The young woman passed through a toy store, touching soft woolen hats and toy giraffes and wondering if motherhood was right for her. She dreamed about holding a warm, cuddly newborn and imagined what her child would be like as an adult.
But her dreams of motherhood came to a crashing halt when she decided to have an abortion. Pregnant after a one-night stand with a guy friend who she had playfully flirted with, she witnessed a quick change in his attitude when she contemplated keeping their child. He said it was her decision, but it’s clear that he did not want to be a father.
“Just an ordinary abortion,” she called it in an essay published in Women’s Weekly on Monday. The anonymous 20-something from New York City penned her tragic essay about a month after aborting her unborn child. Though the writer tried to justify her abortion, her anguish about her unborn child was clear.
The circumstances of my pregnancy were not particularly traumatic. This is not a tale of rape or abandonment. I’m under no illusion that my story is unique, or even interesting. There is no villain. There is no victim. Just two friends who probably shouldn’t have had slept together, but did. He was in a relationship; I should have known better. It only happened once but evidently, once is enough. This tale is a tale of many. No tragic ending, no dramatic climax. Perhaps even nobody to sympathize with. This is just another abortion.
… Four weeks and four plus symbols later I’d learn that a pregnancy test isn’t the type you can retake to get the result you want. I hastily suggested an abortion and just as swiftly regretted it. Whilst overwhelmingly pro-choice, I wasn’t sure which choice was right for me.
The young woman readily acknowledged that she felt “mesmerized” by the idea that she and her friend had created a unique human person inside her womb. And while she said the idea of delivery frightened her, she “craved” to watch her unborn child grow up into an adult.
But, as is true in many abortion cases, the guy was not supportive. He told her that he would support the choice she made, but his manner was cold.
I was bewildered by the memory of him not eating duck. We were out for a tipsy post-coital dinner when he declined to try any of mine – they were too small, too helpless – to eat them seemed cruel. It was hard to imagine somebody with such a burning compassion for aquatic animals could have so seemingly little for a person. I retaliated by forwarding his most grating messages to my closest friends, taking childish delight in their outrage and playing down his intermittent kindness.
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I was knowingly pregnant for ten days and rescheduled the procedure twice. Once for work, once for panic. Abortion seemed implicit to all but me. He said I’d get through it because people did all the time. Others urged me not to leave it too late. Overwhelmed, I spent half an hour in a fancy toy store flirting with the idea of running away and keeping my baby all to myself; fidgeting with soft woollen hats and toy giraffes, seeing if motherhood fit for size. It didn’t. Like trying on somebody else’s clothes while they weren’t home. You feel guilty for daydreaming about it at all; as if such thoughts are reserved for women with a loving partner and a two-bedroom apartment; illegitimate plans for an illegitimate baby.
… It’s silly the fantasies you indulge in nonetheless; linen rompers, chubby legs, loving and naming something that won’t ever exist. How you catch yourself intuitively cupping your stomach, tracing your fingers across your ever-so-slightly swollen (or did I imagine it?) belly as you trawl through Bed, Bath and Beyond in search of a way to soften your bed post-abortion. Imagining laying on that very mattress topper, drunk off the milky scent of your newborn’s forehead instead of curled up in a ball, bleeding. Bleeding, crying – feeling stupid for crying and broken for bleeding – and digging yourself into the sheets, wishing you waited just a little longer before rushing into a decision you couldn’t revoke.
The young woman went through with the abortion. She said she was about five weeks pregnant, and the abortion clinic nurse refused to let her see her baby’s ultrasound. If she had been allowed, she probably would have seen her baby’s heartbeat on the ultrasound screen. At five weeks, many of her baby’s organs also were beginning to form.
“Nobody wants to have an abortion, and sometimes the wrong choice can hurt for reasons we can’t explain,” she said. “… I could easily blame circumstances, but the choice was my own.”
More than a month after aborting her unborn child, the young woman said she is “irritated” at herself for still hurting over her abortion. After a married friend announced that she was pregnant, the young woman said she felt crushed.
When I told a friend I was writing about pregnancy she asked if I’d even consider that being pregnant. Herein lies the problem. An experience is an experience and my near-brush with motherhood was as impactful as it was brief. To make us beg to see our baby on a sonogram screen is to illegitemise our pregnancy. We shouldn’t need to apologise for doubting our choice the night before. We shouldn’t be discounted from the dialogue surrounding grief – or pregnancy – due to it being a pain self-inflicted. Loss is loss, and to mourn alone is to question our right to mourn at all. This is a story of an ordinary abortion, the tale of a thousand others, and for that reason, a tale to be told.
In a way, the young woman is right about her experience being “ordinary.” She and millions of other women have admitted that their abortions were painful, grief-filled experiences. Some, like this young woman, attempt to justify aborting their unborn baby, but many others openly share the regret and pain of their abortions with the hope of sparing women and their babies from the same irreversible experience.
Abortion advocates claim that abortion helps women, but stories like these, piled on top of facts about the physical and psychological risks of abortion, point to the truth: Abortion hurts women and destroys the lives of millions of unborn children.