Unplanned Pregnancy Ambivalence
June 4, 2013 6:44 PM   Subscribe

I am 12 weeks pregnant and have an abortion scheduled in a few days. I am feeling more and more ambivalent. Hope me.

Let me first say that I'm not morally opposed to abortion. I'm not religious. There are no problems of that sort. Abortions are legal in my country for several more weeks (although that's not ideal of course), so I can postpone to think about this if necessary. I have good health insurance, am in good health, etc. I'm just afraid of regrets.

My boyfriend and I have been together for three years. We have had some issues in our relationship, but plan to get married to each other and the relationship is stable and good in general. We currently live together. I love him very much and he loves me and treats me very well. Neither of us has been married before and we don't have any other children. He is very early 30s and I am very LATE 30s.

It's this last factor that really bothers me. My family tends to have children late, but still -- this would probably be my last chance for a child. I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love.

I've always been ambivalent about children. My family is dysfunctional and not supportive and I don't want a child to grow up the way that I did. I enjoy having extra money and travel and freedom. I've never had a burning desire to have children. I used to read about infant feeding and kids jumping on you in early in the morning and I kind of cringe. At the same time, these pregnancy hormones are making me feel all mushy about the idea of kids together and having just one, this one.

He has said that he supports my decision, either way. He would prefer to have an abortion and then try later for a child, but he understands there are risks to that choice. His family is wonderful and supportive and loving, and he has been undecided about kids but would probably like to have them some day. He is open to the idea of freezing eggs or embryos after this, or using a surrogate or adopting or whatever.

Another issue is that we both have some mental health issues that run in the family that are likely hereditary. These make it much more likely we would have a special needs child. There's no way to quantify this risk.

The timing is not ideal to have a child, but it's not horrible. I have just taken a leave of absence from an academic program to take a fellowship that will end around the time I would give birth. He runs a project that has funding for at least two more years, at a decent salary for him. His parents (whom I adore) have a property near them that we could live in, rent-free. My family is out of the picture, for Reasons. We were planning to move near his parents anyway (not too far from where we currently live). I could take some time off of my academic program and come back when the child is 6 months or so old. We both have significant savings, so we would not be financially strapped.

We haven't told anyone we know about this (as we were planning to terminate the pregnancy).

posted by metametacap to Human Relations (49 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
What would the child-care situation be? At 6 months, kids are a little more stable, assuming they're healthy and "normal" (whatever that means). You and your SO could be getting more regular nightly sleep, but the cost of daycare is killer (at least in the US). If your SO's parents are willing to provide child care, or you have some other free/low cost option, this is a HUGE concern answered.

It sounds like you could survive having a kid now, financially and emotionally, but you didn't say how old either of you are. Having a kid when you're both younger is great, because you both have energy to chase around the little one, then help the slightly bigger one ride a bike and play sports with them. At some age, it's hard to keep up with a young'n, even though you have more life experience and general wisdom for the weird shit that happens to you as a new parent.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you spoken to an actual genetic counselor, not just consulted with Dr. Google?

I get being late 30's, ambivalent about children, and really really not wanting to pass on difficulties to your offspring.

Talk to a genetic counselor together to assess the true risks to any biological children.

That would be number one for me, were I you right now.
posted by jbenben at 8:27 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

Hmm...just my opinion, but if you feel like you would regret the abortion if you were unable to get pregnant later, then I would say you should keep the baby. Or at least do the prenatal testing to see if it's high risk for chromosomal abnormalities before going forward with the abortion.

I'm pretty ambivalent about children in the abstract, but I must say it is different when you have your own. I couldn't possibly imagine a life without my daughter, now that I have her. I don't miss the extra money or luxuries in life most days. It's definitely hard, each day, but incredibly satisfying.

It sounds like your gut is telling you to reconsider. Why not do some prenatal testing and take it from there? You still have a few weeks to have an abortion, if you decide that is the right choice for you.
posted by barnoley at 8:32 PM on June 4, 2013 [15 favorites]

Oh, and to answer your actual questions... I think the financial issue will seem minor several years down the line. Who cares if you have more money? There's always time for travel or purchases later in your life. If you want to have a baby eventually, well...there's never a perfect time.
posted by barnoley at 8:35 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Your concerns about potential hereditary illness suggests that a genetic counselor would be a good idea, if the illness is something that can be detected by prenatal testing.

Otherwise, it's hard to say. If you want a child, my advice would be to continue with the pregnancy, given your age. If you want more background on why I advise that, memail me.
posted by brianogilvie at 8:36 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I turned up unexpectedly pregnant at age 21. I was married to a man I wanted kids with. I had originally planned on finishing my degree, launching a career, and having kids in my late twenties. I kept the baby. I still adore him. (He turns 26 in a few days.)

For me, having a baby did good things for my health that I could not have predicted. He and I have the same genetic disorder, which was not diagnosed until around his 14th birthday. While pregnant with him, I threw up a lot. I ended up making a number of permanent dietary changes which helped with my medical condition even though I was not diagnosed until much later.

He also helped me get over a lot of my emotional and psychological issues. I had been sexually abused as a child and I routinely said really ugly things about "all men." I had a boy and I did not want him to grow up listening to such poisonous attitudes.

My genetic disorder is known to cause fertility problems. I ended up really sick later. I am glad I had kids while young and fairly healthy. I could not possibly have predicted the twists and turns which would have made that more difficult later.

