Nancy's Story

I am 36 years old. I have two beautiful children, one a baby, still nursing. My husband had a vasectomy six months ago because we did not want any more children. I was weary of childbearing after four difficult pregnancies in four years and looked forward desperately to ending the isolation of motherhood and the poverty of single income. I have spent several months setting the groundwork for a small business, planning to start it this summer. I have worked hard to lose weight. I have been looking forward to having the time to socialize, meet people, make friends again.

Last month, after five months of positive post-vasectomy tests, we finally got what appeared to be a negative one (there was only the odd sperm left, all of them dead), so we stopped using condoms. However, the doctor advised that we take one more test, which we did this month. It wasn't clear. It still showed the odd sperm, but a few of them were alive. Had this been the test result last month, we would never have stopped using condoms. We are not foolish about these things, and I have been terrified of another pregnancy.

When my period was a day late, I bought a pregnancy test, just to get rid of my paranoid fears. It was positive. I don't remember when I started to breathe again.

My doctor was helpful. She said that I must be really angry. But I don't know who to be angry at. Freak things happen. She helped me to arrange an abortion appointment. But since I am only five weeks right now, I have to wait another two before they will perform the procedure. Two weeks of tremendous stress.

Today I finally started crying. I think this is good -- the numbness is gone. I have one good friend who has gone through this herself that I can talk to. But I can't let anyone else know. My husband doesn't want the baby at all. His biggest concern is the fact that with the vasectomy we were tampering with nature. After six months a sperm might be able to swim. But will it still have all its DNA? He is deeply concerned that the genetics would be damaged. He is also concerned about my mental and physical health, since I am already exhausted from dealing with two babies. And I think, long-term, he's concerned about our marriage. An exhausted, resentful mother does not make a very loving, happy wife.

My husband says we do it for the health of our family. We do it for the same reasons that I trim my fruit trees and vegetables to make them stronger, bearing better fruit.

I have spent a long time weighing both sides, both options. While I can make an endless list of reasons to end this pregnancy, I can only find one reason not to: to be noble. And what does it mean to do something to be noble, when so much else will suffer as a result? How noble is it? Yes, I will go through emotional ups and downs before and after this procedure. But what kind of emotional, physical, marital, financial, parental and mental hell will I go through if I decided to continue the pregnancy? Far worse. I know women who had babies they didn't want. They're all on Prozac. The ones that claim to be happy have a toothpaste-commercial, happy-happy smile on their face. I know they are struggling. And I know women who have had abortions. Although they still carry an emotional burden, their lives have gone on.

Some might think this is selfish thinking. After all, our fore-mothers -- and mothers -- had five or six children. But were they happy mothers? They had no career, no life outside the home, they looked haggard, their marriages were basically dead, they never lost any of that weight, they became progressively more unhealthy, their lives now consist of nothing but TV and eating. There is a profound difference between being alive and just living.

My husband and I find parenting our two little ones exhausting. We haven't had a night of sleep in years. My son is an especially difficult boy who takes careful handling. I could not cope with what I have if I were any more exhausted, any more extended. I wouldn't be doing anyone a favor.

But even though we are sure that this is the right course, it is still achingly difficult. I am thankful that in Canada there are laws banning protesters from clinics and hospitals. I don't need anyone with a sign to tell me that life is precious. But I will be going to that hospital knowing that what I am doing is for the good of my family, my little ones, myself, my husband -- whatever the emotional cost to me.

And that's noble too.

Nancy M.
7 April 1999

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"I don't need anyone with a sign to tell me that life is precious."
-Nancy M.