I grew up knowing I was only alive because my mother didn’t have a choice

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By Bisa Myles

On December 19, 1973, my uncle walked into the bathroom to find his sister sitting on the side of the bathtub, with an umbilical cord leading into a toilet with a baby inside. He was led to the bathroom by a trail of blood. His first thought was that the fighting between my mother and grandmother had finally ended with bloodshed.

When he saw the seemingly lifeless body, he asked my mother, “What did you do?” She replied, “I did it again.” She meant she had another baby.

He picked up my tiny body and brought me close to his face to see if I was breathing. He said I opened my eyes, screamed, and closed my eyes. The sound startled him, and he almost dropped me. My uncle told me this story yearly on my birthday for 47 years. My mother hated the story but confirmed that is what happened.

My uncle thought my mother was injured because he didn’t know she was pregnant. She hid her pregnancy from her family. She bragged about never getting big, showing me pictures when she was at least six or seven months pregnant and barely showing.

I wasn’t my mother’s first born; I have a brother 18 months older than I am. She hid her pregnancy with him also. My brother was also born at home, but the paramedics arrived on time to deliver him.

My mother was 24 years old, unmarried, and pregnant again by a different man that was married. Not something she wanted to announce to the world.

She would tell me stories about how the nurse would try to get her to hold me in the hospital, and she’d refused, replying that “I’m taking her home.” I asked her once did she try to get an abortion, and her only response was that I was “meant to be here.”

I felt that the real reason was that Roe v. Wade decision was made on January 22, 1973, and by the time she knew she was pregnant and found a doctor in Chicago to perform the procedure, it was too late. And abortion was illegal when she was pregnant with my brother.

It would be 30 years before I found myself standing in a bathroom, anxiously waiting for the pink line to appear on a pregnancy test. At that point in my life, I thought I couldn’t get pregnant. I didn’t have a medical reason that I couldn’t conceive; I didn’t use birth control often with my boyfriend (who was now my ex). I was convinced it had to be more than just luck. I had moved to another state, and while I was home visiting family, I was horny and wanted a familiar bed, so I had unprotected sex with my ex, not thinking I would conceive.

While waiting for the lines to appear, I thought, If I’m pregnant, it means the baby is supposed to be here. The same thing my mother told me. But then I thought about the potential baby’s father, who already had eight children, and why he was an ex.

My mother didn’t want children and told my brother and me that on more than one occasion when we were growing up. A child should not grow up knowing that the only reason they are alive is that their mother didn’t have a choice.

I stared at that test as the lines began to appear. Although it was faint, it was only one line, indicating that I was not pregnant. I did not let out a sigh of relief. Aunt Flo still hadn’t shown up, and I felt like something was growing inside me.

A few days later, my period came, and whatever I felt was gone. I was not pregnant, but during that week, I thought of my options for the first time. Unlike my mother, I could decide if I wanted to have a baby.

I was advancing in my career, living in New York City, where I dreamed of living. I wasn’t ready or willing to give up the life that I had built.

I am grateful to be alive, but after Roe vs. Wade was overturned, I was furious that young women would start hiding their pregnancies, as my mother did 49 years ago.

I’m also angry that my daughters, who are in their 20s, won’t have the right to choose between having a baby and living in poverty or furthering their education..

Imagine how many women will be sitting alone in the bathroom giving birth to a baby they didn’t want, and the children who will grow up knowing their mothers didn’t want them. Imagine the mothers and babies who will die because of the lack of health care.

The decision to have an abortion is not easy, but it is a decision that should be left to the one who has to live with the consequences.

Bisa Myles lives in Northwest Indiana and loves to travel and write. She is a blogger at

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