I experienced preeclampsia at the end of my first pregnancy and HELLP syndrome with my second.
At 39, I thought I was having perimenopause symptoms when a pregnancy test turned positive.
I decided I didn't want to risk my health or overwhelm my already full life by having more children.
Last August, I was a month away from turning 39 when I learned I was pregnant for the fourth time after two live births and a miscarriage.
After I delivered my youngest, my OB-GYN cautioned my husband and me against having more children, as I'd experienced preeclampsia at the end of my first pregnancy and then HELLP syndrome with my last. It seemed as though each time my body delivered new life, I was pushed closer to the edge of my own. I couldn't continue with the pregnancy.
It was actually my husband who suggested I take a pregnancy test after noticing my swollen breasts, moodiness, and fatigue. "Are you sure you're not pregnant?" he asked one night, eyeing me suspiciously as I ate my sons' leftover chicken tenders after eating my own dinner.
"I've been having symptoms of perimenopause for months," I said confidently. "I'm a woman of a certain age now. There's no way I'm pregnant."
But I was.
I chose to have an abortion
I found some comfort in the numbers, learning I'm just one of many who become pregnant in midlife and didn't plan to be. In 2019, women in their 30s accounted for about 31% of abortions performed in the US, and women in their 40s accounted for about 4%, according to CDC figures cited by the Pew Research Center.
But when I explained to my boss why I needed a few days off from work, or when I shared with a trusted friend I was having an abortion, I was quick to chastise myself for getting pregnant. My shame became a silent, desperate plea for them to continue thinking of me as a responsible woman.
I felt as though I needed to justify my decision, as if the logic behind being unable to have more children because of my prior complicated pregnancies softened the edges around a harsher truth: that I didn't want to be pregnant.
I didn't want more children. I no longer wanted to rearrange and make space in my life for everything that comes with having a baby. Nearing 40, with two young boys, a marriage that may not survive the stress of a third baby, and full-time work as a clinical social worker, I felt my life was full and then some.
I had been saying no to my husband and boys for months when they'd ask about getting a dog. "No way. Having a puppy is like having a baby," I'd say, my chest tightening at the thought of additional responsibility. I knew my limits. No puppy. No baby.
I love being a mother, but it's been a journey filled with complications and an exhausting need to tap into my well of resilience. I remember bouncing my youngest in the middle of the night to help him fall back to sleep, trying not to step on the creaky floorboard so I didn't wake up my oldest, my shirt soaked in breast milk and tears. I soothed myself with a newfound mantra: "You never have to do this again."
That memory became a worry stone as I made my decision, those words grounding me, reminding me how I struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety, and PTSD, how truly sick I was after having my youngest.
The real power of those words, however, was in the permission they granted me to make a choice based on what I wanted and not what I couldn't have. And what I wanted was what I already had.
Read the original article on Insider