Who Gets the Lifesaver?

When my grandmother told me that she had an abortion back in 2003 (Mor-Mor's story ), I was still too caught up in my own shame to think much about her experience. As I have studied abortion and learned just how many women are already mothers when they have an abortion, I began to think more about this fact (abortion statistics). Why is it that a mother would choose to terminate a pregnancy?

One possible answer comes from understanding my grandmother’s life experience. Shortly after she died, my mom wrote all of her grandchildren a letter, telling us the few details of Mor-Mor’s life that she knew. My grandmother was very private and quiet about her life, and none of us really knew much about her past. 

What I knew already was that Mor-Mor’s father died of pneumonia when she was nine years old. From reading my mother’s letter, I learned how hard her life had been after that. Her mother, a first generation Swedish immigrant, worked as a housekeeper, had many jobs and moved frequently. Sometimes, Mor-Mor would be left with cousins for periods of time while her mother sought work without the encumbrance of a child. She became a nanny at age thirteen, working for a family on Long Island, while also holding down a job as a waitress. She never finished high school, instead taking secretarial courses during her sophomore year so that she could develop business skills to help provide for the family. She began working for the New York Telephone Co. when she was just fifteen years old, although she claimed she was really seventeen in order to get the job.

Her childhood was fraught with hardship, loneliness and scarcity.

My grandfather emigrated from Sweden also, and they met shortly after he arrived in America. They married young and had my aunt during the Depression. My aunt was often sick, afflicted with asthma and other medical problems. As I think about what it might have been like for her to live, how her own childhood experiences informed her decision-making, I feel deeply for her.
It must have felt a lot like watching two kids drowning and having only one lifesaver. Who can she save? 

I have met many women over the years who have also had childhoods filled with scarcity, others with abuse (Childhood Experiences ). I suspect they feel a lot like my grandmother must have felt – tired, fearful, overwhelmed and alone. No woman wants to have an abortion. It feels like a choice born of necessity. 

I hope that the stories I share will help other women know that they are not alone and there is no shame in their choice of an abortion. As we bring our stories to the light, forgive and heal ourselves, maybe we can change the experience of the generations of women to come.
Maybe we can change the question from “who gets the lifesaver?” to “how can we support the life we that already exists?”



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