If you think you might want a child within a few years and this might be "now or never," I would be inclined to assume "fate" had a better guess for good timing than I possibly could come up with. But I am pretty philosophical about things like that. I think humans tend to overestimate their ability to brilliantly mastermind what is best for them or best timing. There are always a lot of things beyond our control and beyond our ability to guess.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 8:37 PM on June 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


Are children truly important to you? If so then consider my regret at the long end of 50-something as I waited too long to raise a child.
posted by Podkayne of Pasadena at 8:48 PM on June 4, 2013 [11 favorites]

If you're feeling more and more ambivalent, and having kids is something you think you'd want someday, and this is a guy you'd be willing to have kids with, then...five, ten, twenty years from now, you probably won't regret it if you have a kid now rather than later.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's the most important thing I can point out, aside from whatever the hormones and your historical feelings are telling you:

Could you still be happy with the decision to bring this person into the world if he and his family were out of the picture?

I don't say this lightly nor to be cruel. I'm just saying that you should picture the whole possibility of not having something you seem to be relying upon for the livability of this decision. What if his parent's place was not an option? What if he ended up fighting giving support? Happier relationships have ended over unplanned pregnancies, so this is something to consider very deeply. I'm not doomsaying. I'm just making sure this very real potential (although your specific odds may be quite remote) is in mind as you make your choice.

Now let's go back to hormones:
The bond-creating hormones are very powerful. But human relationship inclinations are more so. If you are inclined to treat people well and offer compassion, if you are able to tolerate sacrificing yourself and a large measure of short and possibly long-term gratification, if you can make it through combined physical/mental/emotional challenges on little sleep without hurting yourself or anyone else...then you're a good candidate for taking this unexpected pregnancy to a happy place. It's not guaranteed, but it's much more likely.

If you resent the hold that other people have over your schedule, get frustrated when others throw your plans off, are upset by having to change your circumstances on the whim of others, or can't bear unreasonableness, then the growing person is likely to be very difficult for you to adjust to being responsible for...or maybe not, because after those hormones wear off, even confirmed loner OCD introverts with extreme control issues can turn out to be great parents. It's a hard row to hoe, though. The hormones are likely to get you through almost the full first year, but that's not even a guarantee - PPD is a very real possibility.

Jumping to the mental health stuff:
Are there meds involved? Are the meds safe enough to take during pregnancy? During nursing? Would you be able to give up meds to breastfeed (some can't, obviously, but it means giving up on the nursing plan that many moms have)? Are you able to tell reality from fantasy and stay awake through important safety challenges like driving and baths? Do they involve uncontrollable rages? None of this is dealbreaker material, except for those meds that are unsafe for fetal development and can't be gone off. But most of it does require getting an outside expert involved with whom you can be deeply, unflinchingly honest and will trust to take the right steps if something goes awry.

But you meant the inheritable mental issues, probably. In that case, there are tests...that are primarily available after termination is no longer as comfortable an option, but is still a possibility, depending upon severity. You can also get gene testing with your partner within the termination boundaries to have the real risk calculated specifically. After that, know that it's actually a gamble even for people who are allegedly peachy-perfect in the mental health department, because there's absolutely no guarantee of mental health for anyone. Like you said: no way to quantify it. So - can you handle it, do you think? Could you be alert to the possibility of the potential person having mental health issues and just do what needs to be done if it's discovered, even if it's an immense burden? Could you afford it?

Historical feelings, now:
These basically go out the window for most women when they've suddenly found themselves with an armful of babe, partially because of those hormones and then eventually because of our relationship-building inclinations. But not all women. Would you be devastated to find that you cannot love this person or be safe with them? Would you be able to entertain finding a different home for them if this were the case? Would your beau? Again, even some of the most hardcore anti-kid soldiers I've known have ended up becoming wonderful and happy moms (with specific, compassionate boundaries). And I know of at least two who never bonded and had to cope with the resulting situation (in different ways, I might add, one of which was ultimately fruitful for all and the other which was traumatic for most). And I know of another couple who were eager to become moms and found that they absolutely could not do it. Just couldn't. There are no guarantees in motherhood.

Your age:
No one is guaranteed fertility. Yes, this might be your last chance. You've family tendencies on your side for the possibility of another down the road, but that might not be an option. Or it might be twins. No way of knowing. I was told I'd be forever infertile for two decades, then BAM! - baby! Docs know some things but not everything. If you want one and only one, could you stop everything and have this person and be happy? If you want more and let this one go but only conceived once more in the future, would you be able to withstand the potential melancholy? What if you let this one go and didn't conceive again? I know this is almost cruel, but really check in with yourself. Examine the visceral responses you have. Make quick notes of them if you can, to refer to after you've calmed down again.

Some parents find their beginning thoughts on how they'll continue their careers/studies after baby have shifted dramatically after the new person is actually out in the world, even after a few months of getting used to each other and having the hormones abate. Some decide not to go back (more common in countries without good parental support for working parents), some shift to a more flexible calling, and some find ways to never be home and always have baby in someone else's arms. Which of those options could you deal with? If you had to make a second plan, which would you want most? Which would you choose? Could you handle spending only 30min a night interacting freely with your five year old because of the demands of work and home before their bedtime? Would you be perforated with guilt over having to cut short weekends to keep deadlines? Think this part through very carefully, especially when pondering the beau-less tangent.

Finally, finally, finally: Is there any excitement in you for this possible person? Do you want to meet them? Do you feel like you could overcome any hurdle at all just to get them into this world? Can you accept that none of that may matter and you might not ever get to meet them or only have a short time with them...but still love the idea? If this is true, above and beyond everything else, I would say that this mindset is the one most likely to make it work no matter what happens, and is almost ideally suited for a positive outcome. Not without challenges and struggle, mind you, but ultimate positivity in a world without guarantees. It also doesn't mean that a "no" means it won't work, either. Just that it will be different.

