Anonymous Stories in Motherhood: Mental Health and a Woman’s Choice

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Whether you are pro-choice, pro-life, or somewhere in between, almost everyone has an opinion on the controversial topic of abortion.  Abortion is a choice. But I’m not here to debate whether or not abortion is right or wrong; I’m just here to tell one woman’s story. A story that, by choice, ended in abortion.   

Someone very close to me (who will remain anonymous) recently had what the medical field labels as an “elective termination of pregnancy,” otherwise known as abortion. This was not a decision that she took lightly and not a case of using abortion as a method of birth control. Her decision was deeply considered, researched, discussed, and eventually made with the best interest of everyone involved. You see, this dear friend of mine was diagnosed with bipolar depression several years ago. For those of you not familiar with bipolar depression, it can be extremely debilitating, it comes in waves, and it can take years to find the exact combination of medication to make it manageable for the patient. I watched this woman go through some excruciating times just so she was able to function as a normal human. I saw her juggle a career, motherhood, and life while dealing with her own internal struggles. I listened as she went to countless therapists and doctors to try and create the perfect “cocktail” that would help her to manage her symptoms and allow her to live her best life. At one point, she even self-committed herself to a psychological hospital when things got so bad she could no longer manage on her own. She spent a little over a week there, and while it was an extremely frightening experience at first, she was given the tools to help her function. She even said that her experience there was “exactly what she needed at the time.” Unfortunately, her employer was not so forgiving, and because of her repeated absences, she ultimately ended up losing her job as a result of her mental illness.  

After many years of dealing with these highs and lows, she had finally found a good balance. She was on the right medications; her confidence was back and found herself in a serious relationship. As her relationship progressed, she found out that her significant other was told he was sterile and had an extremely low sperm count. For her, this was actually a blessing because while she loved her 10-year-old daughter, she did not want any more children.  However, several years into their relationship, they discovered that his doctors may not have been accurate, and she found out she was pregnant. Due to the medications she was on, she could only take a very low dose of birth control.  But since they were told her significant other was sterile, she never gave it a second thought until she looked down at that pregnancy test and saw two blue lines.  

I remember when she called to tell me. I immediately knew something was up, and then, several minutes into the conversation, she told me. I wasn’t sure how to respond, mostly because I didn’t know what she thought of it yet. Her tone sounded hopeful and excited but also very calm. We started talking about various things, and I could already tell that while she had a rather upbeat tone, there was caution in her voice. Almost right away, she made the comment “I am not sure exactly what I am going to do.”  

Fast forward a few weeks: after multiple conversations about all of her options, she decided that ultimately it was going to be up to her doctor. The biggest hurdle with her being pregnant would be going off of her medications entirely and then possibly having to switch over to ones that would be safe for the baby in utero. Both she and I knew the lengths and time it took to find just the right combination of meds to get her to a good place, and now, all of that was in jeopardy. Some may think it was irresponsible, but when you are told that you cannot produce sperm, one would assume that pregnancy is impossible.  

Finally, she was able to meet with a high-risk OB and a perinatal psychiatrist, and she was told that going off all her meds would be required because the risks to the fetus were too high to risk staying on them. Her heart sank at that point, but it was the information she needed to make her decision final: she would have an elective termination. Again, many might suggest that she is entirely selfish to put her own needs before an unborn child. However, in my opinion, I think it might have been the most selfless thing she could do because she was considering her own mental health. What kind of mom could she be to a newborn if she was not well herself? What would going off her medications do to her own mental health? There were so many questions she asked herself, but ultimately, she knew that was the right decision for her. It was extremely difficult, and she spent days leading up to it contemplating her decision but knew it was what was best for everyone involved. The days following were the toughest, filled with tears, but when I spoke to her, the one thing she didn’t have was regret. She knew in her heart that for her to be the best version of herself, to be the best mother to her daughter, she needed those medications to survive. If she had chosen to continue the pregnancy, there’s no telling what her mental health would have looked like along the way.  

I said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not here to debate or preach about beliefs. I am simply here to tell one woman’s story about why having a right to choose what happens to our bodies should always be an option. 

 

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