After careful consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason for this current depression I’m in is because I’m back to being terrified of standing out, of being noticed, of angering someone with my words. After more careful consideration, I’ve decided I still want to write. And I still want to write publicly and advocate for mental health. I can’t think of anything every person in the entire world agrees on, so I have to accept that some people will disagree with some of what I write. I have to accept that some people will get angry with what I write, and realize the chances of their anger resulting in violence against me is slim.
So with all that considered, I am going to write about one of the more contentious issues today. There will absolutely be people who disagree with what I write. There will probably be people angry with my opinions. I welcome your thoughts if you disagree with what follows in this post. I just ask that you reply with respect. If you agree with what I write and you want to voice your support, I also ask that you reply with respect to those who disagree.
What thoughts and feelings does that word bring up for you? For me, it brings up anger and sorrow, guilt and relief. I’ve had an abortion. It was the worst experience of my life. I would never have one again, and I would never advise someone to get one. I think it is a horrific procedure.
I got pregnant when I was 23. The pregnancy resulted from having sex with someone I thought I loved and had planned on marrying at one point. We weren’t, strictly speaking, a couple anymore. My self-esteem was at an all time low, in no small way due to him. I had tried to kill myself 5 months earlier. I didn’t think anyone could ever love me. I was a mess. Definitely not ideal motherhood conditions.
I was having a very bad day when I found out I was pregnant. I had to tell friends I couldn’t move in with them because I found out the man who raped me lived in their neighbourhood. They didn’t believe me and I lost our friendship over it. My cat, who was living with other friends, was coughing up blood and at the vet. I was nervous to meet my old manager to ask for my job back at the university. Why I decided that would be a good morning to take a pregnancy test in a mall bathroom stall is beyond me, but that is what I did, and that is where I found out a little human was quickly developing inside me.
I had half an hour before I was to meet my manager. I walked around the block a few times waiting for the restaurant to open. I cried, and then took a deep breath. It was now essential I got my job back. And choose the healthiest lunch possible.
To my surprise and relief, my manager wanted me to work for her again. She even wanted me to have a senior position with a pay increase. And, as an employee of student housing, I could live on campus at a reduced rate for the summer. Good. I had employment and (inexpensive) housing for the next four months.
Next I met my friend at the vet. My cat Tabatha was ok, but I needed to buy some medication for her from the pharmacy. “Perfect”, I thought. “I need to buy vitamins from the pharmacy. I need to give my baby the proper nutrients. I’ll look for folic acid”.
To be sure, I was terrified. I joked with my friends that night I needed a drink to deal with this, but under no circumstances would I drink alcohol. I had a tiny life growing in me, and I had to protect her/him. I was already in love with my child.
I’ve read about the different times parents fall in love with their children. Some are like me, and it hits us early. Some fall in love at birth. I don’t think one is better than the other, and I’m not sure we can control when it happens. But I suspect this may have something to do with the split between the pro-choice and pro-life factions. Before I became pregnant, I couldn’t understand why some people would continue with a pregnancy when they clearly weren’t at a stage in life to raise a child. After I became pregnant and loved the life inside me, I couldn’t understand how anyone would want death to come to someone I loved, or any of the other little humans growing inside their mothers.
My family who knew about my pregnancy didn’t want me to give birth. After initially agreeing to raise our baby together, the father had a change in heart. He didn’t think we should. He told me he didn’t trust himself to be a father. He told me he was attracted to young girls, and was afraid he would abuse either our child, or our child’s friends once they got to a certain age. He didn’t want our child to exist. He didn’t want me to give our child a life and a home with a different set of parents. It was us together (which wasn’t going to happen) or no baby at all.
As there are no laws in Canada about abortion, I should have been entitled to choice in the matter. But as someone who was ill and too weak to stand up for myself, I did not have a choice; I had to have an abortion. So I can understand the outrage of the thought of laws requiring women to give birth whether they want to or not. Women have been oppressed, ignored, and disrespected for most of history, and still in so many ways today. But I loved my child before it was born. He or she had her own DNA, and although in Canada not legally defined as a person, she was her own self. She was not just a part of my body. And I think she was entitled to the right of life.
