Confession: I’m Gonna Keep My (Hypothetical) Baby

Our contributor Abby Spector, who is double-majoring in English and Feminine/Gender/Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University, has a confession to make:

“If you got pregnant, you’d have an abortion — right?” Max asked during our customary post-coital cuddle a few months back. My mind began to spin. For the seventeen years I had been a virgin, babies seemed far away. Now I was having sex. We used condoms, but according to Planned Parenthood, those are effective only 98% of the time. I went into calculator mode, trying to figure out the likelihood of getting knocked up if I had sex five times a week for a year. “Abby…you in there…?” Max, the commitment-phobe I had been dating for two months, was waiting for me to answer. Shit.

Politically speaking, I am pro-choice. Hell, prior to Max’s baby question, I often considered pro-choice synonymous with pro-abortion, a misunderstanding that made the concept of an unwanted pregnancy alien to me. Knocked up? Get an abortion. It seemed like a no-brainer. But now, lying in bed with Max, the scent of sex still looming in the air, I realized that deciding to get an abortion is not about politics or logic. It’s about emotions. And my emotions were clear — I would keep the baby.

Don’t get me wrong — I don’t want a child right now. Taking care of myself is hard enough, especially considering my abysmal culinary skills, occasional alcohol-related bed-wetting, and all-around chaotic lifestyle. Yesterday I had to throw away a plant I had owned for only a week. Additionally, a baby would mean I would have to distance myself from the sinful trifecta of alcohol, coffee, and sex. A pregnant chick isn’t exactly a hot ticket on the twenty-something dating scene.

All of these reasons — not to mention the million other ways that my life would be turned upside down by single motherhood — are trumped by my emotional inability to terminate a pregnancy. I have always wanted children. I love their pure, unadulterated minds and the way they react to the littlest things. I’m even guilty of Youtubing birthing videos because I find labor beautiful. My dreams usually place motherhood ten-or-so years down the road, but dreams are just rough outlines for the future. Baby Jonah Willow or Delilah Rose (yes, I have names picked out for both) would be loved whether I was nineteen or ninety.

Considering my thoughts on pregnancy, you might be wondering why I’m not on a more full-proof form of birth control. People my age usually go on the birth control pill or an alternative form of hormonal medication. However, past experiences had proven that my body loathes ovulation-altering hormones. So I began researching IUDs. History has given the IUD a bad rap. In the seventies, it was linked to inflammatory pelvic disease, infertility, and even death. Luckily, modern science has blessed vaginas with a new form of IUD that has minimal side-effects. I got myself one of those bad boys and am now happy as a clam (albeit a clam with slightly heavier bleeding).

That night with Max, however, I was still in condom mode and confused as fuck. “Max, I…uh….think I would keep the baby.” He lost his erection. “What!? Why?! Do you think you’re ready to be a mom?” He meant this to be a rhetorical question, but I took it as an open floor for me to give him my rambling spiel on why I would keep a child. After that night, every time he saw a child he looked like he threw up in his mouth. Our relationship ended a few weeks later. Apparently, he wasn’t interested in anything serious. Did my baby comment scare him away? Probably. But when it comes to sex, I believe that honesty is always the best policy — especially when it involves popping an eight-pound baby out of your vahgine.


  1. Dear Abby Spector,
    I know you published this entry over a year ago, but I just came across Em & Lo, read this, and felt that I needed to leave you a comment. First, I must commend you for writing so openly about sex – it’s important and definitely appreciated (at least by me!) But why comment on this entry? I am a college senior, and I always felt as you did – unabashedly pro-choice, but if I got pregnant, I would keep the baby. I will admit (though I know I speak only for myself) that there was some self-righteousness in my view. After all, I love babies. I want to be a mom… someday. I also think labor is beautiful. So – how could I possibly ever get an abortion – even though I would of course support with my vote and my volunteer hours (at Planned Parenthood) a woman’s right to do so? Well, my freshman year of college, I got pregnant. Our birth control method failed, and after 5 pregnancy tests I told my shaken and terrified boyfriend. Yes, in a hypothetical world, I would not have gotten an abortion. I would have had that baby and things would have worked out. I do think things would have ‘worked out’ eventually, and I would have loved that baby with everything I have and more. But I was 18. My life had just started, leaving the suburbs and finally achieving my dream of college in a big city. I would have had to leave college – there is no way around that. My long distance boyfriend was in a similar situation. It would not have been the right choice to have that baby… not just for me and not just for the baby. In that very real situation I had to consider my boyfriend, my parents, his parents, our siblings… It is all well and good to think you know what you would do. But I would respectfully caution against believing that your conclusion is THE conclusion. The real world and real, difficult, heartbreaking decisions are much different and more complicated than you seem to realize. I know this was a long comment, and I mean no disrespect – I really admire what you’re doing. I just thought that a little perspective could inform this (long dead, I know!) discussion.

