I Found Out My Mom Had An Abortion

by Calico James
Originally Published: 
A daughter comforting her mother after she had an abortion
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Sometimes, it’s easy to forget our parents are people. Because they spend so much of their lives attending to our lives, it’s easy to forget they had lives before us. Or that as devoted to us as they may be, they are still living their lives as they’re parenting us. And they always have been.

I recently found out about the abortion my mom had when I was young, and it reminded me that there’s so much about her I don’t know. It also gives me a newfound level of respect for her, because I know her choice wasn’t easy.

My dad said it matter-of-factly: “Your mom had an abortion.” There was no hint of emotion in his voice, not that I was expecting any. I don’t think I let my surprise come through in my voice, but it was definitely there. My mom? Had done what?

Truth be told, I would have never guessed this about my mom. She’s very traditional, so I knew this wasn’t something that she went into lightly. And how had I never had any indication this happened? Sure, there are a lot of things we don’t talk about, but I think an abortion would have come up in conversation over the years.

My mom’s abortion was almost entirely for health reasons, my dad explains. She had some major health issues when I was a baby, causing her to be on a host of medications. Those medications could have profound affects on a fetus, apparently. So, everyone felt that it was for the best she didn’t go through with the pregnancy. From what I could gather, there wasn’t a lot of sadness; it was the right thing for everyone involved.

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Still, I know making that decision couldn’t have come easily. My mom takes so much pride in being a mother, and I think she wanted to give me a sibling. She talks fondly of growing up with siblings of her own, and I think she secretly wanted that life for me. And yes, it could have been great growing up with a younger sibling. But there’s no guarantee of that, and honestly, I feel pretty blessed from living a happy life by myself.

Maternal mortality rates are surprisingly terrible in the United States, especially for women of color. And if that’s the case in 2019, I don’t even want to know what those rates look like from the early 1990s when my mom got pregnant. I don’t think there was enough information about how the medications she was taking would affect a fetus at the time. So, it may have been fine, but it may have had life-threatening consequences — for her and the fetus. I can’t help but appreciate that my parents carefully weighed their options instead of throwing caution to the wind. Going ahead with the pregnancy could have killed my mom. As much as I would have loved to have had a little sibling, I’m much happier having a mom instead.

Having an abortion is never an easy decision to make. No matter how much you know it’s the right thing to do. Especially if it’s a baby you want to have. And I know that my parents wanted that baby. Being a mother now myself, I can only imagine the pain in that decision. Already knowing what it’s like to have a baby growing in your body, to then watch that child grow up. But she understood that it wouldn’t be the same this time around. My mom’s decision to have an abortion was the most humane thing she could have done — for herself and for our entire family.

Finding out about my mom’s abortion made me see her in a new light. She made quite a sacrifice to protect the life she already had. I can only imagine what her internal battle must have felt like. How could she confront the reality of her own mortality? Even though she knew it was for the best, did she long for the world where she didn’t have to choose? She basically had to give up the child that didn’t yet exist for the one that did. And what if she had gone through with the pregnancy? Would the baby have survived? Would she, could she, ever recover from the grief of losing a child, knowing she could have saved herself the heartache?

That’s why I respect her more now. My mom’s abortion was a choice, and she made the one that was best for her. If she didn’t have that choice, life for all of us could be so different now. Many thoughts swirl around my head about it, but the biggest one is, Would I even still have a mom?

I haven’t let her know that my dad told me. Honestly, I don’t know how to bring it up in conversation. It’s not like it’s something you can just casually bring up. Plus, I’m not sure I want to talk about it with her. If she wanted me to know, she would have brought it up. Maybe it’s something that’s too painful for her to talk about, and that’s why she’s never told me. Forcing her to relive that pain feels cruel to me. So maybe I’ll sit on this for a while, or maybe forever. Only time will tell.

Abortion is never the easy way out of a situation for women. I understand that, but even more now than before. Knowing about my mom’s abortion has brought me new level of understanding. Motherhood is always about making long-term decisions. And they’re never easy.

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