Writing at the intersection of motherhood, feminism and my Latinidad

24 February 2010

Is there love after abortion?

Over two years ago, way before I started writing for Girl w/Pen, Alison Piepmeier wowed me with an essay about getting an abortion and how her decision made with her husband was a love story:

...the story I most want to tell—and one I have never heard—is of abortion as an intimate part of a couple’s life together.  Our abortion was a love story. I’d worried that Walter and I were rejecting a gift from the universe.  What I discovered, though, was that when we stripped away the distractions of everyday life so that we could make this difficult decision together, it bound us together as surely as if our choice had been different—and as it turns out, that was the gift.
Every once in awhile their story returns to me. I often don't know why it stumbles into my brain and says, "Hey! Ponder me!" but it does. This morning it returned to me yelling, "Why?!"

I was half-listening to WBEZ's 848 and some story about a man running away from his life. Original, I know. But what hooked my brain to jolt me from my grant writing was a line about how when he was 22 his girlfriend got pregnant. The story begins with him recalling how happy his girlfriend just was, despite her belief that she wouldn't had been happy. Then he runs off in the car and comments about how if he just admitted that he didn't want the baby there would be an abortion and "well, that would be the end."

I'm taking that line to mean that would be the end of their relationship. See, that's where Alison & her husband come in. Why? Why would having an abortion mean the end of a relationship? Are Alison &  her husband the only couple to abort a pregnancy (not for medical reasons anyway) and remained in love? I just don't believe it.

Are we socialized to believe that despite study after study saying that women overwhelmingly feel relief after an abortion, that two adults in love must break up? That having an abortion dooms their romance? The story on 848 ends without conclusion about the pregnancy, so I have no idea what happened. What if he returned and confessed his true feelings and she admitted that she felt the same way? Alison seemed to have talked herself into wanting to carry the pregnancy to term, but realized it wasn't the right decision.

Doing a web search for abortion stories, I ran across this story of a married couple with children who chose to abort and she's at peace with her decision. At the Feminist Women's Health Center's website, there are story after story of women who had abortions. Some stories are of women who stayed with the man, as one woman put it, "who fathered the child who was not to be."

This leads me back to the question from two years ago: Can abortion be a part of a love story? I still think it can.

On Glee, what if Quinn had decided to have an abortion? Would that had given her some honest time to strengthen her relationship with Finn? Or would that have driven him into the arms of Rachel sooner? I'm sure there are other and perhaps better what-ifs in pop culture, but seriously, what if an abortion was what saved a relationship instead of dooming it to be feel like a forced marriage? Allowing the characters to reexamine their lives and move on together?

Now who's brave enough to let us see that relationship blossom after a sunny morning at the local abortion clinic? 

Um, yeah...here's example #36,423 of "I think too hard."


I had an abortion about 6 months into my relationship with Scott. Neither of us was emotionally ready or healthy enough to want or raise a child, so the decision was made to terminate the pregnancy. 14 years later, we're still together and going strong.

As you can imagine, the infertility of the past 10 years has sometimes made me wonder if I made the wrong decision back then, but the answer that always comes back to me is a very firm "no, I did not make the wrong decision." I'd have a child now, yes, but I'd most likely be a single mother - not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's hard - and I would have made a terrible mother at that time in my life. Terminating that pregnancy was the best thing for me and for my relationship with Scott. It really did allow us to blossom as a couple in a way that we never would have if we'd had a baby so early in our relationship.

Great post, and thanks for the links!

Thanks for raising these questions again. I'm glad this essay remains provoking, and I know it certainly was to lots of folks who disagreed with me when I wrote it. But I still agree with myself: we had an abortion, and now we have a baby, and both were parts of our love story.

Maybe 2 years into my relationship with my at the time boyfriend, I got pregnant. He was ready to support me in whatever decision I made. I was not emotionally ready for a child. After being a second mom for my siblings for most of my childhood, I'm not sure I'll ever be ready. I kinda "did that time" and look back upon it with regret for various reasons. I saw my pregnancy as the same. No child deserves that.

6 years later, we're married and very much happy with our lives. I have never regretted my decision for a minute. My next door neighbors have a new baby and I occasionally hear it or see them with it. It also doesn't make me regret anything to see a living, healthy baby. My neighbors made the decision to have theirs, just as I made my decision.

More of a problem for me was the socialization against abortion. Other than my now husband, I have never told friends, family, or co-workers that I was ever pregnant or got an abortion. I was thrown into a really bad depression that did not end until after the abortion was over. It made me feel like I was a bad person for even considering even though I KNEW it would be better for my relationship, for me personally, for everything... if I did it. I felt very suicidal during this phrase. I think I would be dead today if I didn't have my now husband there supporting me and loving me.

Thank you for this post. Found you by way of Feministing.com

I am not able to fathom the "relationship ending" logic either. I've been married for seven years. I had an abortion 2 weeks before we were married. Neither of us were ready for what a child would entail at that stage in our lives and at that early stage of marriage. Additionally, I was not sure I wanted to have children at all. It was an experience that brought us closer together as a lot of challenging experiences do.

Alison -- Thanks for checking in!

And to everyone who shared their stories, thank you so much.

