The Abortion My Mother Didn't Have

I was almost 30 when my mother told me about her abortion. We were in rural Korea, at her brother's farm, standing on the side of a dirt road waiting for something. I guess it was being back in her home country that opened the floodgates of memory, and all of her pain came out and landed square on me.

I heard about how she and my father met on the Army base. He was 14 years her junior and only six years older than her oldest daughter. How she didn't want to marry him and told him so, and how he pestered her until she did. How she got pregnant and she an abortion.

Then she got pregnant with me, and for whatever reason she didn't realize that fact until it was too late, and her only option was to have me. Mind you, she was 37 at the time and it was 1975. In her mind she was way too old to have children and was terrified I would be born with a cleft palate or other deformity. She built emotional walls to prepare herself for what she saw as a foregone conclusion, to the point where the "Hawaiian doctor" who delivered me offered to adopt me, according to her.

Looking back, there's no way she could have formed a secure attachment to me as an infant. Her whole life to that point was marked by foreign occupation and genocide, war, poverty, death, and separation from her mother and her older children. She has a deeply loving and sensitive heart irreparably scarred by life. She had no business being a mother.

And little did she know that she was bringing me to the US and to a life of poverty, abuse and neglect that is the legacy of my father's side of the family. And due to systemic trauma, she would eventually be separated from me, as well.

My adverse childhood experiences are the direct result of my mother not having choices. I say with absolute certainty that she should have had that second abortion. Because you know what? The ROI on my life so far is in the negative digits. There is no joy or happiness in my life because they are eclipsed by the residual grief, anxiety and depression of not only my experience, both those of generations before me that I carry in my epigenetics. Even my hellfire rage has left me in recent years. I am tired, and the repair work is hard and long, and I don't even know if I will see the end before it is my end.

Some of you may recoil in horror at the thought of a woman removing a clump of cells (and that is all they are at that point) from her body, but my horror is thinking about the thousands of children who are about to be handed a life sentence of cruelty, trauma and pain.

To me that is far, far worse. I know from experience.

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Janie, I am weeping for/with you ... I know you ... you are a loving mom, a great friend, a kick-ass brilliant woman, and you are a genuine and tender person who is acknowledging how difficult life can be and helping each of us (readers) see how profoundly important choice is to generations of women.

I wanted to start by saying thank you - but that wasn't enough. Meeting and connecting with you showed me the deep impact of ACEs, and how one brilliant woman sought and found a way to weave her deep, visceral understanding of ACEs into the work she was doing to which would result in systems level change and positively impact so many in the wider community.

Thank you for so eloquently infusing humanity and complexity into conversations around choice that are polarizing, at best. I am deeply grateful you wrote. 

Janie, my friend, I am here for you - please let me know how I may support you.
With love and support,
Karen

Janie -

Knowing you I know how passionate, generous, and kind you are; how hard you’ve worked to become the educated and successful woman you are. I know how much it means to you to be a great mom yourself. And how much it hurts to think of your own mother, who has had such a hard life. 

Your work has inspired many people and I know at least one of my colleagues and I are among the people you’ve impressed and motivated. 

I hear you and appreciate your courage in sharing these thoughts and feelings. I am grateful for this safe space where you are free to share.  

Janie, thank you for sharing your views on this deeply controversial issue.

Frankly, I don't understand why a developed country like the US has made abortion a political issue. Even if the state guarantees the material needs of a human being can it guarantee love and support to these unwanted kids? 

Being unwanted and unloved is a terrible burden, it really makes you feel you were never born. I know what a struggle life is growing up not having someone who truly loves and cares about you.

I am so sorry! How tragic. I agree that bringing a child into a world that holds nothing but pain is a horrible 'non' choice. Freedom over our women's bodies is true freedom. I hope you're able to find some consolation and support. I've seen too many children who are raised in similar circumstances (Black children here in the U.S. especially), who's mothers neither had the choice, or the resources to do what was best for them. Thank you for your extremely frank words. They HAVE to be said, now getting others to listen to it.............well. I fear for our future on this topic.

 

Take care!

Hi Janie,

Thank you for sharing.  This really resonated with me even though my history is not exactly the same.  Although I was supposedly planned but due to my parents' treatment of me I have felt very similar and my feelings on abortion are the same. I can't imagine what it's like to know your mother had you because she had no other option.  I am enraged at self- righteous ignorants who claim the right to control women's bodies. There is no worse existence than as an unwanted, unloved and neglected child.  I hope you find peace because that's what I am hoping for myself as well. 

 

Clearly your mother wasn't there for you and the effects of her rejection may indeed affect you for the rest of your life. I would hesitate to make your experience a way of belief for others. "my horror is thinking about the thousands of children who are about to be handed a life sentence of cruelty, trauma and pain. To me that is far, far worse. I know from experience."

I was handed a "life sentence of cruelty, trauma, and pain" from my childhood experiences. I heard voices until the age of 33, sought many time to kill myself,  and lived outside my body. My mother and father caused me indescribable emotional and physical pain and harm. People harm us and there are people who heal us. My partner spent 20 years undoing my beliefs and trauma with relentless socratic questions. I have really only been alive for 24 years. My ACE is a 10 and I have no attachment to my mother; whom I refer to as a black widow spider.  I told my partner last month that I wouldn't change anything that happened to me in my childhood, because it refined me after defining me for 33 years. I learned, from a healer, how to live. I'm glad I had that chance.

Wow, this is something I’ve been thinking about almost my whole life but don’t say out loud because people can’t handle it. Had I been conceived just 5 years later than I was my mother would have had access to abortion and things would have been better for all of us. But instead, I was born to people who never wanted children and had no business being parents. Do I wish my mom had aborted me? Damn right. I’ll fight for pro choice until my dying day so that fewer children are born to suffer and suffer and suffer. Thx for your honesty and sharing your truth. 

I feel this so much. If my mom had terminated her pregnancy with me, she wouldn't have felt stuck with the man who was abusing her and her other children. As it was, we all spent years in and out of foster care, and are all very damaged people with no real prospects, just trying to survive the day. And as much as people like to say some unborn child could find the cure for cancer, it is my experience that all of us unwanted children and our unwanted children are just more likely to have miserable lives and be stuck in the same mire as our ancestors. To be honest, we're more likely to be low-wage cannon fodder than to be world-renowned innovators.

Tanya Spacek posted:

I feel this so much. If my mom had terminated her pregnancy with me, she wouldn't have felt stuck with the man who was abusing her and her other children. As it was, we all spent years in and out of foster care, and are all very damaged people with no real prospects, just trying to survive the day. And as much as people like to say some unborn child could find the cure for cancer, it is my experience that all of us unwanted children and our unwanted children are just more likely to have miserable lives and be stuck in the same mire as our ancestors. To be honest, we're more likely to be low-wage cannon fodder than to be world-renowned innovators.

Well, you've obviously become a master of wordsmithing. That's becoming more of a rare skill.  

Thank you all for your comments, your support and your stories. I wanted to give voice to a perspective I really don't see in this debate and thought for an awful moment after I hit "publish" that it was because I was the only one who had that view. 

I'm eternally grateful to Jane, Karen, Carey and the other ACEs Connection staff for giving us not only an invaluable source of information, but a safe place where we can share our experiences and what we're going through as we undertake this work. 

To paraphrase Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, I feel seen, I feel mirrored, I feel taken into account.

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