Nineteen years ago, I got pregnant. My boyfriend at the time couldn’t maintain an erection for more than a few seconds after putting on a condom, and neither of us was willing to express our love chastely (imagine that). So, we decided to try the “withdrawal method of contraception” (otherwise known as the “contraceptive method” that only the mentally deficient, very young, or those who don’t really care if they get pregnant or not actually practice).
M boyfriend called his parents (we were both in the military, stationed overseas), told them the sad tale (though I’m fairly sure he skipped the part about the “withdrawal method”) and returned to me with his verdict, aided by their wise counsel–“I think you should get an abortion,” he said.
That surprised me a bit, coming as it was from the man who a few short weeks before had asked me to marry him–like, right then, as in an elopement to some nearby romantic European locale over the weekend and boom! married. After further questioning, he confessed that after speaking to his parents, he had rethought that scenario as well…oh, my poor young broken heart! But, life goes on. Literally!–I needed to decide what to do about the baby, who was busily growing larger and more inconvenient for everybody by the minute.
I didn’t bother calling my parents for a conference on the subject–I already knew my mother would order me to get an abortion, and I hadn’t spoken to my father in three years and didn’t see this as being the best occasion to restart our relationship. And I really had no one else to ask, not quickly; I think if I’d been in any kind of physical proximity to any good friends, I would have asked them for advice, but I wasn’t.
I didn’t have any personal objections to abortion–I was pro-choice then, as I am now. So I did my best to agree with everyone else that getting an abortion was the best choice for me to make. I went so far as to make the appointment and go to the clinic and sit on the bench outside the exam room with my boyfriend at my side. However, I wasn’t happy. Scratch that–I was miserable. I wasn’t in tears yet, but it was a close thing. My boyfriend glanced down at me and said, “You know, you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”
Oh, my God, it was like the light of Heaven at the end of the tunnel. I stared up into his face and said in a strangled sort of voice, “Do you mean you don’t want me to?”
He looked away. “I didn’t say that,” he said.
Ah. My surroundings returned to their previous gray flatness as I fell back to Earth with a thump. But it was clear to me that right then, at least, I couldn’t possibly go through with it; I told him as much, that I wasn’t quite ready, and we left the clinic.
Later–I can’t remember now if it was later that day, or a few days later–I did decide; I decided I couldn’t go through with it at all. I absolutely believed everyone else still very much wanted me to, and I was quite sure that they wouldn’t change their minds just because I was changing mine–I knew I was going to be going ahead with it utterly alone. But even knowing that, I couldn’t bring myself to do it, and so I told my boyfriend. I reassured him that I expected absolutely nothing from him, not then and not ever; I was simply incapable of getting an abortion. I even apologized, very sincerely.
He stared at nothing for a few minutes, then muttered, without looking at me, “Well, then I guess we better get married.”
I hadn’t expected that–I really hadn’t, and found myself suddenly confronted with a new problem, that I just as suddenly could not confess to…that problem being that my desire to marry him somehow wasn’t what it had been just a few short weeks before. As a matter of fact, from an emotional standpoint, it was almost nonexistent. However, from a practical standpoint, it was clearly the best thing for this baby that I, and only I, was insisting on bringing into the world. And I did still love him…I was pretty sure I did, anyway…I squashed those doubts firmly. Now was not the time to waffle! I had a baby to gestate, birth and raise. Time to grow up!
I was madly disapproved of, of course, when my pregnancy became common knowledge in the barracks. This didn’t trouble me much more than I already had been troubled, as already nobody else had liked me for it either, including the baby’s father. But I was very young; I’m making a bit light of it now, but at the time, the whole thing was fairly awful to endure, and I won’t even go into my first visit home to my mother other than to say that if I hadn’t already known what a low piece of dirt I was, I certainly knew it by the end of that visit. But I accepted all the condemnation without much complaint; it was all my fault. I could have gotten an abortion, and I didn’t, and whatever the consequences were, I deserved them.
Now, let us fast forward another nineteen years into the future–present times! (The liveborn results of the previous drama will be graduating from Air Force Basic Training at the end of April, in case anybody was at all curious about how that turned out.) And yes, you guessed it…I am unwed and unplannedly pregnant once more! Well, oops. (This boyfriend had no issues maintaining an erection with a condom on, I would like to say in his defense. And I actually went to the drugstore after work the next day to get the “morning-after” pill after a sexual episode that was not as contraceptive’d as it could have been…they just happened to be out of them. And I was tired of driving. And if there is an “anti-conception” lifestyle, I was living it, and I’m in my late thirties so you know, I thought my fertility was probably close to nonexistent anyway. So, I was wrong. Sue me.)
Nobody other than me and the prospective father was involved this time in the decisionmaking process–as I am still pregnant, it’s probably obvious what decision we ended up making. The friends that know asked first if I was happy about it and upon ascertaining that I was at least reasonably content with the prospect of yet-again-impending motherhood, have been cheerfully supportive and congratulatory. All in all, it’s been a very nice change from my experience nearly two decades ago…until recently, when my gestating state became visually noticeable at work.
Oh, I haven’t been condemned this time round…quite the opposite! Somewhat sickeningly the opposite, actually. I have been stopped in the hallway by no less than three coworkers over the past two weeks, and had conversations that ran much along these lines:
Coworker: Hey–I couldn’t help but noticing–! (glance down at my abdomen) Are you..?
Me: Yep. Knocked up.
Coworker: Oh, I thought you said you were done! Didn’t you tell me your boys are all grown up?
Me: My oldest is, my younger one’s a teenager. Yeah, I thought I was all done too–
Coworker: (emphatically) It’s such a blessing, isn’t it?
Me: Uh…well, more of an accident, really–
Coworker: Are you going to get amnio*?
Me: Well, no, I–
Coworker: Of course not, you’ll love it no matter what!
Coworker: What a miracle. I’m sure your husband is so thrilled!
Me: (dryly) We’re not actually married.
Coworker: (beaming) But I see you’re engaged! I’m sure you’ll get married before too long!
Me: (surrendering) Yes, thanks. We’re very excited about the whole thing.
So. Somehow I’ve gone from being an irresponsible, entrapping little slut to being a pro-life poster child. Of course, neither was nor is remotely the truth of the matters; yet all parties involved were then and are now quite happy to assign me these roles–emphatically eager to do so, and hadn’t then and don’t have now the faintest interest in how I might actually feel or even who or what I actually am as a person at all.
And every woman, no matter how young or old, single or married, should try to know that by heart going into any pregnancy–that ultimately, the only person’s opinion that really matters about what you do about your pregnancy is your own. Period. Which is why it should always, forever and only be your body, your choice.
*Amnio(centesis) (also referred to as amniotic fluid test or AFT), is a medical procedure used in prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections, in which a small amount of amniotic fluid, which contains fetal tissues, is extracted from the amnion or amniotic sac surrounding a developing fetus, and the fetal DNA is examined for genetic abnormalities.