"Uh, babe, we're pregnant," I told my boyfriend of a year and a half. Twenty-six might be the ideal child-bearing age for some, but for me, it simply wasn't. I was working 14 hours a day, building a career in design, and eating every meal at my desk. Money was tight, and I could barely take care of my own simple needs, much less the needs of an infant. Plus, I was in a dried-up relationship that I'd only stayed in because I was scared of being alone.
He barely looked at me with his scared eyes. "What, what … what am I gonna do?" he said with a panicked shriek. "How … What?! Ooooh noooooooo," he stammered. Then he crawled into bed, laid in a fetal position, and cried for hours.
That wasn't the response I was hoping for. I thought maybe he'd respond, "We'll figure this out. How are you feeling about it? I'm here for you. Let's go for a walk to clear our heads so we can think straight and then talk about it." I would've even settled for a hug. Instead, I was managing my own shock and his emotional meltdown simultaneously.
I was an adopted child, and this gave me some pretty complex feelings about abortion. I was unwanted and unplanned, but still given a chance to live and thrive.
On my own, I deeply considered my choices — I spoke with close friends, wrote pro/con lists, and did a lot of soul searching. My friends couldn't give me the support I needed to raise a family, I wasn't financially prepared, and I could see now that my boyfriend wasn't going to be my rock or much of a family man. I had lots of good reasons to terminate my pregnancy. At the end of the day, I realized the most important reason, for me, was that I didn't want to bring a child into a life where it would be unplanned, resented, or unwanted.
I was an adopted child, and this gave me some pretty complex feelings about abortion. I was unwanted and unplanned, but still given a chance to live and thrive. I'm forever grateful that my birth mother gave me a chance at life outside of South Korean culture — a culture where there were family size limits, not unlike China's (now-disbanded) One Child Policy.
However, I was also adopted into a family where I was sexually abused for many years in my own home by my parent's oldest child. That child was unwanted, unexpected, forced my parents to marry, and truthfully resented being alive. In some ways, unplanned pregnancy was part of the reason I spent my childhood living in fear.
I'd been raised by my adopted family with pro-life Christian ideals that had made the option of abortion unthinkable to me in years past. Being brought up with such harsh, religious, right-wing dogma made it inevitable that I would fight the deep, internal battle that many women fight when contemplating abortion. But ultimately, this choice was mine, and mine alone.
In the end, I made the decision to terminate. I went to a Planned Parenthood clinic, I took the pills early in my first trimester, and I got a hotel room so I wouldn't associate the traumatic experience within my own home. I wore comfy pajamas and watched lots of movies; I bled heavy, bloody clots in the sterile bathroom. I sobbed. I got therapy.
In some ways, my abortion was a catalyst for me to start doing the healing work that I so desperately needed. It set me up to face the realities of my abandonment and my abusive childhood. It pushed me to be self-reflective; to process my deep, childhood traumas, to feel the swell of emotions that I'd shut off for years, and to be responsible for the life I lived and the decisions I made.
Now, I'm 32, married, and have a three month old who I love more than words could ever express. I'm so deeply grateful that I get to be a mamma, and nurture my sweet, squishy, smiley baby; that I get to care for his every need, rise to the challenge of motherhood, and be the woman I didn't think I could be at 26.
Because I'm so happy to be a mom now, I still have mixed feelings about my abortion. Just the other night I had a dream that my little baby boy died, and I woke up with a feeling of overwhelming grief. I realized that I was crying tears for my first child. I can't help but feel that life — his or her little life — deserved to be honored, lived, and celebrated. But I just wasn't strong enough at the time to offer that.
I am now.
Abortion is a complicated issue, and I wish we didn't live in a world where it's considered OK to judge women who have chosen these procedures over going through with unwanted pregnancies. Women already often have so much taken from them by society — our innocence, our sexuality, our rights. And as is often the case with abortion, and the shame that surrounds it, we also lose our peace.
I want all women to feel cared for, seen, supported, loved, and respected. I want us to thoughtfully consider our actions, and make sound choices. I hope that our reproductive rights are always available, and at the same time, I hope we can realize that sex, even protected sex, often leads to new life and serious responsibility. I want us to be honest and discuss the subject, and to stop judging ourselves so harshly for it.
I hope every woman who wants to be a mom can experience the joy of a baby looking up at her, giggling, and snuggling tight with sleepy eyes. And for those women who don't want to be mothers, I hope they can understand the gravity of their choice, be supported in that choice, heal, and live a happy life.
Images: Megan Y.