| by Manisha Antani |
My name is Manisha, and I had an abortion.
It was nearly six years ago. The alarm went off at 6, but I was already awake. I remember laying there thinking: “Was I really going through with it? Had I really decided to end my pregnancy?”
I was. And I did.
It was a decision I never thought I’d need to make. I was in a long term relationship. I was taking birth control. Truthfully, our relationship was so rocky, the opportunity to get pregnant didn’t seem like it presented itself very often anyway. We walked on the edge of a breakup for several years, both before and after the pregnancy termination, and ultimately ended the relationship about two years later. I might have made a totally different choice if I had known that then. Maybe. Who knows how any decision plays out?
Relationship turmoil and birth control aside, I never thought I would have an abortion. I was born knowing deep in my guts that being a mom was a path I’d walk down. There were other paths I knew I’d wander down too, of course, but they all converged on parenthood. As a small child, I nurtured and loved my dolls, and by eight, everyone knew I was capable of holding real babies, too. When my siblings became parents, I took every opportunity to snatch their babies up, hold them close, kiss their toes, and smell their heads wondering when I’d be loving my own instead of someone else’s. After a particularly stressful weekend helping my parents with a sick nephew, I overheard my stepfather say to my mom “She’s going to be a great mom; she’s a natural.” I was only seventeen.
To say that I regret the decision would be untrue. I couldn’t bring myself to put a child through the inevitable breakup of his or her parents – or worse, through a childhood with parents who never got along but stayed together anyway. I didn’t want a loveless, emotionally abusive relationship, or a marriage that only happened because of an accidental child. I didn’t want us, me and my child, to live in the shadows of a narcissist. And, I definitely didn’t want my child to grow up believing he or she was never wanted. Unplanned or not – my child has always been wanted.
Instead, I dreamed of my child growing up with a brave mom who could make tough and emotionally strong decisions, and a dad who wanted to do family karate and coach little league, paint stars on the walls, and imitate the characters in bedtime stories with different voices. I wish I could have been that mom five years ago, and I wish I had been with a partner who would have been that dad; sometimes, I wish I had been strong enough to ask him to leave my life right then, to never look back, and to leave that child and me to figure it out on our own. But wishing for things rarely makes them so, and none of that was to be a reality for us.
While I don’t regret the decision, for so very many reasons, to imply that each annual reminder of my due date doesn’t register is simply untrue. I often wonder what the child I’ll never know would look, smell, sound, or act like. Maybe he would have favored his father, or she would have refused frilly dresses like me. I bet he or she would have been sweet and loving, and hilariously funny, inquisitive, and wonderfully imaginative, too.
My story isn’t harrowing, the way lots of abortion stories are. I wasn’t assaulted, and there were no known fetal abnormalities. My life wasn’t at risk. I didn’t have other children to care for, and money, resources, and support systems were not issues for me. Those stories of severity deserve to be told, loudly, factually, and thoughtfully, but my story demands an equal opportunity to be told. Without telling stories like mine, I fear that women who made a choice like mine will believe, as I did for so long, that we’ve given up on being parents because we didn’t move mountains, we didn’t dig deep, we didn’t find strength. Or maybe we simply couldn’t.
While my story, and others like it, may not be tragic in the ways tragedy is defined, it is worth telling and hearing, and I’m asking that it be accepted as my reality. It’s important that we give ourselves, and each other, the permission to grieve our losses. We must accept and support the reality that it’s appropriate to still wish to be a parent one day, as I do. I expect that someday when that happens for me, I may even have new grieving to do, and it’s important to note – I’m allowed to do that, too.
I’ve always known it was both my right to make this decision and that it was the right decision to make, but it took me a long time to feel safe accepting that. It’s taken me even longer to tell the story from start to finish to friends or family, and then to matter-of-factly address it in conversations. Even still, I’ve remained largely silent about something that has significantly impacted the woman I have become. I don’t want to be silent any longer.
My name is Manisha, and I had an abortion.