Right after my eighteenth birthday I found out I was pregnant. This was well before I knew anything about Natural Family Planning and so I wasn’t paying any attention to my cycle, though I knew I was regular. My boyfriend and I weren’t using any form of contraception as we had been trying to abstain, having recently become Christian. I was just starting my second semester of community college and had only recently gotten my driver’s license. I was very young and naive.
When we found out, we just accepted the news. We were actually happy about it and looking forward to being parents, even though we knew it would be difficult being so young and not settled in life. We rode BART up to Berkeley, walked around and talked about the baby, and bought a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting at the secondhand bookstore.
Nervous and scrupulous, I soon shared my news with my mother. Having been a young, unwed mother herself, I’m sure she her response was based on her own experience and thinking that she knew best. The news was not well received and an argument ensued. She felt that an abortion was the only option. I did not want an abortion.
I turned to my boyfriend and he suddenly had no opinion. Where once he was accepting and excited, now he fell back on the idea that “it’s your body; it’s your choice.” With no real input from the father of my child and no other option extended from my family, I felt I had no choice. I reluctantly agreed to the abortion. This would be the second child this man lost to abortion without his family’s knowledge.
It was late January. I was about seven weeks along. I went in for my appointment with my mother and my boyfriend. They signed me in and took me away. An ultrasound was performed with the screen turned away. That would haunt me in future pregnancies. I sat in my hospital gown in a waiting room, watching odd shows on the TV, clutching my teddy bear. I felt like an abandoned child.
The nurse led me into the operating room and I lay down on the table. They gave me general anesthesia and I counted down as my consciousness faded away. I woke up much later in a room full of girls on cots. One of the girls was clearly mentally disabled. I thought how horrible it was for her to be in this place. My mother and boyfriend took me home and that was the end of it.
Every year I have counted how old my first child would be if I had not had an abortion. I always believed it to be a girl because of a dream I had when I was sixteen. In the dream, I was holding a little boy, who looked very much like my boys. I had a much older daughter, but she was standing away from me with her back turned. A crowd of people was in front of me and they were angry and judging me for being a young mother. The girl’s name was Elizabeth Jane.
The abortion has been a shameful secret for a very long time. I have told some close friends along the way. I felt it was important that they knew because I always felt like an unworthy hypocrite being very religious and carrying this secret. A little over a year ago, one of those friends suggested a retreat for women who have had abortions. She and her husband generously gifted me with the funds to attend the retreat. It was an amazing weekend and helped me tremendously in the healing process.
Because of the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat, I feel less alone in my experience. I was surrounded by all these other women who had been exactly where I had been. We shared our stories, honored one another’s experiences, and took part in the healing process. It was an intensely emotional, spiritual, amazing weekend. I came away from it feeling as though a burden had been lifted from my shoulders.
I know that there are many women who have had an abortion and do not regret it. I am not one of those women. I did not want to make that choice. My child would be turning 16 this September. I feel that my family is missing a member. I am glad that I could honor his or her memory through the Rachel’s Vineyard retreat.
At the end of the retreat there was a memorial service. I tried to see if the father of the baby would want to come, but he never responded. Instead, my boyfriend went out of his way to be there, getting off of work at 4:00 a.m. and riding the bus and train to travel three hours away, as he had no car. It was very touching to have someone put so much effort into something, setting aside their opinions to support me in a very emotional process. It’s something I will never forget.