1. Don’t make the decision based on “I can’t raise a kid”. You can. You just might not want to…and that’s okay.

I’ve gone on to have three kids, and trust me — I’m convinced nobody is ever fully prepared to have a kid. No new parent knows what they are doing. It’s always overwhelming. It’s always hard. But you do what it takes to get through. You might have to get on government assistance, you might have to put your kid in child care so you can work two jobs, you might have to question everything about your priorities and get your shit seriously together in a hundred different ways, you might not sleep for a few years — but you could do it. It’s by no means impossible.

You simply might not want to raise a child. And that’s plenty valid. But make sure you are clear on the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘want’.

2. Be the one to break the stigma.

It took me until I was into my late 20s with three kids before I even mentioned the abortion to my closest friends. I felt it was just not something people talked about. Also, honestly, a big part of it was that I didn’t want my friends to think I was a bad person. A bad mom. A monster.

The responses from some friends surprised me. I got more than a handful of “Holy crap — you too? Why did I not know this? I had an abortion when I was… ”

I feel like if I talk openly about abortion, it opens the door for others to talk about it, too. Self-imprisoned women can feel, maybe for the first time, that they have someone who really understands what they went through. Talking about the experience honestly and unapologetically empowers all of us who made that choice to process lingering emotions a little more fully. An abortion was a part of our experience. We consciously grieve, we learn something about ourselves, we move forward. Together.

3. You don’t need to go through it alone.

I was too ashamed to tell my parents. Looking back, that was stupid. They love me to pieces and would have supported me unconditionally. They would not have wanted me to go through something so difficult alone.

I had an entire support system of friends, family, even support groups that I didn’t take advantage of. All I had to do was ask for help, and I would have had it in droves.

4. It’s possible to simultaneously love the fetus and abort at the same time.

I grappled with this one. Truth be told, I still grapple with this one a bit.

I felt love towards this child. I named it. I imagined all of the wonderful things we could do together in life. I took care of myself and the baby — I didn’t drink, I ate well. And then I walked myself into a clinic and voluntarily scheduled an abortion.

I really don’t know how one can love something and then kill it. The human heart and mind work in strange ways. But don’t discount any love you feel for the fetus by saying ‘I can’t possibly love it if I’m willing to go through with this’. The moments your heart fills with love, don’t close it down.

5. Beating yourself up over it will not change anything.

Oh, I did a number on this one for a while. Even years later in my life when I wanted to be pregnant and I had a miscarriage, I convinced myself it was karma for my earlier decision. That I earned that miscarriage somehow. That it was the universe’s way of saying ‘screw you, you don’t deserve to be a mom’.

I’ve learned to trust that we all do the best we can with the consciousness that we have in that moment. There’s zero sense in second guessing yourself. Accept the situation as something that happened in the past that marked you (emphasis on past), but please don’t let it it fully define who you think you are. You are so much more than one decision you made as a teenage girl.

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