INTERVIEW: Teenage Abortion
ON TEENAGE ABORTION
(Female) – “I was sixteen years old – a week into grade twelve – when I found out I was pregnant. I’d been with my boyfriend a month and a half. We did a home pregnancy test that morning, so we both found out at the same time.”
PRESSURE, CONFUSION, INDECISION, FEAR
“(Boyfriend) made it very, very clear that he didn’t want to have kids. But I think that I was just more scared of even wanting to think about what I wanted, so I just went ahead with (his decision of) not keeping it. Afterwards, later, that decision was really, really hard for me to deal with… because I hadn’t done it for the right reasons.
Of course, he was still torn up about it, he wasn’t happy about that by any means; he just didn’t want to have a child, and wouldn’t have anything to do with it (and with her?) if we did have it. He didn’t want to suddenly be married and have kids.
So I knew right away.”
“At that time there was no one else I knew who had gone through the same thing. There was one other girl that age who got pregnant, but she went through with it and had the baby, still had her boyfriend, still went to school. With me, my pregnancy was a big secret. I went to a small school; you walk down the hall and just feel everyone whispering behind you, even though they’re not. Your imagination just runs wild.
That’s why I dropped out. I didn’t need to drop out (she decided later), but I did drop out; I hated it, I didn’t want to be there. It really gives you a kick in the ass, you know? You’ve got to grow up, at least a little bit more, right now! While everyone around you is like, ‘Oh, he kissed me, blah blah’ (young girls talking about dreamy romance), I’m thinking, ‘Grow the hell up’. I just couldn’t stay around that anymore, I was totally in a different…”
Some events deepen you, and your maturity suddenly grows years overnight.
“Before leaving school, the only person I told everything to was the guidance counselor. She was really nice, very helpful. She talked to the other teachers and I was able to take some school work home for some of the classes, bring it back for grading. She didn’t tell them why, just that it was for personal reasons.
I had one teacher who wasn’t understanding at all, about anything. He didn’t care what the reason was, he gave me failing grades for the whole year just because I wasn’t there.”
“About two weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I went in to the hospital. It was unfortunate because the day I had to go in was (boyfriend’s) nineteenth birthday, so that really put a damper on it. Now, every time his birthday comes around… but he wasn’t very compassionate about it. He didn’t come with me to the hospital.
I didn’t tell my parents, I told only one of my good friends, who I was rooming with at the time. She and another one of my girlfriends took me to (a nearby city) when I had to go in for the operation. They were supportive, but… it was still very scary.
People don’t lie when they say that some nurses aren’t very nice. And the way you’re feeling about yourself when you go in; any little thing, even the nurses just not being friendly, makes you think that they’re judging you for being there under those circumstances…
Your imagination runs wild; you think, ‘Maybe I’m mad at myself for getting into this and being here, so why would I think that they’re thinking that about me?’ Also, I’m a very friendly person, and I would hope others would be friendly too, and caring towards people in that situation.”
To drive the point home: she was sixteen, pregnant, scared, confused, alone and preparing for an abortion – and she wasn’t treated with much understanding or kindness by the professionals.
LAST MOMENT BEFORE…
“I think I finally realized I didn’t know exactly what I wanted when it was too late – I was already on the gurney getting rolled down to the operating room. This panic just hit me all of a sudden – ‘What am I doing, what am I doing?’ But it was a little too late at that point.
Up until then I thought I was doing the right thing… that I didn’t want the baby. But when I got there… it just kind of… hit me the wrong way (she felt she was doing serious wrong). That (the guilt of thinking that maybe she could/should have stopped it but didn’t) took me a long time to deal with.”
It’s so common: something difficult is happening and you’re not sure of your decision; and then due to an all-at-once convergence of thoughts and events a large doubt, or decision, suddenly arrives at the very last moment.
Then you’re too afraid to halt the process because all the preparations are in place and underway; you’re afraid of the consequences and even conflict you’ll cause by derailing that train when you’re being wheeled to the operating room, or walking up to the marriage altar, or signing your name to something big… there’s a huge, seemingly unstoppable pressure to just continue.
Then you grow older, and you realize that you can just STOP!! it all. But you don’t feel you have that power when you’re young.
SLOW EROSION AFTERWARDS
(She had left school now) “So we (her and her boyfriend at the time) moved in together. I never told (boyfriend) anything about how I felt inside. I’m not good at telling people how I feel about anything, it makes me a little uncomfortable. But… if I hadn’t felt so alone, it would have helped a little, you know?
I got quite depressed afterwards, I gained weight; I was 124 pounds when he met me, so I was a cutie-pattuti. Then after gaining weight he made it very clear: ‘You’re not attractive anymore’. But because I thought I was so in love with him, I stayed. I lived with him for another year and a half.
I thought I loved him at the time, that whole ‘puppy love’ thing, right? You know how all girls are when they’re sixteen, they’re just, ‘Oh, I looove him’; you can’t help but fall head over heels. Then after you’ve been with someone for a few months, you get to know more about them… especially when you go through something like that with them so early in the relationship.
Our relationship didn’t start going downhill immediately, didn’t go bad all-of-a-sudden; it was fine for a little while, then steadily got worse.” (And eventually they broke up)
ADJUSTING AND GROWING
“It never became common knowledge (that she’d had an abortion). I told a few close, personal friends.
