Abortion Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

March 25, 2009

“She only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

So she said no. She refused to hold her son.”

I was holding my own son – then just two and a half months old – on my lap when my mother told me this story. I would be stating the obvious if I said that I clutched him a little tighter as I listened to her words and watched the tears brim in her eyes, but I’ll state it anyways: I held him, tightly, and my heart ached to think of not holding him. My heart ached to bursting at the thought of not holding him, of giving away any opportunity to hold him. And then my heart ached some more, because I had, once upon time, done something that, in some respects, amounts to the same thing.

When an anonymous poster made a plea, last week, for everyone to pause and consider the emotional fallout from adoption – this within the context of debates concerning the emotional consequences of abortion – I immediately thought of my mother and the gut-wrenching turmoil she experienced as a result of giving up a child for adoption. And then I thought of myself, and of the secret inner dialogue that I conducted with myself while she and I sat discussing that boy, that child that she had given up for adoption years before I was born. The secret inner dialogue that went something like this:

Me: Oh, my god, my god, how terrible, how heartbreaking, how did her heart survive it?

Myself: How did YOUR heart survive it?

Me: Survive what?

Myself: Abortion.

Me: That’s so different.

Myself: It’s not.

Me: The heartbreak of giving up a child…

Myself: Isn’t abortion a kind of ‘giving up’? Except, you know, MORE FINAL?

Me: Yeah, but…

Myself: But what?

Me: She’s mourning a child that she lost, a child who is still out there somewhere.

Myself: Exactly.

I clutched Jasper to my chest and squeezed and thought about the child who is not out there somewhere. A little part of my heart collapsed in on itself.

My mother’s heartbreak was almost unbearable to absorb. Her guilt, her worry, her desire to both know and not know whether he’d been given a happy life, whether she’d done right by him to give him up. She insisted that there was no regret – she’d done what she had to do, she had no choice, it was the best thing to do, the only thing to do, at the time – but regret is complicated. She didn’t regret making the choice that seemed best for him, but she still hurt over that choice. She hurt over that choice because it represented a loss, for her. Because it represented the loss of an unknown and unknowable future. Because it was a choice that changed someone else’s life, someone else’s future. Because some part of her felt that she needed to explain that choice, perhaps apologize for that choice. Make it clear that the choice was made out of love.

The choice that caused her so much pain was not the same kind of choice that I made. There is no one to whom to explain my choice. There is no one to whom to apologize. No claim can be made that my choice was made out of love. There is no one to whom I might make that claim. Because that’s how abortion differs from adoption: it means that the only person you need ever – can ever – explain your choice to is yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sorry or not. Abortion means never having to say you’re sorry. It means never even having to consider the question.

Which is not to say, of course, that we don’t consider the question. I’ve been considering the question – of whether or not I’m sorry, of whether or not I should be sorry, of whether or not sorry matters – since I first set foot in that abortion clinic. I have agonized over this. As I’ve explained in these virtual pages before, I can’t say that I regret having had an abortion, but I also can’t say that I don’t. It’s complicated. Its complicatedness sometimes hurts my heart. Which is precisely why people talk about the emotional consquences of abortion. Because many women find, like I did, that their hearts hurt. Because many women struggle to figure out how to reconcile the complicated tension between regret and not-regret and find that they’re unable, and because many women do so while bearing their children, their wanted children, in arms.

But that struggle – that is, my personal experience of that struggle – is one that can, most of the time, be compartmentalized, tucked away on some back shelf of the psyche and forgotten until some event – pregnancy, say, or miscarriage, or one’s own mother’s admission of having given one’s brother up for adoption – prompts one to go rummaging around on the shelves of Buried Hurts and Ambivalent Regrets and Things That I’d Rather Not Think About Unless My Sanity And/Or Moral Stability Depends Upon It. My mother’s struggle with her longstanding conflicting emotions around having given up a child for adoption is not – has never been – something that she can just tuck away on a shelf and forget about. She has never passed a day, she told me, without thinking about her lost boy – without looking at the faces of strangers who seem about his age and wondering is it him, without reading in the newspaper or hearing on the news something about any male person of his vintage and wondering is it him, without casting back to that baby in the blue blankie and wondering what became of him what became of him what became of him?

And that is so hard for her. I have seen the heartbreak on her face. Some 45 years or so after the fact, and the heartbreak is still there. I see the heartbreak on her face and I tell myself, there but for grace went I. And, thank gods for that grace, that I did not go.

But it is not so simple. It is not nearly so simple. For I know that the primary reason I am able to compartmentalize my own, quiet struggle is because it is entirely my own, and it is entirely my own because of the nature of the choice that I made. My child does not wander this earth, living another life. My child – and it is such a mental and emotional wank to even use these terms – was never born. My child never became my child. He/she/it was embryo, barely fetus, not a child. I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy. And then I didn’t.

