What does it mean to be an Unplanned Person?


Twenty six years ago, my biological mother found herself in a terrible position. Not only was she pregnant, but she was taking LSD, her mother was an alcoholic, and she was being abused by her mother’s boyfriend. She had had an abortion three years before I was concieved. I’m not sure why she decided to carry me to term, but she did.

Now I am a college graduate preparing to enter graduate school in the fall. I love my adopted family and have grown up with the knowledge that not only was I wanted, I was chosen.

Yet, this identity is antithetical to how pro choice rhetoric would have characterized me before I was born-I was an unplanned pregnancy that would develop into an unwanted child, an obstacle in my birth mother’s path, a social issue to be debated and picked at like a festering wound.

In the last year, I have had the opportunity to meet my biological father and his family, who contacted me years earlier, wanting to know me. When I finally made contact, I was struck by the profound joy they expressed at finding me, and the joy I have in knowing them and seeing how many of my distinct traits were inherited from them. If my birth mother ever wants to know me, I will meet her with open arms.

I appreciate my un-planned-ness. Like a shooting star, I came into the world, blazing through the atmosphere of politics that often characterize the abortion discussion. Whether the world was ready or not, I came.

Regardless of how my political opinions may shift in the future, I will always share my story because I want women to know that they are loved and that their child is loved-that everyone has a story, and that sometimes, being an unplanned child is part of that story. No one is unwanted, but sometimes we come into the world through unexpected portals and are embraced by those who love, want, and nuture us.

 

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  • invalid-0

    What an amazing story!! Thank you for sharing this. I will be thinking of you all day today.

  • invalid-0

    Dear Progo35,

    Your post illustrates how important it is for women to have the choice to bring a pregnancy to term or to terminate a pregnancy based on their own particular circumstances, needs, place in life, and ethical and moral beliefs.

    the central issue is the right to choose.

    Which is why, I feel the one place your post falls flat is in your own characterization of how the “pro-choice” movement “would have “characterized” your mother’s pregnancy.

    The pro-choice movement does not define any specific pregnancy for any specific woman, nor does it seek to determine outcomes for any specific pregnancy or any specific woman. Instead, it offers women a range of choices, including choosing to carry a pregnancy to term. The definitions of “intended pregnancy,” “wanted pregnancy,” “unintended pregnancy,” choice to carry and keep a child, to give a child for adoption or to terminate a pregnancy are those of the woman. the movement simply opens the door for the full range of women’s voices and experiences and choices to be actualized and realized, not to pre-determine any one choice or defintion.

    Your mother had a choice and she made the one best for her. No one in the pro-choice movement would have done anything but celebrate her ability to make the choice best for her.

  • invalid-0

    Thanks for sharing your story Progo. I, too, was an unplanned child. My mom and dad tried using the rhythm method to plan a pregnancy and it didn’t work so well. Mom was pregnant with me at 22, just a month or so after she and dad were married, and that wasn’t the plan. Even after learning that I was a “surprise” I never felt any less loved or appreciated. It’s important to emphasize your last sentence, that no one is unwanted. I do know, though, that my parents weren’t ready for me and we suffered through some tough times. Not that I was the cause, I know I wasn’t, but it would be naive to say I wasn’t a complication. My parents remarried and now I have four great parents and everything has worked out very well. But, now that I’m married and planning our future with my partner, I deeply appreciate the ability to plan our family, to be able to wait until we are emotionally and financially ready to have our children so that we may give them the best possible chance to be happy, healthy people… and for us to be better parents, better able to devote the energy our children will need from us.

    True, no one is unwanted and we all arrive in different ways and all ways should be celebrated and appreciated for what has been brought into the world… but being able to plan a family is a great gift of the time we live in and should be deeply appreciated in and of itself.

  • invalid-0

    Mom4Choice, you said what I was going to say, and so much more eloquently.

    This gets to the subtle but powerful difference between being pro-choice (which we are) and pro-abortion (which our opponents presume us to be). Our opponents cynically believe that we would have encouraged Progo35’s mother to have an abortion, absent any indication that an abortion was desired in the first place. We fight passionately for abortion to be legal, safe, and easily accessible, but that is not at all the same thing as presuming that any one person should (or should not) have one.

