But it is not a question of the yes / no of the existence of a child; it’s about the kind of life the child will have and the kind of life the family will have together. I do this job because, in light of who my children are and how deeply I love them, I understand and celebrate the importance of wanting to give your children the best parent they can have. When I help someone have an abortion, or even help someone think about abortion in a new way, I go back, choosing another future and affirming the value of that. concept itself: it makes a difference to wait, to grow, to mature, to decide.
I had two abortions after the birth of my children, and I don’t regret those abortions and don’t think about who these people would have been. I also realize that if I had continued these pregnancies, I would have loved these people. But my life would have been harder and I would have lost more of myself, because people don’t have unlimited resilience. If I imagine the counterfactual, I can say that I now have a strong and loving relationship with my two children, in large part because I did not have these other children.
Of course I agonized to publish this essay, because I don’t want to hurt my son. But I wrote it because I want to understand the fallacy of this very correlation: it was traumatic for me to become a mother when I did, and I want to be able to recognize it openly, without this recognition functioning as a sort. spell on my son’s life. Our reductive and linear frameworks around abortion, and our very understanding of what it is, impose a zero-sum choice between the idea that it’s hard to become a parent if you don’t want to and the idea that a child is an absolute good. We insist that if a child is absolute good, then parenting must also be, retroactively, always and only absolute good. I mean the other side of a decision that a lot of people make and say: Yes, it may be true that you will love the child if you do not have an abortion. It is also true that everything that you thought was so difficult to have that child, everything that made you consider not having children at this point in your life, can be exactly as difficult as you thought it would be. As unwanted, as difficult, as painful as you feared.
It was so hard deciding to say these things, but I have to stand up for my 19 year old self. I did not abort the pregnancy I had not planned, but had to abort the life I imagined. It cost me dearly, carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, having the baby, living a different life. All I could do was try to make sure I paid more than my son, but he deserved better than that.
There is a spectacular poem in “Cries of the Spirit” that I’m sure I was afraid of when I was 19. If I had read it in my preparation for this course, I would have quickly turned the page. She is the most beautiful, steadfast and truthful “mother” of Gwendolyn Brooks:
Abortions won’t let you forget.
You remember the children you had that you didn’t have,
Small moist pulps with little or no hairs,
The singers and workers who never handled the air.
You will never neglect or beat
Them, or silence or buy with a candy.
You will never finish the sucking thumb
Or fend off the ghosts that arrive.
You’ll never leave them, controlling your luscious sigh,
Come back for a snack of them, with a engulfing motherly eye.
If I could go back to my youth, be with her in that washroom in the Bible studies building, it’s not like I would tell her to abort. I would never give my son back, for anything, but I would definitely give him another mother. The young woman standing there wasn’t ready to be a parent, and didn’t want to be a parent. There isn’t much I can offer him. I wouldn’t give it the hard version – I’m sorry, did you think you could live the life you wanted, whatever life you imagined? This is not life – but what could I say to him instead?
Yes, your son is coming, and having a baby now is going to break your life. Breaking up your life will also give you back your life, in many ways, but you won’t really understand that for another 20 years. You won’t get the guidance and support you need right now, but when your kids are this age as you, facing your early adulthood, they’ll trust you and listen to you, so maybe ‘they will never have to feel this pain. This is your life, and these are the words of a woman.
Merritt Tierce is a writer from Texas and the author of the novel “Love Me Back”. She wrote for the last two seasons of “Orange Is the New Black” and received a 2019 Whiting Award for fiction.