(And yet. Even as I say that – “I did not have a child; I had a pregnancy” – I want to take it back. I’m a mother. I’ve had a very early term miscarriage. I very nearly lost Emilia to miscarriage. I know the terror of losing or fearing to lose that embryo, that not-quite-fetus, that not-child who is loved none the less for his or her unformedness. I would never have said – could never have said – of the embryo-that-became-Emilia, this is just a pregnancy, there is no child here. For even though she was not yet child, she was the cellular embodiment of my wish that she become a child, that she become my child. In the absence of that wish… is it just cells that remain? I don’t know. I do not know. I have not yet sorted this out. It is painful, trying to sort this out, this which might be, simply, unsortable. All I know is that these experiences are different, despite their similarities, and that I remain firmly committed to the rightness of having the ability – the choice – to distinguish between them. Ah, me.)

What remains: my inconstant, ambivalent hurt, and my mother’s endless heartache. Neither of these would I wish on anyone, but neither would I hold them up as justifications for tampering with our rights to choose those hurts, those aches, over others. We both chose our heartaches, out of desire to avoid greater heartache for ourselves or for others. In my mother’s case – in any birth mother’s case, I think – a more difficult choice was made, because it was a choice that opened up another future for another life, a future that she would never be able to see but would always, always feel. I, on the other hand… I chose the road that denied other lived futures, and that has made all the difference.

The right difference, the wrong difference, I don’t know. It is, ever and always and only and nevertheless, the one that I chose.

I live with that.

*Because you’re asking: yes, we are – I am – still looking for that boy, the lost boy, my brother. There has been some very limited progress recently, and I’m hoping that it yields something, but I don’t want to jinx things by speculating. Thank you all for caring so much.

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    { 180 comments }

    Amy March 26, 2009 at 11:20 am

    And I am the worst of liars. :P

    Not equating sex with procreation?! Well, no they are not the SAME, but I think its pretty obvious that they are pretty darn closely related. People should know that anytime they have sex, pregnancy is possible (barring, you know, a hysterectomy or something like that).

    DONE!!! :)

    Mrs C March 26, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Ami,

    I’m rather prone to think that the quote pertains to the idea that if the choice were to be taken away from women, then that would increase the violence done to women because they would need to find other “fixes” out of desperation. Some of which could be deadly. Because some women don’t want to be pregnant. No matter how MIRACULOUS being pregnant is. Again. Choices.

    Also. Taking away choices is violent. No matter what. Right? Don’t you feel put out if you don’t have a choice in a matter? No matter how big or small?

    Your take on the quote is interesting though.

    aqua March 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

    This is the last comment — I promise!
    Amy — but surely, if you believe there are no watertight arguments “from philosophy” (I’m not sure what that means, but, ok, for the sake of argument), then you acknowledge that your argument is not watertight either. What other authority could one appeal to? And don’t say god, because, well, that may just be the epitome of philosophy (the way you seem to define it).
    This just goes back to my point that we can talk about these issues till the end of time and still not resolve anything :)

    Her Bad Mother March 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

    Amy, acqua – I actually love that you are having this debate so civilly. And the fact that it is so difficult to come to a point of agreement on the core questions (I can’t even agree with MYSELF on the core questions) is, I think, the most important reason why choice is left to each of us.

    Although I know that many people disagree with that, too ;)

    V-Grrrl March 26, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I tell my children (11 & 13) that choosing to have sex for the first time or the 100th time is a life-altering experience because of what can result from that moment of intimacy.

    Once an unplanned pregnancy occurs, there are NO good options, no painless, easy way to deal with the wrenching decisions before us and their short and long term ramifications.

    I appreciate how you have dissected the complexity of it all and let it stand for what it is: regret that is not pure regret, an emotion that all of us can relate to, regardless of what choices we have made in our lives involving love, sex, partners, marriage.

    Natasha @ BecomingSomething March 26, 2009 at 11:42 am

    I’m impressed at your hesitancy to draw a conclusion about what is cowardly and what is brave and what is right and what is wrong.

    I’ve been on both sides of the philosophical fence and because of that, I struggle over the emotions that are involved in telling one group of people that their choices are fewer based on my spiritual convictions. And yet. I believe those convictions deeply. While I used to be pro-choice and had made the decision to abort if I was pregnant (I gratefully wasn’t), I am now pro-life.

    It’s an interesting coincidence that you’ve posted this shortly before my posting of something I wrote days ago. (Will be up in an hour or so.) It will be interesting to see your reaction! :-)

    I am very sorry for your pain, for your mother’s pain, for the pain of women throughout the world who are faced with the hardest of choices beyond what most men will ever have to experience.

    Amy March 26, 2009 at 11:48 am

    aqua – Yes, I do acknowledge that my arguments can be attacked as well. Despite the fact that I do have firm beliefs and that I believe in objective truth, my philosophical training taught me that nothing can really be proven beyond a doubt. And so in a sense, we all live by faith – not necessarily in the religious sense.

