In 1993, in Texas:
I was just months into my first year as a teenager when I found out I was pregnant...
I was just months into my first year as a teenager when I found out I was pregnant and although I’m comfortable discussing why and how it happened, it’s doesn’t matter. There are dozens of ways it happens, accidentally or on purpose, and none are anyone’s business.
I was severely codependent. I got it from my mother and it was fed by my low self esteem. My bipolar disorder took center stage during my youth and that made me an emotional disaster. I was suicidal, on and off medications, and in and out of counseling centers.
While the news was sinking in I was, very secretly, nervously excited. A baby meant someone to love me forever, unconditionally, or that’s what a naive teenager thinks anyway. I snapped back to reality pretty quickly and watched my future flash before my eyes. So when I told my long time boyfriend that I was pregnant and meekly stated I didn’t want to go through with it his response was curt: “If you get an abortion, I won’t love you anymore.” He was also 13 and having the same feelings of loneliness that I had.
I thought I knew what I was going to do before these words had been spoken but after that, I was devastated. The one person in the world that I believed loved me and would be the only one to ever love me, had told me something no one should ever hear. I was going to lose that love and I would be alone unless I agreed to give birth.
Later that week I decided to go to Planned Parenthood. I still wanted information on my options. I had decided I didn’t care what anyone would say and I would deal with them when the time came. I had no idea how an abortion was done or what the requirements were or how it would affect me I just knew it was the only my I could hope for a healthy future. I didn’t know how easy or difficult it could be to get one. What did it cost? What about adoption? What were my options if I kept the baby? How would pregnancy affect my body? Why should I even give that a thought?
Repression and 19 years gone by, it’s difficult for me to remember the situation vividly but I do remember a nurse asking me if I knew what I wanted to do. Ashamed of my desire to just be a non-pregnant, regular screwed up teenager again, I told her, “I think I want to keep it.” This is when I expected her to tell me there were other options (without pressure but plenty of pamphlets and information) to help me understand how to go about getting what I really wanted: an abortion. Then, without judgement, I could tell her that this is what I wanted. She wouldn’t know abortion was my first choice. Instead, she told me about prenatal care and W.I.C. and the next steps to have a healthy pregnancy.
I went in thinking I would get choices and I left feeling as though I had none. I felt like an abortion was too difficult to obtain and simply not an option. That was it. I was stuck. Unless I miscarried, I would become a mother. But if I did miscarry, I wouldn’t lose my boyfriend, I wouldn’t have to admit I wanted an abortion and I wouldn’t ruin the rest of my life.
For a long time I’ve been ashamed of what I did after that. No more. I attempted, but failed, to end the pregnancy myself. In hindsight, I failed due to my lack of understanding of anatomy as well as the fear I had of severely injuring myself. I gave up.
I went through the 8th grade trying to ignore the whispers from students and teachers. I felt terrible going to my biology class knowing that my teacher and her husband had been trying to get pregnant for years. There I was, a 13 year old in oversized tie-dyed t-shirts to hide my belly, falling asleep in her class from the extreme fatigue caused by the pregnancy and having to ask for a restroom pass every 10 minutes. The principal wanted to force me to an alternative school thinking I was a bad influence on the other students. I gave birth to a healthy girl the summer I was 14.
When I tell people she was adopted out, they assume I did it right away. I didn’t. I tried to raise her for over a year. I reached my breaking point when the only place I had to live was under the roof of my mother’s house with her and my abusive stepfather. I gave my child up to her father’s family and didn’t see her again for 12 years.
During that time, the guilt forced me into a deep depression. I lived on the streets, developed a heroin addiction and went through hell and back. I cost the state thousands and thousands of dollars being ticketed, arrested, thrown into juvenile detention centers and jail, and relying on various assistance programs. Eventually, I got better, reconnected with my daughter and her new mother and now we have a relationship. She has mentioned she doesn’t want children of her own. I have two more daughters. Two that I had when I was ready. Two that were created from love but I love and fight for all three of them.
We hear about women being coerced to have abortions, but rarely hear the stories of women coerced to carry their pregnancies to term. There are more these story than we think.
There are many lessons to learn from my situation. Although many things contributed to the final outcome, one thing is particularly important to remember during this time of constant assault on reproductive rights. My situation occurred in a post Roe world; a world that was supposed to be respectful of my choice to become a parent or not. If you think as long Roe Vs. Wade holds up you will have options, think again. Pressure and restrictions were two things that led me to believe I had no choices. They led me to addiction, depression, sexual assaults and all kinds of other experiences no one should ever have to go through.
All post Roe generations need to learn about how they got to this comfort zone in the first place. And they need to read more stories like mine.
I will not allow the same people who pressured me into doing something that changed my body and my life forever to bully me any longer.
No more shame. No more fear of being judged. We cannot fight if we hide our stories. We cannot fight if we do not educate and learn. We cannot win if we do not fight.
I'm proud to say I have the full support of my daughter to share this piece as she believes it is important for others to understand the importance of choice.