No matter what you decide to do, consider that you are doing this Spark an honour by fully regarding whether or not you can give them the life you believe they deserve. That is a beautiful and loving thing, in and of itself.

I wish you clarity and a peaceful heart. Feel free to MeMail me if you have questions or just want someone to listen.
posted by batmonkey at 9:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [33 favorites]

I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love. In your late 30s, fertility starts to get dicey. It makes more sense to have a child when you are pregnant than to do in vitro, egg donor, surrogate, etc.

mental health issues that run in the family that are likely hereditary This will be the case whether you have a child now or in 5 years. You can have amniocentesis for known genetic illnesses.

I've known women who were sad that they had an abortion when later they couldn't conceive. I've known women who were very happy they had an abortion. There are plenty of children in the world. You haven't prioritized getting pregnant so far. Do you really want a child? I think if you really want a child, this is an excellent opportunity to have a child. But only if it's what you and your partner really want.
posted by theora55 at 9:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Wait until you're sure. You can't undo an abortion. You have plenty of time to decide about raising this child (remember adoption is another option).

I don't understand what motivated you to schedule the abortion. You want children. You love the man you're with and want to have his child one day. What makes now the wrong time? What is it that you imagined would change between now and the right time, are those things important enough to risk never having a child at all?

Remember that being unprepared, nervous and scared are normal even for planned pregnancies. Your genes are your genes. Those factors won't go away before the "right" time to parent. You are waiting for something, what is it? Give it some thought.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [7 favorites]

i think one thing to consider is that real life does not really happen on a set schedule. some people have things happen when they would prefer them to but others don't. you may be able to get pregnant in a few years but you may not. since you say that you'd really regret it if in a few years you couldn't have a child with your love personally i'd go ahead and have the kid now. your life sounds pretty stable and i doubt a few years is going to change that much. your fertility, on the other hand, is kind a crap shoot. i've had friends go through multiple miscarriages (one friend had 4), IVF (it failed for another friend after several rounds) and surrogacy (success but born with a heart defect & had major heart surgery as a newborn) and none of those things are picnics even if they are ultimately successful. all those procedures put a ton of stress on my friends, their husbands and their relationships. they are also super expensive.
posted by wildflower at 9:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Considering the great difficulty (plus financial/emotional cost) you might well have trying to conceive again at a later date: if you are at all open to having children, this might be your lucky fetus.

Having a crappy family of origin does not mean your child will as well. If anything, recognizing and escaping from prior family dysfunction gives you tools to break the cycle in your own family.
posted by Wavelet at 9:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've said this in another thread: for my husband, having a crappy family of origin motivates him to want to be a better father.
posted by Madamina at 10:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

I am fully in support of abortion, but given the way you word your question, I am at an almost complete loss to understand why you are considering it.

This line: this would probably be my last chance for a child. I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love , I think, makes your feelings really clear.

This line: he has been undecided about kids but would probably like to have them some day suggests that your boyfriend feels the same way as you.

All of the reasons you give for not having a child are things that won't change by waiting. And for someone in their late 30s, waiting probably isn't actually an option. Fertility assistance, and even adoption are not as straightforward as people make it sound. You might not be approved as adoptive parents. You might wait on a waiting list for ages until you are over the preferred ages. Fertility assistance might just not work. I know people for whom both of these are the case.

If you want kids, and it sounds like you do, I think this is your opportunity.

Finally, your specific wording in a couple of places makes it sound like you have already decided deep down. You say you have no "other children". You are thinking of this as your child, not as a fetus. You say "I've been ambivalent" and "He has been undecided", as though these have changed already. I think you might already know what you want.
posted by lollusc at 10:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [37 favorites]

We both have some mental health issues that run in the family that are likely hereditary. These make it much more likely we would have a special needs child.

I had a kid at 38. He has several issues (ADHD, SPD, possibly on the autism spectrum) that are present in other family members of mine, but more severe. Is it because I had 38-year-old eggs, or was mildly hypertensive during pregnancy? We'll never know. I would still do it again, because he is a sweet, smart, and darling kid, but dang it is just a lot more stuff to deal with* than if you have a neurotypical child.

*insurance claims, appointments with various medical and alternative professionals, dealing with the school systems, social bullshit from other kids and their parents etc etc etc.
posted by 41swans at 10:15 PM on June 4, 2013

None of the obstacles you've mentioned are things that will get better if you wait.

Nobody's timing is ever "ideal" to have a child. Parenting always demands re-allocation of resources, and a certain amount of risk. People have babies anyway if they want them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:25 PM on June 4, 2013 [5 favorites]

Here's a very easy way for you to make your decision: it's almost certain that you won't regret having a child, (the joy, the love, the fun, the magic will all be amazing) but there's a good possibility you will regret not having the child. The easy conclusion is have the child.
posted by Dansaman at 10:48 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here's a very easy way for you to make your decision: it's almost certain that you won't regret having a child

Whilst it's true that people are wonderfully good at post-hoc rationalisation and making the best of their non-reversible choices, no one can know what you've said above, and it's very reductive and myopic to pretend that everyone is happy that they chose to have a child.

OP, not everyone is happy when they have a kid (but many people, including me, are).

For us, things that seemed important before but not so important included: cost and money generally (note: we are not poor, it can totally be a concern for some).

Things that we thought would be important but turned out way, way more important than we anticipated: A very strong and generous support network that included family and friends. That was vital for us, so vital that if I didn't have that, for us, personally, I wouldn't support having another child.