    But these discussions are worth having because minds and hearts can still be changed. And even if the problem is never resolved (and I doubt it ever will be) then hopefully at least we can better understand one another, or at least learn to live together. This is true of nearly everything in life. By admitting that I cannot convince everyone that I am right, that I cannot even prove that I am right, doesn’t make me less firm that I am right about certain things.

    (p.s. I don’t see God as the epitome of philosophy, on the contrary, I see God as breaking into our human ideas and revealing things we couldn’t figure out on our own. I am a Christian, but I have avoided bringing my religious arguments into play here because I realize they are meaningless to someone who does not share my beliefs.)

    Can I say once more that I love the respect you are all showing in this conversation?!

    Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 12:10 pm

    I read the linked story, and this one, and am so sorry for all the pain everyone has felt. Truly, I am. But I have to say, it’s supposed to hurt. The way it feels like skin being stripped from you when you find out your child is aching. Parenting is painful. It’s joyous, exhihilarating and unimaginably tedious. But it’s also, often, painful. There are no easy outs, and there shouldn’t be, whether a woman choices abortion, adoption or raising her child.

    mumologic March 26, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you for your humility and for writing something that is probably the most truthful depiction of what this “choice” entails. Most of the time we only read/hear/see the two extreme views on either side…it is truthful, divided writings like this that bring the two sides together in hopes that there might be an attempt to understand…and then make choices that are TRULY GOOD for everyone involved… regardless of how it feels. You are courageous for being open.

    Julie March 26, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    Thank you for writing this. Absolutely beautifully written!

    First off I have to say I have always considered myself pro-choice although I’m not sure I could ever go through with an abortion.

    From a grandmother’s perspective;

    My daughter was pregnant at 16. She was terrified to tell me so she told the big-mouthed neighbor kid who told me.

    We immediately made an appointment for an abortion only because time was of the essence. She told me that she didn’t think she could go through with it. I also made her an appointment with an adoption counseler. I have to say, it would have killed me to see her give him up. I kept my mouth shut and prayed that she would not choose that option but I had to help her get all the information we could for her to make the right decision for her.

    I was so not at the point in my life where I wanted another child. I did not want her child to become mine. (I had 4 children in 5.5 years and she was my youngest, I was peering at the light at the end of my tunnel)

    She choose to keep him and we chose to support her in any way we could. It’s been a hard life for her but I think in some ways he saved her life. He will be four on Sunday. He’s sweet, loving and very well behaved. I guess my wish is that she never had to make a choice either way.

    Lotta March 26, 2009 at 12:59 pm

    I wrote a post awhile back about mizuko-jizo

    http://mom-o-matic.blogspot.com/2007/03/mizuko-jizo.html

    You should read it. It talks about how mothers create shrines at home or in temples with small statues or dolls to represent their aborted child. The baby is honored with prayers and bows. They believe that they have sent that soul back up to heaven until it is ready to come to earth.

    I really admire how they are pro-choice and yet don’t feel they need to say “it’s just a cell”. They can acknowledge that a life was stopped and thus there is grief. And to honor that grief and that baby. I think it’s a perfect balance.

    Take care,
    Lotta

    Nissa Nicole March 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm

    I didn’t think I’d come back to comment, but after reading others I decided there was one last thing to say…

    I talked about this post with my husband and another friend of mine who has made her choice as well, and we both came to the conclusion that this particular blog includes ideas and thoughts that aren’t generally shared or equated with abortion – and that is what makes this such a breathtaking post.

    There’s always pro-lifers who argue their points and I’m always inclined to argue back, to make my point as well – but not with this. Because there is no argument. Why? Because giving a child up for adoption is a selfish choice, too. Like the story linked and like so many people I’ve met who were adopted or gave up a child – the guilt, pain, mental anguish that follow are not so different than with abortion. The difference lies only in the amount of people who are affected and who have to recover- like Catharine wrote.

    It’s about time people started realizing that defending adoption while berating abortion doesn’t work – it’s not that black and white. It is so much more complicated.

    We’re all more similar than we think.

    liz March 26, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Thank you.

    Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Brilliant post.

    I have had two abortions — both in my early 20s, one pregnancy a result of stupidity, one a result of birth control failure. I have no regrets about either, though it would be easy to *pretend* regret over the one with the man who became my husband. But the truth is that it was never even a question in my mind — we had only been together 9 months, I wasn’t finished with college, etc.

    I’m in my 40s now and we have two wonderful sons, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 2:19 pm

    An honest and poignant post. I wholeheartedly support your choice, my dear. I would like to comment on the comments though. I am from South Africa where we have an extremely high teenage pregnancy rate. There are just too many orphan babies and children, so adoption is usually not an option. Also, many of these pregnancies are the result of rape or incest. Then there is the HIV factor. A lot of the “unwanted” babies are HIV positive and have a short and tortured life. I worked as a psychologist with many orphaned children and I have seen many children in such pain and neglect. I will stop here, but I hope this gives a different perspective. Because it is not only in Africa where it is so complicated.