  2. Although I think the OP has the right to certainly continue the pregnancy if she were to become accidentally pregnant, her wanting to do so DOES NOT mean she “wants to get pregnant” like some other posters assume. The question SHOULD have been asked earlier in the relationship. It is only part of being responsible, and not waiting until the dreaded happens to have to talk about it.

    IMO, the question, “What would we do if I were to become pregnant?” Should be asked BEFORE the first penile-vaginal sex act EVER occurs in a relationship.

    I know My Man and I discussed before we ever had intercourse for the first time. Although I am pro-choice, I don’t think I would have had an abortion, I don’t THINK so anyway. That was OK with My Man. However, we made it nearly airtight to use good protection every time. I went on the BC pill after a pregnancy scare at 17 with foam, and a diaphragm. I HATED the pill, but it was better than any other form of BC available at the time, we both wanted to finish college, we weren’t even sure we would stay together yet. When the relationship went Open, I stayed on the pill, until my health declined and by then we were finished both finished with most of our formal education (mostly) and decided to become monogamous.

    We found ourselves expecting a year or so later, while planning our wedding, but by that time the timing seemed right, so it wasn’t a problem. In fact, with a history of gynecological problems, we were glad there had been no problem with conception. And, damn, with the ease with which I did get pregnant (the conception was the very first time in 7 years we “slipped” and didn’t use protection) I am VERY glad not only did we use good protection for all those years but that we also had discussed what would happen “if.”

    When I did get pregnant the first time, he quietly asked me again, “What do you want to do? Do you want to continue the pregnancy?” I asked hom what HE wanted and he said, “Not my body, it’s completely your choice. You’re My Woman and I’ll go along with what you think is best because I love you and respect any decision you make.” I told him I wanted to continue the pregnancy and he sighed loudly and said, “Thank GOD! I didn’t want to make you do something you didn’t want, but I am so happy we’re going to have this baby.” We were on the same page, and have been for years.

    Many years later (more than 20) we had an accident and I let him know the next morning I was worried that sperm may have entered the vaginal canal and was going to use some Plan B (morning after birth control) he was also, due to our age, and the difficulties I have had gestating our children, totally on board with that, and despite no side effects from the medication, he kept by my side and was worried about me until I menstruated 2 weeks later. (Plan B is NOT “the abortion pill” all it does is prevent ovulation.)

  3. WOW. Some great responses that illustrate just how different the viewpoints are on this and generally (GENERALLY MEANING “WITH EXCEPTIONS NOTED”) falling along gender lines.

    What we have hear is a real failure of communication. Sex is a drive, not a method of communication. Couples often think they communicating a wealth of information during the coital act about their feelings, intent, state of being, etc. However, this is often not the case.

    When the poster mentioned she’d keep the baby, she was putting her man on notice that if he continues to have sex with her HE WILL BE A FATHER. This is of course, her choice and right. That relationship was over right then and there. It just took him a few weeks to break it to her.

    Let us not rush to judgement on the Father To Be. He did the right thing here. If he does not want to be the father of a child, he has no business having sex with a girl who would “keep it”. It’s for the best then that he is out of the picture.

    It is incumbent on our Mother to Be to communicate her desire to “Keep it” to any male she is having sex with as long as condoms are the method of birth control. To do otherwise is simply not taking the potential child and resulting situation in to account.

  4. look everyone has answers but ask yourself we all know better but i found myself in the same situation a week ago i am 44 and pregnant been sleeping with this guy for 5yrs and his answer to my situation is this abord it … that was not the answer. i choose to keep the baby, and his out the door listen people some man want to walk away but thank God for the U.S.A cause these man needs a kick in the pants and he will have to pay for walking i know thats not the best for the child but i will love him and do my best for him might i add i am biz owner college educated and product of single parent home i have a son 25 and daughter 8 wow right but im blessed to have them in my life a long with new one on the way

