I was 27. After an entire summer of unprotected sex, my boyfriend’s response to learning I was pregnant was disbelief and then panic. He immediately asked me to terminate the pregnancy, despite knowing my stance on abortion.
We had multiple conversations about what I would do if I got pregnant, while nestled under the bedroom covers that summer. Knowing I welcomed the prospect of bearing a child by the man I was in love with, no matter how untimely, did not encourage him to use condoms.
My mom was only 17 when she birthed my brother and me. She taught me all babies are a blessing, regardless of their parents’ economic status, and God would never give me more than I could handle. Though she was shamed for being a pregnant teen, and barred from walking across the stage during her high school graduation, she never expressed regret about being a mom.
If she could care for twins as a teen, surely I could handle the responsibilities of parenting a child in my late twenties. My circumstance was not ideal. I was underemployed and dating a man who was not ready to be a father, but it was my right to decide what to do with my body. It was not the way I envisioned starting a family, but I was keeping our baby.
Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.
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Gradually, my boyfriend began to withdraw emotionally. The tenderness he once displayed was replaced by strong resentment. But, anytime I made peace with the possibility of raising our baby solo, he would do something small to give me hope. One day, he surprised me by dropping off a bag of maternity items I needed.
But sweet gestures were rare. Mostly, he acted as if my pregnancy was something harmful I had done to him—to limit his finances, his opportunities, and his freedom. He treated me, and our forthcoming child, like a burden he did not deserve. He made me feel like a worthless host body, ignoring me or lodging insults when he wasn’t using me for sex.
According to him, I did not have enough education, and I did not earn enough money. I brought nothing to the table but good looks and sexual prowess, with which I used to entrap him. My passion for sex became a strike against me. He made it painfully clear: I was not the type of woman he envisioned making his wife.
This behavior was not new. I ignored early hints of cruelty when we first began dating. He loved to patronize me in front of his friends. Things that upset me became fodder for his jokes. Like the time I panicked on the back of his motorcycle as we sped down the highway after the foot pegs collapsed and I could not get him to slow down or stop. Or when I suffered an allergic reaction after he served me a salad with shellfish, which he knew I could not eat. His forgetfulness was especially funny to him that night.
Because I wanted so much to make our relationship work, I fell into this odd pattern of submissiveness. One day, he ordered me to organize his CD collection while he was at work since I “did not have much to do” that day. So, I did. I cleaned, and I organized, but I still received the brunt of his foul mood when he returned.
After he conveniently forgot to mention a visit with his ex and began lying about his whereabouts, I knew I had to make a decision. Emotionally exhausted and stressed, I had already fallen down the stairs three times while home alone. I decided to move out-of-state to deliver our baby in an environment where I had more emotional support, and he wasn’t nearby.
Shortly before my due date, I was admitted to the hospital overnight. My aunt drove me to the hospital when my contractions quickened. She immediately called my ex, and he made the four-hour drive to the hospital—only to learn it was false labor.
After he blamed me for wasting his time and made me cry, my aunt did not notify him when I went into actual labor. I delivered our baby a week later. Though I was unaware he was not called until the next day, he still blames me for making him miss the birth of his child.
We spent the first five years of our child’s life in and out of a relationship, and we have been in and out of the judicial system ever since then. At one time, it seemed like we had a court date every other month due to an altercation, or fighting for custody, visitation, and child support. This was largely prompted by my ex filing a new motion each time court was dismissed.
While I worried about being fired by my employer for taking too many days off, my ex was a manager and set his own schedule. He had time to make legal abuse his new hobby.
It eventually caught up to him. Three years ago, a judge issued him a two-year suspended jail sentence for blocking visitation by filing a false police report accusing me of kidnapping. It felt like justice after more than a decade of his abuse and harassment.
My attorney advised me to send a strong warning to my ex and file a civil suit and seek damages to recoup the money I spent on legal fees. I have yet to decide whether that is the right choice for me or our child, who has witnessed so much turmoil. No amount of money can compensate for the trauma I have experienced while at the mercy of an ex committed to using the legal system to terrorize me.
Despite any hardship, I do not regret becoming a solo mom in my twenties. However, I wish things were different for my child.
Abortion was not the right choice for me, but I oppose any law, like those recently passed in Alabama and Missouri, that prevents a woman from deciding whether she is prepared to co-parent with an abusive partner or ex—because choosing to do so may have a lifetime of ramifications.