    Schmutzie March 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    I had an abortion many years ago. I had been eating poorly, doing drugs, and living on welfare as a psychiatric outpatient, and right when I was dealing with multiple ovarian cysts and highly unlikely to become pregnant, I found out that I was pregnant with multiples. I think of them often, and you described it so well, the complicatedness of both regretting and not regretting.

    geminigirl64 March 26, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    what an amazing post.

    Are you and your mother searching for your brother? I always wonder about you after I watch the Locator (troy dunn)…. those families that are brought together make me cry….

    Melodie March 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    This is the first time I have heard the sory of another woman’s abortion that rang close to my own feelings – the feeling of the loss of a child even though it was my decision, more so than relief over having the choice, which I think most people expected me to feel. I had an abortion 10 years ago. I came to terms with it in a way that I don’t know how many other women would have. It was a personal story I have never been brave enough to tell many people except my very very closest of friends, but reading your brave words here has given me some strength to consider blogging my story someday too. Thank you so much for this beautiful post!

    Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I found your blog while researching lost motherhood, and I have shared the experience of ambivalence following abortion. I want you to know it is possible to come to terms with the experience and establish a relationship with your child lost to abortion. You must be honest, though. Pregnant=mother. It cannot be avoided. Once the pregnancy occurs, you are a parent–when it’s happy news we easily acknowledge this status with the term “expectant parents.” The pathway to peace is to admit that a life was taken, hold yourself accountable for your role in that decision and be reconciled with God as you need to be for all wrongdoing. The only way I know to do that is through Jesus Christ. If you experience the grace of His forgiveness which is freely available to you, you may then receive healing and celebrate the life that existed for such a short while. And you will have the hope of being with your child in eternity, as Christ Himself will provide the link between the two of you.
    I will pray for you that God will accomplish this in you and that He will indeed fulfill His promise to exchange beauty for ashes in your life.
    I am honored to know your story, and write to you as a way to honor my child lost to abortion. I named him Emmanuel. He would have been 31 this year.
    May the Lord bless you as you seek Him.

    Ami March 26, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    This idea of “choice” is interesting and frustrating for me at the same time. I am still, for lack of a better phrase “pro-life” (I hate these names, I mean really is anyone anti life?), however there are many interesting thoughts and points to consider.

    Firstly, Mrs. C. choices are taken away constantly. That is what civilization/government does, right? Limit choices I make that may negatively impact someone else? Unlimited choice is anarchy. To me this word invokes violence. So to me unlimited choices is violent.
    Secondly, I seriously wonder how passionate our discussion of choice/abortion would be if men got pregnant 50% of the time. How many women are pro-choice because it’s “not fair” women have consequences to sex that men do not? It’s interesting to think about. Many years ago when men where less able to walk away from unintended pregnancies, less women advocated pro-choice rights. Abortions still occured, but the fervor over it being an essential right to women wasn’t present. It really makes me wonder.

    RHW March 26, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I liked the post and acknowledge the conflicting feelings many women have surrounding adoption and abortion – neither are easy choices

    BUT

    I’m actually a bit upset by the people here who are so *certain* and almost vehement that abortion is a selfish choice.

    Posters have written about women choosing abortion basically for their own convenience (not ready, don’t want to be a mom, can’t handle it, etc).

    I’ve counselled many women in crisis pregnancy situations and there are a lot more issues involved. I think it’s callous and disrespectful to distill it down to *convenience*.

    I’m actually shaking while I’m writing this, these posts have disturbed me that much.

    So many people seem to argue that women have abortions because it’s all about *them* and how that’s just horribly selfish.

    It’s not true.

    I know women who have had abortions :

    - so as not to bring children into an abusive relationship, or possibly get killed while pregnant

    - because of genetic or developmental issues, to prevent the child’s suffering (and I’m not talking about things like Downs and such)

    - for economic reasons – their family and existing children are already barely getting by using every trick they have – should they sacrifice the well being of the children they have for the potential child?

    - health reasons – yes, I suppose not wanting to be permanently maimed or possibly die is selfish, but then again, what about the mother who wants to be whole and healthy for her existing child?

    - because they were being threatened by family members and didn’t want any child subjected to that

    Is it really horribly selfish to want to maintain ones mental or physical health? To want to keep ones family intact and/or safe?

    Is it selfish to have an abortion, even though you’d really rather have the child, so as to be able protect or care for other children?

    I understand some people view the choice as a personal decision one makes for ones own reasons, and hence, it is selfish. There is some truth to that.

    However, labeling all women who’ve made that choice with the extremely negative label of *selfish*, or particularly making the most selfish decision possible, seems a bit much to me and (by the way some posters have written it) pretty judgmental and self righteous.

    By the same token, adoption is not a viable option for all – in some circumstances the same problems are there. In others, you are arguing that women who may not be able to handle adoption should do it anyway because it’s the “right” thing to do – never mind the trauma which may be inflicted upon them and their family. There are many reasons, that you may or may not agree with, that can make abortion more acceptable choice for a woman/family than adoption – and they don’t have anything to do with personal convenience.

