Discover more from Letters From A Bad Mother
[Althea] Why I'm angry: Abortion edition
At the present moment, as you know, you’ve gone no-contact with me and I, unless I message you with my new phone number, won’t be contacting you directly either. Other than your stipulation that I go into therapy before you will speak to me again, I am not sure what is going on from your end. I know you’re tired of me being angry, but I don’t know specifically how you feel about the whole thing or what you think is going on with me that I “need” therapy in the first place.
But that’s another letter. Maybe soon.
I do know that before I left two Septembers ago, I stepped over the line a few times, and one of those times I read a conversation between you and your father in your Facebook DMs. In that conversation, your father gave you his “side” of why he and I have been in conflict all these years. I put that in quotation marks because while some of his story was factually true as far as it went, he selectively left out some details and embellished some other things or minimized his role.
He does that.
I hope he doesn’t demonstrate that tendency too often for you. I think it must be a human trait to do those things a little bit now and again, in times of high stress or conflict, but if you take it too far it goes into manipulation, and that is abusive behavior.
He’s done this before. The year I was pregnant with you, he told all his friends that I had gotten “some news” about my son, and after that I just went off the rails and quit everything. He did not elaborate on what the “some news” was. It took a mutual friend — the only one I ever saw sticking up for me, and I will always regret alienating him later — to point out to the audience that the “some news” I got was your brother allegedly not wanting me to be his mother anymore. Everyone in your dad’s audience who also knew me was aware of the hell I’d gone through with the divorce and my loss of custody and parental rights. Had your father told the whole truth from sentence one, they would have understood the situation better. But had your father cared about the truth in the first place, he and I wouldn’t have been on the skids.
It’s always been like that. I’ve never understood it. I broke up with him several times over the years because I sensed he didn’t really want things with me. He kept asking me to take him back. He didn’t have to do that. He could have just moved on. You wouldn’t be here, and that would be fucking terrible, but maybe he’d have been happier all this time not having me around. I mean, I’ve been Not Around for more than a year and a half now, and isn’t he happier?
You won’t answer, of course. At least, not anytime soon.
Anyway. I had a point and I’ve strayed far from it. Sorry. I needed to explain that background a little. But this is about a specific thing he told you in that Facebook direct-message conversation.
This is about him telling you that I had wanted to get an abortion.
The truth is that the first weekend I met him, when we were both at a festival called Grow Closer in Indiana, in the first conversation we had alone, I told him flat out — and these were my exact words — “I want a baby.” I missed your brother something fucking fierce, I had wanted two children anyway, and I think on some subconscious level I thought going ahead with Kid Two would help heal some of the damage from having lost Kid One. This isn’t true, of course, but I didn’t know that then. It wasn’t even a fully conscious motivation. It was just the general psychological direction I was traveling at the time. Emotional, not rational.
The truth is that by the time your father and I talked about when we were going to have a baby, he had been struggling to conceive with his wife (then calling herself Vivien, these days calling herself Kit and a they/them) for well over a year; he and I had also been struggling to figure out our own relationship which involved me dumping him at least twice and taking him back; and then he confessed a year after it all began that we weren’t supposed to have been in a relationship in the first place because he was supposed to share all his girlfriends with Vivien and I am not bisexual. Needless to say, the idea of him and me trying for a baby when we had all those landmines to navigate was something we needed to step into very gingerly. Never mind that Vivien had already said she didn’t care who knocked her up, your father or her boyfriend Jackson, by that point. I got the sense Viv liked to say things she didn’t mean just to test other people. I doubt I’m very far wrong. So we were taking a major chance. But we did talk it over. I was in college by that point and I told him I wanted to wait at least a year to get some credits under my belt. He voiced understanding. He then proceeded to continue not taking precautions with me (sorry for the visual). By this point I was living with him, couldn’t afford my own place, and was unsure what would happen if I called him out on it. So you happened a lot sooner than “in a year,” and I wasn’t the least bit ready.
The truth is that when I did get pregnant, he spent months not telling anyone about it, not even his parents, and yet parading around in front of me about how he was still trying to get Viv pregnant and how terribly exciting it all was. When I raised the issue of his parents with him, he said the reason he hadn’t told them was he wanted to make sure I was “out of danger” first. I have never, to my knowledge (some miscarriages are very early), lost a pregnancy in any sense — no miscarriages, no elective abortions, no stillbirths, nothing. You were my second pregnancy and other than some weird stuff that went on with my health in the early months and the Caesarian section I needed at your birth, you more or less went off without a hitch. And he hadn’t even consulted with me, like “I would like to keep this quiet for a few months until we know everything’s okay.” He made what is called a unilateral decision about an issue that affected us both, and then acted like I was unreasonable in feeling like his dirty little secret he was trying to ignore.
