I got pregnant six weeks after giving birth to my son Xavier. Circumstances made it impossible for me to have that second child, so I had an abortion. Even though it was almost two years ago, I am grieving that loss now more than I did then. I hope my experience might help other girls ask for the emotional support I wish I’d had.
In October 2018, I was suffering from postpartum depression and experiencing terrible flashbacks of the abuse that I suffered at the hands of my parents. I was living with my partner Taiquan and our infant son, with Taiquan’s parents in New Jersey.
I had a very abusive childhood, and I suffer from PTSD. One night, I couldn’t stop reliving my parents’ abuse. I was in the kitchen, and six-week-old Xavier was sleeping in his crib in his room.
I attempted suicide by swallowing iron pills. When Taiquan and his mother, Latisha, realized what I’d done, they fed me a gallon of milk so I’d throw up the pills.
When I went to sleep that night, I felt like a failure as a mother. I silently prayed to God to either take away my pain by letting me die or to let me wake up again less miserable, so I could help my son grow into a stronger person than me.
I kept crying for two days after my suicide attempt, and then Latisha decided to take me to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. I pumped two bottles of breast milk, and then we walked to the hospital.
How Could I Be Pregnant Again?
They kept me overnight and took my blood. The next day, two female doctors came to me with a concerned expression. The doctor in training said, “Miss, we checked your blood, and there seems to be no issue with your iron. But you are pregnant.”
I broke down crying in disbelief. My son was only six weeks old; how could I be pregnant again? The other doctor said, “Ma’am, seeing that you have a young child, I think it would be best for you to have an abortion. You haven’t even had time to recover from your first pregnancy.”
That evening, Taiquan brought Xavier, who was sleeping in his stroller, into the room. Once he sat down in a chair next to the bed, I said, “Hey, I am pregnant again.” He looked shocked. He remained silent as tears ran down my face.
“What are we going to do?” I finally asked.
“I don’t know, but whatever decision you make I will support you.”
An hour later, Taiquan’s mother and his younger sister came in. When Taiquan and his sister stepped out, I told his mother the news. She got up and left without saying a word.
Get an Abortion or Go Back to the Group Home
Two hours later, she called and told me that I had to make a choice. Either I keep the baby and go back to the group home, or I could have an abortion and we could continue living with them.
I thought about what my life would be if I kept the second baby and went back to the group home, where people were so mean to me. One staff member told me I wouldn’t be there if I didn’t spread my legs so much. Another called me a liar. One group of residents called me a child beater and tried to fight me. It would not be a good place for two babies to grow up.
Two days after being admitted to the hospital, I was sent to what my case planner called a “behavioral institute” called Children’s Village in upstate New York. It was on a hill surrounded by nature. You could see deer, bears, and even coyotes.
I had never been outside the city before, and this secluded environment terrified me. I kept thinking about how if I were killed, no one would find my body. I also imagined the car driving off the road and crashing.
Most of the kids in the facility were 5 to 12 years old, while I was 17. We woke up at 6 a.m. to take a shower, then had 8 a.m. breakfast in the dining area. “School” was from 10 to noon and was pretty much 5th grade work, like fractions and decimals, and basic Spanish like “hola” and “cómo estás?” After school, we had lunch and then went back to our rooms. Snack time was at 3 and dinner was at 5. I missed Xavier so much; I called Taiquan every day so I could speak to Xavier.
The staff said that providing us with a routine helped them “reprogram” us. I felt uncomfortable with that language: We weren’t robots that needed reprogramming! Our behavior seemed abnormal to society, but to us it was a normal response. I wish they’d told me they wanted to help me cope with my mental health concerns in a more appropriate way.
Furthermore, why was a 17-year-old pregnant mother who’d attempted suicide sent to a facility for children who could not sit still and caused trouble? Eventually the director of the facility agreed that there was no reason for me to be there and told me I could leave in a week if I stayed on my best behavior.
