I thought I did everything right

anticipatory grief divorce/breakups parenthood & pregnancy loss Jul 20, 2022

I blew up my carefully crafted plans for having kids when I divorced my ex. Now the end of Roe v. Wade has me grieving even more uncertainty.  


We are grieving the loss of abortion rights in America. Front and center in that public grief are stories of forced pregnancy: We grieve for the 10 year old girl, a victim of rape, who was denied an abortion in Ohio; We grieve for women in Mississippi without access to abortion care who will deliver after the state's last clinic shut its doors. We grieve for all who are now and for all who will soon be without a choice in their own maternity. Those who do not want children are no longer guaranteed safe access to abortion, and that is a devastating new reality for America. 

But women who want to have children are grieving, too.

Having kids has always been my plan, but I wanted to be the Girl Boss of my dreams first—so 2010s of me, I know. I graduated college at 22, started working, got married at 26, finished graduate school at 27, was in a job with a professional future I was thrilled for by 30. My five-year plan included promotions and raises and then raising kids. I informed my husband of the parental plans I had crafted for us, and we picked out first and middle names for our future children.

I thought I had done everything right.

Then my father, my only living parent, died suddenly, shaking up all of those plans. I reevaluated everything in my life, finally getting honest with myself about what actually made me happy versus what I was forcing. I made some big changes, including divorcing my husband after what I finally saw was a decade-long toxic relationship. Choosing to walk away from my marriage, knowing that would mean my timeline for having children would become very uncertain, was one of the hardest parts of the decision.

But I did it. I threw away the plan.  

Today I’m 33 with my motherhood dreams deferred indefinitely, and complicated feelings of grief around that choice. But I’ve been reassuring myself with statistics that I’m just like so many other women in our country who have been waiting longer than ever to start having children. We have been focusing on our careers. We have been focusing on our wellbeing. We aren’t ready for kids yet, and that’s ok.

In the background of that choice to wait has been an assumption that we would all have access to the full spectrum of maternal health care—including abortion—when we wanted to start trying to get pregnant. But as of three weeks ago when our Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, I’ve started grieving unanticipated consequences of the choice I made to wait. We can’t make assumptions anymore.

“Advanced maternal age" is the medical term used to describe someone trying to get pregnant or giving birth who is 35 or older— someone who’s waited, whether they’ve planned their waiting or not. This term will likely describe me when I eventually un-shelve motherhood. Advanced maternal age didn’t used to scare me. But now that we’ve lost federal protection for abortion, I’ve found myself researching and confronting the potential risks associated with waiting.

My risk of a miscarriage increases the older I am when I'm pregnant. For women between the ages of 35 and 40, the rate is 20% to 30%, and increases significantly after 40. If abortion is illegal in my state, could I face criminal scrutiny over a pregnancy loss?

If I struggle to get pregnant, I may seek fertility treatments. Terminating unused embryos is often a part of in vitro fertilization, but this is entirely in question with abortion rights no longer guaranteed. Would I be required to use or keep every fertilized embryo I create?

My chances for ectopic pregnancy will increase the longer I wait to have children, and my life could be in danger if I can’t get an abortion quickly and safely. Would I have to risk my life to end a pregnancy that isn't viable?

Rates of chromosomal abnormalities increase the older I am when I am pregnant. Standard genetic testing would offer me insights into fetal development, but I no longer have the federal right to choose what I do with the results of those tests. Test results may even reveal a pregnancy that is likely not viable. Would I be able to end a pregnancy based on results of genetic testing?

I’m grieving the fact that the Supreme Court has taken away my agency as a woman in America. They’ve introduced risks of becoming a mother later in life that I never planned on. So now I’m second-guessing what I had thought was a prudent decision: Did I make a mistake by not having children earlier? Having access to maternal healthcare, to abortion, had never even crossed my mind. Not in America. But that’s not our reality, anymore.

I’m grieving the vision I had for myself as a mother later in life that may never happen. I worry that by the time I do feel ready to have children, abortion laws in my state may make me reconsider trying to get pregnant, altogether. I’m North Carolina born-and-raised: while we are currently the last state standing for abortion access in the Southeast, it might only be a matter of time until abortion rights fall here, too. It will depend on state elections over the next few years, and whether our legislators recognize our grief over the impacts of their decisions.

Today, I have no idea what my future as a mother will or will not be. But I know that right now I am grieving: I'm grieving the loss of a fundamental right I took for granted. And I’m grieving what could be the end of my motherhood plans— plans that may no longer viable.


Grieve on.


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