Abortion Lessons

Kari K. Smith

I had an abortion six months ago. I offer no poetic nuances to skirt the issue. I am twenty-six, married, and college-educated. I never imagined that I would become an abortion statistic. I had no idea how abortion could affect a woman's life.

My life became a surreal blur the minute I missed a few birth-control pills and became pregnant. I'd forgotten to take a pill several times before and had never become pregnant. I declared that it was not fair, that I had been cheated. I wallowed in depression. I contemplated suicide. I did everything but take responsibility for my actions.

I had an abortion in my ninth week. Guilt was my shroud. I could not unwrap myself from its grip. During the procedure I learned that I had been pregnant with twins. This doubled my regret. I sank deeper into depression. I felt alone and lost. I wanted my babies back.

I gave people so many excuses for having an abortion. "It's not the right time," or "we aren't settled into our own lives," or "we could never afford it," or "I have health problems." All of these statements were true, but I was only trying to convince myself that my decision was sound. I wanted someone to tell me that I was still worthy of love and worthy of this life.

My days were spent reflecting on my existence and my decision. I questioned everything. I wondered how my life would have been different with two children. Was I destined to be a mother? Were my priorities straight? I pondered damnation. I wondered if I could make it another day.

Months of tears and idleness followed. I slowly began to realize, though, that there were lessons screaming to be learned from my experience. My lessons began, fittingly, with loss. The decision to terminate my pregnancy cost me a friendship of twelve years. My friend disagreed morally with abortion and cut me out of her and her family's life. I reacted harshly and insulted her. I felt judged. I felt betrayed. I felt like I let her down.

I recognize now that my friend was only living her convictions. I respect that. She taught me that others can only judge you if you allow yourself to be judged. I allowed her to judge me. I condemned her for doing it. I have since retracted the blame I placed on her and accept it fully for myself. Despite the fact that we travel in separate directions, I am confident in the knowledge that we are both leading lives based upon our own principles. I gave up trying to please everyone with the decisions I made. I looked to myself for justification.

When I found out I was pregnant and chose abortion, I acted as if I was the victim of an elaborate scheme to sabotage my life. My world was crumbling around me and I was sure that some higher power was plotting my ruin. In reality, I had hold of the reins the entire time. I was the authority when it came to my reproductive status. I was in charge of making decisions. I knew pregnancy was a risk when I missed pills. I took the risk. I became pregnant. I chose abortion. My choices had repercussions. I understand now that you cannot hide from the outcomes of your actions.

My second lesson involved taking responsibility for becoming pregnant and having an abortion. I make no excuses and blame no one for the results of my acts. It is easy to fall into the victim role because it leaves you with no liability. Without liability, though, you do not have control over your life. You give your power away when you choose to be a victim.

Even though I stopped dwelling on the judgments of others and took responsibility for my actions, I could not pick up my feet and move on. I repeatedly imagined scenarios in which I gave birth and became a mother. I dreamed that everything would be fairy-tale perfect. These scenarios tortured me. They became my reality. My imagined life kept me in limbo, hanging on to what-ifs. I wasted precious time wishing I had made a different decision.

My final lesson was hard-learned. I needed to let go. I had always had difficulty with this concept. I held fast to yesterday. I carried grudges like my favorite handbag. I played the scenes of my life over and over in search for a better ending.

I finally hit bottom. I looked around and saw the world spinning while I remained immobile. The snow was melting and giving way to leaf-buds. Friends were announcing weddings and pregnancies. The universe persisted with or without my presence. I was not its center.

I awoke from the flawless dream in my head and decided to enter my tainted existence. I surrendered to the reality that I alone had created. It was far from perfect, but I claimed it as my own. I stopped trying to relive and recreate the past. Instead, I embraced it. I gleaned what I could and moved on. Our past makes us who we are, and I was a woman who had had an abortion.

I remain pro-choice, but I have a deeper understanding of the ramifications of abortion. I was one of more than thirty women seeking an abortion that day in the clinic. Unique circumstances had brought each of us to that particular place and time. We were, however, a union of women making a choice that would redefine our existence.

Abortion is not something that happens in a few minutes and is then forgotten. Abortion remains with you, teaches you things, becomes part of who you are. Abortion should not be ignored and left to grow rancid in a woman's soul. It should have its say. Then it should be packed carefully away next to the other memories and experiences that make a woman whole.

Abortion changed my life. I am not ashamed to say it. It added to the total package of who I am and who I will become. I refuse to be defined solely by abortion, but I also refuse to hide what it has taught me. I learned important lessons. I try to live those lessons. I lost friends and time. I gained control. I chose abortion. Now, I choose to continue.

© Kari K. Smith

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