That all said, every infant is different, every person is different, every family is different. I will say: It changes your life. My daughter is only 20 months old but it has changed it - in mostly little ways but some big ways - irrevocably. Every person will respond differently to those changes, but make no mistake: having a kid is not like having your current relationship, your current life, plus a baby (my sister thought that and she is having a very hard time reconciling the new needs [not just the baby's; her own]). It's a completely new and different life.
posted by smoke at 11:02 PM on June 4, 2013 [8 favorites]

I do not have any advice for you except this:

1. From one woman in her late thirties to another: do not make this decision with the idea that you can try for a genetic child again later. Assume that this it because anything else is too speculative. Are you okay with that? Either answer is okay. I think this one you can't logic out. You have to go with your gut.
posted by bananafish at 11:13 PM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

Like lollusc, this line also stood out for me: this would probably be my last chance for a child. I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love.

I'm currently 41, and my partner and I are pregnant with my first child. For years, I was ambivalent about having kids, and was under the impression that if having a child was right for me, I would feel gung ho about it. That I would feel like it was the best idea ever. It wasn't that way. Depending on the day I would look at other people's kids and feel a tinge of possible remorse, or feel a powerful urge to be a mom, but wonder if it was the fact that I was over 40, and then worry if I could even still conceive, and then feel happy about all of the things in my life that being child free offered me. Since my feelings were all over the place, I thought eventually my feelings would land somewhere. And then one day, I was pregnant, and all of those feelings still existed. Actually having a baby in my body didn't stop those feelings at all.

But what did happen was two basic questions arose that I hadn't really considered before. Which was: am I interested in doing my best to help another person become the person that they would like to be and live the life they would like to live? And am I in a position to do so? And in my life, the first question has always been yes. It was just that in this case, it would be a new person, rather than my friends or family or colleagues. But didn't have to be a baby, it didn't even have to be this baby, as we were thinking of adopting. But this kid's in me, so here we are. And now, the second question was yes as well - I am in a place and a head space where I am willing and able to see this through. Things aren't anywhere near perfect, and I have concerns - but they are okay.

This is particularly meaningful as I endure a ridiculous number of side effects - I mean the nausea and tiredness is bad enough, but pregnancy induced asthma? Come on world! I mean really?! So far, pregnancy has given me insights into myself and to my world in the way that any positive or negative opportunity does; It's sort of like that phrase in Anne of Green Gables: It doesn't matter where you go in the world [or what happens to you, I would add]; what matters is what you bring to it.

I think it's every person's choice to have a child or not, and then raise that child or not. I don't know if I'm going to regret my particular decision, which is to keep the kid, do my best and see what happens. But I know if I do ever feel that way - like today, while my dentist was explaining what pregnancy related gingivitis is - I mean Come On! Really?! - I know can bear and accept those feelings. Like all my other feelings, it will come and go. But the fact is that I had the privilege of making the decision to be a mom, since I got pregnant, and I can bear the joys and consequences of that decision as well as the thousands and millions of other moms that have existed since the beginning of time. I would like to think this would also be true even if decided not to have a child. And that's not about the baby per say, as it is about me: my recognition that sometimes life gives you choices, and you have to find peace within yourself to bear all the pleasure and sadness that that each choice offers.

So for now, I'm at: with child, going for it, going to do my best and see what happens. With everything that happens, with all my concerns about my family, my abilities, the impact of a child on my life, and my impact on this child that still rise up (just like when I wasn't pregnant), this is how I calm my mind. Whatever it is, I say: Yep. That could be true. But in this moment, I'm with child, going for it, going to do my best and see what happens.

That's because I no longer think the answer to ambivalence is passion or certainty. It's acceptance and resolve that one can live with either decision, and then choosing whichever decision you think might make life more interesting or meaningful to you. Would I have come to this insight without being pregnant, maybe. Did it occur to me that being pregnant would influence my thinking in this way? Nope. But here we are. I am with child, going for it, going to do my best and seeing what happens.

Fear about what your ambivalence about having a child means, fear of screwing up your kid genetically, and fear of missing out on having a child just tells you that you are someone who is deeply touched by fear. Maybe you could just accept that that's the way you feel, and make a decision anyway, knowing you are resilient enough to face and accept that what you fear, no matter what you choose may come to pass and you can handle it. You may not get another shot at a child you conceive. You may bring this child into the world and it may have mental health issues. Either decision will cause you regret at some point, but neither decision prevents you from living a full and fulfilling life, because you are probably strong enough to accept it.

On the other hand, feel free to check in with me in a year - I may totally have changed my thinking on this. Like if the pregnancy induced restless leg syndrome I'm experiencing doesn't cease immediately after giving birth. I mean, COME ON. REALLY. This is just getting ridiculous. :)
posted by anitanita at 11:45 PM on June 4, 2013 [32 favorites]

I know too many women in their early 40s going through round after unsuccessful round of IVF. It's hard physically and it's devastating emotionally.

If you want to have a child at a later time, now is also a good time. It's not going to get any easier going forward, not to get pregnant, not to minimize the chances of genetic abnormalities, not to get time off work, not to get help from family members and friends.

Your partner has a lot longer potential fertility window, he is understandably not averse to just trying again later. You don't. If you want a child, this embryo is the one you have the highest chance of raising while best safeguarding your health and the child's.