Shut Down, With No Good Choices
I wanted to go back to Latisha’s. She and I had been close before my suicide attempt. But I also knew she wasn’t the right person to talk to about my depression. When I told her I felt down, she degraded my feelings by responding, “You have no reason to be depressed.” I felt shut down, so I began to separate myself from her.
And now she was telling me I could only live with her if I had an abortion. As I waited to leave Children’s Village, I wrote down the pros and cons of keeping the unborn child. One pro is that Xavier would have a sibling. I was also really against abortions at that time. I felt that I was taking away a life. That child could have many opportunities, and I would take those away by having an abortion. Such a huge decision felt like too much responsibility.
Cons were that I would be struggling alone with two children without a steady income. It would be even harder than it already was with Xavier for me to go to school. My first pregnancy was physically hard: I slept through the day and threw up so much I was hospitalized for dehydration repeatedly. Plus I’d be doing all this while struggling with depression and PTSD.
I wanted to be making the list with Taiquan. It was our child. But I knew he would just say, “Whatever you decide, I will support you.” It would have been helpful to have an outside person, someone like the therapist I got later, Breann, to discuss my options without judgment.
So I made the list myself and decided that the cons outweighed the pros. I told Latisha my decision, then made the arrangements to get an abortion.
A staff member from Children’s Village drove me to a Planned Parenthood nearby. I was nervous and scared; I was also alone. Taiquan and his mother couldn’t come because Latisha’s husband was using the car.
Afterwards, the Children’s Village staff member drove me back. I was numb emotionally as well as physically. I couldn’t tell if I was relieved, upset, or angry. Thinking about Xavier made me cry because it made me imagine the baby that wouldn’t be born. So I tried not to.
Back at Latisha’s
Two days after the abortion, my case planner from ACS picked me up at Children’s Village and drove me back to Taiquan’s mom’s in New Jersey. When I saw Xavier, I held him tightly with tears in my eyes. I was grateful to at least have him with me.
Still, I felt terrible that I’d had an abortion I wasn’t sure I wanted, and that no one helped me through the decision. I had to go to the clinic alone, and now nobody acknowledged what I’d been through. I blurted out to Latisha a few days after I got back, “You guys do know that I am not OK?! I just had an abortion alone.”
“So what? I’ve done an abortion on my own as well. It’s not that serious. You’ll live,” she snapped.
I went into my room, where I stayed all day.
About a month after the abortion, I argued with Latisha about how to care for Xavier, and she kicked me out.
Please Let Us Talk About It
So after all that, I was back in the terrible group home with Xavier for nine months. When I turned 18, my foster care caseworker helped me apply for public housing. I signed up with HRA to get food stamps and public assistance. I got an apartment, and Xavier and I moved in. Taiquan stayed with us half-time, and he took Xavier to New Jersey the rest of the time.
Once Xavier was enrolled in daycare, I felt some weight lift off my shoulders. I could go to appointments and enroll in school part-time. I felt motivated to wake up each morning just to take my son to his school.
Then the pandemic set back my mental health. Perhaps that’s why, two years later, I am suffering regret and pain from my abortion more than ever before. My PTSD forces me to relive everything negative. I keep returning in my memory to making the decision and feeling regret. I have “what if” moments where I’ll picture myself with Xavier and another child.
With all the time trapped alone in the apartment, I look back at photos of Xavier as a newborn. If I’d had the baby, Xavier would be a big brother. Part of me feels like a terrible mother, but another part of me believes I’m not, and that I would be happier with two children.
I started with a good therapist, Breann, around the time the pandemic shut everything down in March. I talk to her about the abortion a lot. She says, “You didn’t have time to grieve the abortion, and now that you’re forced to be indoors, you’re grieving.” I believe her, but I also feel like I’m reliving the abortion because it was traumatic and triggers my PTSD.
I think I’d feel better now if Taiquan and I had discussed it more and made the decision together. I wish he’d been with me for the abortion. I wish he and Latisha had let me talk about my feelings afterwards about having an abortion and asked me if I wanted to see a therapist. Yes, it’s a woman’s choice, but it’s a choice that can make a woman feel alone. Even if it’s uncomfortable, please let us talk about it.