Submitted by: Shannon L
I have given birth to 3 sons — 2 living and 1 dead.
The one who died was my first, when I was 22. He lived for one hour.
He was a breech birth, so I needed a Caesarean. I never held him or saw him. I was given the opportunity, with the caveat that he would die soon. At that age and feeling emotionally fragile and drugged, I declined.
I knew that if I held him, I might have problems letting him go. I didn’t feel emotionally strong enough to deal with any of that, so my mother rocked him in a chair in the hospital nursery until his last breath.
I share that part of my story to simply indicate that there are lives meant to be and others that are never meant to be. I grieve the loss of my first-born and always will. What I will never grieve, and have just in the last few years gained the confidence to share, is the fact that between the ages of 35 and 43, I had 3 abortions. Two of them were my choice, the first and the second. They were failures in birth control measures. My physician suggested the third abortion due to my health at the time.
For years I felt like I was somehow lacking in emotional depth because I didn’t grieve the two I made the choice about, nor the 3rd, when the choice was between my own life and the life of the cells inside of me just beginning the cycle of life.
I vaguely recall tears with the first one, but to be honest, it was more the sight of all the young girls in the waiting room with tears of their own flowing down their cheeks and the looks of fear in their eyes, while waiting for their procedures. The way all of us kept our heads down, not looking at each other. Was that a shared shame?
Was it a remembering of the hateful words that had been directed at us by partners, mothers, or friends when we tried to share our thoughts on why an abortion was the only way we could see out of this mess we were in?
The procedures themselves were not traumatic at all. Very clinical and performed in rooms with low lighting and the quiet soothing voice of the female physician as she walked me through what she was doing to my body. My body.
Very simple and yet powerful words that stayed with me for a long time and enabled me to make the choices that needed to be made at that time in my life.
I had two sons and was a single mother. Money was always tight. Having enough to feed my growing sons and to keep us all safe in the event of emergencies. I had no desire or wish for another child — not then and not ever, and I have never felt guilty about the decisions I made, nor the fact that I needed to have that procedure done three times within a few years.
My partner at the time of those abortions has coldly thrown them in my face during arguments over the years, and has also in the opposite vein, brought them up emotionally during times of depression for him. I suspect that it was almost a pride issue for him, that I made the choice to not have his children, but had children from another relationship.
I never reacted in anger to his barbs over my decisions; they were his feelings but most certainly not mine, and at the end of the relationship, I finally voiced that those hurtful words were in actuality not working as he intended them to. All they did was reinforce my belief that I had done what was best for me and for my children already in need of whatever resources I had to give.
I now volunteer as an escort at the abortion clinic in my city. I meet women and walk with them from the time they arrive at the clinic right through the door and into the safety of the clinic. I shield them from the evangelists screaming at them from the public sidewalk that runs in front of the nondescript building where the abortions take place. I talk to them to drown out the cries of “slut” and “baby-killer” and “whore” that echo in my ears for days following.
There are lives that are meant to happen and there are lives that never were, but those decisions belong to the bodies incubating the cells within them. I will drive, escort, and support any woman who decides that termination is the best thing to do with her pregnancy.
I will fight until my last breath for women to have the right to autonomy over their own bodies and their own futures. It simply cannot be any other way.