Annie | East Tennessee

I think that I’m a better parent because of it because I did have a little bit more time, more love.

I was 21 and I was married. He was 10 years older, two inches shorter and he just mowed grass, smoked grass, and had a Mustang. I got pregnant, and my parents told me I needed to get married. That was before, that was in ‘91. So I married him, and I really wasn’t ready. You know, that definitely changed my life, being a mom. It was difficult at times during all of this. I wouldn’t say that he was an alcoholic, but he was borderline. He was happy if he had beer, cigarettes, and some weed to smoke. That was all that really mattered.

I had him come work for my parents. My parents had a campground, and we worked together; we ran that. Then, I got a different job as a counselor for a dating service. I was interviewing people and finding out about love and kind of realizing that I wasn’t in love. I got married because I was told to, I really didn’t have anything in common with him. He wasn’t my soul mate or anything, and he wasn’t really much help.

Anyways, I got pregnant again. I was finally in a place where I was doing well. I had a job. He wasn’t working, but I was working. He wasn’t working for my parents anymore. There was a brief time where he pretended he had a job, but he would go sit over at his mom’s house. He opened up a credit card, got cash advances, just made minimum payments, stuff like that. I didn’t find out about that until after we were divorced. I got pregnant again, and I told him. He was just like, ‘if you think I’m gonna start busting ass, well, you’re wrong.’

I couldn’t be a stay at home mom. I didn’t want to be unwealthy anymore. When I had Carol, that’s what it was: WIC, Food Stamps, all that assistance, TennCare when I had her. I was finally being productive, and I was going to have another baby, and he couldn’t take care of the one baby. Carol was sick one time, she had Penicillin and she did like the way it tasted, it was that bubblegum flavor. I came home from work one day and she was just walking around with the bottle. It was all dumped down her face and rash. She broke out and was very very sick. He wasn’t an active parent. He wasn’t a bad guy, he wasn’t abusive or anything like that, but I didn’t want to be trapped in that any longer. And I knew that if I had another kid that was going to be it. I was going to be on government assistance for the rest of my life like all of his family. We’d probably all live up on their hill together and have chickens and cock fights, and it was just not what I wanted. It was not what I wanted and not what I wanted my daughter to see either. I wanted to be a better role model for her and more independent. I wanted her to be independent.

So, I called about it. I had a friend that I’d had for years. He knew Carol’s dad, but agreed not to tell. So he took me, and I never told my husband. I just told my daughter probably a month and a half ago. It was after a function, and the Tennessee Stories Project gave me a little card about sharing your story. People do look down upon it, but it was good to get it out there and to talk about it. My mother told me that she had actually had an abortion, too, right after having me. Kind of a similar situation, you know? She was married to my dad, and he was abusive. That was it.

It wasn’t that scary. They were nice, they didn’t make me feel bad, and there weren’t people outside protesting or anything like that. My friend dropped me off, and I watched a video I think, they gave me a Valium or something, and that’s it. I just remember being a little bit sore and having to check some things. And I just didn’t talk about it to anybody until I saw the Tennessee Stories Project and put that out there. I don’t want to think about how I would have maybe taken things out on my kid because I couldn’t handle my life and my decisions. And I think because of that I was able to go on. So I did that, I had my abortion, divorced him a few months later, and then, you know, did my life. I ended up meeting a guy a couple months after my divorce, and we dated for five years and then got married. I got pregnant, like, a month after we got married, and I had that baby, and then he asked me to be a stay at home mom. So I did that and then we got divorced so now I’m in school for welding! I’m just taking from that that you can start over and build on layers.

Her dad never paid child support. I think he’s gotten three cards for birthdays over the years, and one of them being her graduation card when she graduated college. It’s $20,000 in back child support. I didn’t pursue it. Every now and then they do fishing together, and I didn’t want her to know.

I don’t regret it because I would have been a single mom with two kids struggling and trying to make it, and I don’t think that I would have ended up where I am. It hurts me–the relationship that she has with her dad–I wish that she’d had a better father figure. I’m glad I didn’t do that to two kids. I know sometimes it hurts not having a dad be there for you.

Telling my daughter was very emotional. A lot of crying on my part. I was sobbing when I told my daughter and she was crying, too. What led up to the conversation was that she was telling me that she felt like my son and her had two different moms. And in a way they did, because when I had Carol I was more independent. She said, ‘You always looked nice, you didn’t take shit from anybody, you were independent, you were making your own money and decisions and stuff like that. And then with James, you went into this stay at home mom.’ My second husband made a lot of money and wanted me to quit work. I reluctantly did that, and I gave up a lot in that. I didn’t stand up for myself anymore, and through the years I was kind of beat down. It was an abusive relationship, my second marriage, and we were together for seventeen years. That was her stepdad who was a total douchebag, he helped her financially, but was not a good person. So that was it. I just told her, ‘I did it because I wanted to get out of a marriage with your dad.’ She just cried and said she didn’t blame me. She wasn’t mad at me for divorcing her dad, and she wasn’t mad at me for having an abortion. That was it.

My mom actually told me years ago, but I never confessed to her that I had had one, which I should do. But she told me the story, and it did surprise me because my mom is Catholic, so that just really surprised me that she had an abortion. I guess they were doing it back then too! I guess I knew it happened, but I didn’t ask her any details like ‘was it legal, did you have to go to a shady doctor or anything?’ But she went on to have more kids after that. It just wasn’t the right time.

I moved to Tennessee my senior year of high school, so I didn’t get a chance to form a lot of friendships in high school. I reconnected with people when I went back up north, and seeing some of my old friends, I just remember meeting with one of my friends and that was the big gossip: ‘oh, Amy got an abortion.’ That was coming from my friend that had the baby and was struggling in her apartment and was government funded. And here was Annie graduating college and getting ready to do something else. My friend worked out fine, too. I recently found out that she’s in the iron working business, and I thought, ‘oh, that’s crazy! Us girls.’

I’ve recently realized through Lady Scouts and through meetings we have that I’m not alone, and it’s pretty common. I definitely think that it’s a woman’s right. I don’t think I could have done the adoption thing, that wouldn’t have worked out. Nobody would have let me give it up for adoption.

It did feel good to talk to my daughter about that, and to let other people know, too. It’s really not a bad thing. I have family members that definitely do think that it’s wrong. Like I said, there’s a lot of Catholics in my family, so they don’t–and my sister doesn’t–approve of it. But I think that it is a person’s choice and that you know what you’re capable of.

To people experiencing unplanned pregnancies or who have made the decision to have an abortion: There’s probably going to be some crying and stuff like that, and if you’ve got somebody that you can talk to, that’s good. But don’t dwell on it. I don’t feel like I killed a baby. That’s not what it was. There was some “cardiac activity. It’s okay, just do the best you can. I think that my kids would have suffered, and I think that I’m a better parent because of it because I did have a little bit more time, more love.

The Tennessee Stories Project is sponsored by Planned Parenthood of Tennessee and North Mississippi. If you have a story to tell, see our Contact Us page.