    There, I’ve said my piece. For the record, as many people attribute such opinions to someone being defensive about their own choices, I’ve never had an abortion or given a child up for adoption. I *am* a mother.

    Redneck Mommy March 26, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I cannot go here.

    Not today.

    Not as I hold my adopted son in my arms, mourn the loss of my other son and wonder what would have happened if I had made a different choice so many years ago…

    Today is not the day for me to examine old wounds with fresh hurts.

    I love you my friend. Peace.

    Her Bad Mother March 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    RHW – I hope that it was clear in any of my comments that I don`t regard abortion as selfish across the board (in fact, I think that I said in one comment that I could think of many circumstances where it is not.) So, I didn`t, and would not label all women who have made that choice as selfish (for the record, my husband and I did need to think about termination of future pregnancies when we were struggling with the discovery of a potentially very serious genetic disorder that I might pass along – and I felt and feel very clear that there would have been NOTHING selfish about the factors we would have been considering there.)

    I do regard my youthful decision as selfish on a variety of levels. I don`t know that that makes it wrong, but it makes it something and that something is something that I struggle with. Some posters here have said that we shouldn`t regard `selfish`as necessarily bad, and I agree with that. All I can do, though, is reflect upon my own experience.

    Meredith March 26, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Thank you. I am humbled.

    Her Bad Mother March 26, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    Ami – I`m not being flip when I say this, I`m really not, but I think that if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a far less controversial subject, because abortion would happen far more frequently and openly.

    There`s a lot more that I could say about that. Maybe later.

    RHW March 26, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    HBM – it wasn’t anything you said – which I pretty much agree with – it was more some of the other posters.

    I don’t think I saw the comments you’re referring too, but I do agree that selfish is not always a bad thing.

    The post you linked to on Shakespeare’s Sister was a powerful read too – thank you. It reminded me of a lot of women I’ve seen who simply could *not* stomach the idea of adoption, often because of their own experiences with adoption and/or abandonment.

    Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 4:04 pm

    I’m not sorry about my abortion six years ago. The eight month old fetus kicking my ribs right now is something else entirely. At six weeks, BOTH were just a clump of cells no bigger than an orange pip, and it was indeed my wanting that made this one *my baby*. Mainly because an orange-pip sized cell clump is not a baby. Thank you for articulating this.

    aqua March 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Amy — Yes, I agree with what you last wrote! It’s so sad when people fight about these beliefs and end up really hurting — physically or emotionally — other people who are probably already hurting in many ways.

    Lord John Marbury March 26, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    I understand and see the magnitude of dilemma posed of contraceptives, abortion in sexual ethics. It is a difficult question and I can’t say it is always right to be fully against abortion/contraception or conversely, advocate an anything goes policy.

    I’ve linked your blog with mine on the subject.

    You can read more here:

    http://lucasweatherby.blogspot.com/2009/03/sexual-ethics-abortion-and-condom.html

    Would appreciate your views!

    SurvivalFloat March 26, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    Beautiful. We have a lost boy, a lost brother, too. You’ve inspired me to take the initiative to start looking.

    Loralee Choate March 26, 2009 at 11:01 pm

    Can you be pro-life without wanting abortion made illegal again?

    If you can, than that is what my stance is.

    I have great compassion for woman who face either option. (I do NOT have much compassion for those who take it lightly and use abortion as birth control. Let’s face it-they exist. And it turns my stomach.)

    However. I know that this is a very small percentage of women and that it is a profoundly difficult process for most.

    So is adoption.

    Having lost Matthew, I choose pro-life for myself. I feel that yes, it is a woman’s body but the baby is in there too and has no choice. I would choose for every infant to live, thrive and be happy and loved.

    No babies would die, no abortions would happen and they would be born in circumstances that were wonderful and loving.

    This isn’t how it is, though. And I realize that everyone else has wide and different opinions that are not mine.

    It is so very, very personal and difficult and I would never begin to try to put my decision on another woman’s life and situation. I wouldn’t take that option away legally.

    I also would never judge someone for making either decision.

    Frankly, I think that either choice would be hard enough on someone without people’s opinions making it harder.

    Lost In Splendor March 26, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    Somehow I am new here. I wanted to say what a beautiful post this was. I’m adding you to my reader.

    Also (not that it matter but)pro-choice here and it was lovely to see civility throughout these comments. That is pretty amazing.

    Domestic Extraordinaire March 26, 2009 at 11:18 pm

    This coming Monday 15 years ago I found out I was expecting my daughter. I had assumed it for a while, but being under age I was unable to purchase a pregnancy test at our local pharmacy. I went to a clinic to get the results of a test in which I knew the answer to. I was 16, scared, and unsure of what I would do. My mother presented me with many options-but told me that whatever I decided to do it was my choice & my baby. My boyfriend's father & whole family told me that it was probably best if I got an abortion because did I really want to ruin my boyfriend's life.