  5. I feel I have the right to weigh in here because I was raised by a single mother. Incidentally I also got a girl friend pregnant and she did not have an abortion. My mother is a hero of mine; she’s an amazing woman and she gave me everything she could growing up. My dad is a good man, but he couldn’t handle being married to my mom. Everyone’s got issues, so I’m not special there, but I know that my special brand of being fucked up has a lot to do with my parents breaking up and all the drama that ensued. At least they did it early, so I have no memories of them ever together, but I still struggle daily with an identity steeped in material and emotional poverty. I have one full brother, but I could have had more. My mother and father chose to bring my brother and I into this world, but my mother also chose to have two abortions in her life time. No one can say for certain what our lives would have been like had she chosen differently, but there are a lot of clues. Funny that we have similar names, because like Johnny I too work with “at-risk” youth. While working with them and seeing the chains that poverty and despair wrap around peoples hearts I thank my lucky stars that my mother made what I consider to be the responsible choice not to have any more kids. Despite the emotional turmoil I live with everyday I am considered to be successful. I have a college degree, a professional job, I’m financially independent and I’ve made my life’s work about giving back to the community and helping the less fortunate. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there were so many times growing up where if things had been just a hair different my depression and anger would have led me down a different path. With three or four kids instead of two, my grandparents might not have been able to have my mom, brother and I live with them for 6 years. My mother would have likely ended up on welfare. With two extra kids she likely wouldn’t have had the energy to finish college like she did and become a teacher. And with two other siblings to compete with I think I would have checked out of life a long time ago. I thank my mother for her choice. I thank her for having the guts to make that choice. I know that she has to carry that burden around with her the rest of her life, but I’m selfish enough to appreciate what that private pain did for me. When my girlfriend got pregnant my mother was the only person besides myself that ever uttered the “A-word”. People seem to have this notion that there’s this angry mob of baby killing pro-abortion folks out there. Well I think those people are living in a reality far different from my own. Abortion was never even an option. In fact the whole notion of choice is irrelevant to men once conception has occurred. I hate to write this, but the only option we men have is to try and influence the mother’s choice by whatever means necessary. My girlfriend and I went with adoption; something that doesn’t seem to have been discussed here yet. I had to lobby hard to convince my girl friend that this was the best compromise and I know that she bears the brunt of the emotional scars of giving the baby away, but that baby is now the light of the lives of to well adjusted happy and successful individuals who are forever indebted to us for giving them the gift of parenthood. I’m not making this up either. We entered into an open adoption and have regular contact with the family. So where the hell am I going with all of this? Pregnancy is huge. I’ve been though it as much as any guy can. There are lots of emotions involved. I had so much resentment toward my own absentee father I would have rather killed myself than become one. However, if we as a species cannot find a balance between the emotions that safeguard our perpetuation and the dispassionate reason and logic needed to avert over population related catastrophe then we are headed to a gloomy end indeed. One way or another we will exterminate ourselves be it through war, famine, disease, state sponsored murder or all of thee above. Nature requires balance, and we are not gods, we are subject to her rules.

  6. No wonder GOD chose women to bare children…Johnny’s of the world would kill them off and we’d all be fucked.

  7. Though the author seems to be a very intelligent and thoughtful person, she also strikes me a little naive and maybe superficial when it comes to motherhood. I was raised by a young, single mother who did not graduate from college; she did a wonderful job and I have always loved her very much. But my childhood was also incredibly stressful for her, and she did have to basically sacrifice two decades of her life for me. Being a parent is a lot more than picking out cool names or being the star of delivery home videos. More than anything, it’s a lot of work.

  8. Wait, what is the problem with Max asking this question? I mean, in the ideal world, a couple should discuss this before they ever get it on. I think the conversation should go “How are we going to prevent pregnancy?” and “What will we do if we do get pregnant?” And throw “Have you been tested for STD’s?” in with it. I mean, if you can’t openly discuss these issues, why are the two of you having sex? But again, that is in the ideal situation, and not always how things go.

    Max has a right to not have children if he doesn’t want them. At least he was honest about his needs, even if he didn’t phrase it well.

  9. Sorry – I reread Johnny’s response and I realized you said you worked with troubled kids. But, my belief still stands. You are working ONLY with troubled kids – of course they came from difficult home situations. You aren’t working with most of the children who grew up in poor families or with single mothers. Just the troubled children who grew up in those situations. I see plenty of children and adolescents who are perfectly fine. And still – to say that it would be better for the kids that you work with if they didn’t exist – that’s sad.

