9 months pregnant, looking back on an abortion
Editor’s note: Laurel Shulman originally presented this piece at a Pecha Kucha Night, an event where presentations are given with 20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide. Laurel’s goal in talking about her abortion experience is not to change people’s minds or create divisions, but to open up the conversation and put a face to the issue. We at the Renaissance Woman have varying views about abortion, but we are committed to bringing women together through discussing their own experiences, no matter how taboo or controversial the issue may seem to some. Please enjoy Laurel’s thoughtful account of a challenging, but ultimately positive, time in her life.
By Laurel Shulman
Hi. My name is Laurel, and I am here to tell you my story. A story of premature parents and an unintentional pregnancy. My goal in telling you this story is not to convince you of anything, but to share with you my experience. So thank you for openly listening, regardless of your preconceived notions about this very emotional topic.
Like many of you, my body was able to make a child long before I had the understanding of what that meant or the means to support it. Perhaps like many of you (definitely like many of my peers) I was sexually active before I thought becoming a parent was something I wanted. I swore off getting married and having children for years, actually, because I wanted to pursue my career and learn and explore the world.
Humans are very complex creatures, yes? Often, the systems we create espouse one type of “virtuous” philosophy. Then their design process results in direct conflicts with the philosophy they say is the best choice. Finally those who have limited access to choice are blamed when in reality the system was designed to fail them in the first place.
For example, the FDA says you should eat mostly fruits and vegetables to have positive health outcomes. However the same government provides subsidies to food products such as sugar while supplying none to the food that supports health. These subsidized products are incorporated into cheap foods are consumed most by low income individuals with financial limitations.
Low income individuals however are often blamed for their poor health. “That if they just stopped eating crap, then they wouldn’t have diabetes.” But neither policy nor government institution prioritize making healthy food accessible and affordable.
The same is seen in the public political discussion and institutions that govern a woman’s body. We train women to be nice, obedient, to keep their legs closed. But we also know that sex sells. Take Britney Spears for example. This half naked, sweaty, writhing 17-year-old girl who used to be in the Mickey Mouse Club, is serenading America and hitting the top of the charts.
There is very confusing messaging happening here to women. This image is taken from the movie “Mean Girls.” It humorously displays this confusion as the gym teacher (later revealed to be having sexual relations with a high schooler) is telling everyone not to have sex because it will kill you. In the next scene, he is passing out condoms.
Dr.’s are in school until their 30’s to know how to treat a life, for example a premature baby. It is publicly stated on the CDC’s website that treating premature babies is a national health priority, naming all the risk factors and reasons why premature babies should have extra attention.
Where are the qualified institutions to handle premature parents? Outside of orphanages, social services and (if you’re lucky) supportive parents, the options are very slim, underfunded and often victim blaming.
My unintentional pregnancy has taken me a long time to talk about to anyone outside of my partner or dear friends. It is not an easy thing to discuss, as the topic is incredibly politicized and divisive. However I believe that we need to dig in, have these discussions and realize that many assumptions made about abortions are incorrect. I want to put a face to this conversation.
Let me set the stage. I had been traveling for nine months, had no money. I did not have a place to live, was in an unhealthy relationship. I got unintentionally pregnant. I had no college degree. My partner already had a child with another woman. My head said it could potentially work, something else in my gut was telling me no. We were a very clear example of premature parents.
When I realized I was pregnant, I had no one to turn to. After learning about the abortion process, which I will explain in a moment, I did not know where to go. I didn’t feel safe telling either of my divorced parents, did not want to spend the time I had off at my partner’s mother’s house (which is where he had to be), and did not want to stay where I was, because I would be home alone for a week.
Premature parents impart risks onto their children when carried to term, just like premature babies experience risks. Studies have revealed that children born of unwanted pregnancies have significant disadvantages. They are slightly but consistently overweight. They have more instances of acute illness and lower grades. They seem less capable in socially demanding situations, are less popular among peers and teachers and even, if sons, with their own mothers.
As reported by the New York Times in 2013, women denied abortion were three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Again, where is the (non-victim blaming) support for premature parents? There is not a safety net for those in this situation.
Enter my dear friend, Lex. I spoke with them about my situation, and they purchased me a ticket to come spend the week with their family in San Francisco. Lex was my saving grace. I was welcomed into their home. Thank goodness for good friends, because without them, I do not know where I would be.
Let me demystify the abortion process a little bit. If caught it in the early stages, the procedure is simple. A woman goes to a clinic, confirms their pregnancy, is forced to look at an ultrasound and then is given two pills. One is taken immediately, the other is taken two days later. After the second pill, tissue is expelled from the woman’s uterus. Imagine intense cramps and then a need to use the restroom. Bleeding then follows similar to monthly menses.
I believe that you can be pro-choice and not pro-abortion. I do not think that youth, anytime after puberty, should be sleeping around without contraception or concern for the consequences of their actions. I believe that abortion is a medical intervention to be used and not abused in the same way that having a cesarean section is a helpful option when mama or baby are in distress during birth.
Nine years ago, I had an abortion. I am incredibly grateful that I had this option available to me when I needed it, and I know 100% that if that child had been born nine years ago, I would not have been the good parent that the child deserved.
Fast forward to now, where I am nine months pregnant. I do not feel like a premature parent, and I am so excited to welcome this tiny, wanted human into my life. I have a stable job, a loving husband, housing and family support. The outcomes of this little one will be drastically affected by what I and her dad can offer her, and we are going to do our best in every way we can.
Laurel Shulman is a brand new mom living in North Carolina. She works as the operations manager for a non-profit educational community garden. Aside from loving on her new baby, she cherishes snuggles from her rescue pit bull Boo and spends a lot of time in the woods.