    I have never really thought of what may have happened if I wasn't badgered by some to get an abortion-to make the easier choice-would I have done it? I knew that once I had my baby, carried her inside of me that I would never be able to give her up-in hopes of her having a better life. I heard one too many stories from friends who were in foster care for the better part of their lives.

    So I had her, I kept her, we got married & lived happily ever after (well sort of) I know that we are in the minority-I know that success doesn't follow most young, unwed mothers. But I am glad that I decided to defy the adults around me & grow up a bit faster than a should have. I have my Giggles.

    I admire you, Catherine, not for the fact that you had the abortion-but for the honesty and the emotion that you share with us here daily. You don't post what others would want, you don't keep it PC. I love the fact that you can be so transparent to us. I hope someday to get to spend some time with you, to chat of many things & not have a quick conversation in a crowded & loud bar in Nashville.

    Many hugs to you.

    Sarcastic Mom March 26, 2009 at 11:55 pm

    There was a time in my life when I was firmly pro-choice, even a time when I’d have had an abortion if my fears that I was pregnant had turned out to be true.

    They didn’t.

    I am so glad of that. I’d regret that decision every day of my life. I don’t think I’d be able to tuck it away – and that is just something about me personally.

    Something in my heart and mind changed, and I am For Life.

    But I still struggle a great deal with this entire debate, because in my heart I do believe that the choice should be each one’s own.

    Should we not be afforded the chance to make either the right or wrong choice? (Whatever those may be, I don’t claim to know absolute truths in the universe, just willing to admit my own feelings.)

    But there are many instances where our government has deemed it illegal for us to make certain choices.

    Another thing I wonder about – we are often quite sad to hear that an able bodied person has committed suicide. Why? Is it because life terminated is just sorrowful? Is it because of the pain caused to those “left behind?” Wasn’t that just a choice the person made about their own body?

    I believe we all make choices that will cause both ourselves and others agony. The choice to give a child up for adoption can clearly cause anguish, but for many it is joyful and causes happiness. The choice to abort can clearly cause anguish, but some never look back or feel burdened.

    And here I speak also of the pain caused others: Adoption, when it causes pain, I imagine can cause pain to the mother, father, and child as well. But abortion? Well, this can also cause pain, and not just for the person making the choice, no? Every choice we make has consequences. The life ended could result in unforeseen pain for someone in the future who will not be helped by the person who would have had that life. It could also result in saving someone from a deep pain that may have been inflicted by that very person.

    So many facets. So very, very many.

    Thank you for so eloquently and honestly sharing your thoughts, feelings, experience, and opinions. Such discourse is what we need to continue thinking intelligently about emotional issues.

    There exist out there more situations, experiences, and reasons for a woman to abort her unborn child/fetus/embryo/mingling of cells (all of which = human life) than the day is long. Many of them would make my heart ache in abundance.

    But while I respect your stance, and you really make me think, I am still unable to waver from being for life, and believing there really is no moment where I am qualified to decide that one should end.

    Julie Gribble March 27, 2009 at 12:02 am

    Thank you for this post. Your courage and honesty to tell your very personal story prove to me the strength of your character.

    Our former president Bill Clinton I think said it best “Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.”

    We all live with the choices we make in life, some good and some bad. We grow and move on. That is what we all do.

    Thank you again for a beautiful post.

    Julie Gribble March 27, 2009 at 12:03 am

    Thank you for this post. Your courage and honesty to tell your very personal story prove to me the strength of your character.

    Our former president Bill Clinton I think said it best “Abortion should not only be safe and legal, it should be rare.”

    We all live with the choices we make in life, some good and some bad. We grow and move on. That is what we all do.

    Thank you again for a beautiful post.

    Christine Varnado March 27, 2009 at 1:04 am

    YES. This masterfully written post gets at something that is so hard to discuss with reason or sanity in the abortion debates — that yes, if you want to paint these decisions in the crudest possible terms and narrow your value judgments down to a single vector, it can be said that adoption is the ‘more selfless’ choice and abortion the ‘more selfish’ one. Pro-life people say this all the time. But what I never hear anyone address is WHY ‘selfish/selfless’ should be THE sole moral rubric for this decision at all — what about ‘less crippling/more crippling for living the rest of your life’? And ‘consequences for only you/profound consequences for a host of other people, some of whom are unconsenting’? The debate is so centered on selfish/selfless that this essay, giving voice to these other vectors, these other values, is one of the ONLY places most of us have ever seen this other way of looking at the issue articulated!

    It’s telling, isn’t it, of the cultural requirement that WOMEN must be as selfLESS as possible, all the time, with every decision. (We see this in a different arena with the ‘mommy wars.’) Yes, pro-lifers would say, you are morally obligated to make the choice that will be the most damaging, burdensome, complicated, and potentially warping and crazymaking. Because a woman rejecting self-sacrifice, rejecting the idea that her role in this life is to fuck herself up for someone else’s nebulous benefit (it’s debatable that existence v. non-existence is a real benefit at all); a woman making a difficult choice (until you’ve gone through it you have NO IDEA how difficult – ‘abortion on demand’ is an anti-choice myth), the choice to preserve, promote, and protect her SELF… well, that has to be demonized.