  10. I don’t think that Max is an asshole, just honest… And Johnny, I too, work in a capacity where I am dealing with a lot of women who had babies they were unable to care for in a physical sense. I don’t know exactly what you do, but my job is to help them find a way to feed and clothe those children with the little resources they have available to them. Yes, it’s difficult but not impossible. That’s a big part of the reason why I was offended by your response. And yes, their children have difficult lives, but to infer that it would be better if they did not exist? That’s just… cruel. Can you imagine how damaging that would be to a child? To realize their social worker (or whatever it is that you do) actually believes their mother should have aborted them?

    And the other reason that I was offended is that I was one of those children. I was definitely an accident, born into a very poor town, and my mother dropped out of college to care for me. I spent a lot of my childhood as a member of a family on food stamps and welfare. Luckily, my mother – and later, my stepdad did everything in their power to make sure that my siblings and I had what we needed. And when I was wearing really old hand-me-down clothing and eating expired canned food given to us by a church, yes, LOVE was enough for me. And for my siblings. So don’t sit there and knock single mothers and very poor families. Because I did perfectly fine, and so did all three of my siblings. And I know, for a fact, that growing up in a poor family that does whatever it takes for their children to have it better is not at all rare. You don’t have to be middle class and college educated to give your children a happy childhood.

  11. Johnny–May I make a few points.

    You assume that parents who have children before graduating college are going to screw up their kids. What about people who don’t want to go to college? What about people who go to college later in life? My mom, for example, went to nursing school after she had my brother and I, and became a successful RN. You posit this idea that college is this life changing right of passage when it may actually not be the case for all. The ugly truth is that parents of all ages and experience levels can harm their children. Older parents with successful careers (I assume all the ingredients to raise healthy children, in your opinion) can inflict abuse and neglect. Do I think that the odds are stacked against younger parents? Yes. Do I think that they inevitably screw their children up? No. Do I think that parenting young presents challenges that may shake up the way the public imagines a family? Yes, but I don’t think its a bad thing. Like I said, families take many shapes and there are many different ways to raise a healthy child.

    I presume that college is a gateway to adulthood and a career. Is it a career and income that makes a stable childhood (or allows a parent to fill their child’s stomach with something more than love)? I would challenge the idea that even higher income people don’t struggle with money. Should lower income people simply stop having children? And what of all the people who don’t live in wealthier nations? Are they bad parents too? Or, it is being under college age (the majority are in the 18-25 age range) that determines a person’s maturity and ability to parent? I would suggest that there are plenty of older people who aren’t child ready and plenty of younger people who are. I find it difficult to extrapolate your work with troubled youth and parents out to cover every single mother or younger family out there.

    Now I agree with you 100% that proper protection is key. I actually also agree that, if you want a “screening test” to keep away from women who would keep a hypothetical baby, so be it. You will probably narrow your selection of women and also consider that your partner may change her mind if she gets pregnant. I am also thoroughly pro-choice and supports any woman who chooses to keep or terminate her pregnancy. Its the trade off you have when you choose to have sex with another person, the possibility that it may drastically change your life through procreation. Women face the physical certainty that a pregnancy could create a child or the potential physical and emotional reality of an abortion–that is the possibility she always faces when she has sex because no protection is perfect. I am not one of those people who advocates for people to abstain from sex, but I am one who thinks that sex comes with responsibilities and one of those could be to become a parent.

  12. In my job I work with troubled kids who, almost invariably, come from selfish mothers who wrecked their own lives and their childrens’ by having babies they couldn’t handle. They don’t seem to love their kids, they don’t fulfill their parental responsibilities, and the kids wind up fucked-up hardcore. I just don’t agree that the majority of single parents who give birth prior to graduating college do a bang-up job. I think that’s a fantasy, and one that wrecks lives.

    As for the choice thing, we dudes can’t be too careful, cause we have zero choice once sperm and egg meet. When we hear, ‘I’d keep the baby,’ our minds immediately jump to the realistic possibility that she actually wants a baby, and that opens up a scray set of possibilities. Since not having sex isn’t a reasonable option, proper protection and proper screening of partners is the responsible way.

    So, Max is such an asshole? You just can’t believe he would ask such a question? Did it ever occur to anyone that he does not see the original poster as the woman he wants for his childrens’ mother? Or that she’s just fine mom material, but not yet?

  13. I think that the majority of single mothers fulfill not only the physical needs of their children but their emotional needs. I think that having a stable loving home doesn’t necessarily mean one with a man and a woman. Stable, healthy families happen in many different forms. There are families with two dads, two moms, one dad or one mom, grandparents, and co-parenting. So long as the child is loved, provided for, supported, and healthy–then the family works. Have you ever heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child? I’m not a single parent but it sure is the truth!

