Revealing something likely uncomfortable-making to friends
September 16, 2010 12:49 PM   Subscribe

I want to tell people about the fact that I've had two abortions, but feel kind of weird doing so long after the fact.

I've been pregnant, unwantedly, twice, and had two abortions, both within about a year and a half of each other (the second time I was on Nuvoring and using a condom!). The most recent was three years ago.

They were terribly difficult decisions, and I really struggled with the aftermath of them, the second one especially. I started seeing a therapist about six months (to deal with my feelings regarding my abortion, and other related issues, mostly my crippling sense of regret about every decision I've ever made).

Anyway, one of the things I came to realize in therapy is a lot of my sadness and regret stems from not being able to talk about it with my friends and family. I mean, it is a big part of my life experience, and informs a lot of the way I think, and some decisions I have made and so on. And, of course, it's colored my view of how I see abortion as a "political" issue. There have been a number of times recently where it would have made total sense to mention it as part of a larger point, but I stopped myself. It just seemed like such a big revelation.

In addition, I'm almost entirely confident some of my friends have figured out that I've had abortions (well, at least one abortion)--in fact, one recently gave me a really good "in" to mentioning it in conversation, and I kinda chickened out. I'm not afraid of their judgment, or getting lectured, but maybe just awkwardness, or pity. Plus, they were both so long ago, I feel weird bringing it up.

Plus, my husband (who has been the impregnator in both cases) and I want to have children, probably within the next two years or so, and I feel like this next pregnancy is going to be weird and hard, emotionally, and want my close friends to understand where I am coming from.

Should I even bother making these "confessions" to friends? And is there a best way to do it?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Should I even bother making these "confessions" to friends? And is there a best way to do it?

I say yes. One of my issues is that I don't share stuff. It is a big problem for me. And it helps to share it.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2010

The modern way would be to compose an article about your experiences, including everything that you would like to say about them, and post it on a blog. Then if someone is interested, you can refer them to your blog. If you are more ambitious you could write your memoirs, and the abortions would just be one chapter. Some people write memoirs and have them published at their own expense (i.e., by the vanity press) but I do not recommend that. It is both pretentious and expensive (unless you turn out to be a truly exceptional writer, which may be true but the odds are against it). Blogs, however, work quite well. And if not a blog, even a comment on some appropriate web site. Abortion comes up as an issue frequently, and you could express yourself fully on the matter as a person who has had two.

Other than that, the issue may come up in conversation, but don't force it. You do not want to wind up lecturing people about something that doesn't really interest them. If it comes up spontaneously, however, then by all means discuss it. Personally I think the subject is interesting, and if a friend or relative of mine had an abortion (or two) I would want to hear about it, at least if they wanted to tell me about it. Some people would find it painful to discuss.
posted by grizzled at 12:58 PM on September 16, 2010

I occasionally mention my abortion, if it fits in with a conversation. I had it 12 years ago and maybe about 7 years ago decided that it was silly of me (as a pro-choice woman) to avoid mentioning it - it's part of my life and I'm not ashamed nor should anyone be. I wouldn't treat it as a "confession": you didn't do anything wrong. You'll probably be surprised by how little controversy it raises.
posted by Kurichina at 1:02 PM on September 16, 2010 [6 favorites]

Abortion is a topic that people don't generally talk about, and as a result, people will have a hard time knowing how to react when you tell them. It might help you and them if you provide them with conversational clues on how you'd like them to react- be your own Greek Chorus, if you will. Telling your close friends that, I feel like this next pregnancy is going to be weird and hard, emotionally, and want (you) to understand where I am coming from, would be one way to handle this, for example.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:08 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

When you're out for coffee or lunch or shopping or whatever with a friend, and there's a lull in the conversation, say this: "I know this is kind of weird, and i feel a bit uncomfortable, but there's something i want to tell you. Its something that i've been thinking about lately, and i really want you to know, because i'd love to be able to talk about it with you. Several years ago, i had two abortions. It was really hard to make those decisions, and now that i'm hoping to get pregnant, i feel a whole bunch of emotions and thoughts welling up, and i don't want to feel like i need to censor myself with you. So... now you know." And then your friend will say something like "i'm glad you told me, and that you trust me. Let me know if you want to talk about it."
posted by Kololo at 1:08 PM on September 16, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think it's a good idea. A co-worker of mine had an abortion decades ago, and hasn't ever been shy about it. Specifically because I have that information, because of my own opinions, I don't bring up the subject, ever.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:17 PM on September 16, 2010

