Almost a Mother?

I remember laying in my doctor’s office in Ventura. I had to take a pill the night before which began the cramping and then come to his office the next day. When the noise of suction began, I was laying there with tears streaming down the sides of my face. I could not believe that I had to make this choice. I was so mad at myself for getting pregnant at this time. Although I believed in a woman’s right to a choice about her body, it was all I had ever wanted to do was to have a child of my own. The sound was loud and I thought that he was sticking a Hoover vacuum up my vagina. It was over in a few minutes and life would go back to the way it was.

“What were you thinking?” my mother asked me when I told her I was pregnant. I had just found out so I was only a few weeks pregnant. 

“I was not thinking anything, I was using birth control,” I said.

I needed my mom even though I was a thirty-two-year-old and I thought that was a mean comment, I ignored it and looked to her for guidance. She was Batman and I was her Robin.  Even when I found out that she had lied to me about who my father was and that I had unknowingly dated my brother, I had pushed that aside as I always needed her approval.

“Clearly the birth control did not work! Are you sure you used it?” my mother asked.

“Of course I am sure,” I responded. I was the practical and responsible girl I had always been. I was the one who planned our vacations, got straight A’s, worked from the age of ten, wrote my thank you notes after every gift I received, and never missed a friend’s birthday. 

It was May 1989, and I had married Rod in a hot air balloon a month prior. We had a wedding planned and booked for late October in my hometown in Ohio. We decided to marry early because he needed my flight attendant benefits to travel back and forth to the East Coast to see his family. “Marry me, Fly Free” was the motto when you married a flight attendant. 

I still dreamed of having a family. I knew that being in my early thirties meant my clock was ticking. I also knew this was not the right timing, but wondered if it would ever be. I was in the midst of opening my first dance studio in September. Rod and I were moving to a new house and selling my other. I had concerns about Rod before we married as I had found tiny blue pills on the carpet.  When I asked, “what are these?”  He replied, “they are pills I sometimes take for anxiety and I must have dropped them.”  I wanted to believe him, but in the back of my mind, he was a recovering alcoholic and cocaine addict. I knew something was not right, but I chose not to listen to my gut, like I used to not listen to my hunger cues when I was struggling with anorexia. How many people would come to me as a new studio if I were four months pregnant and going to have to take time away the first year? My mind was like a tornado with all the thoughts swirling through and no place to go. My mother had other concerns.

“What are people going to think? Your wedding dress will definitely not fit in five months!”

“It might, I could just let the waist out a little,” I said

In my mind I was thinking, I did not want to look fat at my wedding.  I was recovered from anorexia, but I still cared how I looked. 

My mother had paid for my dress with the lace neck and arms with a very tight upper body and buttons down the back of the neck until it meets at the long train and she was right as it was very fitted through the upper body to the waist. These were my mom’s thoughts that she felt free to share with me. I knew all this and her continual unsolicited comments were making this very difficult for me because I felt pressure to have the abortion. I felt as though I had disappointed her or made her ashamed of me.

My OB/GYN was in Ventura, about a 45-minute drive from my townhouse in Calabasas. I had an early appointment so the traffic was light driving north on the 101. It was early June and it was one of the June gloom days in Southern California. That did not help to elevate my mood. I had taken a pregnancy test at home, which had a very clear blue line to indicate it was indeed positive, and now headed to my doctor who confirmed the results of the first test. I explained to him the situation and that I was confused as to what to do.

“Be sure if you decide to have an abortion, that you are alright with the decision. What if you don’t get pregnant again? Will you be OK with that?” said my doctor.

He had a kind and caring manner and I remember his dark hair was graying at the temples. He wore a beard so it was difficult for me to guess his age but I assumed he was older with experience with other women in the same situation. Rod was at work and not able to come to the appointment as he was in postproduction of his movie. He had wanted to come, but I felt comfortable with my doctor and wanted to gather all the information myself before I made my decision as to have the baby or not.

I definitely would not be all right never having a child. I also knew that my mom was very worried about me having the child at this time. She had always told me that she did not think I should get pregnant, as she did not think I could handle the changes in my body, after recovering from anorexia. She also did not think I could handle all the stress of a wedding, opening a studio, moving to a new house and adjusting to being married for the first time. I disagreed and I reminded myself that I would be OK with all of those things.

