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Noah is 6 years old. He is my only son. But being pregnant with him was not the first time that I have been pregnant. The first time I was pregnant I was 22 years old. I had an abortion.

I was not forced to have one. The pregnancy was not as a result of a sexual assault. I chose to have an abortion. And I live with that EVERY day of my life.

Not too long ago Celeste from Reluctant Mom posted the following question on her blog: 

When do you get to a point where you stop paying for the mistakes you’ve made in the past? Is that the point where you forgive yourself or when you stop seeking forgiveness from others?

I have been wanting to write about my experience since I read that, but for many reasons decided against it. And then the blog challenge, sort of, word was ‘First’. 

I’m not sure where to begin with what I want to say. Why did I initially decide not to write about it? Because it is still a very controversial issue. Because probably half the readers, if not more, clicked to another site when they read ‘I chose to have an abortion’. I can understand this. I used to feel the same way.

My mother was very young when she fell pregnant with me and she was put under a lot of pressure to have an abortion (not by my father). Fortunately, she’s a feisty thing. But that stuck with me and I remember being passionately anti-abortion my whole life. There was an incident in primary school where they showed a video about teenage pregnancies and abortions that sent me running from the classroom in tears. And I remember many late night, heated debates at Rhodes with close friends about the Right to Life versus the Right to Choose. I nearly lost friends so strongly did I feel about the issue.

And then 3 years into a relationship, living in Johannesburg, I learnt that I was pregnant. Years and years, a lifetime, of feeling one way instantly dispelled and the ONLY thing I could fathom was that I could not have a baby.

My boyfriend at the time diplomatically offered that he would agree to any decision that I chose to make but to be fair, in the end, even after my entire family had found out and tried to dissuade me from what I had decided, even when my little sister called me, crying, from a bus stop on her way to a hockey tour, I could not be convinced to not go ahead with my decision.

All I could think, all I could feel, was ‘No’. I can’t have a baby. I’m not ready to have a baby. ‘No.’ I was completely overwhelmed. My mind froze in fear.  I was paralysed with numbness. Nothing would have changed my mind.

The thing about willingly doing something that you’ve inherently believed to be wrong for your entire life, is that some very serious conflict occurs in your psyche.

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I was not alright for a very long time. I was haunted by nightmares. I drank way too much. I did many, many things I should never have done. I could not forgive myself. And for many years I could not talk about it because I feared that others would not be able to forgive me.

The thing is that even if you are a liberal individual, claiming all women have the right to make these decisions for themselves, many of you are thinking to yourselves, ‘But I wouldn’t do it.’ 

One of my repeated life lessons is that I never know when I will be brave. Or when I will falter. I never know when I will be fierce and courageous or when I will give way. I have often learnt that I do not know myself as well as I think I do. That I continue to grow and learn about myself and other people and about how to be good.

We all have our own journey to make. But it doesn’t need to be so lonely. A large part of my twenties was spent in anguish. And isn’t it so that a large part of healing is being able to share and talk about what you feel. In the shadows of the controversy the fact is that a lot more women are having abortions. Once I started speaking about it I was amazed to find that I had several friends who had terminated their pregnancies. But no one really talks about it because they are afraid of what others will think of them.

If women were encouraged to speak more openly about their experiences then other women who are facing the same decision might be better informed as to what the repercussions of their choices are. Good or bad.

I respect a woman’s right to choose.What I want that woman to know is this: There is seldom a day that goes by that I do not remember my first pregnancy. That expected date of birth is embedded in me for all time.

I think we can only heal when we have forgiven ourselves. It may be comforting to know that others do not blame or condemn you but when we are with ourselves we must face our demons alone.

But even if I could go back and do it all again I wouldn’t change a thing. Because everything that has happened since then has been part of my journey, the make up of who I am and of how I continue to grow. And it has led me to my greatest first of all. Noah.