    I imagine that there are plenty of women who are single mothers not because their boyfriend bounced when she told him that she was pregnant but because the marriage didn’t work out. Even under the best circumstances, one can become a single parent (ask any wife who has lost her husband to disease or accident). When I was pregnant, I told myself over and over again that I had to be strong enough to be a single mother because you never know how the circumstances will turn out. I also know women who have chosen to parent alone who are older, successful, and whose children most certainly wont be raised by “the grandparents.”

    I do think Max and Johnny says are on to something though. For whatever reason, if you don’t want the prospect of being a parent, you shouldn’t have to. So stop having sex! Because you don’t know how your partner will react when or if she gets pregnant and you cannot take away the fact that she has a choice. And you shouldn’t become a deadbeat daddy because you can’t handle the responsibility.

  14. Max was obviously on to something when he asked that question. He got the answer he feared and bounced. I have asked this same question, and screened women out because they gave the OP’s response.

    As for the expense, trauma and stigma of abortion, try raising a kid you’re unable to care for. Try filling your baby’s stomach with emotions and clothing it with love. Try explaining to the poor kid why he or she doesn’t have a dad.

    These kids deserve stability. But hey, they’ll get that from their grandparents, who will wind up raising them.

  15. Johnny… are you kidding me? A large portion of children who grow up in those shitty situations are not because of some issue with emotion… It’s because abortions are ridiculously expensive and have a huge social stigma attached (That is NOT emotion). If a woman decides she WANTS to keep her child, in all likelihood, she is going to try to do the best she can for the baby. The child might grow up low-income, but he or she will probably be very loved. I don’t know about what YOUR view of life is, but in my opinion, its love that matters… not whether or not mom has to get food stamps to help feed the kid.

    Many women suffer HUGE psychological consequences for going through with abortions that they do not emotionally want. I’m not talking about women who are okay with their decision here… I mean those who are guilted into it by men like “max.” It’s not remotely fair to say that her emotions don’t matter.

  16. It totally boggles my mind that your bf would ask that question after only two months of dating, and it horrifies me that he would expect you to get an abortion just so that his life wasn’t “ruined”. Max sounds like an asshole, and so do you Johnny.

  17. Jesus… do you know how many children grow up in the shittiest of situations, with unfit parents who thought the decision to have a baby “isn’t about logic, it’s about emotions”?

    Downright scary. Luckily Max seems to have his head on straight.

  18. I find it strange that the boyfriend asked that question in the first place.

    I had a baby when I was not yet 21 (he’ll be 25 this month), so, yeah, I chose to have my baby. I like that there was a choice.

  19. Here’s what my math tells me: if the 98% figure was per usage, that means you could expect to get pregnant an average of once per 50 boinkings. If we assume that you boink an average of 100 times per year, you’d have a 13% chance of making it through the year un-pregnant(.98 to the 100th power).

    Thankfully, Evan is right:it’s 98% effective per year. 1 pregnant couple out of 50 in a year of average frequency. Again, assuming 100 times per year, that works out to one pregnancy per almost 5000 sessions. Or, 99.9797% effectiveness per use(4949/4950).

    But, the author’s link above tells us that the vast majority of accidental pregnancies would be caused by improper usage. I’m gonna double check my technique.

  20. I have to say, good for you being honest about it-if he couldn’t handle making a baby, breaking up is the right thing. And no, pro choice =/= abortion required. It means I can’t tell you to have an abortion if you got pregnant, and you can’t tell me not to if I did. because different people and different situations are different. It always annoys me when people don’t understand this. Like, because I do firmly believe that the option has to be there, I either -a. don’t believe that birth control and not being pregnant until you want to is better than having an abortion(it’s much better), or b. believe everyone should have an abortion(not true at all. if you want to keep the baby, go for it, and I’ll help you any way I can).
    also, Evan(or someone who’s studied this), explain the math of 98% each time =1.7% of a year not knocked up? I mean, I know you’re right that 98% per year, but I don’t see where 98% each time=1.7% per year.

  21. You need to reread the stats on how comdom effectiveness is determined – it’s not 98% effective for each act, it’s 98% effective per year of use (assuming proper use and average frequency). If it were 98% per encounter you’d have around a 1.7% chance of making through the year not knocked up.

    Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s good to be thinking about what you’d do… But condoms are very effective.

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