When you have kids, somehow even the most private of topics — from bowel movements to your sex life — seem to become fodder for conversation on the benches at the playground. Who can have secrets when your toddler tells the mailman, “I saw Mommy eat a booger”? But even in this day and age, there’s one topic that’s still largely verboten among moms: abortion.
Their own abortions, that is.
An estimated one third of American women terminate a pregnancy at some point in their lives, and many of those are moms… or will become mothers one day. In fact, in a study recently published in Plos One that looked at 667 women who’ve had abortions, 62 percent were mothers. The study determined that 95 percent of the women — mothers or not — say that had zero regrets about their decision.
The two facts seem counter-intuitive on the surface. By ending a pregnancy, a woman prevents herself from becoming a mother — or adding to her family. And yet, many moms told SheKnows it’s the abortions they had in their younger years that helped them to become better mothers down the road.
Take the story of one mom who spoke with SheKnows on the condition of anonymity. At 16, she says her mother forced her to abort a child, and she complied. Haunted by the decision for years, the now 37-year-old said she found the tides turning when she hit adulthood and became a mother. Then, at 30, six months after she met her now-husband, she became pregnant again, and again decided on termination.
“Unsure of where our relationship would lead and not wanting to be a single mother of three, we decided to have an abortion. I did not and do not regret it,” she confessed. “I feel it was a good decision. A few years later we got married and had a baby. Even though I struggled with the first one I now do not regret either abortion I had.”
The feelings of peace aren’t universal. One 52-year-old, who has a 22-year-old child, confessed to SheKnows that she does, indeed, have regrets about having chosen termination. Still, she says it was the right choice. “I know it was the best decision for me and the unborn child at the time. I only wish that I had been living healthier and in a better place (financially, mentally and physically).”
Where they are in life seems to play a huge role for many women when it comes to making the choice to terminate (or not to).
As one 42-year-old who has two children related, “Getting pregnant and then making the decision to abort solidified in my mind what I truly wanted out of life and was the catalyst for getting rid of an abusive boyfriend, moving across the country and proceeding to get my college degree, marry a wonderful man and have two children that are raised with love.”
Had she not had an abortion then, she said her life would be very different, and she may not have the children she has today. That decision shaped her future and her children’s future.
Whatever decision a woman makes, one thing is clear: It’s up to you to make your decision about what to do but also what to feel. As the authors of the PLOS One study noted, “Women overwhelmingly felt abortion was the right decision in both the short-term and over three years, and the intensity of emotions and frequency of thinking about the abortion declined over time. Yet high coping and resilience were not observed among all individuals: Those with more intended pregnancies and difficulty making the abortion decision experienced poorer emotional outcomes after an abortion. Individualized counseling for women having difficulty with the abortion decision might help improve their emotional welfare over time. Efforts to combat stigma may also support the emotional well-being of women terminating pregnancies.”
Exhale Pro Voice offers after-abortion counseling for women — moms included — who are still making sense of how it is they feel after their abortion.