I’m quite sensitive. The topic of abortion rarely comes up in casual conversation, and when it does I’m not prepared… it’s a little hard. Some people’s opinions really bothered me. When their opinion passes judgement on people who they have no right to pass judgement on… they don’t know the ins and outs, the situation, they haven’t been through it. Instead of keeping my composure, justifying abortion to them, I would get all teary-eyed… and leave, ’cause it’s easier. Though it all depends on the topic; I can be a really good yeller, too. (Ha)
But when it’s closer to home (to her personal experience)… that’s how I reacted, before I learned to deal with it well. Since I didn’t even know how to deal with my own brain going ‘You shouldn’t have done that’, I didn’t want to say to them, ‘You’re wrong’, because that would lead them to think that I’d had an abortion (and they would start in on judging her).
I felt so ashamed back then. And I used to be so passive about it; it’s hard to grow out of being a doormat (letting herself be walked all over by people’s callousness and ignorance). I try real hard to not do that to others – maybe because of this, maybe not. I think I’ve always been that way.”
THE BIG ONE: PARENTS
“I didn’t tell my parents until much later because they were Baptist Christians, went to church; and in Christianity, abortion is… murder.
I didn’t trust them enough to just love me (as parents, rather than to beat her down with the wrath of their beliefs and reactions). Mom’s a bit high-strung; I think I was expecting her to go ‘Oh my God, you little slut!’ – even though I know now that she would never have done anything like that. But at that time…”
When you’re sixteen, it’s a big mystery; you don’t know how news like this is going to be taken. Your mind plays scenarios and tricks; you can have the most wonderful parents, yet if they don’t actually formally convince you they’ll love you no matter what you do, what you are – you’ll always doubt and be afraid of telling them things.
“She’s not the kind of woman to have gone through anything like that; I’m sixteen and having sex, had an abortion already, whereas she’s more… (straight-laced); the only person she’s ever been with is my Dad… after marriage, you know.
If anyone, I would have told my Dad first. He’s easy-going – ‘Everything’s fine, you know I love you’. He’s never yelled at me my entire life. I crashed his car once, I called to tell him, and I’m crying; he’s like, ‘Oh… well, that’s all right, I’ll be there to get you in a minute, where are you, are you okay?’ (But she was afraid to tell even him about the abortion)
They found out when Mom found a ‘day surgery’ envelope (containing a list of preparations for a patient about to undergo in-and-out daytime surgery) in my desk drawer. She asked what it was for, and the explanation just kind of went from there.
When I told her, she didn’t yell at me or do anything… she just started crying; she was so upset that I hadn’t trusted her. My Mom… she was really hurt… that I didn’t even trust her enough to tell her; that I didn’t give her the chance to tell me that she loves me no matter what.
I regret now that I didn’t have them as friends during those high school years. (She felt, because of their differences) They were more my enemies. I had friends that influenced me poorly, I partied all the time, never wanted to come home – and she’s a very, very sensitive person.
Not telling them is one thing I really regret. In retrospect… I think she would have wanted me to keep the baby, tried hard to convince me to keep it because she’s very pro-life; but she does love me lots, and I know she probably would have said, ‘No matter what you do, I’ll still love you’.
My parents are both the sweetest beings in the world.”
ANOTHER REGRET REDEEMED
“I ended up going back to school; not to high school ’cause I didn’t want to go back there. I went to an Adult Learning Centre, that’s for people to go and graduate for free. I caught up on all my courses, even finished a couple grade eleven courses I hadn’t passed the year before.
Felt fuckin’ good! ’Cause I thought I had totally screwed myself over (missing education and graduation), right? I graduated at the same time as if I’d gone back to that high school; right on time.”
“A lot of people, when they go through things like this, worry so much about what their family and friends will think of them. But some people will be a lot more supportive than you think they will; they can be more concerned about you than about what other people are saying about you.
Although my parents are sweet, kind people, not the kind who would kick you out of the house… there are parents who would be like that; but even if it’s not your parents, there’s always somebody who will be supportive. You have to just drop your guard a little and let somebody help you. And most of the time if you do this, talk about it with people, you will find out that there are people who have had it happen to them. You just discover all these people.
I wish I had known that years ago.
My sister waited a long time, too (to tell about something important); she only told our parents last month that she’s bi-sexual. (She’s attracted to both straight and gay love affairs) Mom’s fine – she’s a little confused… (My shameless interviewer’s comment: “But you’d broken her in.” Ha, then more discussion on sister and family) Between (sister) and me, my parents are getting more comfortable with these things now.
But (sister) still worked herself into a frenzy, just panicked, before she could tell them. And afterwards, she felt much better; everything’s fine.”
“(Her current boyfriend’s) cousin went through the same thing (an abortion) last year. We talked about it, it actually relieved her quite a bit when I told her that I’d had one when I was sixteen, too. She didn’t really know what she wanted to do about it, or what to do about her boyfriend (his wishes). I said, ‘Know what he wants, but don’t care (be controlled by) what he wants; it’s part of your body, you do what you think is right.’
She’s doing quite well. She’s not regretting having the abortion (at least, not thinking it was the wrong decision), not feeling the same way as I was afterward. That’s nice to know.”
“I’m not as ashamed anymore; maybe I would have been a good mom… but I don’t want to be a mom yet. I still don’t want kids. Kids are smart, they know when they’re not wanted, not planned. They know.
I’m a good auntie; I want to just stay an auntie. That may change, because I’m only twenty-one. But I’m not in a rush.”
ONE LINGERING SHADOW…
“I still don’t like (the city she went to for the abortion). Just bad vibes when I go there, you know? I don’t like being there.”
…AND THE BRIGHTEST LIGHT
“October fifteen. Nineteen ninety-eight.
I light a candle that day, every year. I keep it going the whole day.
It really takes a piece from you, you know?”
Postscript: Years later, I met her out of the blue, walking up the street… she was carrying an adorable baby only a few weeks old and was living with the very supportive father. A couple years after that I met her again, and they’d just had another child a few weeks earlier.