Fifteen years ago in the early summer of 2004, I got pregnant and chose to have an abortion. The reasons are many, but the only one that really matters is that I wanted to decide my future instead of malfunctioning birth control deciding it. As a modern-day human, it was very important to me to have a family of my choosing with the person of my choosing at a time of my choosing.
That spring, I had just moved to Seattle from Portland, Oregon for my dream job at Microsoft. At first, I had a very hard time meeting new people and making friends, so I joined a softball team and signed up on Match.com. On the dating site, I met a nice guy named Barry who also happened to be a fellow Microsoft employee. After he and I had been dating for several months, a woman on my softball team said to me, “Hmmmm…I know another lady who has a boyfriend named Barry who works at Microsoft. What are the odds?”
We compared notes and quickly realized it was the same man. That lady had been dating him for three years and I had been dating him for three months. I said my piece to him and disappeared from the picture, never to speak to either of them again.
But I was hurt and angry and still very alone in Seattle. An ex-boyfriend in Tacoma (an hour south) had been calling me for some time, and after the disaster with online dating I tried to rekindle the flame with him. We went on several dates and spent the night together once, but it fizzled out within a week.
A week later I had a scheduled vacation, a houseboat trip on Lake Shasta in Northern California with some old friends and family members. I was still reeling from being “the other woman,” and decided to rebound with a handsome, tanned California guy I’d met on a different houseboat for a carefree vacation one-night stand. I never even asked his last name.
I tell you all this because simply saying “the father could have been one of three men,” makes me sound like a woman who slept around, which apparently I was.
But that was my prerogative, and I’m perfectly OK with who I was. I was an adult, and I had been responsible. I had taken both pregnancy and STD precautions. Still, something failed somewhere along the line. Two missed periods later, I ended up having to deal with the repercussions. Not the men who had equally participated. Just me. Alone.
Yes, I could have decided to continue the pregnancy, contacted the two men who were contactable, requested a DNA sample and upon a match, pursued child support, joint custody and all that. I could have continued my career at Microsoft while putting my infant into childcare. I could have turned down all the world travel opportunity that would come later. I could have met a nice man who would have loved us both and settled on the West Coast somewhere. But that wasn’t the future I wanted.
I looked online, made an appointment and used my insurance to pay for it. I took it very seriously and the whole affair was somber and sad. I was well aware that I was terminating a potential life. By law, the doctor had to perform a trans-vaginal ultrasound which determined I was ten weeks along, meaning the mass of cells was in the embryonic stage. It was past a zygote, but not yet a fetus.
The procedure was physically uncomfortable but not exceedingly painful. When it was over, the kind and gentle doctor asked me if I would like to see the remains and I told her yes. It wasn’t more than a couple tablespoons worth of bloody tissue but I was able to make out the tiniest arm and hand, no bigger than half a toothpick. They gave me as much time as I wanted and I said a prayer of honor over the life force. She also asked if I wanted to donate the tissue to scientific study and I again said yes. It was very hard to see the little arm and hand, but I’m glad I did. I had taken two days off of work , which was good because the experience wiped me out both physically and emotionally. I was not regretful, but I did shed many tears. Even so, I knew that it had been the right decision for me at the time.
Over the next eight years, a small brown-haired boy started showing up in my dreams. Sometimes he would be standing off to the side, observing me dream. Other times, I would be holding his hand, not quite sure who he was but with a feeling that I wanted to take care of him. The last time he visited me, he looked up at me kindly and then slowly walked away fading out of sight. I woke up sobbing, my arms reaching after him crying out his name. “Julian! Julian!” I yelled to my empty apartment.
That same morning, a Sunday, I walked down to a nearby park in Seattle and sat in the spring sunshine. The dream had really shaken me, but I didn’t know what it meant or who Julian was. I sat watching two young boys kick a soccer ball back and forth. They were six or seven years old and as I continued to watch them, I realized suddenly that the boy in my dreams was my child. He now had a name, but his exit in my dream had seemed so final and so very sad. I didn’t understand. As I walked home from the park, I remembered it was Mother’s Day.
