My Teenage Pregnancy Decision
I was 18 years old, and it was 1987. I had a new boyfriend and was so into him in a teenage-obsession-sort-of-way. I thought about him constantly. He was older. Eleven years older. He had his own apartment and a full-time job and was living an adult life. He worked in a sheet metal factory that made hospital equipment, and he was college-educated and one of the more thoughtful, more together guys in the shop. I was a secretary in the front office who looked for any reason I could to go out to the “shop” and flirt with him.
Finally, we started dating. Eventually, he invited me to his apartment, and I eagerly accepted the invitation. So cool! He has an apartment! His small one-bedroom railroad-style apartment was a stereotypical bachelor pad. It was functional, drab, with poorly thrown together decor and lots of dishes in the sink. His living room had a hide-a-bed couch, a TV, and a couple of plants. His bedroom had a twin-sized bed and a dresser.
His apartment smelled like him. It was the smell of a working man, and I loved it. I thought it was sexy. Even though he showered right when he got home, the apartment still had that lingering smell of sheet metal, sweat, and his pheromones dancing in my nostrils.
After he showered, we hung out watching TV, and we started making out. It was exciting! Without even hesitating, we opened up the couch into a bed, and we made passionate love. It was like no other sex I had ever had. It was adult sex. It wasn’t clunky or hesitant. It was primal attraction, and we fit. It was easy and natural, and I experienced my first orgasm. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but it was body-shaking ecstasy, out-of-control, and fun! That was an orgasm! Wow! I think I’m in love!
The ecstasy lingered for hours. That lingering feeling is something I now recognize as the feeling I have when fertilization is happening. I didn’t know it yet, but I had become pregnant, and that incredible first orgasm facilitated the fertilization process. I had this lingering feeling of ecstasy when conceiving my three other pregnancies later in life.
We continued in this new, exciting, passionate relationship with no hesitation. We spent all our time together and couldn’t get enough of each other.
After several weeks, I finally said, “I think I should go on birth control pills.” He said, “Yeah, probably a good idea.”
The next day, I went to a local Planned Parenthood clinic, and I underwent a complete health exam including a pelvic exam, pap smear, blood work, and an overall physical. They also had me pee in a cup. I didn’t even realize it was for a pregnancy test, but it was.
“Ms. Patterson, we need to talk to you about your test results,” said the nurse with a concerned look. “Ok.” We sat in a drab room with a small, wooden table and wooden chairs on either side. The nurse had a kind face and was gentle in her tone. “Ms. Patterson, you are pregnant.”
My body got instantly hot, and I got a pit in my stomach. “What?!?” I said. She said, “Yes, you are pregnant, and it is still very early about 4–6 weeks.” She paused, and there was silence. I just sat there in shock.
I have to get an abortion! I don’t want to have a baby! I’m only 18!
“Ms. Patterson, we have some concerns about your test results. They indicate that you might have an ectopic pregnancy. Do you know what that is?” She asked. “No.” “Well, an ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo forms in the fallopian tube instead of in the uterus. It is potentially very dangerous for the mother because it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture as the embryo grows. It could potentially be fatal, if it's not dealt with.”
I sat silently, taking this in. I had a pit in my stomach, and I was still hot. I was not only nervous and upset but also ashamed that I was pregnant. What will my parents think? Could I die? Tears were welling up in my eyes.
“We can’t be 100% sure if it is an ectopic pregnancy without further testing. We’d love to talk to you about your options for your pregnancy and then understand how you want to move forward.” “Ok,” I replied quietly.
As they explained all my options for giving birth, adoption, and abortion, all I could think was: I want an abortion. I’m not ready to be a mother. There was no thought of having a baby.
“You can take some time to think this over, but we will need to move forward one way or another because of the possible risks,” she explained. “I want an abortion,” I said without hesitation.
“Ok, so in that case, I will need to refer you to a doctor to schedule a procedure. They will first perform a D & C, where they will scrape the lining of the uterus. If the embryo is not there, they will need to perform surgery to remove it from the fallopian tube.” She explained.
“Um, ok.” “Do you have health insurance?” she asked. “Yes, through my father.”
Oh shit, I have to tell my Dad because I might need surgery!
That night, I told my boyfriend. He was completely supportive of my desire to have an abortion. “I’ll go with you to tell your Dad. You don’t have to do that alone,” he said as he held me while I sobbed into his shirt. I needed to be held, to bury my head in his chest in that smell I loved so much.
A few days later, my boyfriend and I went to see my Dad. It was their first meeting, and we had to share this shameful, awful news. Not a great way to introduce your boyfriend to your dad for the first time.
I remember it so clearly as if it was yesterday. As we all uncomfortably stood in my Dad’s living room: My dad, my step-mother, me, and my boyfriend, I started talking, “Dad, I have some news to share with you. I am pregnant, and there are complications. They think it might be an ectopic pregnancy where the embryo is in a fallopian tube, so it may be life-threatening for me.” I could see the disappointment on my dad’s face, and I felt shame all over my body. Tears were gently running down my face. I felt shame about having sex, about not protecting myself, and about having to come to him. I was so grateful that my boyfriend was there holding my hand.
“I have to undergo a procedure, and if through that procedure they determine it was an ectopic pregnancy, I will have to have surgery.” I said with a quivering voice. “I needed to tell you because I’ll need to use the health insurance.”
My Dad finally responded by saying, “Darn, I always wanted you to go to college before starting a family.” I looked at him blankly.
