I got this email from a reader. She is someone who is working through her abortion pain. At early stages of the healing journey, a lot of women think that the reason they had an abortion is because there is something wrong with them: they are bad, sinful, weak, have a broken moral compass, or other similarly harsh self-assessments.
At later stages of the healing journey, women are starting to heal from these harsh beliefs about themselves. Many women start to realize that the abortion seemed like a good idea (or the best available) idea at the time, not because they were an evil sinner, but because of various predetermining factors that set them up to experience a pregnancy as unusually frightening, aversive, or psychologically costly.
This woman has been thinking about the messages she got about her body when she was younger. She'd like to know if anyone else has had similar experiences.
I got the message early on in life that there was something wrong with my body. Other people found it distasteful. Examples of this are that when I was in seventh grade, I was showing parents around our school for parent-teacher conferences. I was enjoying this work, and occasionally ran up the stairs two-at-a-time. Once when I did this, the principal loudly remarked, "She must not realize she looks like an elephant when she does that." Another time, when I was 13, my grandmother came to visit and I went out on the porch to greet her. As she got out of her car, she looked at me and turned to her husband, saying, "I told you that her nose was even bigger than her mother's." This same grandmother once took me on a shopping trip to a K-Mart in the summer. We were at opposite ends of an aisle and she looked over at me and announced, with a loud voice and a tone of disapproval, "Those aren't freckles on your arms. Those are moles!" Combine this with a dad who didn't express physical affection or approval, and background chatter in school that indicated discomfort with women's bodies (like the male teachers who would stalk the halls, randomly ordering this or that girl to kneel on the floor in front of everyone so he could measure the distance between the floor and her skirt's hem...if it was more than 2 inches, she'd be expelled from school for the day), it's safe to say that I really, really disliked my body. I really disliked it, and I grew to have tremendous fear about how others would react to it. I remember when I got pregnant, one of the reasons this seemed especially fearful to me is as I imagined how people might talk about my pregnant body, if I stayed pregnant. The idea that a pregnant woman's body is beautiful is scarce now, and was really scarce then. The idea that my body could ever be viewed as something to be cherished and treasured, unless I kept it ruthlessly within accepted standards (moles, nose and all) seemed impossibly remote.