SHARED BY JENNIFER CHAVEZ-DURAN
Facing the Unexpected
Growing up, I always thought I didn’t want children. I couldn't picture it. Everyone would tell me, “Just wait. You’ll change your mind.” I would respond with, “No, I’m not having kids—and if I do, I’ll adopt.”
The first time I became pregnant was unplanned. I was in my early twenties and struggling. I was not even in a relationship with the father. I had been seeing an ex periodically, out of loneliness, and my career was not fulfilling or steady in a way that I could support myself, much less a child. I had always thought that abortion would be an option that wouldn’t negatively affect me, since I didn’t have that desire to bear children. But when the time came to make that decision, it was harder than I imagined. The father wanted nothing to do with keeping the baby; he told me he would be there for the procedure and convinced me this was the best decision, despite my uneasiness about it.
The day of the procedure was a blur. The father didn’t come through in the way he promised—I had to wait by myself at the clinic for hours until he arrived. They wouldn’t start without knowing I had a ride home, since I was being sedated. (I wanted little memory of what was going to happen.) I waited and waited. I killed time going outside to have a few cigarettes, only to be ambushed by anti-abortion protesters. The father finally arrived, and I was sedated. I don't remember much after that except waking up in a recovery room full of other girls in the same situation. I cried.
I recovered in my apartment alone for two weeks. For the next couple of years, I would have recurring nightmares about my daughter being taken from me—always the same little blonde girl. I never sought out therapy. Over time, the nightmares dwindled and finally came to a stop.
Filling a Void
A few years later, I became involved in a mentally and verbally abusive relationship. I knew it wasn't right from the beginning, but I was trying to fill a void and couldn’t admit that I deserved better. I became pregnant again, and we decided to keep the baby. A few weeks later, it was Christmas and we shared the news with our families. Three days after that, I started bleeding.
A visit to the emergency room confirmed I was having a miscarriage, and they sent us home to wait for the fetus to pass. (I didn’t have health insurance, so I was unable to have a D&C procedure done.) I started bleeding heavier, passing huge blood clots. I stayed in the bathroom for hours, afraid to leave the toilet. Eventually I passed what looked like a tiny sac, which I can only assume was the baby.
My monthly cycle continued to get heavier and more painful. I was constantly worried that the abortion and lack of care after the miscarriage had messed up my reproductive system. Finally, in 2014, I left the bad relationship and my life in Chicago, and I moved across the country to beautiful Arizona. I had the support of two close friends here and a fresh start. By 2015, I had finally found a stable, well-paying job that I enjoyed, and I was able to obtain birth control, which helped my periods significantly.
Reflecting and Healing
In March 2016, one of my best friends lost her son, a miracle baby, at 36 weeks, 3 days. It is very difficult to watch someone you love go through something so heartbreaking, especially when you carry guilt over terminating the life of one of your children.
When I met the man who would become my husband, I found out he had four kids from a previous marriage. With anyone else I had considered dating, if I found out they had kids, I bolted. But with him, it didn’t frighten me—despite everything I’d experienced. I fell in love with him and his children, who are now my step-children.
My husband and I married on April 23, 2016, with plans to have a child of our own. I became pregnant a month later. For the entire first trimester, I was convinced this baby would not make it. I was sure my reproductive system was still not "up to par." I had a lot of anxiety and mixed feelings. Every time I used the restroom, I was paranoid, constantly checking for blood.
I am now 36 weeks, 3 days, as I write this, and so far, my son-to-be is doing well. He is very active, and I think that has been his way of reassuring me.
If I hadn’t made the choices I made, I wouldn't be where I am now—and I am grateful for where I am. However, I have always carried this guilt about my abortion, knowing that there are women out there struggling to become pregnant or make it through their pregnancy full-term—feeling like I don’t deserve a baby because I terminated my first pregnancy.
I suppose that’s why I felt compelled to share my story now—to reflect and to be as appreciative as I can. I have tried to make the best of this pregnancy, fight off the guilty feelings, and enjoy as much as I can. I have tried my best to be supportive of my friend through this time, knowing that she has been grieving for her baby and trying to be sensitive to her needs when it comes to my own pregnancy.
That’s where I’m at in this trench, and that’s all I can do for now.