    Carrien March 27, 2009 at 4:47 am

    A very wise friend, who had 3 babies die either before or after birth, once said to me that she thinks that one of the reasons women choose to have abortions is because they think it will help to avoid, or bypass grief.

    As you have so eloquently stated, grief is unavoidable in this situation no matter what you choose.

    My little sister gave up a baby for adoption when she was 19. Right up until the final month she thought she was going to keep it. But in the end she realized that the most loving thing for her to do for her child would be to give him to someone who was able to mother him as she knew she wasn’t ready to do.

    I was there in the hospital when the adoptive parents picked him up. We took pictures, signed papers. I watched as my sister and the baby’s new mother embraced and wept on each other’s shoulders. It was beautiful, and sad, and full of grief and joy.

    I watch her now, as she expects her second child, her first is now 8, go through emotions she had buried until now. and there is more grief. I don’t believe that choosing an abortion would have helped her to avoid the grief she is feeling now, but that it would be of a different kind, and more difficult. But I am not her, so I can’t say for sure. At least she has the assurance that she did the most loving thing she was capable of doing at the time. Though even that is probably small comfort.

    It helps that the adoptive family is lovely, and stays in touch, and she sees him once or twice a year. He knows who she is now. It’s the best possible outcome given the circumstances he was conceived under.

    You are very brave, to air your doubt, and grief in this forum. I’ll pray for you to find a way through this.

    rantsalamode March 27, 2009 at 8:11 am

    Lovely post. Issues such as these are really important to discuss. This is why we must save Women’s Studies at the University of Guelph. They’re thinking of axing it to save money -in the short-term can you imagine? Let’s protect a space in the academy for women’s and gender issues like abortion, motherhood, being transgendered and so much more. Please sign this petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/savewmst/?e

    Anonymous March 27, 2009 at 8:29 am

    I think it’s rather idealistic for so many to assume that every child given up for adoption grows up in a wonderful home with parents who desperately want them.

    There are thousands of children lingering in transient foster home settings, group homes, institutions…..all who were given up for adoption. Many who are perfectly adoptable. They simply don’t fit a predefined criteria for perfection.

    There is much about surrendering a child for adoption that is just as selfish as abortion. Our society simply chooses to see one decision as heroic and selfless and the other as selfish and wrong.

    There are no guarantees either way.

    Tiffi33 March 27, 2009 at 8:41 am

    I have seen both sides of this issue…from the vantage point of a best friend..
    She has done the adoption twice, ad the abortion twice..both of them are difficult…but necessary…
    She has blood clotting issues and a mentally unhealthy relationship that spurred her to the second ab..the second one was the one that got her the most…she swore she wouldn’t do it again, it just hurt too much the first time (emotionally)..he insisted..she did it to save her family…(Which was moot..coz it had been over for 2 yrs..she just didn’t know it)
    The adoptions left a bugger mark on her, despite her practicality on the situations..she was 17 the first time, and KNEW she could NOT care for him, that gorgeous baby boy..(he is 16 now..) she did however enjoy her time with him..she fed him and held him and loved him while she could..we know he is safe and loved now, his family is fabulous..and someday, I have always told her this, this baby will come looking for her..to know her, to thank her..she doesn’t think so..I know so…
    the second adoption was even more painful because of her son, who is the full sibling if baby 2..it was so hard to explain..but it is an OPEN adoption..she has seen him 2 or 3 times since his birth 6 months ago..gets pictures and updates and will get get to see him as he gets older..this is so much easier on her..and her son, who can see his brother…and know he is safe..

    adoption is a beautiful thing..but difficult to do and decide…and you have got to be able to talk about it, to deal w/ the feelings..like Catherine said, it has its own ramifications…
    just goes to show you, burying feelings about ANYTHING is unhealthy..

    Abortion makes my heart hurt..BUT..
    it should NEVER EVER be illegal tho.
    There are too many circumstances where it is needed, selfish or not..to make it illegal would be taking a HUGE step backwards for women..on ALL sides of this issue..

    I often think, could *I* have an abortion? honestly, I don’t think I could..but far be it from me to say that NO women can..
    My wish for women who are thinking of abortion is that they are EDUCATED. that they KNOW what they are..be educated by a 3rd party on what is going to happen..I don’t think enough people are educated..

    I have to say that this is quite civilized…it is impressive to see and heart warming!

    Mimi March 27, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Selfish choices are not de facto wrong ones: it’s okay, I think, to be young, and to think, “I can’t live with this”. It’s okay to choose to not put a new person into the world that you would worry about forever. A lot of the comments here are being kind to you, Catherine, while simultaneously suggesting that adoption is a more noble–because self-sacrificing and life-giving–thing to do than to abort.

    I don’t think so.