    Progo35, you rightfully take comfort in the fact that you were both wanted and chosen. Everyone should be able to have that affirmation.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

  • progo35

    I’m glad that Rh has this feature so that we can all share our unique experiences.

  • marysia

    Progo35, thank you for telling the irreplaceable truth of your life.

    There are often dire things foretold about the lives of people who are born from unplanned pregnancies and people who carry them to term. But with a proper social safety net, unplanned pregnancy, however difficult, need not be the end of the world. My daughter was unplanned, and so was my grandson.

    Creating and sustaining that safety net is the shared business of both prolife and prochoice.

    Nonviolent Choice Directory, http://www.nonviolentchoice.blogspot.com

  • invalid-0

    No one is unwanted

    Progo35, your story is powerful and true, but here you change tracks from talking about your circumstances to talking about other people’s. Do not presume that others will (or should) necessarily view an unplanned pregnancy in the same way your mother did. Just the fact of “giving it up for adoption,” or that many women resort to dangerous, unsafe abortion methods [where safe ones are not available] should tell you that sometimes, a pregnancy is not wanted. Sometimes, so much so that the woman will risk death to end it.

    We extend to you the courtesy of acknowledging and respecting your story, but in turn, we ask that you do the same for others—particularly those who have a very different story to tell.

  • progo35

    Everyone is supposed to take what they will from this story, which is why I shared it. I would like to clarify that when I say “chosen,” I do not necessarily mean “chosen” by my biological mother, I mean “chosen” by my adoptive parents.

    Anon, your remark about unwanted pregnancy is exactly what I am getting at in terms of the pro choice rhetoric that refers to pregnancy in this way. My point is that I WAS wanted by my adopted parents, even though I was not “wanted” by my biological mother. One could also argue that I was wanted by God, the universe, and whoever else my life has touched in a positive way.

    Moreover, I don’t necessarily take comfort from the fact that I was chosen in terms of being brought to term, I feel relief. When I picture myself in the womb, I think, “Wow, thank God I made it out of there.” I am grateful to my biological mother for making that difficult decision to give birth to me, but if I met her and she told me, “Actually, I really wanted an abortion, but your grandfather paid me off,” it wouldn’t change the sense I have of being wanted, chosen child, because I was chosen by my adopted parents. For whatever reason, God, or the universe, or what have you, has chosen to make being an “unwanted” child part of my life story and I embrace that.

    My point is that choice is not the be all and end all of human existence, so that when we say, “every child a wanted child,” we imply that planned children are superior people and may be ignoring the fact that that child is wanted by somebody and implicitly insinuating that children who are not planned are pests or problems to be avoided, instead of fellow human beings whose birth should be just as celebrated. Maybe some people aren’t meant to be planned children, and are supposed to come into the world in the way they did.

    But, that’s what blogs are for, sharing our perspectives on our own experiences and those of others.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    My point is that I WAS wanted by my adopted parents, even though I was not “wanted” by my biological mother. One could also argue that I was wanted by God, the universe, and whoever else my life has touched in a positive way.

    Because it is the decision of the biological mother to abort or not, her own “wanted / not wanted” is the only one that matters. Every single person in the world could want a certain child to be born, but if the woman carrying it wants otherwise, then everyone else’s desires are irrelevant.

    Now, of course, she could decide to abort or go the adoption route. That is her choice. But again, what anyone else wants has no bearing on that (unless the woman wants to take it into account).

    My point is that choice is not the be all and end all of human existence, so that when we say, “every child a wanted child,” we imply that planned children are superior people and may be ignoring the fact that that child is wanted by somebody and implicitly insinuating that children who are not planned are pests or problems to be avoided, instead of fellow human beings whose birth should be just as celebrated.

    Progo35, if you want to really understand what it is that we mean by “choice,” consider its opposite: Women being forced into carrying unwanted pregnancies to term. At the end of the day, that’s the linchpin. We don’t say that children born of such pregnancies must be unloved, or inferior, or whatever; our focus is on the fact that the woman is being denied control of her body and of her life.

    It’s good that you shared your story, Progo35. But all your metaphysical affirmation of embracing the unexpected, without also acknowledging the possibility (and the validity thereof) of abortion, has a subtext that seeks to delegitimize and devalue it as an option. Choice may not be the be-all end-all of human existence, but you come very close to saying that this “embracing the unexpected” mindset justifies denying choice to pregnant women.