Be kind to yourself through this process. I hope there's a good counselor at the clinic to be at your side no matter what you decide. Good luck!
posted by lydhre at 3:45 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I had an unplanned pregnancy at 23 and kept it, and another at 30 and chose an abortion. They were both really hard decisions. I always thought I'd be okay with an abortion, but the first time I was pregnant, it was such a novel experience, the hormones and the possibilities and the future of this potential human being, that I chose (and remember, I was very young) to go through with the pregnancy. At 30, the abortion I chose to have was in a great part decided on by the impact of the children I already have. It was difficult, but in the long run, not as difficult as I expected, and my beliefs about abortion really helped.

For you making the decision - gosh!
Here's something I heard once from a friend, which may or may not be useful to you - I didn't apply it to my life, but if I had, I would have had a very different life. "Don't have children until you can't bear not to".

This doesn't (of course) take into consideration fertility issues.

There is NO easy way to make this decision. You can find out how other people felt and dealt with the circumstances and make a reasonable guess as to how you would, but you have already said:
it might be a special needs baby
You might not ever have a chance to have another
You're ambivalent about having children
Your partner doesn't want kids now (though he would be there for you and the child if you chose that) but would prefer to have them later.

The thing is, life rarely works out as you plan it. What say you have a perfect genius child (also special needs) and (forgive me), your partner dies in an accident the day after the child is born.

What if you have a miscarriage and can not have any more children?

If you were close to me, my daughter or a dear pal, and wanted my honest opinion, I would tell you that research shows that while parents love and value their children and the experience of raising them, on the whole, most parents find the difficulties, the arguments, the stress, the caring to cost more than they had expected. I would say while I adore my adult children and love what they bring to my life, knowing what I know now, I probably would choose a different path in the future. Certainly, if I am still fertile (I'm 45) and I meet a man who wants to have a children, even if he is the most gorgeous, loving, sexy, wonderful man on the planet, I will say goodbye to him without a second thought, because raising a child is the most tiring, time-consuming, career-depriving, choice I could make.

I'm sure you can tell part of my answer is because my experience as being a mother with an inadequate partner (and you don't know how inadequate someone is, until you've had 3 hours sleep a night for a week, and they claim not to know how to change a nappy, or to hear the baby wake, or how to warm a bottle, and you managed to work it all out and why the fuck can't they take care of their kid), I would never want to go through that experience again. I love my kids but 20 years raising kids feels a hell of a lot longer than 20 years not. And I know I can't really compare, because I was different ages.

I guess, my point really is, if you're not sure you want them, don't have them just to not miss out on the chance to have them. If I try bungie jumping when I'm not sure I will like it, it's only a 10 minute period of my life I've committed to it. Raising kids has wonderful, fun moments, glorious epiphanies, touching experiences - but mostly, unless you're a born parent, in my opinion, it's years and years of hard slog that nobody appreciates.

Whatever you choose, though, in the end, you will choose to like it, because you chose it. So it's okay. If, even on a whim, you say, damn it, I can't go through with the termination, you will be happy you did that, because the person you meet (special needs or other wise) you will love with all your heart and be willing to die for them. And if you do choose to not have children, you may be wistful once in a while, you might decide on a gender and name (I recommend you deliberately forget the date of the termination - do not record it anywhere), but you will go on to enjoy your travel and your work and your partner.

I wish you the very best. If anything I have said has touched you, and you wish to discuss it further, feel free to contact me by mefimail.
posted by b33j at 4:59 AM on June 5, 2013 [17 favorites]

Many clinics that do abortions also provide counseling, take advantage of it. Nthing genetic counseling into the bargain.

There's never a perfect time to have a baby, but if you want children (even kinda sorta) and you plan on making a life with the father of the baby, then there's no reason NOT to do it now.

Sure, it's inconvenient and it will change your life, but, if you envision being a parent 'someday' then you might as well do it now.

Do not let the sun set today without having a serious discussion with a counselor about this.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:17 AM on June 5, 2013

Hi. I've worked at Planned Parenthood and had more than one abortion, including one with my now-husband, so I want you to know that my advice does not come from an anti-abortion position or anything remotely like that. But it is coloured by my own experience, so you should take it with a grain of salt.

My concern is that you don't give any solid reasons why you've scheduled this abortion. It sounds like you guys are planning to have at least one kid, even with hereditary issues, and your boyfriend is in fact signed up to actively try to conceive, just... later.

But there is no guarantee of later. For unrelated reasons, my husband and I were not able to conceive again after that termination when we were ready a couple of years later. THANK GOD he and I had discussed that possibility at the time and that I made the final decision with my eyes wide open: I knew that even if we would never be able to have children later, having an abortion at that time was still the right choice for us.

Given the reality of your age, I would only do this if you are at peace with the possibility of that outcome. Because let me tell you: if we had added seething resentment, blame and anger on top of the stress of TTC and infertility, I'm not confident our marriage would have made it. And I say that as someone with one of the strongest and most conflict-free marriages I'm aware of.

There's pretty much never a good time to have babies. If you and he want to have a child and there are no serious impediments now (money, employment, country visas, insurance) that would be magically resolved later, my vote is for taking the chance you've been given.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:37 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

I had an abortion when I was quite young, which I've long suspected left me unable to conceive thereafter. I've never regretted it as I've never wanted children.
To me it sounds as though you don't want children but feel like you have all the accoutrements which usually go along with having a child - the stable relationship etc. - and are feeling some sense that you should complete the picture, as it were.

