I have had two abortions.
The first one was when I was twenty-seven. I was playing professional beach volleyball. I was playing volleyball eight hours a day and I spent two hours a day at the gym. I noticed that I was getting tired more easily, but I thought it meant I needed to train harder.
Then one weekend, a doctor friend on a visit saw me drop a plate one day, and a vase the next. I told her my hands just gave out because they were so tired.
She said I was anemic. Then she said, “Maybe you're pregnant.”
“I'm not,” I said. “I have a regular period.”
It turns out, though, that you can have a regular period and still be pregnant.
And I was. Fourteen weeks.
My friend said, “Schedule the abortion now. You're already late for it.”
I didn't do anything. I was in shock. My boyfriend was in shock. Neither of us had ever had a pregnancy. I couldn't believe the whole process actually worked, to be honest.
I told my mom I was pregnant. She said, “Get an abortion.”
I didn't say anything. I wasn't really thinking I had any choices. I didn't have a job that could support a child. And I wasn't sure if I was planning to marry my boyfriend, although we were living together. I knew that I had big ideas for my life and I hadn't figured things out yet.
My mom got militant. “You'll destroy your career possibilities.”
She riffed on this theme for a week, calling me every night. Her passion is understandable. My mom took a job when I was young because she hated being home with kids. She endured interview questions like, “Does your husband want you away from home working?” She was one of the first women to become an executive at her Fortune 500 company. She blazed trails so I could have career goals that required an abortion to preserve.
Here's what else happened: Other women called. It turned out that many, many women I knew had had an abortion. This is not something women talk about. I mean, I had no idea how ubiquitous the procedure was, at least in my big-city, liberal, Jewish world.
Each of those women told me that I should get an abortion so that I could keep my options open. “You're a smart girl. You can do anything with your life right now. Don't ruin it.”
My boyfriend was laying low. He was no slouch when it came to pro-choice politics and he knew it was, ultimately, my decision.
But the minute I said I would get an abortion, he was driving me to Planned Parenthood.
You had to go once to set up the appointment, and then go back.
When I went back, I had a panic attack. I was on the table, in a hospital gown, screaming.
The nurse asked me if I was a religious Christian.
The boyfriend asked me if I was aware that my abortion would be basically illegal in seven more days.
I couldn't stop screaming. I was too scared. I felt absolutely sick that I was going to kill a baby. And, now that I know more about being a mother, I understand that hormones had already kicked in to make me want to keep the baby. We left. No abortion.
My boyfriend started panicking by suddenly staying really late at work and going out with friends a lot. I stopped playing volleyball because I got tired so quickly.
People kept calling me: They said, “Think about how you'll support the child. Think about what you'll do if your boyfriend leaves you. You're all alone in LA with no family. How will you take care of yourself?”
People gave me advice: Get a job. Once you have established yourself in a career, you'll feel much better about having kids. Figure out where you fit in the world. Get a job, then get married, and then have kids.
I scheduled another abortion. But it was past the time when Planned Parenthood will do an abortion. Now it was a very expensive one at a clinic that seemed to cater to women coming from Christian countries in South America. I knew that if I did not go through with it this time, no one would do the abortion. I was too far along.
So I did it.
I went to sleep with a baby and woke up without one. Groggy. Unsure about everything. Everything in the whole world.
People think abortion is such an easy choice–they say, “Don't use abortion as birth control.” Any woman who has had one will tell you how that is such crazy talk. Because an abortion is terrible. You never stop thinking about the baby you killed. You never stop thinking about the guy you were with when you killed the baby you made with him. You never stop wondering.
So the second time I got pregnant, I thought of killing myself. My career was soaring. I was 30 and I felt like I had everything going for me — great job, great boyfriend, and finally, for the first time ever, I had enough money to support myself. I hated that I put myself in the position of either losing all that or killing a baby.
I didn't tell anyone I was pregnant. I knew what they'd say.
So I completely checked out emotionally. I scheduled the abortion like I was on autopilot. I told my boyfriend at the last minute and told him not to come with me.
He said forget it. He's coming with me.
I remember staring at the wall. Telling myself to stop thinking of anything.
The doctor asked me, “Do you understand what's going to happen?”
I said yes. That's all I remember.
I got two abortions to preserve my career. To keep my options open. To keep my aspirations within reach.
I bought into the idea that kids undermine your ability to build an amazing career.
And here I am, with the amazing career.
But also, here I am with two kids. So I know a bit about having kids and a career. And I want to tell you something: You don't need to get an abortion to have a big career. Women who want big careers want them because something deep inside you drives you to change the world, lead a revolution, break new barriers.
It doesn't matter whether you have kids now or later, because they will always make your career more difficult. There is no time in your life when you are so stable in your work that kids won't create an earthquake underneath that confidence.
I think about the men I was with when I had the abortions. They were not bad men. One is my ex-husband. So much of life is a gamble, and I think I might have had as good a chance of staying together with the first guy as I did with my ex-husband. And I am not sure that my life would have turned out worse if I had had kids early. I am not sure it would have turned out better. I'm not even sure it would have been that different.
You never know, not really. There is little certainty. But there are some certain truths: It's very hard to have an abortion. And, there is not a perfect time to have kids.
And I wonder, are there other women out there who had abortions in the name of their career and their potential? What do those women think now?