Three years ago I went in for my yearly Well Woman exam and found out I was 10 and a half weeks pregnant. I was single and unemployed, with health insurance that was set to expire in two months. My ex-boyfriend, Kurt, half of the reason for the unexpected pregnancy, and I were still living together as I hadn't yet found a place of my own, but we had split up a month earlier. I called him. I called my sister. I called my therapist. I called my parents. And then I called Planned Parenthood. I had a little over a week to decide what I wanted to do. I made an appointment for an abortion in one week in case that was what I ended up going with.
It was a rough week. Kurt and I cried and fought. We yelled and made accusations. My sister offered whatever support I needed whether that was a ride to the clinic and care afterward or someone to raise the baby with. My parents were far more measured with their support, mostly offering up reasons why having the baby would be the wrong choice. I had my career to consider. I was just getting going again with an acting career I had put on hold for four years. I was booking work and things were looking hopeful. I was having more success than I had had for many years. A baby would certainly put a giant kink in that trajectory. And how would I afford the labor and the subsequent baby without insurance or a job? What about my mental health? Would I be able to continue my meds while pregnant and nursing?
I was raised pro-choice. I always believed abortion was a woman's decision. I believed a woman shouldn't be forced to put her own goals on hold because she happened to get pregnant. And I always assumed if I got pregnant before I was ready I would have an abortion. I was 33. I didn't want kids. My career was important to me.
And yet. There was this nugget of an idea that kept making its way to the front of my brain. What if you did have this baby? It was a radical idea. Crazy, And yet. The nugget got louder and louder. Seriously. What if you did have this baby? And I started to think about what if. And, of course, I had no idea what if. I didn't know what having a baby would really do to my life. I couldn't possibly know. It could be the worst thing that ever happened to me. On the other hand. What if I had the baby?
Kurt and I took a weekend apart to think (and so I could stop throwing shoes at him), and when we came back together that Sunday, we decided to go with the terrifying unknowable future of the what if. I canceled my appointment with Planned Parenthood.
Seven months later I gave birth to a boy I never thought I'd have. And he is perfect. I mean, for real, the kid is a perfect specimen, I won't bore you with the details of how perfect he is. If you want to know, read the rest of my blog. But I challenge you to talk to a person on this earth who has spent more than 10 seconds with him who won't back me up.
And yet. I suffered major postpartum depression. Six months after Monty was born I found myself laying on my apartment floor barely able to breathe. Our financial situation made it nearly impossible to hire any kind of help. The only respite I got was from friends who would offer a few hours here and there for "date nights". We made too much money to get any kind of assistance but not enough to afford any childcare. I was hardly able to produce milk anymore because of general anxiety and anxiety about losing "the baby weight" in order to be skinny enough to get work in my industry. Monty was the easiest, happiest little guy and yet there were days when I didn't know how I would possibly survive 'til Kurt got home. I was sure I was a failure. I strongly considered hospitalizing myself. I went back on my meds and switched Monty mostly to formula.
Once my meds were stabilized I was able to think a little more clearly. I was better able to distinguish reality from the lies my sick mind was still whispering to me. You're a failure. Okay, maybe, but not today.
I am so glad I didn't have that abortion.
A year and a half after Monty was born I found myself once again unexpectedly pregnant. Six weeks after a slip up and a prompt ingestion of the morning after pill, my chest started to break out for the second time in my life two weeks after I should have gotten my period. This time I was employed (temporarily) and still had no insurance. Before I took the test, Kurt and I talked about the possibilities. If I was pregnant, we decided, we would downgrade to a one-bedroom apartment to save money. We would move back to New York. My family would help. Yes, we would make it work. I stood in the doorway of our bathroom staring at the two little lines on the pregnancy test in my hand. I looked up at Kurt and literally couldn't find the words. He reached out for me and I laid down next to him. We lay there in silence for 15 minutes. And then I burst out laughing and Kurt burst into tears, How had we let this happen again? Did we not know how babies were made? Did we miss that day in Health class? What were people going to say?
I called Planned Parenthood and made an appointment in one week in case that was the way we decided to go.
It didn't take us a week to make the decision. We knew right away. We had already taken risks having Monty and those risks were paying off in spades. He made our lives infinitely better.
And yet. We were barely getting by. I was still mostly unemployed. Turns out the nearly yearlong break my pregnancy demanded of my career made it harder to get back in. We managed to feed Monty well but at the expense of our own down time. We still had no child care help. We never got a break. Our situation wasn't quite dire, but it wouldn't take much to put it there. And people kept telling me every baby is born with a loaf of bread under its arm. But a loaf of bread doesn't pay the rent. And we all know where a loaf of bread landed Jean Val Jean.
And there was my mental health. We considered ourselves lucky that I had made it through my postpartum situation relatively unscathed. We didn't know if we'd be so lucky again. I honestly didn't think I could handle a second baby. What if it was colicky? What if it was sick? What if it was one of those babies that has no personality?
A second child would mean a significant downgrade in our quality of life, such as it was. Unless we came across some kind of financial windfall, we didn't see how having a second child at that point would be fair to us or to Monty or to it. We just didn't have the financial or emotional resources to spare.
So, we kept our appointment with Planned Parenthood. We went in on July 5th, 2014. We got there before the clinic opened. The only protester there was a small guy with a graphic poster, speaking in spanish. But Kurt got called a coward and a murderer on his way out by a woman who had decided that she understood his life better than he did. The three other women in the waiting room were all mothers, too. They seemed fine with their decisions. We all felt fine with our decisions. And yet. We found ourselves defending our choice to each other as though we had anything to defend. We didn't. We were four loving mothers who were making the best decision for themselves and their families. The nurses and doctors who cared for me were extremely compassionate and kind. The doctor told me my last name means "good" in Hungarian. Or Polish. Or some language. And then I woke up in the recovery room and it was over and I felt relief.
I am so glad I had that abortion. It was absolutely the right choice for myself and my family. I have never once regretted it. I have never felt sad or mourned for "the baby that never was." Instead I have loved the baby that is. And all of our lives are infinitely better for it.