What?!? That’s your response? Why is this the first time I’m hearing this? I didn’t know he wanted me to go to college.
“Really?” I asked. My boyfriend chimed in and said, “I am so sorry that this happened.” Then the evening went on uncomfortably until we left. On the drive home, my boyfriend joked, “Well, that was getting off on the right foot with your Dad.” I was so grateful that he was willing to stand with me and take ownership of his part.
The day I had the procedure, I went by myself to the hospital while everyone else went to work. It turns out that I did not have an ectopic pregnancy, and I was no longer pregnant because the D&C procedure terminated the pregnancy. I felt no connection or emotions around ending the pregnancy other than relief.
I drove myself home and immediately went to bed. The doctor told me that I would be very tired and that I should sleep as much as I needed. I slept well until I heard my Mom get home from work. At the time, I lived with my mom, a strict Catholic, so I couldn’t allow her or her family to find out about this. The shame was huge. “What are you doing in bed? Are you sick?” she asked. “No, I’m just having a heavy period today, and I’m so tired.” She accepted that, and I slept right through the night. The next day, I felt like I had a normal menstrual flow, and life resumed.
My Mom has no idea that I had an abortion. Because of the Catholic beliefs and my mom’s dedication to Catholicism, I felt immense shame about this. This is why I need to speak my truth now.
I have never had any regrets about having an abortion. The shame that I felt about having sex, becoming pregnant, and ending the pregnancy was not my shame. It was a shame that was put upon me by the Catholic church, my ancestors, and the American culture. Thirty-six years later, I am finally comfortable in my body, and I am not walking around with a cloak of shame.
To this day, I know this was the right decision for me.
After having the abortion, I stayed with my boyfriend for another year or so, then I got my own apartment, I moved to New York, traveled the world, opened my mind, moved to California, grew up, had a career, bought a house, and then I became a Mom. I had life experience and wisdom to bring to my children. My husband and I brought two fabulous daughters into the world. This would not have happened if I had that baby when I was 18.
I am so grateful I had the choice to decide for myself. As I have demonstrated time and time again, I am fully capable of making many hard decisions on behalf of myself, my children, and my family. I also want my daughters to have the right to choose for themselves.
Sex and reproduction are a natural part of life. Not shameful. We are the only species that makes it shameful. Teenagers have hormones pulsing through their bodies that encourage them to pro-create. Why does the female exclusively have to give up her chance at following her dreams and desires because of a mistake or, worse yet, from a situation that she didn’t even want to be in but felt powerless to stop from happening?
Our men need to step up, as my boyfriend did, and support us in making that decision. Be with us and take responsibility for their actions. If the decision is to have the baby, the male must share the burden equally, unless the couple consciously decides otherwise. The male also needs to be responsible for birth control and not leave it fully up to the woman to take action.
When debating abortion, someone once asked me, “Aren’t you glad your mother decided not to have an abortion?” Of course, my answer is yes, but my mother didn’t have a choice. She learned that she was damned to hell if she had pre-marital sex, masturbated, or had an abortion. Because sex and the female body were so shameful and feared, she never talked to me about my body, men, or sex. I had to figure it all out on my own. Perhaps that was the missing knowledge that led to my lack of preparedness to protect myself. When did this knowledge stop being passed through generations?
My soul is clear of the shame and the repression. My daughters are well-informed about their bodies, and we have ongoing conversations about sex and men. The passing of information between generations has been reignited, and I hope the shame cycle will end here.
You see, banning abortions is the same flawed approach we use for many things in our western culture. We focus on the symptoms, not the cause. What is the cause of so many abortions? It is that too many women were taught, by our patriarchal culture, to be small, submissive, and to not love and trust themselves or their bodies. If from a young age, females learned to love themselves, feel strong, and empowered and were truly educated about sex and their bodies, there would be significantly fewer unwanted pregnancies. Then you add in birth control access, reducing unwanted pregnancies even more. Abortions are the symptom; we need to address the roots of the problem.
If I were a little soul coming into human form, I would want my mom to love herself and her body. I would want my mom to want me. I would want my mom to be strong, empowered, and understand how her body works. Wouldn’t you? Don’t you think the human race would be so much stronger?
You may be wondering Why would Tina want to share these intimate details of her life so publicly? Because it brings me the freedom to be the person I was born to be! Becoming free from shame enables me to love myself. When I love myself, anything is possible!
Secrets beget shame. If women continue to keep secrets about their bodies including sex, pregnancy, birth control, abortion, birth, infertility, breastfeeding, pleasure, masturbation, and incontinence, it leads to shame. Then we are left to carry that shame with us and pass it on to our daughters. If we abandon fear instead of ourselves and talk openly about all the things I mentioned in this paragraph, we do not feel shame, they become normalized, and we stop the cycle of passing the shame onto our daughters.
If you are interested in releasing shame and cultivating love and trust in yourself, please join my e-mail list by going to ExposingTheRoots.com. I also have several offerings coming up that are listed on the Events page on my website: Women’s circles, retreats, one-on-one coaching, and much more coming in the future!
Tina Green is the “Self-Love Queen”, and she is the Founder, Owner, and Life Coach at Exposing The Roots. Through her life coaching, she partners with women to assist them to increase their self-love. She believes that when a woman learns to love herself, everything changes. Tina is a trained Life Coach, Chef, and Author. She also has 20 years of experience as an executive in non-profit and financial services. Tina lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in Northern California, where she is a personal transformation enthusiast, foodie, outdoor adventurer, gardener, and cook.