By this time I had fallen in love with Tony and was dating him long-distance from Seattle to Minnesota. I was currently wrestling with the question of whether or not to leave my career and move cross-country to be with him. A friend recommended talking to an acquaintance of hers, a seer of sorts, for guidance. This lady was the real deal if there ever was one. It was an experience like no other and one I won’t go into here except to say that the conversation helped lead me home and helped me find peace regarding my abortion. I asked her about this brown-haired child appearing in my dreams. She said that, he forgave me and was still waiting to come through me, though he wouldn’t wait forever.
After I moved back to Minnesota to be with Tony and we got pregnant in 2012, I felt so certain that the baby was going to be my Julian. When the baby was a girl, I felt confused and sad that perhaps I had waited too long to have a child. It had been over eight years. Throughout my pregnancy, I grieved for him believing he had chosen different parents.
As I was recounting this, I remembered another vague but impactful dream I had after I had moved to Minnesota. This was during Tony’s and my volatile drinking days when we were fighting a lot. In the dream, the little boy and I were holding hands as we watched Tony drive away out of our lives forever. I cried, but the boy was stoic. It was a very sad dream and eventually became part of the story behind our break-up and our later re-commitment to sobriety and each other.
Fast forward another few years through sobriety and the trials of daily life…we knew we wanted a second child together, but with both of us in our 40’s it felt almost like a reckless indulgence. We decided to simply see what happened. We got pregnant fairly quickly but lost it in the first trimester. That was a hard time. Five months later we were pregnant again but facing some potentially serious health concerns with a Single Umbilical Artery diagnosis. Also a hard and scary time.
When our baby boy was born this past winter – perfectly healthy, thank goodness – the whole first day of his life I wanted nothing more than to be alone with him. I wanted to study and truly see him. I love to sing and I wanted to sing to him on his birthday looking in his eyes to see if he was my Julian. Finally, at one point in that busy first day I got my chance. The baby awoke at the perfect time and we were staring deeply at each other. I didn’t know what I wanted to sing, but as if I had planned it the words to an old song I used to know suddenly poured out:
“Well, it’s been a long time
Glad to see your face.
I knew we’d meet again
Another time, another place.”
I suppressed a sob but let the tears fall. It was him. Our eyes recognized each other’s soul and I saw that life had come full circle. We had held off naming him for many hours but after that, there was no other name but Julian.
It might seem like a mind-made fantasy to some, but I believe the soul of my child had understood my decision and waited for me. He’d waited for Tony to be his father and for our lives to be on the trajectory they are now.
I also believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that having an abortion all those years ago led me to where I am today and made it possible for me to meet the loves of my life, my partner Tony, my daughter Iris and now baby Julian. Yes, it terminated a potential life, but it also saved the lives of the two children I have now.
I am so grateful that I got to choose my path and that a broken condom or a missed pill didn’t choose it for me. I’m glad that I didn’t have to do anything dangerous or illegal in order to do what I knew was right for me in that situation. I’m blessed that my little one tried to communicate throughout, that I was open to receiving it, and that there was understanding, forgiveness and second chances when the time was right.
My abortion story happened exactly as it should have, and I wouldn’t change it. I hold my baby Julian and I caress the arm and hand that came back to me after all these years. I doubt I would have loved him less if he had been born fourteen years ago, but our lives would have been so hard, and I would have been a much different mother. Most importantly, I would never have met my Iris.
Iris is the name of the Greek goddess who used rainbows as a bridge to carry messages from the gods to humankind. My abortion gave me a future with Iris in it. Loving and raising Iris made me see that I wanted another child. That child was Julian. That was the message she brought on her rainbow.
Julian was born after a sad miscarriage, which makes him my double rainbow baby.
It all has a sense of perfect poetry to me.
I love my abortion story and I love the life and family it has given me. I wouldn’t change any little bit of it and I don’t think Julian would either.