Aborting Guilt

“I got something to say
I killed a baby today
And it doesn’t matter much to me
As long as it’s dead”

As I’ve discussed earlier in my “(Un)Planned (Un)Parenthood” posts, I had an abortion just over a year ago, almost to the day. While some might say I killed a baby, I’m not as cavalier about it as Glenn Danzig in The Misfits’ “Last Caress” lyrics above (which horrifically continue with raping mothers and killing even more babies). My baby was not yet a baby by definition. It was an unborn, unformed embryo, and removing it from an environment in which it it could live—thus resulting in its death—did matter so much to me.

The most salient emotions from my whole abortion experience were relief and guilt. It’s been reportedthough I’m unsure if this website is factually accurate since it reads more like pro-life propagandathat 55% feel guilt and 10% have reported more serious “psychiatric complications” like diagnosed depression.  Fortunately, I, like 95% of those who have had an abortion, don’t regret the decision. This longitudinal study from PLOS also counters the pro-life narrative that all abortions are emotionally damaging, recommends counseling for those having difficulty coping with their abortion, and concludes that the intensity of negative emotions and frequency of thinking about the abortion will also decrease over time. I’m not attempting to discount anyone’s experiences, only provide my own experiences and provide information I’ve collected.

Guilty or Not Guilty

I don’t know if I would’ve even delivered a healthy baby, but I do know I prevented the thing growing in my womb from becoming a person. And I don’t want to do that again.

A year later, I feel guilty because:

  • I ended a life before its life began.
  • A couple, family friends who were my second pair of parents, had wanted children for the decade I’ve known them. To this day they don’t have children. And there are so many who want biological children and are unable to have them.
  • I was able to get an abortion, while many aren’t able due to lack of access or financial support.
  • I could’ve not terminated the pregnancy and given the child up for adoption.

On the other hand, I don’t feel guilty because:

  • What I aborted was not even an autonomous being yet. At eight weeks it was just a mass of cells without lungs to breathe, a brain to think, or eyes to see!
  • I shouldn’t blame myself for parents not being unable to conceive. Perhaps I will serve as a surrogate or donate eggs in the future to help those who can’t have children.
  • The option to have a safe abortion was there, so I took advantage of it. I petition to make medical and surgical abortions available, as well as donate to local and national abortion providers. I aim to volunteer more with these providers and use my experiences to help others.
  • I would probably feel even more guilty giving a child up for adoption, relinquishing all my responsibility for them and enabling them to be absorbed into the foster care system and possibly have a terrible life.

Friends who were pregnant when I was and continued their pregnancies now have 6-month-old kids. It’s still odd to think that could be my kid, curly or straight hair, brown or blue eyes like theirs, perhaps speaking its first words. At the end of the day, when my friends-cum-parents are up all night trying to calm their sleepless babes, the only thing I’m truly guilty of is making the right decision for myself.

I wish the stigma surrounding abortion were removed, and safe abortion options were readily available and affordable for all. Weigh your options and make the best choice for you. There’s nothing wrong with seeking help with pre- and post-abortion emotions.

Be kind to yourself (as the first link below advocates!).

Additional resources on post-abortion emotions:
Positive experience:
Women’s Health Options, Emotional Support
Early Options, Guilty
The Telegraph, More than 95 per cent of women don’t regret their abortions
Mic, 90% Of Women Feel Relieved After Abortion
BBC News, From relief to regret: Readers’ experiences of abortion

Negative experience:
Weebly Tatt Words (these are quite ridiculous)
OMG there’s sad Pinterest quotes!
Women Who’ve Had Abortions
LiveAction, 8 heartbreaking quotes from post-abortive women

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Phantom Emb(ryo)

Again, it has been many moons since the last post, as my motivation to write and desire to document my pregnancy experiences are equally low. Halloween and my would-have-been due date are just around the corner, so it’s only appropriate to tell a (gestational) ghost story.

Eight months in and I would be about ready to burst, What to Expect When You’re Expecting expectedly paged, nursery (if I had one) predictably painted, and diapers stocked for Armageddon in an ideal, prepared parent’s world. Instead of a pineapple-sized fetus living in my womb, my stomach has become home to all the delicious pineapple devoured this summer.

Mine is a vaguely flat tummy, a little flabby and cuddled by love handles as it’s always been, but lately I’ve felt a foreign emptiness there when I see pregnant colleagues all round and full, bellies as big as mine would be. I admire how their unborn babies unapologetically take up space, how their mothers wield new bodies like precious weapons. When they pass in hallways or hold office baby showers, my hand flies to my stomach without thought. Nothing is there.

I had the abortion long before the embryo became a fetus with feisty legs, so I didn’t experience the kicks common in later trimesters. But seeing other pregnant people induces within me odd reactions; a flutter of butterflies tries to mimic the quickening of a fetus’s limbsthe fetus a phantom limb itself. I don’t feel stress, anxiety, or depression as many others who have had abortions do (referred to as Post Abortion Stress Syndrome/PASS to be discussed later), but I just feel strange, dissociated, as if I’ve been cast in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

But I do feel relieved more than anything. That could be me.

Speaking of strange physical phenomena, there’s also phantom pregnancy or pseudocyesis, when one experiences symptoms of pregnancy without actually being pregnant. And sympathetic pregnancy or Couvade syndrome, when the expectant person’s partner experiences similar pregnancy symptoms.

The body is a weird, wonderful, worrisome thing.

Do you have similar experiences or other weird pregnancy stories? Share them below, if you wish.

Time for more pineapple!

Some resources on weird pregnancy things
(I am not a doctor, so these are not meant to be prescriptive!!):
Pseudocyesis and Couvade syndrome
BabyMed, “What Is a Phantom or False Pregnancy – Pseudocyesis”
ParentingDad’s Pregnancy Symptoms: More Than Just Sympathy Pain?”
The Independent, “Couvade Syndrome”

Quickening
The Atlantic, Abortion in American History” 
Slate, He Took It Into His Head to Frisk a Little’”
Mirror, I FELT BABY KICK 10 WKS AFTER MY ABORTION”  

 

Abortion from Abstinence

In an ironic plot twist, I found myself pregnant shortly after posting February’s piece on celibacy.

If you know me at all, you know that I had an abortion, that it wasn’t so much a choice than an imperative. (Though I’m immensely thankful to even have the privilege to choose an alternative, especially one that is safe.) Gal pals and I would have conversations about reproductive rights back in college, mostly joke about being pregnant when a period was a little late because it was some freak Final Destinationesque accident that couldn’t happen to us.

But what we didn’t want to conceive ofconceptionisn’t as implausible as we thought.

I’m now 24, and no more prepared for parenthood. To think I was somehow immune from encountering that embryonic actuality is absurd beyond Camus: I’ve never been on the pill, have had unprotected sex with a couple partners more than a wombful of times, have taken Plan B (or its off-brand equivalent) twice.

I don’t even want children—or at least not yet. Other than mothering a beloved late feline friend, I honestly don’t know if I have a maternal bone in my body. I don’t remember when I last held a human infant, or if I ever had.

This Mother’s Day I’m especially grateful for my maternal figures and friends my age who have had one, two, more kids. How do you do it?! You are amazing!

And also grateful that I’m not yet a mother; I would be about 5 months in at this point, baby the size of a banana (according to this meticulous and a little ridiculous mapping of a human fetus compared to edible items).

In support of #shoutyourabortion, the next few posts in the series “(Un)Planned (Un)Parenthood” will be about my experiences with abortion, addressing topics including personal guilt/shame, privilege, and bodily autonomy.

Thanks for always being here for me. I’m here for you.