Where’s the Trauma?

I read an article in yesterday’s New York Times about a study that showed that women who had abortions did not experience the pain and trauma that is often spoken of as a reason to make abortion illegal.

“Researchers followed nearly 1,000 women who sought abortions nationwide for five years and found that those who had the procedure did not experience more depression, anxiety, low self-esteem or dissatisfaction with life than those who were denied it.”

I’m not surprised by this study at all. The women I know who have had abortions were grateful it was safe, legal, and accessible.

Higher level of trauma was faced by women who were denied access to abortion.

What surprised me was my physical response to the article. I felt my pulse quicken and my breath shorten. I felt a memory of trauma. And I’ve not had an abortion.

I realized, as I listened to my body respond to that article, that the trauma is in the unplanned pregnancy, not in the decision you make about that pregnancy.

Women who face a pregnancy they weren’t expecting, or whose pregnancy was expected but is not viable, face a level of trauma, long before they get to the point of deciding what to do with the pregnancy.

My unplanned by me pregnancy at age 19 ended up being one of the great blessings of my life. But before I knew that, in those early moments of “this can’t be happening to me“, it was traumatic.

I wasn’t ready/qualified/equipped to parent a child by myself. Financially, I had zero resources to make it work. I didn’t have a college degree and no discernible job skills.

If you add on top of those very practical concerns the very real judgment that unmarried pregnant teenaged girls faced in 1988, it felt like a crippling weight I was carrying. And even though I had great friends and a support network of family, church, and college, it was also a solitary sort of burden. People loved me but it wasn’t their life, their body, or their consequences at stake.

There were so many emotions and worries and hopes I was carrying around all at the same time. I experienced trauma.

I ended up placing my son for adoption, which is one of the ways the trauma of an unplanned pregnancy was redeemed and healed and transformed into something beautiful.

Pay attention to President elect Trump’s appointments to key cabinet and policy positions. So far, they are all anti-choice ideologues. We elected a man who on March 30 said that if abortion were illegal that women who get abortions should  “some sort of punishment“. He then went on to say that the doctors who provide the abortions should be the ones to face punishment. Talk about trauma.

Pay attention to state legislatures and the bills they try to pass in the name of “protecting women” from the trauma of abortion. Ohio and Texas have been particularly active already.

22 States require women to view their fetus on an ultrasound. A number of states (like the ones I’ve mentioned) are trying to require women to bury their aborted tissue. If that’s what you want to do after you get an abortion, I fully support it. If a state is requiring you to do it in the name of protecting your health, I call bullshit and would remind people about the trauma that women face inherently when facing these kinds of decisions.

There are ways to help women facing the trauma of unexpected pregnancies.

Keep abortion their choice to make and make abortions safe and accessible.
Support women, without judgment, when they make the choice to carry a pregnancy to term, so they feel their child would have a chance to thrive and flourish after they are born.
Provide access to birth control.
Fund early child education programs and make child care affordable and available.
Fund health care for women and children.
Fully fund schools.
Build parks and libraries.

If you claim to be “pro-life”, spend less time bombing abortion clinics, passing emotionally traumatic abortion restrictions, and worrying about overturning Roe v Wade.

If you claim to be “pro-life”, spend more time helping women overcome the trauma of unplanned pregnancies, by leaving your judgment and shame at home, and by creating a society where children have opportunities to flourish and thrive.

I’m grateful for the many ways my trauma was redeemed and transformed. I’m thankful for the people who loved me through it then and now. I’m thankful for the gift that adoption has been in my life.

I’m committed to help women get through their trauma by making unplanned pregnancies less traumatic, not more.


7 thoughts on “Where’s the Trauma?

  1. You do make some very good points. I think many readers would be interested in more details about the adoption of your child, such as whether you are allowed or encouraged to be a part of your child’s life. I hope your child is able to know you because you could be a very positive influence in the child’s life. If you have more children, they may want to know their sibling as they get older. I agree with you that women should not be judged for the choices they have to make. Some decisions are heart-wrenching. And some first mothers have experienced loss, grief and trauma.
    Yes, informed choice and options are so important. No one should feel the coercion that is felt when there are no options.


    • I’ve written a number of posts on my blog about my adoption experience. (There’s an “adoption” tab at the top of the masthead).
      My son is now almost 28 years old and I’ve been a part of his life all the way through. My other kids have gotten to know him too. It’s been a blessing. Thanks for reading.


      • Thank you for your site, helpful to many, I’m sure. While I have not yet explored everything you’ve written, I hope to do so in the future. You were part of your child’s life all the way through, which tells me your son had parents who were able to have an egalitarian relationship with you. There probably are no statistics on how frequently such a relationship occurs in adoption.
        As far as I know, open adoption depends entirely on the unselfishness of the adoptive parents, that is, the openness cannot be legally enforced. The promise of open adoption can be a marketing strategy, and I fear that a pregnant woman could be enticed into surrendering her child, only to learn that the adoptive parents have no intention of following through with their promises. The first mother may receive nothing more than “crumbs.” Imagine the anger and grief when this happens — the sense of betrayal!
        A common question asked of a married woman: How many children do you have? Marci, do you answer 2? Or 3? And do you find it necessary to explain that you “gave one up for adoption?” My hope is that you answer “three” — and don’t find it necessary to add the last part. I’m not suggesting you withhold the last part due to shame, but rather as a sense of empowerment. Because you truly are the mother of three! Pauline Evans, author of The Search for Paul David.


      • It depends on how much time I have for the conversation, and whether or not the person is asking it in a seemingly sincere way or in a rote conversation at a party way. Most often I answer 3.
        Now that all my kids are grown, it’s easier to not need to explain something. When the other two kids were young, it was hard to say I had an older son without some sort of explanation because people had been to my home and knew I didn’t have another kid living there.
        My experience with open adoption made no promises for what kind of relationship would develop. The agency I used had a few baseline agreements–the family would send me photos and a letter when he turned 3 months, and I could see the family and my son at the social service office at 6 months.
        It ended up being much more, partly because of the generosity of the parents, partly because the birth father and I were not people perceived as threats, if that makes sense.


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