    Maybe some people aren’t meant to be planned children, and are supposed to come into the world in the way they did.

    Whether or not to embrace such unplanned children is a choice in itself, and one that we passionately fight to ensure it remains the woman’s.

  • progo35

    Also, this story isn’t necessarily about the choice debate in terms of it’s legal aspects. For instance, one can be pro choice and argue passionately for life at the same time. Being pro choice doesn’t necessarily mean making no distinction between the choice one considers to be good, life affirming, etc, and one that one considers to be bad, destructive to life, etc.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    Also, this story isn’t necessarily about the choice debate in terms of it’s legal aspects.

    I recognize that, but the pro-choice argument isn’t limited to the legal side either. It doesn’t do us any good to fight for a right that is then stigmatized so heavily that women do not feel it is available to them. This is partly what the recent “Abortion Pride” article on this site was getting at.

    Being pro choice doesn’t necessarily mean making no distinction between the choice one considers to be good, life affirming, etc, and one that one considers to be bad, destructive to life, etc.

    Correct. But it does entail a much greater hesitance to cast judgment on the woman [than pretty much the entire pro-life movement has shown], because part and parcel of allowing women the moral agency to make a decision like that is trusting that they, and not us here sitting on the sidelines, are the ones most qualified to make that decision. After all, how can we say what is “good” and “life-affirming” (or not) if we don’t even know the woman, her circumstances, and the intimate details of her history?

  • progo35

    I think that it is very possible to say something is good or life affirming without knowing the woman’s exact history and circumstances, because otherwise we would have to agree that abortion is okay if the woman’s circumstances make it a “good” option.

    For instance, being 19, having a mother dying of cyrosis of the liver, and being abused by her mother’s boyfriend, on top of being pregnant, certainly was a horrible situation for my biological mother. I think that many would have “not judged” or approved, or even encouraged, an abortion decision on her part, yet, if she had, she would have ended my life. So, I feel that she made a good decision when she chose to bring me to term, and a bad decision when she chose to have an abortion. That’s just my opinion, and, like I said, my judgment about her decision is separate from how I view my birth mother as a person. I think her decision to have an abortion was bad, I do not think that she was bad, or that her decision not to have an abortion in my case made her inherently “good.” But that’s the difference between judging people and judging actions.

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    because otherwise we would have to agree that abortion is okay if the woman’s circumstances make it a “good” option.

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

    That’s exactly the point, Progo35. As much as you may personally disapprove of a woman who has an abortion, your disapproval, and the associated judgment of moral failure, are yours alone. Where many moral claims and judgments can be made with an air of universality, because most people agree with them (e.g. “murder is bad”), abortion is a special case.

    Why? Because there are many, many, many people who believe that abortion is not the evil thing you believe it to be. Good, decent people, who have as much claim as you do to being upstanding moral agents. Some pro-lifers would equivocate with “Well, murderers sure think murder is OK” or “Lots of decent people believed in slavery, too,” but these supposed parallels fall flat when you consider the full range of what pro-choicers stand for. We’re not baby-haters, and we don’t think abortion is a dandy thing that every woman should experience at least once. We start from a position of respect for women, for sexuality, for accurate information, for the resources human beings need to make the decisions they want to make (which usually doesn’t include abortion, if they can help it).

    You’re never going to get agreement on whether all abortions are bad, or all abortions are good. You’re never going to get God or some other supreme being to step in, and settle the debate. You’re never going to be able to make the claim that women who have abortions made the wrong choice, independently of your own biases on the matter. You may believe in the truth of that with all your heart, yet that does not in any way trump the Great Disagreement. People on the other side believe in their view just as strongly as you; does that invalidate your side?

    The only sane way to resolve the conflict is the same way we’ve resolved many other conflicts, all the way down to Coke vs. Pepsi: Allow both options, and let people work out the moral calculus for themselves. I know that the “If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one” line is trite, but there is a power in that idea that few people appreciate. You really do have the liberty to make that choice, and live in accordance with your beliefs.

    You can also continue to cast negative judgment on women who have abortions, but in the end, not acknowledging the validity of the belief that abortion can be moral is self-deceit. It’s like a superstition—a metaphysical presumption about the world that is only true in your mind, and can cause you needless grief and anxiety. Why not let it go, and trust the judgment of pregnant women?