I knew how much the upcoming second wedding meant to my mom. She was the “Mother of the Bride,” a role she wanted to play. My mother loved to be the center of attention, the queen of the ball.  She wanted me to herself, but she liked Rod and was excited for the wedding. I knew she worried a pregnancy would put a wrinkle in her planned event. It was important to my mother what others thought about our family and us. Image had always mattered to her. Our house could be a mess, but we always were put together when we left our house. It didn’t matter how unconventional things were behind closed doors as long as things looked good on the outside. Maybe how my anorexia developed.

My mom really liked Rod and this was the first man I’d been with that she had ever liked and approved of. My thoughts were swirling through my head. If I was going to have an abortion, I needed to do it soon. I was only three weeks along, but I did not want to take any chances. Rod knew this was weighing on me, but he did not have much of an opinion about it and felt I should make the decision and he would support me no matter what I decided. His apathy frustrated me. I wanted someone to help me with the decision. He was busy with the promotion of his film and he just wanted me to feel I would be OK with whatever I decided.

I was always someone who believed in a woman’s right to make a choice about her body. I was thankful for the women and men who had fought for Roe v Wade to allow us to have the right to choose. Now it was my time. I only wish I had a vision for the future. Would I be able to have children later on? I had wanted children my entire life. I had named them all when I played with my Barbie’s and my imaginary families that I made up as a child. What would happen if I had the child and I did open the studio? These thoughts were repeating in my head until I could not think clearly. I just wanted to know so that I had a guarantee that I could have another child. I wanted to have a family so I could create the one I never had.

What if my mom had had an abortion? After all, she had gotten pregnant by a married man with eight children, who was a family friend.  Abortions were illegal in the late 1950’s and Row V Wade would not be heard by the Supreme Court until more than a decade later.  I would never have been given a life. Is that what I was going to do to my child?

I went to dinner with some friends at Alice’s at the Malibu Pier and I remember driving through Malibu Canyon with one of my friends and telling her about my dilemma. She was very understanding as she had a child, but had also had an abortion. This helped me to make my decision. People had abortions and had children later. I just needed to be reassured and she definitely did, although she probably has no idea that she had that impact on my decision. I told Rod when he came home that night that I decided to have the abortion because it seemed like the best option for all concerned. Rod was supportive and said he would come with me to the procedure. I always put everyone and their feelings before my own, especially my own mother. I would try in a few years when my life was more settled. My dance studio would be established and Rod’s movie career would be continuing the current momentum. It would be the ideal time for a baby.

Every February 20th, the anniversary of the estimated birth of my baby, I’m reminded of the abortion and the decision I made to not have a child right then. Was it the right choice? I have pondered that question for years. Who knows what the right decision is? We make decisions with the knowledge we have at the moment. It is the decision we make and it is not right or wrong, it is just our path.

About the Author

Dawn Smith-Theodore, MA, MFT, CEDS was a former professional dancer, owned a dance studio for 25 years in Los Angeles and is the author of “TuTu Thin” A Guide to Dancing Without an Eating Disorder. Dawn co-authored the chapter on Fitness or Fanatic in Your Dieting Daughter AND I has written for The Recovery Journal, Montana Mouthful, Pointe Magazine ,and IADMS. Dawn’s book has been featured in Pointe, Dance Teacher and Dance Magazine. She was most recently interviewed by People Magazine as an eating disorder expert in the entertainment field. Dawn is also a leader in the treatment of eating disorders, adding to her psychotherapy practice the insights of a dance professional, who has personally recovered from anorexia nervosa. Dawn has treated eating disorders for over 20 years and has a private practice in Los Angeles. She was a Clinical Director and National Director of Day Treatment Services for Monte Nido and Affiliates. Dawn appeared on “Starving Secrets” as an eating disorder expert on Lifetime. Dawn enjoys speaking to dancers around the world on how to be a healthy dancer from a psychological perspective as well as helping parents and dance educators on prevention and early identification of eating disorders.

Supporting Reproductive Rights

This is a critical time in our fight to preserve access to abortion and reproductive healthcare. We believe that every action counts. Here are three things you can do.

  1. Fight stigmatization by sharing your story and/or supporting people who have shared their stories. Supportive comments and likes make a big difference to the people who have chosen to share their personal experiences.
  2. Reach out to your representatives on the federal, state, and local levels and tell them that you want them to pass legislation that protects reproductive rights including abortion access.
  3. Donate to organizations committed to protecting access to safe and legal abortions. This writer recommended Planned Parenthood for the work they are doing to ensure access.

One thought on “Almost a Mother?

  1. It takes bravery to confront the reasoning and factors that contribute to personal decisions, especially when women choose to tell their story and face judgement, so kudos to the storyteller.//mm


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