“I just want to be a good mom.”
My tearful admission may have been anesthesia-induced, but the sentiment was painfully genuine. My husband and I traveled an agonizing journey together before deciding to end this pregnancy for the benefit of our family.
I found out I was pregnant four days after my husband bravely came clean about struggling with an alcohol problem. At first, despite the shock and the vulnerable place in which we found ourselves, the choice was simple: we didn’t expect this right now, but of course we would have this baby! We were a financially-stable couple with plenty of social support. Why would we not?
And then, reality. And the questions.
What if my husband couldn’t find sobriety? Would our marriage survive? What if I couldn’t care for the one-year-old we already had, while being a supportive partner to an alcoholic? And how would I also navigate pregnancy? My first pregnancy wasn’t easy; I was ill well into the second trimester, and I couldn’t be sure the same wouldn’t happen this time. It became quite clear to me and my husband that if we moved forward with the pregnancy, it would be out of a sense of guilt and obligation, rather than on a loving, grounded decision in which we were able to accept an unexpected addition to our family.
As soon as we made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, I wanted it over as soon as possible. I couldn’t handle the idea of the cells turning into anything more than what they already were. I wanted to be responsible, and to me that meant being quick. The old chairs and outdated posters in the clinic waiting room made the experience of being there even more surreal, like we stepped back into a 1970s women’s health office. I was not capable of accepting that we were saying goodbye to something we created together. We knew there would be regrets, but we had no way of preparing for the loss.
As the numbness of such impactful decision-making wore off, I was filled with uncertainty, and I sobbed and felt sick whenever I thought of what we had done. The “what ifs” circled in my mind: What if we made the wrong decision? What if we lost our chance to ever have a second child? What if I feel this sad forever? It was hard for me to be around pregnant friends, and it was tormenting to find peace with the decision.
Giving myself permission to grieve felt impossible. We had chosen this. We had done this to ourselves. While we didn’t share our story with many of our family and friends, I was increasingly surprised by the loving, accepting responses from those who leant an ear. The less judged I felt by others, the easier it was for me to stop judging myself. Staying isolated throughout this process was not an option; I knew that would lead nowhere but into deeper despair.
In time, as with any grief, peace started to arrive. Being a good parent is more than carrying and birthing a child simply because he or she was conceived. It also means being honest with oneself, accepting when we’ve messed up, and acknowledging when we are not in a place to grow and shape a life. Ultimately, my husband and I couldn’t imagine a more loving decision.
I’m now halfway through a planned pregnancy. My husband is on his path of recovery, and our small family is stronger because of what we have been through. An intuitive counselor we talked with during our grief communicated to us that the baby we lost understood why we made our decision, and that she would come back to us when we were ready. I choose to believe that the baby girl I’m carrying now is the same one we weren’t able to welcome earlier. And I can’t wait to meet her.
(Stock photo credit: Joey Thompson)