One thing I'd do if I were you is the coin toss - toss a coin, with tails for abortion and heads for keeping it: when the coin lands, how you feel about the result will tell you what you really want.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:38 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm a go-with-my-gut type so I'm inclined to say that if you made the appointment, I'd plan on keeping it for now, but I'm also the type to say at the last minute, I'm sorry, this isn't right for me, and back out if necessary. I'd try to really nail down why you don't think you're ready and how you would feel if you could not conceive later. I think that we all make the best decisions that we can at the time with the information that we have so I have a measure of comfort when I do things that I regret because I can say to myself that I tried my best. Can you?

Reading this, I don't get the impression that you want kids, to be a mother, but more like you feel like this situation would not be The Worst in the World into which a baby could be born. And it isn't. But that alone is not a good reason to have a kid.

There is no guarantee of later but there's also no guarantee of now. I read an article recently where an abortion counselor wrote about meeting a woman who had a child with special needs and was coming in for an abortion when she knew (as much as anyone can know) that the child with whom she was then-pregnant did not have the same affliction as her first child. She felt guilt because she felt like she wanted to have the second baby and abort the first kid. But we don't get to make choices like that. We can only work with what we have in front of us right now. So focus on that.

Sure, when others have been faced with this decision, those who had kids seem to experience less regret than those who chose the alternative. But you don't have to think about other people. You have to think about what's best for you and your family. But i think that if you choose to end the pregnancy, you should sit down with the boyfriend and say, that was a really hard decision, are kids something we want in the future, if so, what do we need to do to prepare for them?

How do you make hard decisions? Do you write lists of pros and cons? Mull it over for a while then go with it? Flip a coin and see how you feel when the coin lands? Personally, I tend to think of worst-case-scenarios. My husband and I are talking about getting a cat. One of the worst things that I can think of when it comes to getting a cat is that it immediately gets sick and we have to make hard decisions about its health. That actually sounds okay to me, which makes me feel like we're cat-ready.

Go through all of the exercises that you think are necessary. Do what you need to do. Then make the decision knowing that you did the best you could. If you're looking for validation, I, as a citizen of the internet, support you in whatever decision you choose. I can't give you a hug post-surgery if you go that route and I can't change dirty diapers for you if you decide to proceed with the pregnancy but for what it's worth, I trust you to make this decision and believe you will do what's best for you and your family.
posted by kat518 at 8:06 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Have you thought of ringing the clinic where you scheduled the abortion and explaining your situation, or the equivalent of Planned Parenthood in your country. They can most likely recommend a professional to talk to. Just be careful that the person you talk to is looking out for your best interests and doesn't have a hidden agenda (though I think this is more of a problem in the US). You won't be the first person to have made an appointment at the clinic that wasn't 100% sure.
posted by wwax at 8:26 AM on June 5, 2013

One more thing to keep in mind as you're evaluating your feelings about this: first-trimester hormonal depression/mood disturbance is a very real thing, and it can mean that the world and your future may look a lot darker to you now than it will in a few months. I know I was totally unprepared for the extend to which desperate, terrified I'VE MADE A TERRIBLE MISTAKE MUST ESCAPE! feelings kicked in early in my (planned, very wanted) pregnancy-- only to randomly dissipate by about Week 20 or so. It's especially unfortunate that you have to make such a critical decision while under hormonal assault from all sides, but that may make it more important that you have fact-check any imagined scenarios of your future life, with or without this baby, with others like your partner who may be able to provide some balance.
posted by Bardolph at 9:21 AM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

women don't talk about regretting kids because a) it's taboo and b) they don't want to hurt their child. But believe me, it happens

This a million times.

I've never had a burning desire to have children. I used to read about infant feeding and kids jumping on you in early in the morning and I kind of cringe.

This two million times.

My daughter didn't sleep through the night once until she was almost two years old. My wife and I love being parents and planned to have our baby but it's still hard and insane and horrible and terrifying and wonderful.

We have watched our friends marriages be destroyed by the kids they had because it was "time" or because they thought they "should" have kids.

My own childhood was an at times miserable, being raised by later life exhausted parents who my birth was a surprise to.

my 2 cents.
posted by French Fry at 9:40 AM on June 5, 2013 [8 favorites]

I am confused by the combination of this
I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love.
with the fact that the only reasons you give for having an abortion are reasons against having a child with your partner, period.

I think you need to assess those latter issues, perhaps with the help of a genetic counselor, first. If you decide that you DO want to have a child with your partner, you should think hard about why not THIS child. In your late 30s, you simply don't have the luxury of "meh, next summer would be more convenient."

(I had an abortion at 25 and my first child at 40, if it's at all relevant.)
posted by kestrel251 at 9:50 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

"I enjoy having extra money and travel and freedom."

That probably describes 99% of the population. Everyone I know who has kids would say the same thing about themselves, but that doesn't mean they regret having kids. Most things in life are a trade-off, and having kids is a sacrifice and a compromise. And for most people it's totally worth it.

I would like to qualify my earlier comment from yesterday. Most people don't regret having a child, and most people can't imagine not having the child they have grown to love, adore, and cherish, but people who have mental or physical disabilities certainly might feel otherwise. I originally didn't mention that because nothing in your posting stood out to me as saying you are in that situation.
posted by Dansaman at 9:56 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Like the others, I couldn't see why many reasons listed why you wouldn't want to have a child now (just one: the fear of passing on genetic illness, or other birth defects, risks which only stay the same or increase over time). But I did see lots of reasons you listed that it would make more sense for you to keep the pregnancy rather than trying later, so I was a little confused by what you wrote.

While it's possible you would regret having your child, it's far more likely than not that you wouldn't. And since you're in your late thirties and already pregnant, and with someone you'd want to have kids with, continuing the pregnancy seems much wiser than aborting and hoping that the hell of in vitro, etc. down the road will work for you.

