I never wanted to have an abortion. I also never wanted to have a kid, but at 29 years old, I have had both. I had an abortion when I was 22, and I had my son when I was 27. And I can tell you, with every ounce of certainty I could possibly give you, that my abortion made me a better mother.
Regardless of the steps our current government, on both the state and federal level, are trying to take to make it difficult if not completely impossible to have safe and affordable access to abortion care, roughly 1.2 million women have an abortion in the United States, every year. Of those 1.2 million women, 60% had one or more children before having their abortion. Abortion and motherhood are not antonyms (and the women who have abortions do not, as some might have you believe, "hate babies" or even not want to be moms), and affordable and safe access to one, for so many women and families, means the health and success of the other.
Because I was able to have a safe, affordable abortion when I wasn't ready to be a mother, I felt all the more prepared when I eventually did decide to become one. I knew that my son was my choice, and that because my life was different than it was when I was 22, I could handle the unending responsibilities and financial burdens that come along with parenthood.
My abortion also taught me valuable lessons that I have carried with me as a mother and which have positively impacted my ability to parent my son to the best of my ability. Abortion may be socially stigmatized, but it has given me and millions of other women the ability to choose when we want to become a mom (if ever), and that choice is the main reason why I'm a loving, caring, and capable mother now.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 things you learn from having an abortion, that make you a better mom if/when, of course, you decide you want to become a mom at all.
To Fight For What You Want And Deserve
Whether you're advocating for your reproductive rights, or you're advocating for your birth plan in a hospital, fighting to be heard among doctors and nurses or against anti-choice advocates; the right to make your own decisions about your own body cover both abortion and child birth. When you've had an abortion, (sadly, in a growing number of states) that often means you've traveled a great distance to the one abortion clinic available, have been forced to adhere to a mandatory waiting period, and have walked past individuals who were spewing hate and personal disgust. You know what it feels like to fight — with your money, your time, your vote and your conviction — for the right to make your own choices, so when it comes time to speak up in the labor and delivery room, you feel like a seasoned vet on the front lines of women's advancement.
Shame And Judgement Are Inevitable...
Women who choose to have an abortion are judged, but so are women who give their babies up for adoption and so are women who, because they had a baby when they weren't ready, were forced into poverty and rely on government programs. If you've had an abortion and have weighed your reproductive options, you're painfully aware that no matter what you do, you're going to be judged. This comes in handy when you become a mother, and every single parenting decision you make is scrutinized. If you have a home birth, you're taking an "unnecessary risk"...but if you have an epidural, you're "weak"; If you breastfeed, you're inappropriate, but if you bottle feed, you're selfish. It never ends. Having an abortion is just one moment where you start to get used to the judgment that will likely plague many parts of your parenting life.
... So It's Best Not To Care What Other People Think.
With all of that considered, you learn that it's best to do what is best for you and your future, and not care what anyone else thinks. Whether it's scheduling an abortion because you know having a baby right now isn't best for you, or deciding to get an epidural because you know it's best for you, you've become accustomed to caring less about what other people think, and more about what will benefit you and your family (or non-family, as it were).
To Admit There Are Things You Can't Handle
Having an abortion is a very humbling experience. Not because you feel guilty or you have regrets necessarily, but because it forces you to take a good, hard look at your life and where you are in it and what you want out of it. It takes courage to admit that there are things you can't handle; things you're not adequately equipped to deal with, especially when those things involve another human being. The ability to be honest with yourself is a very important part of parenthood. Motherhood is not martyrdom, and a big part of being a successful, healthy mother, is knowing when to admit that you need help, or knowing when you can't do something, and should say no.
To Value Your Happiness
Your happiness matters. Your future matters. As a woman, your life is about more than your uterus and the marvelous things it can do. This means you don't have to be at the mercy of an unplanned pregnancy, and that means you don't have to live in servitude to the social expectations placed on women, particularly when it comes to motherhood. Women who've had abortions are choosing their own future over one that's unplanned (but yet also weirdly predetermined). They're defiantly saying, either loudly or with the softest of whispers, that they matter. They're not allowing their identity to be lost in the constant cultural pressure a woman feels to reproduce. That ability will help them navigate motherhood (if they choose it), and fight against the social assumption that when a woman becomes a mom, that's all she can ever be.
The Importance Of Complete Body Ownership
The ability to have complete ownership of your body is not only a right, it's one that is still being fought for in both abortion access and pregnancy. For example, women's abortions and IVF experiences are extremely similar, from trying to regain control of one's body to fighting against ignorance and shame. A woman who has had an abortion knows with intimate, life-changing detail just how important it is to be able to make your own decisions about your own body; because that ability can, if you choose, one day ensure that you're the best mother you can possibly be when you're ready and able.
Love Isn't Enough
It's an adorable sentiment, but the idea that "love is all you need" just doesn't hold any water. The majority of women who have abortions already have children; 61% to be exact. Women who have abortions aren't just terrified teenagers: They're very often women in loving relationships who have already started a family, but know it is financially or emotionally impossible to care for another child. Many women who have abortions are very much in love, but they know that love isn't enough. Love won't buy diapers or food or pay for labor and delivery and doctors visits and clothes.
That same lesson directly applies to motherhood. Loving your parenting partner simply isn't enough. There needs to be constant communication and an equal willingness to contribute and, for many parents, duel incomes. In 2002, only 7% of all U.S. households consisted of married couples with children in which only the husband worked. The idea of the "traditional family" is dying, and many parents are having to re-invent the idea of parenthood...and what they're finding as they do is that building a family is not an idea that relies solely on love.
Problems Don't Go Away On Their Own
A woman who chooses abortion knows that when faced with a problem, complacency and time will not fix anything. An unplanned pregnancy won't (usually) go away by itself, so swift action is needed, as quickly as possible (27 states currently have legal restrictions on abortions carried out after 18 weeks). Even if a woman is scared before she has an abortion (and many are, since knowledgable, non-biased information about the abortion process is hard to come by), she doesn't allow fear to keep her from taking the necessary action to fix a problem.
That will definitely come in handy when that very same woman (again, if she chooses) becomes a mother: Parenting problems won't go away, and many of them are very scary (especially when you've never dealt with them before). Regardless of prevailing fear or doubt, that mom will do what she has to do to fix the problem, and move on.
Help And Support Are Always Available...
Even if you're facing life alone, and you don't have a supportive friend base or family or partner, there are people who can help. Whether you've had an abortion, and need the assistance of a national after-abortion talkline or you've just had a baby, and you're looking for mom groups that can give you the emotional support you need.
...And You're Never Alone.
An estimated 1.2 million U.S. women have an abortion each year. Regardless of the social stigma attached to this legal medical procedure, abortion is very common. Even though anti-choice advocates have been successful in making women who seek out abortions feel alone, they're very much part of a group of women who can relate, who can understand, and who (while having their own, unique experiences) know what one another have been through. Just the knowledge of knowing that you're not alone, that others have been where you are, can change dreary outlooks into positive perceptions. "No man is an island, entire unto himself." And neither is a woman.