The truth is that during the maybe half a year or so before I got pregnant with you, he asked me to marry him. It would have been a religious handfasting, not a legal marriage. As much as he’d buttered me up when we first got together and as physically compatible as we still were, I would have thought he’d have been happy to propose, but he had all the air of someone who was being dragged kicking and screaming into something he didn’t want. It wasn’t until after I left your house two Septembers ago and had some months to think things over that I realized he and I had never discussed plans, place, or a prospective date afterwards, either. Not once.
The truth is that while this was all going on, and after having told me that his existing three partners were “more than enough” on his “plate,” he was cultivating a NEW relationship with a woman he’d never met in person in his life but had met online the previous August, hiding it from me, playing dumb when I joked about him flirting with her on LiveJournal, then blaming me for not knowing when he thought it should have been obvious. And every time this man cultivates a new relationship, nothing else matters and no one else exists. When your girlfriend is carrying your one and only child and your relationship with her is already in trouble is not a good time to do that.
I didn’t know about the new girlfriend yet when I decided to look into terminating the pregnancy, but I knew something was off about him, and he’d already been putting me through some shit for well over a year and it was getting worse. That was why I thought about getting an abortion. It had nothing to do with not actually wanting you. But I knew that when a woman has a baby and does not use a sperm donor, she ends up legally tied to the man she had that baby with for the next 18 years. I’d been with your dad for over a year and a half by then and we were already in shambles. I didn’t think I could cope with another 18 years of his games.
Ultimately I changed my mind, in fact, because I wanted you. I didn’t know if I would ever have another chance. I didn’t know if I could live with myself after everything I had already been through. I didn’t change my political beliefs around abortion; I still think women have a right to choose one way or the other and I am probably more pro-choice than you’ve ever been. But for me, terminating wouldn’t have been the right choice.
That said, the truth also is that I was right about having to deal with his clownery for the next 18 years. The truth is that he didn’t settle down with you and me until he was left with no other options, because his wife filed for divorce because he broke his promise to her to never have sex with me again (sorry) and because two girlfriends after her, including the one he screwed around on me with, dumped him and then his very last one elected to go back to her home state. He was backed into a corner then. That’s why you had him in your life so much through your childhood. There wasn’t anyone else to run away to. The truth is I had to deal with his horrific personal habits, his parents being politely distant and never welcoming me into the family, your great-great aunts snubbing me because I hadn’t married him (am I vengeful if I never explained to them just why that was?), the constant money problems despite your father’s income, his cat-hoarding, and all the rest of it because I thought you should have both your parents and I didn’t want to have fights over visitation and custody.
But I can’t say I would have been happier, because losing you would have been worse. I can’t even say I would have been rid of him. I probably would have stayed pathetic and dependent upon him and then remained in a state of perpetual paranoia that one day he would tell my Catholic family that I’d ended one of their grandkids. None of this was anything I specifically considered at the time, but I can look back now and see it was totally possible.
But I’ll tell you something: it is also possible for a person to make the best decision and the worst decision all at the same time.
And I’ll tell you why:
First off, one important detail he did not share with you in that behind-my-back Facebook conversation was that he had fronted me the money for the abortion.
Secondly, he chose to tell you about this during a time when you were already extremely emotionally vulnerable, already felt like the whole world was against you, and weren’t sure I was safe for you anymore.
I am sorry to say that I cannot answer that question with any confidence at all.
I am also so, so sorry that I picked him for your father.
I’m not going to tell you how to feel. I’m going to guess you are probably mostly angry at me. Men are applauded for lying through their teeth, women demonized for telling the truth. It has been ever thus. I really can’t blame you for wanting to opt out of femaleness with all that working against you. All I will say is pay attention from this point on in your life. Pay attention to how people treat you when you say it like it is. Notice how they treat actually male people who lie about things. Compare and contrast. You won’t like what you see.
This is one of many reasons I’m angry at him. It is also why I was desperate to have my side of the story heard. It is why — one reason out of many — I will never trust him again. It is why I fear my relationship with you is destroyed forever.
It’s like he performed the abortion 17 years late and I didn’t even get a chance to consent.
I’m not sure where we go from here. I don’t even know at this point if I will ever hear from you again. I do know that it would be really weird for me to sign this letter “Love, Mom,” but I do love you, and I hope for us still. One day. Maybe.