But what about the threat of abuse from her father? I don’t think taking away a person’s chance at life is a good way to offer protection. I’d like to think my parents are happy they gave me life, even though I’ve experienced pain and abuse. As much as I want to die at times due to the ongoing PTSD symptoms I suffer because I was raped, I’m glad I wasn’t preemptively killed to spare me the pain. I hope, if given the chance, my parents wouldn’t choose to go back in time and take away my life.
(I should also mention, to be fair to the father and for those who know who I’m describing, he later told me it was all a lie. That he said those things to get me to have an abortion because he didn’t want to be with me. So, you can decide which is the lie, and whether or not he should be monitored around children and young teens.)
I mentioned I feel anger, sorrow, guilt, and relief. Anger at the people who couldn’t see my child as a child and encouraged me to have her killed. Sorrow at the loss of her life. Guilt because I didn’t stop what I knew was wrong. And relief. I’m relieved I’m not in that relationship anymore. I’m relieved I’ve been able to grow in self-respect. A friend told me recently he could not imagine I would date someone who didn’t respect me. I agree. But had I stayed in that relationship to raise a child together, I doubt that would be the case today. Abortion is complicated.
I don’t know what the solution is to get to a point where no one wants abortions to happen, all pregnancies are greeted with joy, and we don’t have to fight over the rights of a woman versus the rights of a fetus. The ideal, but unrealistic solution, of course, is for people to only have sex if they would be happy with it resulting in a child.
Can we take steps in that direction though? Can we, for instance, teach our children and young people to believe it is absolutely unthinkable to force sex on another person? Can we maybe instill a culture where denying or delaying our own pleasure is looked upon with admiration?
As someone who has been raped, I’m always uncomfortable with any discussion which assumes it is impossible for people to not have sex. I have higher expectations for myself. I’ve been in the position where I wanted to have sex, but the person I was with did not. I accepted his boundaries, and dealt with the frustrations of my unmet desires. I’ve also been in the position where I wanted to have sex, but didn’t want to risk getting pregnant. Neither did he. We didn’t have sex. It’s not an easy decision to make in the heat of the moment. I think we cheat ourselves out of a more fulfilling life by lowering the expectations we have for ourselves and assuming we can’t make hard choices. To remove the risk of being called a hypocrite, I will admit to having had sex without considering the consequences. This is why I think it is unrealistic to ask people to only have sex when they would welcome a child. It’s really a very difficult expectation to have.
Once I physically healed from the abortion, my former fiancé tried to have sex with me again. I cried and said no while he was on top of me, and fortunately he stopped. We never saw each other again after that day. I’m glad I finally said no, and I’m lucky that was the end of our relationship.
Not every woman who gets an abortion is in a toxic or abusive relationship, but I would like to see more support given to the women who are. A prescription for birth control pills did not help me out of a bad situation. Quite the opposite in fact. The ability to have “consequence-free” sex makes it easier to stay in a bad relationship. If I hadn’t found the abortion so horrific, I might still be with him, or someone equally disrespectful. It took me a long time to find my self-worth. At the very least they could give the contact numbers for women’s shelters and counseling groups to their patients.
One group which offers help to women with unexpected pregnancies is the Sisters of Life. While yes, they are a group of Catholic sisters (nuns), you don’t have to be Catholic or religious at all to receive their help. They are a group of women who deeply respect the women they serve. I respect them immensely as women who are doing something concrete and practical to help other women. Take a look at their website here.
I’d like to see a world where we actually respect one another. Where we can debate serious issues like this without resorting to name-calling. Where we can accept being rejected without calling the other person a bitch or an asshole. Where we can ask for what we want in relationships, and kindly end those where our needs aren’t being met. Where we consider how our actions impact others, and adjust our behaviour accordingly. Where we apologize when wrong. Where we use our strengths and powers responsibly.
I hope I haven’t offended you by sharing this part of my life. If I have, I hope I can still have your respect and count on a life without abuse or harassment, even with what you consider to be an offensive opinion.