Sunday, January 25, 2009

To share or not share

People I have told
My husband
My sister
My oldest friend
My best friend
My geographically closest friend
One colleague at work

People I have not told
My parents (although my husband told his parents!)
The members of my online mothers groups with whom I post daily
Friends who live close by

Why I told

My geographically closest friend was the first person I told. I found out while driving home from work. While stopped at a gas station, I picked up my voice mail. I had a message from my internist. Not my internist’s office, but my internist himself. He said “I got your test results back, are you sitting down? You are pregnant.” My legs literally began to shake. I don’t think I could have driven the rest of the commute home, and my friend lives about 5 minutes away. She is also helping with the childcare logistics on the day of my abortion. Sadly her husband has inoperable brain cancer and he has an MRI scheduled for that day. I know that wait for those MRIs is a huge emotional drain for her, so I am trying not to rely on her for emotional support.

My sister has had two elective abortions. I helped her through the first one when she was just out of college. She tells me that I will get through this and not be haunted by my decision. She calls to check in on me and offers to fly back for the abortion, but I know taking off time in the middle of the week mid-school year is almost impossible for her.

My best friend, who is also a physician, had an abortion for a very different reason. Her second pregnancy pre-natal testing revealed trisomy 18 and she made the agonizing decision to terminate. I tried to offer support, but had recently moved across the country so was only there somewhat for her. She is mostly concerned with the medical aspects of an abortion at this stage of gestation and tries to talk me through it. She has two children of her own, so long emotional conversations coast to coast are not really possible.

I reach my oldest friend while she is on the ski slopes. She knows how conflicted I am as a mother and is 100% behind my decision. She is perhaps the person with whom I am most honest about the negative aspects of motherhood, mostly because she has no children of her own and plans none. Still she has not experienced abortion and other than telling me she supports me, there is little she can offer.

My colleague at work is perhaps the person I am closest to there, which is odd since she is a woman my mother’s age. I am fully aware that she is pro-choice and since I need her to take my Friday classes so I can go to the ob/gyn, I decide to tell her the truth. Everyone at work gets the slightly euphemistic “I had some abnormal test results that require follow up and possibly an outpatient procedure.” I work at a religiously affiliated institution and besides it is not really anyone’s business.

Although I have lived in my geographic location for four years, I do not have many close friends here. I have at least two women friends who I sense would rally to me, but I feel uncomfortable sharing with them since it seems like information that belongs to a deeper level of friendship. Maybe sharing this crisis would take us to that level, but I do not have the energy for drama, so I do not risk telling.

Why I did not tell

Although I have come to peace with my parents as people who did the best they could raising me, and I think they are largely pro-choice, this is not a level of information I would ever care to share with them. They know nothing about my miscarriage either. My mother has a tendency to get overly emotionally involved and I do not need her feelings to think about in addition to my own. That my husband told his parents still baffles me. I know his mother had an abortion, and he says that they are supportive of our decision, but I find it ironic that I speak with my parents almost daily and did not tell them, while he seldom calls his parents, yet as far as I know they are the only people he has told. He has a close friend who is a single adoptive mother who would love to be pregnant herself, so she is not a good person to lean on. He has his own therapist and I trust him to get the support he needs.

Perhaps the strangest thing for me is not telling my online mothers group. This online group formed during the pregnancy of my first son and we have been posting together for over four years. I am on our discussion board numerous times a day. However, I know that the issue of abortion is a divisive one. We have both pro-choice and pro-life members. I also know that there are members who would happily switch places with me now since they desire more children and that there are women battling various levels of infertility. I have simply stopped posting of late. When members email me privately to find out why I have not been on the board, I offer a vague non-answer. I am sure several of the members will figure out the situation from my response, and I know that at least two of the people who emailed me are pro-choice, but it just does not seem fair to burden them with the knowledge when other members of the group are unaware.

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