Content has been submitted by users and does not necessarily reflect the views of Abortion Changes You

I'm a saver of stuff...

I'm a saver of stuff...paper and miscellaneous odds and ends. Every now and again I sort through the tattered pieces that represent different times in my life and when I come to a certain 5 x 3 receipt – I stop. And I stop feeling. For decades, I have disconnected or I feared I’d lose my marbles. When looking at the receipt there doesn't necessarily seem to be anything special about it. 54847 (stamped in the upper right-hand corner) DATE: 3-8-90 the CURRENCY box is check-marked (I paid in cash) One Hundred and Fifty-Five (handwritten in script) DOLLARS The ON ACCOUNT OF line is left blank. Mentally, I fill in the blank "Murder." Then in small print at the bottom “Kindly retain this receipt for tax purposes” I’ve retained it – but not for tax purposes. It’s the only thing that physically ties me to what I did that day when I was 17 years, 11 months, and 10 days old. I don’t want to write any more about what I did that day. I am ashamed. I am mortified. You see, I already had a baby. He was born on June 10, 1989, when I was 17 years, 2 months, and 11 days old. I had planned to put him up for adoption. Why? Well, I was barely able to take care of myself – if you could call it that. I ran away from home a few days before I turned 16 years old. I had no support and no money. I lived in a rundown student housing efficiency apartment that was swarming with cockroaches. I worked three part-time jobs and barely had enough to pay my bills. No driver’s license. I was a high school dropout. I hadn’t been in contact with my family of origin since June of 1988. I loved my unborn baby so much that I wanted to give him a better life than I could give him. My mom reached out to me a few months before he was born to reconnect with me. She met me in secret from my dad at Long John Silvers. I had their mix and match of chicken and fish. While I dipped my fried planks in ketchup, she offered her support to help with the baby. Diapers, clothes, food, and babysitting. I stood firm and didn’t accept their help. I told myself too many strings and I didn’t want to get tangled up in their sticky webs. I would feel trapped. On the day after C. was born, I called my parents to talk to my mom. My dad said that she was in the bathroom crying. I asked him why and he says, “Why do you think?” in an angry sarcastic tone. I instantly felt guilty. I had no idea how my putting C. up for adoption was going to affect others and so I. Changed. My. Mind. And I kept him. Now fast forward to March of 1990. C. was 8 months and 29 days old. I was pregnant. Again. I knew I couldn’t put this baby up for adoption, and the thought of having two children by the age of 18 was downright crazy to imagine. I made the decision to have an abortion. It seemed so easy of a decision at the time. I felt confident in the decision that I had made. It’s my body…pro-choice yada yada yada. What I didn’t know was how I was going to feel after and also NOT let myself feel. As well as later at different times in my life, especially when I went on to give birth to four more beautiful children. I remember that there was a mixed bag of emotions - mostly I felt relief, which caused me to feel guilty and shameful. After my mom dropped me off at my apartment and I was left alone I remember going numb. I didn’t know what to do with my emotions and I checked out. I felt scared but for an entirely different reason that had nothing to do with having an abortion. When the doctor was performing the abortion, she thought something looked abnormal about my cervix. She did a biopsy and it came back later as CIN 3 - severe dysplasia and a high risk of developing invasive cervical cancer. This was before the term HPV was coined. I was never diagnosed with it but I feel certain that is what I had. They recommended performing laser surgery to remove the precancerous cells. I told myself it was providence that I had gotten pregnant and had an abortion because it was highly unlikely that I would have ever gone in to having a pap smear and they find the precancerous cells. I didn’t have insurance and I was so young I was invincible. I went through my life as if nothing bad was going to happen to me. Ever. Getting pregnant and making the decision to have an abortion possibly saved my life. So I have never given myself permission to grieve. I didn’t feel like I had the right to since I had willingly made the choice to have a voluntary pregnancy termination. I’ve done a little research in the last few weeks. Research has shown that emotions after an abortion can range from sadness, relief, happiness guilt, anger, shame, to a range of other things. For me, this was what I remember my feelings were. Like I said I felt relief. Relief may sound like a good thing, But relief is actually quite complex. On the one hand, relief is a positive. It helped me feel reassured that I had made a decision I could live with. It helped me to feel hopeful and optimistic about moving forward. At the same time, it made me feel guilty, I worried I shouldn’t be relieved. I felt confused feeling relief and concurrently feeling sadness and isolation. I felt conflicted. Relief was replaced at some point though with guilt and shame. I began to feel the abortion compromised my spiritual and ethical values. I know that I must work through guilt on both of these levels; providing forgiveness to myself. Writing this account of what happened is the beginning of my journey of self-forgiveness and healing. Guilt is something we feel within ourselves, based on our own perception that we could or should have done in a certain situation. Shame is something we feel based on our perception that others think we could or should have done something differently. I definitely have felt a lot of shame. How do I know this? Because I never have spoken about having an abortion with anyone. A few people “know” I had one…less than five and two of them I told in the last two weeks. But I have never shared about it in a deep and meaningful way like I am doing right now. I need to get it out of my head. I have to. This leads me to talk about my own isolation. I have felt alone and have feared judgment from others – in particular from my own children possibly. This has caused me to stay quiet about abortion. I feel alone and judged, so I don’t speak up. This is a story that I tell myself at least. I have kept my abortion a secret for decades and by sharing my experience now I hope to have a feeling of relief and connection with others. The sadness of any grief can become overwhelming at times, despite being normal and natural. Although I felt confident in the decision I made at the time, there still is a sadness in me about the loss of a future as a mother, with that child. I have never grieved about this particular loss. I have learned that it is important to feel and acknowledge the sadness, and accept that it is okay to feel this emotion despite my abortion being a choice. I am going to go off to have a good cry and release the sadness in me because I am not a bad person. I don’t have to feel like one anymore.

Tell your story