I think you might figure out your motivations for telling vs. not telling. If you feel like it's something you feel bad about keeping a secret, than definitely figuring out a way to let people know might be in order. If you just feel weird that you haven't told anyone, I think it's fine to have a secret now and then. I'm a super duper over-sharer, but there's a couple of things about me that I've stopped telling people about, just because I'm ok with them slipping in the past and I know that they can be a distraction to people in how they see me. I'm not ashamed of them, I just don't really feel the need to let people know them anymore.

It was a little hard reading this to see if you were really troubled by not telling, or you were just wondering if it was strange that you hadn't.

I think you might also want to talk to your husband about it. Seems like it has implications for him too. Just a thought.
posted by sully75 at 1:21 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I would just tell friends in conversations that occur about wanting to have children (or any other type of conversation where abortion in general OR your personal experience with it would be applicable). For some reason if a friend came to me and said something liek "I need to confess: I've had an abortion" i'd find it a bit strange and left-field, but if it came up in context of anything else (could include, but not limited to why friend is stressed, why friend is relived, friend's future family plans, friend giving advice to me in a similar situation, friend being sad, friend commenting on success / failure of birth control methods - anything really) i wouldn't really think anything of it (though i do know 2 people personally who have had abortions, so it's not new to me). Can you judge which of your friends would be down with choice and which wouldn't? I think for my sanity, I just wouldn't bother telling certain friends if I knew I was going to get a lecture. You sound like you have some shame associated with your abortions (for instance you try to justify yourself by ascertaining to internet strangers that you used nuvaring and condoms). I think if you can address the shame you seem to have with your choice to abort those pregnancies, then you will have an easier time telling friends about it when conversation steers that way.

And this should be implied, but there is no shame in making a choice that is right for your life and livlihood at the time.

Also, you might want to talk to your gyn about your options for future wanted pregnancies if you have any anxiety or worries about whether you will be able to carry to term. It's always better to get a scientific evaluation (tailored to you!) of things like that than to stew in worry and read horror stories on the internet.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:30 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you truly feel it is relevant, you should tell your friends and family. But I don't think you have to. I think a lot of things that are very personal inform my behavior and beliefs and that isn't necessarily anyone's business. You don't have to have experienced something to have an valid opinion or feeling about it. For instance, you don't need to know that my friend died of drunk driving to get that I think driving drunk is irresponsible. So I guess I would say that you should tell people that you really want to. But I don't think it's something that I'd advertise maybe because I think many people would be uncomfortable knowing. Not due to the controversy but because knowing something painful about someone you don't know well is just a little uncomfortable because you don't know how to respond.

So the short version is that I would tell the people I felt needed to know to understand me. But I would not share it with...the office, my department, my neighbors. I do think it's personal, like a lot of things. But you should do what feels right to you and not worry about seeming weird. Anyone who doesn't understand why you felt the need to keep it to yourself for a while is insensitive-I'm sure it will be awkward but it can't be worse than the regret you are feeling over keeping it bottled in, right?
posted by supercapitalist at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2010

I'm not afraid of their judgment, or getting lectured, but maybe just awkwardness, or pity.

I think you should pull on this thread a little. You are afraid of something, but you aren't sure. So think about what it is exactly. Let's say you're afraid it will become really awkward. Imagine that happening. Then think about whether it's as bad (in your imagination) as you'd feared. If not, great! Move on to the next fear. If so, think about whether it's a likely reaction and whether it's worth the risk.
posted by callmejay at 2:30 PM on September 16, 2010

For what it's worth, I think it's totally reasonable that you've chosen to keep this information to yourself so far. Terminating a pregnancy is such a private decision, and abortion is such a loaded political topic, that it's completely understandable that you'd want to keep the information private as well.

My guess is that your friends will understand that, too, if and when you decide to talk about it.
posted by Sublimity at 2:40 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not afraid of their judgment, or getting lectured, but maybe just awkwardness, or pity.

