During my time in foster care, I have lived in several homes with teen parents. The most memorable teen mom was only 16 when she had her first child, and was getting ready to turn 18 when she had her second. The only people she could depend on were her social workers, and sometimes not even them. She had no family and the fathers of her children did very little to help her. She was very much alone, struggling to raise her kids.
I swore that I was going to be nothing like her. I was going to finish school and get a job before even considering having a child. That was when I was 14. I had never been in a relationship with a guy, so I figured that getting pregnant at an early age would not happen to me.
I Met a Boy
Shortly after my 14th birthday, I began going out with a boy for the first time. He was friends with some of my friends, and was older—17. We had an off and on relationship that didn’t involve sex, at least not for a couple of years. Most people assume that being in a relationship as long as ours without sex would take a huge toll on the guy, so I kind of thought that if I didn’t eventually give him some, he’d leave me. Soon after I turned 16, we said that we loved each other for the first time and decided to start a sexual relationship.
At first I didn’t think that having sex was going to change our relationship, but after a while it did. I think because I lost my virginity to him, it brought us closer together, even though sex isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. See, I let TV and movies influence my thoughts about sex. They make it seem like it’s this wonderful thing, and that it’s all glamorous. Sure, it’s OK, but it’s also very weird. It feels funny, the positions are funny and it even smells funny. I don’t understand why people exaggerate about it so much.
Anyway, my boyfriend and I didn’t really talk about it, but we ended up using condoms for birth control. Even though I had never taken any sex education classes at that point, we just had the common sense to know that protection was the best thing for both of us. So every time we’d have sex, we used a condom. Except for that one time.
Seriously, ‘You’re Pregnant’
Summer started. Things were going well between my boyfriend and me. Then, as the summer continued, I began to notice some changes in my body. I thought it was because of stress, but decided to go to the doctor anyway. That’s how I found out that I was three weeks pregnant. I didn’t expect to hear that—my period was only a day late, so when the doctor told me the news, I started laughing. I thought she was joking. She gave me this look and said, “Seriously, you’re pregnant.” I still didn’t believe it, not until she gave me some information about abortion and adoption. She told me to read it and come back in two weeks with a decision. I had to decide whether to keep the baby, have an abortion or have the baby and give it up for adoption. This would become the hardest two weeks of my life.
When I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he was more shocked than I was. He asked me what I wanted to do, and for some strange reason I said I wanted to get an abortion, even though I wasn’t really sure. It just seemed like the logical thing to say. My boyfriend didn’t have any objections. He said I should think of my future, which was true, since most likely I would be the one raising the child.
Then, the next weekend I was watching TV when I turned to this show called Eclipse of Reason. It showed actual footage of a woman getting an abortion, and interviews of two women who said they were hurt mentally and physically from having abortions. By the end of the half-hour, my stomach was turning and I was in tears. The program led me to believe that if I went through with an abortion, I was a bad person. So my mind was set: I wasn’t going to get an abortion. I felt as if I had made a big decision, but reality would soon wake me up.
I was looking through a bunch of papers that I got from the Internet and from my doctor about abortions, and the factual information I read there was surprising, and very different from the TV show, which I now think was created not to give an accurate account of abortion, but only to persuade women not to have them. The information from my doctor and the Internet reported that the mental and physical complications from abortion are extremely rare.
Not Ready to Be a Mom
Then I began thinking of the teen moms I knew, and especially those whose kids later ended up in foster homes without them. I realized that Eclipse of Reason showed women getting abortions, but it didn’t show young women struggling to raise kids alone, with no money, no support and no job.
I began to think about all the things I wanted to do with my life that would be hard to do if I had a baby. I wouldn’t be able to go to college full-time. If I found time to get a job, I wouldn’t get to keep the money for myself. I would have to buy baby clothes, milk and diapers, and pay for a babysitter just to leave the house.
And having a kid at my age would not just be unfair to me, it would be unfair to the child, who would grow up without stability. He or she would be subjected to an unprepared mother and an environment where nothing is certain. The child would have to deal with the stress of having her mother struggle and do her damnedest just to keep a roof over our heads and food in our stomachs. I suspected I would make a good mother someday, when I had a steady job and a roof over my head. I also knew that now wasn’t that day.
Abortion, Adoption, or Parenthood?
But I still didn’t want an abortion. The thought of it was scary, and I wondered if it was wrong. So I thought briefly about adoption, but didn’t like the idea of carrying something for nine months and becoming bonded to it as it gets big, and then having to give it away. So instead of deciding what to do, I didn’t decide. I went past my two week deadline to go to the doctor and to let them know what I wanted to do. Finally, I realized time was running out.
The day I decided to call Planned Parenthood for an abortion was the longest day of my life. I tried calling from the time I woke up until about 1 p.m., when I finally got through. I told them that I wanted to make an appointment. The woman on the other end asked for what, and for some reason the word “abortion” could not come out of my mouth. When I finally said it, she gave me a date to come in: the next day. I was hoping to have a couple of days to collect myself before I had the operation.
The next morning my foster mother and boyfriend went with me to the doctor. When I got there, I saw many women of all different ages, all waiting to have an abortion. One girl I met was 14 and was also having her first abortion. Another woman was 30 and already had two kids and had had two abortions before. We passed the time talking and watching TV.
When I finally made it into the operating room, I lay on the table. After that, all I remember is praying to God, asking Him to let me make it through OK. About 20 minutes later I woke up and started crying. Then I went home. All day, as I dealt with the aftermath of the abortion—mostly bleeding and cramps—I thought about my decision. I pictured myself with and without a baby. I thought about whether I was going to hell or not because of the abortion.
My Biggest Decision
To this day, almost a year later, I still think about what my life would have been like with a baby. For one, I probably would be raising it alone, because my boyfriend and I broke up, though we’re still great friends. For another, I probably wouldn’t be going away to college this fall. And though sometimes I still have mixed feelings about abortion, for the most part I’m glad I made the decision to have one.
Not too long ago I was looking through the TV guide and saw that show Eclipse of Reason coming on again. I thought about the message that show was trying to get across—that abortion was evil and that it would scar a woman for life if she had one. I think it’s irresponsible to just say that abortion is bad without also showing how hard it is to raise a child before you’re ready.
Yes, it’s a bad idea to become pregnant when you aren’t ready to be. And people should do everything they can to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But I think abortion only becomes bad when women see it as something as simple as brushing their teeth in the morning. If they say, “Oh well, I’m pregnant again, so I’ll just get an abortion,” they’re using it as a form of birth control, and I think that’s wrong. But once a woman is pregnant, she is the one who should decide what to do, because she is the one who will live with her decision. And believe me, making that decision is hard enough without people telling you what to do.
Not too long after I had the abortion, people found out. They made sure they expressed their opinions. Quite a few were angry with me. They had the “How could you do that?” attitude. A few others had the “You made the right decision, but…” attitude, and still others congratulated me and said they were surprised at how someone my age could make such a big decision. I do feel like I made a big decision. In some ways, it was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made.