Several years and several children in my marriage, we started seeing a therapist. I remember attending that first session and the therapist asked us what each of our highest therapy priorities were. His top priority was to mend the marriage – to be a better wife and mother – because there was this list of things I wasn’t doing well, and he was working hard when all I had to do was to cleaning the house and raising children. Everything that was wrong with the marriage was my fault.
She looked at me and asked me what was my highest priority. I didn’t even hesitate: Tubal ligation. And I was very serious. I remember saying that another pregnancy would cause mental, physical, emotional and psychological damage. And I needed help, because I was at my limit and on the verge of breaking down.
Our therapist supported me, pointing out things she saw during our brief stay together that she felt placed me in a “high risk” category regarding clinical depression / PPD / PPMD etc.
My husband, however, refused to accept a tubal ligation. When I continued to insist on sterilization for several therapy sessions and he realized that I was not going to change his mind, he changed his tactic: I had done all the work and took all the risks of suffering multiple pregnancies and births, so it was his turn to sacrifice himself! He would get a vasectomy!
We continued to discuss it and I offered to make an appointment. (He refused.) I asked him every night if he remembered to call the doctor. (He hadn’t.) I bought a box of condoms and explained that we couldn’t risk having unprotected sex. (He grumbled.) I continued to explain that an unexpected / unwanted pregnancy would have devastating consequences. (He kept going in one ear and out the other.)
We continued the therapy. I continued to talk about vasectomy; he kept saying it half-heartedly. I finally said no vasectomy, no sex. He kept saying it was time. We had condoms in the house; everything was taken care of. No precipitation ; he would take care of it; stop being a nuisance.
Eventually we had sex, except he didn’t use a condom like he said. I remember saying something about it, as soon as he was done … I can still hear him: “Wait, were you serious about this?”
Of course, I got pregnant. When I saw the test results, I collapsed.
At the time I was very pro-life, but I remember thinking about the kids I already had, and what another baby would mean, and doing math in my head trying to figure out how far. where I could be … but as soon as I realized there was already a heartbeat, I knew I was doomed.
I think I called our therapist, before I even told him. I remember being instantly afraid for my life. I wasn’t sure I could do it again. It was a death sentence, but I didn’t have the luxury of dying, because I was a mother.
We continued to provide marriage counseling throughout the pregnancy. I added individual therapy, to make peace with the pregnancy. My doctor was aware of the situation and was incredibly supportive. I prayed for a miscarriage.
I took care of myself, eat properly, go to all my prenatal exams, follow weekly therapy (marriage and individual). I started having debilitating anxiety attacks midway through pregnancy (which I’m still struggling with ten years later).
I continued to squeeze him for the vasectomy. He started to say that it wasn’t even really necessary, since I was pregnant.
This last job was the longest of all my births. I remember the doctor and nurses quietly discussing whether I was going to be able to give birth. It got to the point where they had to tell me I needed to start pushing or they needed to prepare for a cesarean. (I pushed.)
I have dealt with PPD [postpartum depression] after birth. Everyone around us was looking at me like a hawk, scared of what I might do to myself or the baby.
A month after the birth, I filed for divorce.
A month later, I moved with the kids and got my first (part-time) job in ten years. I had no professional skills and had not worked outside the home since graduating from college.
A year later, grateful that I was falling apart and abandoning my children, I asked him if he would be ready to raise them. I lived below the poverty line, with young children, unable to find full-time work, unable to pay for child care, unwilling to “take advantage” of government programs I was probably entitled to, struggling with. with increasingly severe anxiety attacks, and falling into deeper and deeper depression. My kids deserved a chance, and they weren’t going to have it with me.
It’s been ten years since all of this happened. The trauma of this latest unwanted pregnancy has impacted every aspect of our lives (that of my children and me).
This latest unwanted pregnancy left me with physical health issues. This latest unwanted pregnancy left me with anxiety / depression issues that I still struggle with today (especially when spending time with my kids). This latest unwanted pregnancy has had a devastating impact on my relationships with my children and their worldview. As they get older they start asking tough questions about divorce and why they don’t live with me and why we don’t spend more time together… which I answer as best I can, in an age-appropriate way.
I know that even without this last unwanted pregnancy, I would have divorced their father. But the trauma of this event set in motion things that turned their world upside down. My kids have gone from having their moms with them virtually 24/7 to weekend visits a few times a month at best. The older ones remember being brought up by me; the younger kids never knew what it’s like to have me over 72 hours straight.
My children who were already HERE lost their mothers because I did the “responsible thing” and brought an unwanted pregnancy to term, which I begged my husband to help me avoid in the first place.
It is easy for people to rant, judge, and lecture about “living with the consequences of your actions”. But I’m not sure the people doing all of this rambling and judging and lecturing really consider how their version of “living with the consequences” works in the real, messy and complicated world.