I think you should pull on this thread a little.

posted by callmejay

This. It sounds to me that something is still there, and maybe some further therapy would be helpful.

Have you considered writing about your experience and feelings, perhaps in a journal? If there are things that are troubling you, or otherwise impacting on you, this can be a very helpful process. Not only might it help in you dealing with them, it might help you decide whether, with whom and how, you share.
posted by GeeEmm at 3:06 PM on September 16, 2010

they were both so long ago, I feel weird bringing it up.

Well, you can mention the fact without saying when it happened.

If you start feeling uncomfortable or they ask for details that you feel weird talking about (including when it happened), you can just say you'd rather not go into detail. I can't imagine they'd take umbrage at your wanting to keep the conversation brief.

Frankly, they're probably not going to have an urge to keep talking and talking about it either. It's ... a pretty uncomfortable topic. But still, go ahead and talk about it if you want to. Just wait till there's some context so it's not a completely out-of-the-blue "I have to tell you about something!"

I also like the idea of doing a soul-baring blog post and referring people to that. If that's your style.
posted by John Cohen at 4:15 PM on September 16, 2010

Maybe it will be apparent to your friends and family, but I'd want a little guidance from you of what you are hoping to get out of the conversation when you bring it up. Is it just important that I know for the future? Do you want an understanding ear? Are there current issues that you see as related and you thinkit impacts them?

I'd be much more uncomfortable with not knowing whether you were looking for support, sympathy, understanding or just revelation (or perhaps something I can't even think of), than with the actual fact that you've had abortions. Just saying "I'm telling you this because I hate keeping secrets, and now that I'm thinking of trying to become pregnant I expect I'll have a lot of emotion about it", would give someone a place to take hold and give you a reaction that is productive for both of you.
posted by meinvt at 5:47 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

What I get from your question is not that you have unfinished business with those decisions, but that you're not sure how to bring it up or how to introduce the topic after this length of time. And I think Kololo has it. It makes perfect sense to me that you would want people close to you to know this info if you are looking at having a child now. Follow Kololo's script and I'm sure your friends and family will be able to support in the coming days.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:37 PM on September 16, 2010

I think it's inevitably awkward when you share a painful thing from your past with friends--something you didn't share with them when it was happening. Your feelings, however strong, are the result of years of processing. Your friends will have to catch up. It's an uncomfortable imbalance.

When I've been on the receiving end of this type of information, I've tried my best to be compassionate, but it's always been a little awkward. Recently, a new friend shared a painful experience that happened about a year ago, and then added, "And now we're going to have an awkward pause and you're going to be sad and not know what to say." And that's exactly what happened, but it was ok, and I was glad she shared her story with me.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:41 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

In my own experience, and that of those close to me, the best practice is to talk about it in the same way, and with the same care, that you'd talk about any other significant medical procedure. Not something to mention casually, but certainly nothing to be abashed about — people don't open a conversation mentioning they've had open-heart surgery, but they're not ashamed of it or awkward if it comes up.

Obviously, it's a more complex topic to bring up, but it may be easier for you to talk about it in a healthy way if you see it for what it is, a medical procedure you (and your husband) went through and have worked to understand as part of your life.
posted by anildash at 9:35 PM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

Should I even bother making these "confessions" to friends? And is there a best way to do it?

Looks like I may be the single dissenting voice of "Don't tell."

Setting aside your reasons for wanting to tell people and speaking as your pretend friend who is told this...this is something that I personally don't want to know. I also don't want to know if your SO had a vasectomy.

I guess it's me, but as much as I love my friends, I don't want to know their long-ago reproductive history.

If it was recent and you wanted support through the procedure, I'd be there for my friend, but otherwise, to me it feels like an overshare and none of my business.
posted by dzaz at 2:49 AM on September 17, 2010

if you're still working thorugh issues around the abortions, continure with a therapist. but if you want to include that information b/c it colors the way you think, act & feel then just mention it in the course of ur you would any other decision. for example "well, i really think that after living through that kind of ordeal, I changed my mind and i'm pro/anti-woman's right to choose." they might gasp & want to come to your aid, you can then decide how much support you want to take from them. other than that, i do think it's an overshare as dzaz stated.
posted by PeaPod at 9:16 AM on September 17, 2010

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