I guess this comment is a bit late, but I am going through something like what you describe right now. I also think that my story shows that abortions can actually start relationships. I hooked up with a guy and later realized he was a jerk and that things would not work out. Surprise, surprise, despite various types of birth control, I ended up pregnant our first time to have sex. I told him over the phone after we had broken up and he rejected me and the pregnancy. I decided to terminate it and move on with my life. Fast forward to now, nearly two months later, and this guy has expressed his remorse to me and is a completely different person with me. He is actually a really great guy and is taking my tears and hormonal craziness with complete compassion and strength. But I think that if we had forced ourselves to marry because of a baby, that we would have resented each other for it and probably would have ended up divorcing. It's hard to tell, but I kind of feel that going through this abortion together cut out a great deal of bullshit from our lives and has given us a deeper perception of what loving others is about. I don't know how long we will last, but I figure if we can get through this together we have a good chance.

I got pregnant right around the time my husband and I got engaged. I didn't know it until 6 or 8 weeks later, of course. It was absolutely not on purpose. It was absolutely not good news. I'd already been a little bit freaked out about the engagement. He'd been my best friend for even longer than he'd been my lover; I was afraid that marriage would change things or that the engagement had come too fast.

When I found I was pregnant, he thought we could deal with it. I knew I couldn't. We talked it through (and talked and talked and talked) and he finally came to understand all the many, complex reasons---going back to my own childhood, even---that I just wasn't ready. And so I had an abortion.

That was over eight years ago. Still married, still best friends, still very much in love. Still childless, by choice. We're both at peace with everything that brought us to this particular place in our lives---it's a good and happy place, after all. Maybe it even helped us, to weather the crisis together. Maybe we know each other better now than we would have if I hadn't become pregnant. And I really don't think we'd still be together if I'd had a baby 8 years ago. I'm so grateful that we are, and so lucky for it too. There are any number of potential children in our future, but only one us.

Hi there I'm Mia,

I'm so thankful that this thread exists. I had an abortion a year and a half ago. I"m still with my boyfriend and I know I love him. Unfortunately, lately I want him to prove it something awful. I have lost my humour and don't know how to get it back right now. I feel like all the negativeness on the internet does not help. So, thank you all for your inspiring comments.

Here's the full story: We got pregnant 4 months after knowing each other. I was 38 and so happy to have/had met him. Something in me said - he's the one!! He also said that and continued to say it for long after the termination. I have struggled with the termination since I was brought up in a house hold where they "did the right thing" and everything worked out fine. My parents are happily married. My brother even had the same experience and went to my parents. It would have been accepted if we had gone to them.

My boyfriend was very scared at the time and struggled to come to terms with the pregnancy. He didn't have a lot of social support around him. He said he "was ready to be a father in 2 years, not now". We had an emotional melt down together, it really affected me to the point that I felt I couldn't do it alone. He said, I'd have to do it alone if I kept it. We had just met. I was scared even though I still feel now that we could have made it but I took it him at face value and didn't want to feel like I was forcing anyone to be a parent. The whole story is sad really. And, as you see I am feeling guilt a lot with a sense of resolved courage that I made my decision the way I did.

2 years down the road we still hold the belief that two people should know each other before joining together to be parents. We also have some regret but strive to be together still. We talk about the future and we are in it together but I still have reservations and struggle with letting those emotions go. I find I want to integrate this part into myself but I've lost my humour about it.

He's always trying something new, for new angles to strengthen our relationship, doing things together. I love him for it. I really do.

I am prochoice, always have been, no doubt. I still have these feeling and feel like I pull him through them because I"m insecure from time to time. Sometimes I just cry. I only have him and a councillor to share with.

I have some questions:

How can I integrate my abortion into myself and be at peace with it?

How do I truly move on with grace and humour so the feelings do not prevent me from loving myself and this man?

How did you decide in your relationships to make a plan? Is it just a leap of faith like many things?

We are stuck. We are together but not living together. I want to create, love and live on positively…..

Any good suggestions?

For Mia:

My situation is somewhat like yours, and reads a little like a soap opera. I have also always been pro-choice. Over a couple of years at the beginning of our marriage I had 5 miscarriages, then two children.

Then 3 years after my second child I got pregnant again. And ... I was excited, husband was not. He was scared, upset, unable to visualize the future. He didn't want a third child. He had an emotional meltdown, and I let him. I let his fear guide me, because I could not imagine having a child with somebody who didn't want that third child, with somebody who honestly thought we'd be better off without him/her, somebody who didn't support us as a family. Like you said, I felt I'd be doing it alone, since my husband appears unable to deal with it as an adult. I didn't have the support of my husband. In retrospect, I felt he was letting us --me-- down. I'm angry that we were married and couldn't manage to cope with the challenges presented us.

So, we had the abortion. I spent five years holding in my grief, my anger, my rage, my disappointment in both of us. Not realizing what was going on but that I didn't trust my husband to be there for me, that I was better off doing it all for myself. Finally I ended up so emotionally detached from my husband that I had an emotional and physical affair, and we as a couple and a family are reeling from that.

My best advice: Talk. Do not try to do this alone. Go to a counselor, he or she can help you process your feelings. Talk with your boyfriend, your best friend. Write it out. Think it out. Talk some more.