    That’s not to say that anything goes, either. If you have a woman, who has access and knowledge of contraception, repeatedly becomes pregnant, waits until the sixth month, and aborts, several times in a row, willfully… then yeah, you can say that’s immoral. But a woman like that is a cartoon. It’s the villian with a top hat, monocle and handlebar mustache—we worry about him, but he doesn’t exist. To say nothing of the fact that abortion in itself is somewhat its own punishment; it’s an invasive, unpleasant surgical procedure. No one does it for fun, any more than one has a tonsillectomy for fun!

    I think that many would have “not judged” or approved, or even encouraged, an abortion decision on her part, yet, if she had, she would have ended my life. So, I feel that she made a good decision when she chose to bring me to term, and a bad decision when she chose to have an abortion.

    She weighed the factors, and made the decision that was right for her. I don’t know her at all; I don’t know what would have been important to her, and not so important. I would imagine that she should have wanted an abortion—but, guess what, people are unpredictable, especially the ones you’ve never even met before!

    Of course, given that the abortion-or-not would have had a direct effect on your presence-or-not here today, there is a very personal angle to this. But then, what if any other of those half-billion sperm cells had reached that egg first? What if your parents were too tired to play that evening? What if the zygote didn’t implant? The past is extremely fragile even without abortion—we can only take comfort in the fact that it is absolutely unchangeable.

  • progo35

    Anon-

    But, the zygote did implant. My parents did have sex, using birth control that failed. That particular sperm did reach the egg first. So, after all that, if my biological mother had terminated her pregnancy, she would have taken my life, and that, it seems, is the issue here. When people ask, “is it an individual or a clump of cells?” they gloss over the fact that when someone has an abortion, she is terminating the life of a unique individual who will never be born and whose destiny will never be fulfilled. Who knows who might have resulted from her first pregnancy? We’ll never know, because she terminated it. Does this make her a bad person? No, but it means that someone else, with a unique set of personal characteristics, isn’t here today.

  • invalid-0

    No, but it means that someone else, with a unique set of personal characteristics, isn’t here today.

    Which is exactly the same outcome as if your mother had not had intercourse on that night.

    You’re trying to equate an abortion in the past with murder (or the equivalent thereof) of the person you are today. That doesn’t wash, because the person you are today did not exist back then to be valid as a factor in the moral calculus.

    Imagine if a guy walked up to you at a bar one night, and said, “Progo35, we have to have sex tonight. If we don’t, our virtuoso violinist daughter Jenny won’t be born! Please, you wouldn’t want to prevent Jenny from coming into the world, would you?”

    A drink thrown in his face would be suitable. Taking his moral logic as anything other than a creepy pick-up line would not.

  • progo35

    I don’t agree with you, but you’re whole bar room sequence was hilarious. More later.

  • progo35

    But there’s a difference because the person I am today did not exist before my biological parents had sex. After they did, and the conception occurred, I did exist. The hypothetical child at issue in your bar room discussion doesn’t exist because she hasn’t been conceived. If, for some bizarre reason, I got drunk and made the misbegotten decision to have sex with this person, and a conception occurred, then “Jenny” :? would exist, at least in a way that she hadn’t prior to the conception.

  • invalid-0

    After they did, and the conception occurred, I did exist.

    Uh, no. The “I” in your statement refers to the person you are today, the result of twenty-six years (plus nine months?) of existence. What existed immediately after conception was a zygote. Your mother could have—just for the sake of argument—abandoned you, and then you could have grown up to become, say, a serial killer. All that happened at conception was that your DNA was set in stone. That’s not insignificant, but in terms of who you are today, it’s not nearly as important as everything that followed.

    If, for some bizarre reason, I got drunk and made the misbegotten decision to have sex with this person, and a conception occurred, then “Jenny” :? would exist, at least in a way that she hadn’t prior to the conception.

    An organism with Jenny’s DNA would exist. The virtuoso violinist part, however, has yet to come.

  • progo35

    But then again, I also referred to myself as “I” when I was fourteen and four. In your opinion, is the “I” I am today different than the “I” I was then? When did my human rights kick in? At birth? At sometime after that?

