It was early April of 2020 that I was sitting anxiously in a Planned Parenthood waiting room, scanning the relatively small crowd and neurotically sanitizing my hands every few minutes. Seemingly overnight, Covid-19 had hit New York City with the force of a wrecking ball and, like so many others, the pandemic was upending my life—and at a time when things weren’t exactly swell to begin with. Indeed, I had been buckling under the strain of raising two small children in a prohibitively expensive city, whilst feeling stuck in a marriage that had deteriorated, such that the reconciliation ship had sailed and separation was on the horizon. We had already done our best to create the conditions of an inevitable divorce by sleeping in separate rooms for, well, ages.
That’s not to say my partner and I never enjoyed good days, though. In fact, one such “good day” yielded some unwelcome news in the form of a positive pregnancy test. One thing my then-husband and I could agree on was that there was no way we could have a third child. We were struggling financially more than ever after the pandemic cost him his job as a sommelier—and besides, it had been years since we could make it through a day without a screaming match. So, I booked myself an appointment with the intention of doing what had to be done.
The appointment itself both was and wasn’t notable. I waited in that waiting room for an hour or so before being summoned to empty my bladder and see the ultrasound technician to confirm my pregnancy. She was casual and pleasant throughout the exam—remarking on my c-section scar and asking the ages of my children, her affirmation of my family the kind of comfort I needed. Then I met with a doctor who handed me a pill and explained that when I took it, my pregnancy would effectively end. I swallowed the pill and accepted two more, with the understanding that I was to take them 48 hours later to initiate the miscarriage. Two days later, back at home, I was treated to a few hours of particularly uncomfortable period cramps and a heavy flow to accompany them. Then, it was over.
So was the choice to have an abortion easy? Yes and no. To be honest, there wasn’t much discussion involved. We didn’t anguish over it because it was so clearly the right thing to do. I just had to look at my (living, breathing, playing) children and consider their needs—homeschool, isolation, the depth of feeling when mama and papa were being mean to each other. For me, the most stressful part of the whole ordeal was venturing out into the world (i.e., a clinic) when a pandemic was raging and all my neighbors were sequestered inside. Nevertheless, I had the abortion and I didn’t get Covid. Both my husband and I felt relieved, and then we separated nine months later—so we could co-parent our beautiful children and provide them with two peaceful homes instead of a single hellish one.
When I look back on it and consider what the outcome would have been had we not made that decision, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that several (read: five) lives would have been completely upended. Certainly, my ex and I would not have been able to separate. The unhealthy dynamic would have continued, only exacerbated by sleep loss and the demands of infant care.
The financial strain would have been even greater. At the time, I was the only source of income for our family, and there was no telling when my husband would be back to work. We were behind in rent and doing our best not to unravel, to provide our kids with the essentials. What might have happened if we had had to spend money on hospital bills and baby items, all with me taking significant time off from my freelance income?
Then there was the matter of my mental health. After years of financial and marital stress, not to mention the 24/7 demands of parenthood, I was already depressed, plagued by racing thoughts and consumed with worst case scenarios. Ambulance sirens blared outside my window, a tragic but fitting soundtrack to my interior life. Was I in a place to bring another person into the world? Or did I owe it to myself and to my kids to prioritize my own stability and happiness? For me, the answers were clear; if I had decided differently out of some sense of moral duty, everyone would have paid a very steep price.
I know there are lots of women with similar stories, and more still with entirely different ones. I’m sharing mine because I believe there are as many reasons to have an abortion as there are uteruses—and every single one of them is valid. I’m sharing my story because, as we slowly emerge from the wreckage of the last two years, I can breathe. An abortion saved my family. It saved me.