This Mother’s Day, I’m reminded that I could be the proud mother of an 8-year-old child right now, but I chose to have an abortion instead.
There’s no denying the fact that I was terrified of all of the "what ifs" pregnancy immediately presented me with. Unplanned pregnancies make up half of all pregnancies in the United States, and one in three of these are ended by safe and legal abortions.
Deciding to have an abortion was difficult enough.
Like every woman who chooses to end a pregnancy, I carefully decided what was right for me at that point in my life. I was barely surviving while working part-time at a department store and my live-in boyfriend was on disability aid because he had schizophrenia. Even if I had the capacity to be a wonderful mother, I didn’t know it at the time and had no desire to find out.
It wasn’t my decision to have an abortion that caused shame for me. It was the guilt and shame I felt for not wanting to be a mother—because everyone says you should want that. So, I tried with all of my might to repress the experience and pretend like it didn’t happen to me. I wasn’t that kind of woman—the woman who selfishly chooses herself over her unborn child.
But I was that kind of woman. And I’ve grown even further into that kind of woman over the last eight years. I knew having a baby would drastically change my life forever. But I didn’t know that not having a baby was going to do the same. You see, around the time I would have given birth, I finally decided to take responsibility for my life…and it started with getting healthier.
As an adult woman, my very first doctor visit was at a Planned Parenthood abortion clinic.
I grew up fat, and my weight escalated to 300 pounds by the time I had my abortion at 25 years old. Being judged by a doctor for my weight caused a lot of anxiety due to being the target of constant bullying and verbal abuse as a teenager and young adult. So, I avoided the doctor’s office—until I had no other choice.
Sitting in the waiting room at the clinic, I couldn’t tell you for sure what was the most difficult for me to face: the guilt of aborting an unwanted pregnancy, the physical pain that I knew would follow the procedure, or the embarrassment of filling out medical forms—not knowing anything about my health history.
Perhaps it was a combination of all three slaps in the face that shaped the rock-bottom moment I needed to take responsibility for my life, finally. Two weeks after Mother’s Day in 2009, I finally decided to face my shame and start the process of getting healthier. Since then, I’ve dedicated the last eight years of my life to a child that was never born.
Instead of nurturing a growing baby’s needs, I fed myself more nourishing foods and started exercising. I committed to being healthier than I was the day before, which led me to lose 150 pounds in 11 months. Instead of teaching my child how to spell Mississippi, I stopped being a high-school dropout and enrolled in community college and began taking the courses that would eventually lead to a degree, scholarships, and a government job. Instead of showing my kid how to be brave enough to stand up to a bully, I had to gradually develop that courage, confidence, and self-awareness for myself.
At 25 years old, I didn’t know how to take care of or love myself. How do you expect a woman to raise, care for, and love a child in a healthy way if she doesn’t even know how to do that for herself?
So, would I go back and make a different choice if I had the chance? No.
In the end, every right choice could turn out wrong, and every wrong choice could turn out right. Only the woman can decide what is best for her in that situation. One lesson abortion has taught me is that the choice is less about what happens and more about how we deal with it. My abortion gave me the opportunity to turn my life around and start taking better care of myself and my future. I celebrate Mother’s Day by honoring the gift my unborn child gave me: the wake-up call to change.