This is, in essence, my response to a post written by Aliza at The Worthington Post. Please take the time to read it before reading this as to better understand the context of my post.
Disclaimer: this is a story about my own personal experience and not to be taken as a political stance in either direction.
Speaking as someone who just went through this last year. See here for my story in short: Pregnant Again, and Not Completely Happy. I have a thought of two on the subject.
First, I’m not going to touch on the halacha of this issue, as frankly I’m late coming to this table myself and am in no position to be giving out halachic advice. What I am reading is the words of several very passionate women and the arguments seem to land in three camps: It’s a woman’s choice. It’s not a women’s choice. Or it is a woman’s choice but only in dire circumstance. What I am not hearing is anything from women who have been there and decided either way, so I thought I could be one of those voices.
Quite frankly, I did find myself in much the place you discribe, Aliza, but with a few variants. I get hyperemesis gravidarum when I am pregnant which lands me in the hospital, often on bed rest for much of my pregnancy. It is costly, feels like I am dying, and also means that my husband is left taking care of nearly every single part of our household alone while I’m knocked out on meds for the duration. It is no exaggeration on my part that when I found out I was pregnant I sobbed. I mean really sobbed. I did *not*, I repeat *NOT* want to be pregnant. I hated the idea. I was pissed at God, and myself and my husband and the universe and every other person out there who should have be pregnant instead of me and I threw an internal royal fit. Even though I was the mother of three other babies who I adore and would do anything to protect, my mind went there. It went to abortion. And I got it–I really got it–I finally understand why people’s mind go there and why it’s an option. I had always understood why a victim or rape or incest would consider this option, but I hadn’t ever understood why a mother with other children herself would be able to consider this.
Though there was a small part of me that toyed with that idea, once the shock of the pregnancy wore off I knew it wasn’t really an option for me. I’m not a quitter in that respect and quite frankly my life has always had a mind of it’s own so I’m used to the roller coaster that it is. Within a week I was less angry and more accepting of my new status as mother of three-going-on-four. Of course when the puking started it became real pretty quickly and I was left to face this pregnancy and all of it’s many side effect on myself and my family.
After nine months a beautiful baby boy was born into this world at 7:07 am on September 10, weight 10lbs 11oz. I held him to my chest and promised I would love him forever, despite how unready I had felt for his arrival. Because I questioned my ability to love him, I ended up loving him in a very special way all his own. He’s the gift I never knew I wanted; the part of me I never knew was missing. He changed my world, and not only in terms of financial difficulty. He taught me what it means to give up a big piece of yourself for someone who isn’t even a person yet, just so that they have a chance to become one. He taught me that I did have love hidden in my heart after all, buried behind worries over money and concern over time. He taught me that sometimes what I would choose for myself isn’t nearly as special as what life chooses for me.
On the other hand, it was a shit-hole year and a half. My husband was out of work, and so was I. We lived on next to nothing. Twice I stayed with my mom for a couple of weeks so she could feed my kids because I had nothing in my house and no money in my bank account. My boy is seven months old and I’m still trying to catch up on the electric bills that went unpaid and my landlord was kind enough to take a promise in exchange for a rent check more than once. I’m slowly trying to make it up to my kids for all the clothes I didn’t buy them and all the time I didn’t spend with them. I’m still apologizing that for weeks my oldest wore shoes far too small for him, and that his pants wouldn’t button. The scale shows that I am still reaping the weighty consequence of eating hot dog and white bread sandwiches instead of the delicious organic meat and veggies I wanted to eat, but couldn’t afford. Though my husband is working again, he still isn’t making enough to cut it and I’m trying to figure out how to homeschool (b/c I can’t afford school), raise four kids (including a baby), write for money (it don’t pay well. Never choose it as a profession if you like being rich), and sleep without becoming a monster of a human being.
But every night as I rock him to sleep again, and again, and again–because apparently he likes the feeling of falling to sleep a lot more than actually sleeping–and I think to myself that this little butter ball in my lap has no idea what a crazy wave of crap he brought our way. He just looks at me and coos like everything is right in the world. Like he knows he was meant to be and never doubted my ability to care for him for even a moment. He adores me and how can I feel anything but blessed to be loved like that–so unconditionally. So purely.
I fear the emptiness I would be feeling in my heart right now if I had made a different decision. For all I know my husband still would have been out of work, and we’d be in the same financial place. Or maybe I’d be sitting here in the lap of luxury. But I would always somehow know that it was without my Eitan, and hard times don’t last and longer than money does. When I’m 80, I’ll be surrounded by my four kids and God-willing my grandbabies too, and it’ll have been worth that really shitty year.
I don’t know anyone else’s story the way I know mine and I wouldn’t begin to tell anyone else what to do because I hate it when people tell me what to do, so instead I just shared this side of the coin: the abortion I didn’t have.