It's so weird that we now get to decide if we become parents, and the decision-making process is so abstract. The consequences are so huge. I know for everyone that I know personally, it is, as others have said, that you think you'd have to be 100% gung-ho, but in reality, you're wracked with concerns because it's all so high-stakes and speculative. But most of the concerns in hindsight pale in comparison to the joys kids bring.

There's no doubt that the first few years are very tough, but after that, raising kids that are wanted and welcomed into the world can be a blast. And I say that as an older parent of a kid with a disability. If you are worried about being a parent, that probably means you'll be a good one. It's the ones who don't worry about it and procreate without thinking, and then resent the kids for it that you have to worry about.

I give similar advice to friends who are weighing the pros and cons, not because I am a pro-natalist who wants to increase the human population, but because there are a lot of great, thoughtful people out there who miss the opportunity to experience a major source of joy in their lives, because the way parenting comes so late now, and so abstractly to many people, as a kind of intellectual puzzle they have to suss out in advance. It's so easy to see all the downsides before the kids get here, but the joy only comes on the hind end.

Good luck, whichever way you decide. Sounds like you are a very thoughtful person in a good situation and that you have some more time to think it through and make your decision.
posted by ravioli at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

He has said that he supports my decision, either way. He would prefer to have an abortion and then try later for a child

Maybe you should try to explicitly list the conditions that you both are waiting for. Are those realistic in any way?

What does he mean by "support". Do you and he think you can both get enthusiastic about this child? It's really hard if there's only one person that's doing all of the work.

Also, it would be bad if he is in danger of feeling you foisted this on him. All of the parents that I know really well (including myself) have found that having a child is really hard on your marriage. I think it would only be worse if one partner was not really on board. (By the way, they all feel it was worth it even through the griping. Lots of things worth doing are Really Hard.)

Freezing eggs or embryos, or using a surrogate are not awesome backup plans, especially if you value money. (And yes, I have personal experience here, and it was awful.)

I would try to figure out what your boyfriend means when he says he is "open to adoption". Was this a casual statement, or did he really think about it? What about you?

Personally, I would have the kid if I were in my late thirties. But I always knew I wanted one some day, and would be very, very upset if I had just waited out the clock because the timing wasn't perfect.
posted by pizzazz at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: He and I had a long discussion last night. He not as ambivalent as I thought. He really does NOT want to have a child right now. I would not want to have it without him, for both logistical and emotional reasons.

He wouldn't leave me if I had the child, but he would be very unhappy, and does not feel this is the right time in his life. (He's several years younger than me, so this makes sense.) There are many things he wants to achieve that would be made more difficult with a child. This is pushing me more towards the abortion side than I was when I wrote this question.
posted by metametacap at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Only have an abortion if you would feel ok about never having a baby, with this guy or anyone else. If he's not ready now, when conditions are really pretty good for a baby, then he will never be ready, not even for adoption. And honestly, what kind of partner his he if he'd rather than you abort a baby you kinda, sorta want now, just so he can have a few more years and adopt in the future? I am as pro-choice as can be, but this isn't like ordering a pizza. He's asking you to make a very big sacrifice, and why?

Don't forget that you could be a single mom, too. It's hard but plenty of moms have done it.
posted by yarly at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth, one of the big drivers from your original question seemed to be the fear that This Could Be Your Last Chance. In my humble opinion, that's not the best reason. I think that you should have a kid because you want to be a mother, not because you're worried that it's now or never. The decision should come from a place of love and hope, not fear. I realize that's an idealistic perspective but it sounds like you're ambivalent so why not think about it idealistically? Some people here have said that if you're not sure, you shouldn't have an abortion but I actually lean the other way since it seems like that was your initial instinct. I have no doubt that you will be a good mom and you would be a great single mom if that was what you wanted. But that's not how it sounds from this angle.
posted by kat518 at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2013

He wouldn't leave me if I had the child, but he would be very unhappy

So in other words, he probably won't leave you right away.

But eventually your relationship will become untenable. That is a worst-case scenario, of course, but not remotely an implausible one. Resentment would be very very very hard to avoid, and it's fairly toxic to relationships.

With this update, I would say you must definitely factor in the high, if not inevitable, risk of single-parenting into your decision.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:21 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

You do not owe anyone Any explanations. This is a terrible time to try to handle PR and it is a sock puppet account. This is a private decision. These types of decisions are almost always made under duress and time pressure. I realized that when I nearly wrecked my car running a red light while feverish, which helped prompt me to conclude the tooth had to be surgically removed. Too bad, so sad.

Make the best decision you know how. Make your peace with it. None of us gets out of here alive or unscathed.

posted by Michele in California at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

women especially pro abortion women don't talk about how much they regret having had an abortion. I can tell you that if you do regret it, you may never stop missing that child.

so...don't discount the bond you have with this unborn child. that s real too.

and sometimes the resentment about the termination can erode relationships too
posted by zia at 12:32 PM on June 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

this would probably be my last chance for a child. I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love.

My two cents? I support whatever decision you make, of course, and only you (and your partner) can be fully engaged with all the issues and possibilities here. But if you are feeling like this is your last chance, and that you might regret it... my take would be to trust those instincts.

