I am a 29 year old white woman in Texas.
The first time I got pregnant, I was 21. I was terrified. The guy I’d been seeing had lied to me about his age, and his family didn’t realize I didn’t know. I said, “I’m pregnant.” He said, “You should probably know, I’m 16. But I’ll be 17 next month!” I knew there was no way a high school boy could be a viable father for my child, and I had serious doubts aboutmy decision making skills after finding out the truth about him. He was devastated when I told him I didn’t want to have the baby. My aunt took me to the clinic and I got my first up close look at the protesters. Big signs about there being other options, about how ‘your baby wants to live!’ Someone slapped a photo of a fetus, partially developed and bloody, on our window as we drove into the parking lot. My aunt told me not to look. Luckily they weren’t allowed on the property and could only yell from a distance as we walked in. The process was strange, surreal, sonogram, counseling session, a script she had to read and then immediately explain was written by the legislature and not actually medically accurate in many ways. I was more confused than anything by the end, but I knew that I could not care for a baby. I didn’t want to be a mom. So I came back and got the prescription a few days later and had a medically induced miscarriage at 8 weeks. It was extremely painful, both physically and emotionally. There was an extreme amount of guilt and shame that came up, despite my knowing it was the right choice. I didn’t reach out and get counseling because of it, I self-destructed instead. I drank and snorted my way into a deep depression that didn’t lift until my mother gave me an out – a free year of college in another city.
I took it. I tried to pull myself up out of the depression. I sometimes made it to class. I met someone. One of the kindest, most authentically loving men I’ve had the pleasure to know in my life. We both struggled with depression and anxiety, so we bonded quickly over our darkness and our mutual interest in philosophy and music. About six months in I got pregnant for the second time. We knew we were young, but we were smart and we loved each other. Surely we could figure out how to pull this off. Plus, he’d become a father a few years before, but through a series of lies his son’s mother tricked him into releasing his rights and he wanted to prove he was capable of filling a proper father role. We tried to improve our lifestyle, I quit drinking and smoking, he was trying to follow suit. I was 11 weeks along when I miscarried. We were both devastated, and our relationship never recovered. He spiraled and I had to leave or I would have gone down with him.
Fast forward a few years, and I’m 27. I’ve got through a spiritual overhaul. I’ve begun teaching yoga, am at the healthiest I’d ever been, and managing the depression as best I can. There were two men in my life, one I loved deeply, passionately, from my soul, and one I loved more practically, gently. I got pregnant for the third time. I had an idea of the origins of the child’s biology, but there was no way to know for sure. The only thing I did know is one possible father wanted nothing to do with a child, having 3 of his own already. The other desperately wanted to be a father, and loved me deeply. I did what anyone would do. I chose the practical partner, and we had a son. Things weren’t easy, but I loved my son and I loved my partner and I did everything I could to be the perfect mother and wife (by the standards I didn’t even realize were so deeply ingrained).
Unfortunately, my practical love couldn’t meet me there. He became more and more angry, more and more controlling, eventually crossing into physical violence. I was terrified, but I had no ability to support myself and my son on my own. He made sure I knew that I was not capable of living without his financial support. I tried to leave, and went back. That’s when I got pregnant the fourth time. I tried to be happy, but I just cried when I read the test. He was ecstatic, cried from joy when I told him. I played the part, kept pretending as long as I could, until one day I broke down. I told a friend I felt guilty that I didn’t want this baby. I didn’t even want to be with him at all. She took my hands and looked into my eyes and said, “You realize you have a choice, right?” It was like someone hit the lights. I knew what I needed to do. I went to the clinic alone this time, the protestors more subdued, even had the wherewithal to yell back, “No, Thanks!” when they claimed to be able to help me. Same routine as the first time, except this time there was a journal in the waiting room. Anonymous story after story of women making this choice, and why. A mom who couldn’t afford to send her kid to private school anymore if she had this baby. A woman who had a history of serious problems with pregnancy, miscarriages and still births, not wanting to relive the nightmare. Women like me, fleeing abusive relationships, not wanting to bring children into abusive relationships, fear of their partner bleeding off the page. I added my story, my knowledge that I’d never be able to leave him if I had this baby. So I didn’t, and I left.
Then I met the man that I intend to spend the rest of my life with. He has stepped up with my son in a beautiful and awestriking way. We love deeply, helping one another heal from our traumas. We share an honesty that was previously unknown to me. And now I’m pregnant for the fifth time. This is a whole new experience. I know that I love this man; that I want to have a child with him. I also know that as we are now, we cannot support another child. We are barely getting on our feet together. It would take too much from my son. We want more time together, to get married, to be a young couple, before throwing another child into the mix. This is the hardest choice I’ve ever had to make, despite knowing it’s the right one. I see the pain in his eyes too, the gentle way he regards me and the sadness that has fallen on our household. We have to say goodbye to this child, and it hurts terribly but I am also aware of my privilege.
Not all women can make the choice I’m making. Not all women have access, many who do can’t afford it, and many others don’t have autonomy over their being within their relationships. I’d love to have had consistent access to birth control instead of having to choose abortion, but the cost of doctor’s visits and prescriptions made that impossible for me. You want to reduce abortions? Provide birth control instead. Often we blame the ‘male legislators’ for making choices for women’s bodies when they could ‘never understand.’ To be honest, in my opinion this is another lie of the patriarchy. To deny men the ability to empathize with us on these issues is a facet of the belief that men and women function differently emotionally. It’s time to stop giving them the excuse of not understanding. It’s time to tell our stories. Let them see what it is like to be us. Unleash the truth, over and over again, sisters. There is no shame. Tell the guilt it has no home in your heart.
This was written several weeks ago, after which I discovered a new program for uninsured women that provides the IUD at no cost. I was ecstatic to find something available for me. Contact your local clinic and see if this program is available to you if you need it. If you are processing through your own choices, feel free to contact me for a session at no charge.
Originally posted on YogaByRachael.com/blog. Sign up for once monthly email updates here.