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

  • invalid-0

    But then again, I also referred to myself as “I” when I was fourteen and four. In your opinion, is the “I” I am today different than the “I” I was then?

    The hypothetical was that if you were aborted, the person that you are today would no longer exist. That goes as well for your four- and fourteen-year-old selves, but it was your present-day self that was at issue. And yes, you’re not the same person today as when you were four. But then, had you been aborted, that would still not be the same as knocking off your four-year-old self.

    On a side note: One pitfall to saying that abortion is not okay because then so-and-so wonderful person would not exist, is that if you then consider the hypothetical serial killer, you can’t very well argue that it would not have been okay to abort him/her because of the way s/he would turn out.

    When did my human rights kick in? At birth? At sometime after that?

    Legally, at birth. Morally, the question is fuzzier, of course—but no pro-choicer would hold that they come into being any later than birth. Once you’re clear of your mother’s body, there is no accepted argument for you not to have your full human rights.

  • invalid-0

    Progro repeatedly claims that every child is “wanted by someone.” Actually, that’s not so. There are tens of thousands of children who have been abandoned and are in situations where no one cares about them. Loving parents are not an on-tap commodity.

  • progo35

    The idea that everyone is wanted by someone is not exclusive to childhood. For instance, a person who is married is wanted by their spouse. A parent is wanted by his or her child. A good friend is wanted by his or her friends. Family can be your blood or adopted immediate and extended family, but it can also be those you form strong ties with in life. So, some children do grow up in bad situations, which every person should be determined to rectify. But that doesn’t mean that that those people aren’t wanted, it means that the people who want, love and nurture them aren’t immediately related to them. That doesn’t mean that such people shouldn’t have the opportunity to grow and develop relationships with those who do want them.

  • invalid-0

    Yes, and the only people who WANT some of them are the police who put them in WANTED files. I’ve actually met serial killers. Scary people. One I’m thinking of was abandoned by his father upon conception, abandoned by his mother after birth, abandoned by the home for unwed girls where he was born, abused sexually, put in 6 fosters homes by age 7, sent to an orphanage, declared to be a psychopath, put on a farm where he was used as cheap labor, and killed six people. You’re living in a fairyland, pro.

  • progo35

    Clar-how dare you insult an entire group of people by insinuating that we grow up to be murderers, rapists, and menaces to society. I am not living in a fairy land, you are because you are deliberately distorting facts to suite your agenda. That attitude is one of the reasons that I am pro life, because, when compared to the argument you just made,  the pro life position is a much more accepting, nonjudgemental attitude toward all kinds of people. Imagine if you told a woman "please have an abortion, because your kid will probably be a serial killer." But you wouldn’t actually say that, would you? No, you say it here, with the anonymity of the internet. 

    I wouldn’t want to embrace such a view of unplanned people and their lives or potential lives. As for your supposed clarity of vision, how dare you tell me that I live in a fairy land when you have no idea about what my life has been like, or what obstacles and joy I might have encountered. You’re basically saying "abort future criminals" as a response to the problem of abused or neglected children, which insults anyone who has ever been through the foster care system or social services. What’s more, that is a profoundly irr-liberal perspective. Last time I checked, liberalism was supposed to be about accepting all kinds of people, not encouraging abortion based on a characature of a particular people group. Look in the mirror the next time you accuse pro lifers or "right wingers" of being misanthropic.
    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

    • invalid-0

      You completely distort the point. You insist that all people are “wanted” — by somebody. I have pointed out that, while that is true in your case, it is not true in the cases of the many people who are abandoned by society. Check the foster homes and institutions. Tens of thousands! This is a reality, plain and simple. Every child has a right to a healthy and safe life; the people who are going to bear the children need to be able to determine if they can provide it. That is where the pro-lifers fall utterly flat.

  • progo35

    What you’re pointing out must be amended through better social programs, charity, and plain common sense. It shouldn’t be amended by removing the potential victims from the playing field. And that doesn’t change the fact that you made the erroneous claim that somehow people who grow up in foster care or who are unplanned turn out to be serial murderers. May I remind you that the most infamous serial killers-(Dahmer and Bundy come to mind) came from “stable” homes

    "Well behaved women seldom make history."-Laurel Thatcher Ulrich