    I value women as much as I value as-yet-unborn bundles of cells. I think a woman’s (a girl’s) pain and fear for her future and desire for a clear path is worth considering.

    Obviously, to abort is not to receive a get-out-of-jail free card, emotionally or physically. But the hurt is a different one than carrying to term and giving a way a baby, as you note.

    I assert any woman’s right to be selfish in this way: contra much opinion here, I choose to put that woman first in my thoughts here, rather than the embryo.

    Hugs to you. I’m so glad I never had to make either choice. Two of my aunts gave up babies in the early 70s. My sister almost gave up her son in 1995. There’s a lot of hurt going around.

    You have the right to choose: the choice is as much about your life as about the life of the bundle of cells.

    Anonymous March 27, 2009 at 10:08 am

    When I was 14 years old, I had a boyfriend that was 17, over the summer vacation. I also had an abusive, overprotective evangelical Christian father. When we went back to school, I found out that my 17 year old boyfriend had a 17 year old girlfriend. I also found out I was pregnant.

    I miscarried. It makes me cry to think about, I see 12 year old kids and smile, and wonder. I am also eternally grateful to whatever powers that be that I did not have that child. Pregnant at 14? I would have been beaten within an inch of my life. I wouldn’t have had the choice of abortion or adoption, I would have had to raise that child, come hell or high water, while being emotionally and or physically abused by my dad.

    Am 26 now, and I have a 2 year old- I went through a pregnancy that was textbook, no medical drama. There was however, a list of complaints that made me utterly miserable- First trimester- UNCONTROLLABLE PUKING, Second trimester- SLEEP ALL DAY Third trimester- HEARTBURN! TIRED! SCIATIC NERVE PAIN! SWELLING FEET!
    I would do it again, but only for a baby? Complicated situation when I find that I am pregnant? I would have a difficult decision to make, wouldn’t I?

    Amy March 27, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I’m just going to keep commenting instead of pretending that I won’t comment again. :P

    aqua – YES to what you last said. That is the mistake that much (thought not all) of the “pro-life movement” makes – hurting people who are already hurting; standing in judgment and condemnation without offering any grace. Personally, I am way more interested in individuals than any movements or political ideologies. While I could never support abortion directly with dollars or votes, my real interest is helping women and children be safe and healthy and life-giving.

    As all of you have so eloquently stated, the things that lead women to consider abortion are very complex indeed. I just want to throw out something to ponder on one more aspect of this discussion. Many people have talked about it being ok to be selfish in order to avoid grief, suffering, chaos, pain. I think that the person who made the point that women are always expected to be selfless makes a good point. Though in my worldview I believe all people should strive to be selfless, I do not think it ought to be foisted on women especially by virtue of their gender. That being said, I guess I have a concern and problem with the notion of being able to discard the unborn (I believe it is a human, I realize that belief is not shared by all of you, and so this argument may be moot) to avoid suffering, even to avoid THEIR suffering. These ethical decisions turn out to be closely related to things like euthanasia of the elderly and the sick. Imagine transferring the same argument to a woman with a senile, suffering father. Should the woman have to sacrifice her own happiness, should she have to undergo mental anguish and financial ruin only to inflict continued suffering on the old man? For some people the answer is clearly no, go ahead and euthanize the old man. Frankly, I tremble at the notion of making such decisions about life and death. But perhaps this is where my faith comes into play. If there is no God, what is there to tremble at?

    Morgan March 27, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I thought I was going to simply comment, but my story came pouring out, so I simply posted it on my own blog. But thank you, thank you everyone, for keeping this respectful. I, too, made that choice, and there will always be grief there. I will always wonder, but I did what I felt was best for me and the baby. Better not to be, in a world of hate, physical danger, and emotional abuse.

    It’s over here, if you’re interested. But more – just thank you everyone, for opening up some new viewpoints for me.

    Anonymous March 27, 2009 at 4:42 pm

    I agree with your follow-up comment that you think living with adoption is way harder. I may sound maudlin for saying this, but I would rather have my child die in my arms than have him taken from me and never know what happened to him.

    momranoutscreaming March 27, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    A very brave and thought provoking post. I doubt if it could have been done better. I am grateful that I never had to make that choice because I surely would have made the same one you did and now as a mother of 3 beautiful children, I surely would have regretted it. Even now, just the thought makes my heart ache.

    katef - www.picklebums.com March 28, 2009 at 12:46 am

    This is a beautiful, inciteful, through provoking, heart wrenching post.

    I can relate to it all but could never quite seem to be able to form it into coherent ideas or words.

    Thank you for doing it so well.

    shelly March 28, 2009 at 12:54 am

    This is my first time here and I must say your post was the most emotional and beautifully written.I’ve been through the same.We all need to chose whats right for us, dont we? Your very brave.Kudos to you..

    Tandoori March 28, 2009 at 2:21 am

    Very touching story and very courageous of you to share it. I’d never be able to spell out something so heartbreaking! Requires a lot of guts…..

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