I had a child under circumstances that most people would have called a bad decision. I have never regretted opening my life to another human being so thoroughly. If you can't imagine yourself as a parent, that's one thing; if you, outside of what society "wants" for women, still have the desire to have a child, then do so. Why not? And if you can answer that question-- the why not question-- easily and sincerely, then good; but if you can't answer it from your heart, if your answer is based on what you think you "should" be doing or other external reasons, perhaps look at it twice?
posted by jokeefe at 3:38 PM on June 5, 2013

He wouldn't leave me if I had the child, but he would be very unhappy, and does not feel this is the right time in his life.

this would probably be my last chance for a child. I think I'd really regret it if I had this abortion and then did not ever get to have a child with my love.

It sounds like you want to have a child with him. He's saying he wants to have a child later. If he wants to have a child later, you might not be able to have a child at that point.

It sounds like you are leaning toward not having the child because it would make him unhappy, and you want to stay with him.

To help decide, you might try thinking very deeply on how he will feel if he decides five years from now that he does want a child, and you aren't able to have one, and what that would mean for your relationship, and how you would feel about the decisions you've made at that point in time.
posted by yohko at 6:07 PM on June 5, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm concerned about the conflict between his strong stated desire to abort this pregnancy, and his nebulous theoretical willingness to have a baby with you "later." As a lot of people have pointed out already, "later" is more likely for him than for you.

Parenthood isn't for everyone, and neither is abortion. Can you visualize aborting this pregnancy and not resenting him for that if it means you never do have children?

I'm so sorry this is happening to you; the emotional stakes are high. Good luck with whatever you decide.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:33 PM on June 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

"He wouldn't leave me if I had the child, but he would be very unhappy"

So in other words, he probably won't leave you right away.

There are no guarantees about anything, and that is the vantage point from which you should review things and make your decision. 26 years ago, I was also unexpectedly pregnant, but willing to continue with it. My boyfriend said he did not want to be a father and that he would leave me if I did not have an abortion. A close friend astutely pointed out that if I had an abortion for HIM, he could still leave anyway! She suggested I think about relative weights. Would an abortion be something I wanted for myself, because I did not feel ready to parent, or would it be much more leaning on the side of what he wanted, or in order to keep him? If I got an abortion mainly to keep him, and we broke up anyway, I would have no boyfriend and no baby either, and would resent both the boyfriend and myself.

I did not abort. He left as promised, and never assumed any parental role. I wept a bit at first for the unhappiness of it all, and then got past it, and did fine as a single parent. My son turned out fine, and I've never regretted a thing.

As part of your thinking on this situation, consider this: if you continue the pregnancy, he may resent you for it, but if you abort, you may resent HIM for it. And as has been pointed out, resentment is toxic to relationships. This is a crisis in your involvement with this man, no matter which route you choose. Can the relationship survive? Only time will tell.

I wish you luck and strength in making your decision.
posted by RRgal at 8:17 PM on June 5, 2013 [10 favorites]

I think this is a beautiful piece of writing about pregnancy ambivalence and maybe it can help you: the ghost ship that didn't carry us .

I also think that, given your description of the situation, that you are about as well situated to have a baby as people get. Thirties, even early thirties, is a good age to have a kid, you are in a loving stable relationship and you have an OK financial situation. It's a cliche that there is no perfect time to have a baby, but you are about as close as most people get. (As well as being towards the end of your own personal fertility.)

So I would not frame it as baby now or perhaps baby later; I would look at it as baby-ghost-ship or childfree-ghost-ship. Or to say it differently, I would not get an abortion with the idea that I might save eggs later. If I got an abortion it would be because I decided, a la Dear Sugar, that I would rather bicycle through Mongolia than raise a child. And if I wanted to raise a child I would have this one.

I wish you clarity.
posted by feets at 11:11 PM on June 5, 2013 [7 favorites]

that I would rather bicycle through Mongolia than raise a child.

Just to say that the choice as framed in this way is false: it's more a matter of bicycle through Mongolia sometime during the next 10 years or so, or do it later on. One does not necessarily preclude the other; many people do both. A child is not the death of adventure.
posted by jokeefe at 12:42 PM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

We all have unfulfilled identities or roles, some deeply ingrained in ourselves from early in our lives. For me, these include many of the usual things: getting a good job (still working on that), getting married, and being a parent. It is quite possible to push these identities deep down to a place where we don't think consciously about them on a day to day basis. But, it is quite jarring to the system the dissonance that occurs when one is confronted with the fact that one of these roles may never be fulfilled.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are able to look past your present circumstances (I know, who can!?!?), is parenthood one of your unfulfilled identities?
posted by piyushnz at 3:13 PM on June 6, 2013

Response by poster: Thank you, everyone. Your answers are much appreciated. I never really wanted to be a parent, so it's not an unfulfilled identity for me. I'm just feeling this strong maternal pull in the past couple of weeks, to keep this particular child, and this particular time.
posted by metametacap at 6:36 PM on June 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Someone upthread mentioned counselling for you but I think joint counselling for BOTH of you would be a good idea. It does not seem that he is aware that this is most likely the only chance you two would be parents together and that this is a major decision for you healthwise. There is such a strong "trickster girlfriend" narrative in our culture that he may discount you stating that fact, but the biological facts may be believable if he hears it from a medical professional. The idea that freezing eggs or adopting in future can be replacements ignore their huge logistical, financial and medical costs and their unlikely positive outcomes, which again, makes me wonder how knowledgeable he is on the realities of becoming a parent for women after forty.

Your strong maternal pull makes such sense to me (as you are situated in pretty much the ideal time in your life to have this child) that I am surprised abortion is still a serious option for you. Your regret over something that hasn't even happened yet seems palpable off the page. It appears like your body is telling you something your head keeps trying to rationalise away. I hope you take the next few weeks to fully explore your options and reach peace with your decision.
posted by saucysault at 7:50 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

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