncommon for the stories and reasoning behind the abortion to be kept even from those closest to us. I don’t believe that women are obligated to share our stories, but I believe that deep conversations about the depth of our lives often become minimized when they aren’t connected to a face or soul. This is not a call to action for everybody to share their stories, as it may not be the right time to share such an experience. Because I’m privileged enough to be in a supportive community and have come to peace with these aspects of my story, I feel much more comfortable than most to share my story. I want to reassure women that they shouldn’t be made to feel guilty in their decision to terminate a pregnancy. I have chosen to have children and I have chosen abortion, and I carry no regret or guilt about either of these choices.
Having children is not for the faint of heart, and neither is abortion.
While I was pregnant with my first child, I had a moment where I truly realized that I would never be a solo being again. For the rest of both of our lives, I am both biologically and spiritually bonded to this human—and responsible for guiding them to be able to navigate the world as truthfully, wholeheartedly, and kindly as possible. There’s a depth of responsibility that comes with parenthood that is impossible to understand until you have a child. While I never had any doubts about having either of my children, the choice to have each of them changed me forever, and I would never claim that any person should feel obligated to take on this kind of responsibility. And, make no mistake, that connection and responsibility are still there if a woman chooses adoption.
The truth is: Mothers are meant not only to be the gateway to life, but also gatekeepers of death. These two are inextricably connected, and every intact culture, in connection with the authentic rhythms of nature, earth, life and death knew this. To remove death as part of the full aspect of The Mother is to sanitize and ‘prettify’ her; to make her one-dimensional, and turn her into a Hallmark card.
My story as a Mother is not easy or linear. My story as a Mother holds both life and death. My story as a Mother is one of choosing my own bodily autonomy, and choosing what was right for my family, even when it was hard.
I was married when I conceived my first child. We planned on having children and creating a family together, and pregnancy came fairly easily. When I conceived my second child, my ex-husband and I were still married, though our relationship was rocky. I didn’t know for sure whether we would stay together, separate, or divorce. I knew with all my heart I wanted a second child, but with equal certainty, I knew I didn’t want to bring another child into the tumult, confusion, and pain of our relationship the way it was. I believe my then-husband would have liked me to carry that pregnancy to term – but he supported my decision no matter what. It took many weeks, many tearful conversations, and oh-so-many prayers to ultimately come to the decision to terminate that pregnancy.
What you don’t often hear about abortion stories are the conversations we have with our unborn baby. The weight of making a real life or death decision changes how you view the world. The absurdity of life is one thing, but to hold a living thing inside you changes everything you know about yourself. After the abortion, I was put in a room with other women who had just undergone termination. We were all given a comfy chair, a blanket, and some crackers. I felt both disconnected from these women -none of whom I knew or ever saw again, and none of us spoke to each other- and also deeply connected, knowing we had all shared a deeply personal experience.
Another piece that is rarely shared is how a woman might feel after having an abortion. I found myself being able to breathe again. The sense that I was on a treadmill I could never get off of was lifted. I regained the confidence that I was a stellar mother to the child I had birthed, and that I had made the right decision for myself, my living child, my family, and also for my unborn child. I continued to speak with them, and honor that they came into my life, even if for a very short time.
By the time I became pregnant for the third time, my ex-husband and I were fully separated, I had moved 90 minutes north with our son, and settled into a new community. My daughter’s father and I had been dating for about 9 months, and he was clear he did not want children. My pregnancy was absolutely a surprise to both of us. While it made no sense on paper to have a child with a man who did want to be a father, when I was already solo-parenting a very spirited 3-year old, I knew, in my bones, that I would have this baby, that she was part of our family. I was prepared to follow the path of having a second child, possibly alone, with no clear plan as to how it would ‘all work out.
I called my dearest girlfriends, and asked them if I was crazy to even consider having this baby. While they agreed that it would be hard, they also offered their support that I could absolutely do this. Their support meant everything to me, but it was the deep inner knowing I had from the moment I knew I was pregnant that carried me through those challenging months.
In the end, my daughter’s father chose her. In the end he chose all of us, and the family we have together, but that was not a given at the outset. In the end, we are surrounded by love, including my son’s father, who is active in both kid’s lives. In the end there is more love and support than I ever could have planned for. None of this is guaranteed. And all of this is partially created by my walking these paths, and stepping into the unknown, with faith and a deep devotion to following what I knew to be true, without always knowing why or how. I walked the path of choosing my daughter with the same faith that I walked the path of separating from my ex-husband while our son was still a baby, and the same faith that I walked the path of terminating my second pregnancy.
I am not here to tell anyone else what is right for them, but to share the truth of what has been right for me.
I look at my children now and I feel overwhelmed with love, reverence, and a deep confidence that I did everything correctly in my decisions regarding child-birth. I now have a much deeper respect for motherhood through my experience. The true depth of Motherhood doesn’t come only from being able to create life, but from honoring that sometimes, for the benefit of all, we choose death. Both choices change everything, forever.