Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of An Abortion Addict

Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of An Abortion Addict

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by Irene Vilar

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Irene Vilar was just a pliant young college undergraduate in thrall to her professor when they embarked on a relationship that led to marriage—a union of impossible odds—and fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Vilar knows that she is destined to be misunderstood, that many will see her nightmare as an instance of abusing a right, of using abortion as a


Irene Vilar was just a pliant young college undergraduate in thrall to her professor when they embarked on a relationship that led to marriage—a union of impossible odds—and fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Vilar knows that she is destined to be misunderstood, that many will see her nightmare as an instance of abusing a right, of using abortion as a means of birth control. But it isn't that. The real story is part of an awful secret, shrouded in shame, colonialism, self-mutilation, and a family legacy that features a heroic grandmother, a suicidal mother, and two heroin-addicted brothers. It is a story that looks back on her traumatic childhood growing up in the shadow of her mother's death and the footsteps of her famed grandmother, the political activist Lolita Lebrón, and a history that touches on American exploitation and reproductive repression in Puerto Rico. Vilar seamlessly weaves together past, present, and future, channeling a narrative that is at once dramatic and subtle.

Impossible Motherhood
is a heartrending and ultimately triumphant testimonial told by a writer looking back on her history of addiction. Abortion has never offered any honest person easy answers. Vilar's dark journey through self-inflicted wounds, compulsive patterns, and historical hauntings is a powerful story of loss and mourning that bravely delves into selfhood, national identity, reproductive freedom, family responsibility, and finally motherhood itself—today, Vilar is the mother of two beautiful children.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Other Press, LLC
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Penguin Random House Publisher Services
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For years, it didn’t occur to me that there was anything to tell about abortion. The opposite. There was much to forget. But I discovered that many other women were hungry to come to terms with a past scarred by cowardice and the need to cloak themselves in someone else’s power. Many had a history of repeat abortions. They, like me, were eager to find a language to articulate an experience they had seldom spoken about. My testimony is not unique. Beyond the antiseptic, practical language of Planned Parenthood and the legalistic or moralistic discourse of Roe v. Wade and its pro-choice and pro-life counterparts, there are few words to articulate individual, intimate accounts. About half of American women having abortions in 2004 (of 1.5 million reported) have had a prior abortion. Close to 20 percent have had at least two previous abortions and 10 percent three or more. A considerable number of the repeat abortions occur among populations with high levels of contraceptive use.

My own account can’t resolve the moral dilemma of my actions. Yet, I want to understand the spell a pregnant body exercised over me, my flawed desire to become someone, or something else. The diaries I kept guided me. My promise to the reader is to deliver an account of my addiction, a steady flow of unhappiness, the X-ray of a delusion, and ultimately, the redeeming face of motherhood.

Halfway through working on this book I got pregnant for the seventeenth time. I don’t think I would have been able to give birth without the call to accountability and self reflection that writing this story demanded. My daughter became the coherence emerging from the shameful massof thirty-five years.

Yes, I was an abortion addict and I do not wish for a scapegoat. Everything can be explained, justified, our last century tells us. Everything maybe, except for the burden of life interrupted that shall die with me.

Meet the Author

Irene Vilar

Irene Vilar was born in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. Her memoir The Ladies' Gallery (Other Press, 2009) was a Philadelphia Inquirer and Detroit Free Press notable book of the year and was short-listed for the 1999 Mind Book of the Year Award. She is a literary agent and editor of The Americas series at Texas Tech University Press.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
sandiek More than 1 year ago
Impossible Motherhood is the memoir of a woman who had fifteen abortions in fifteen years. Although many will find the author totally unsympathic, others will read her story and understand what motivated her. Irene Vilar lost her mother at age eight, when her mother opened the car door while the car was in motion, throwing herself out and killing herself in front of her child. Having learned from her mother that a female should be pleasing to others, Vilar stuffed down her feelings about this event and channeled her emotions into her schoolwork, succeeding to the point that she is accepted to college at age fifteen. Leaving her family behind in Puerto Rico, Irene attends Syracuse University in the Northern part of the United States, an environment as different from Puerto Rico as is imaginable. At fifteen, she is left by her father at the college, knowing no one, with little money and little life experience. Her family experiences are bleak. Her father is an alchoholic, who cheats on all the women in his life. Two of her brothers are drug addicts. Vilar falls under the influence of a professor at the university and ends up staying with him for a dozen years. He is sixty years old when they meet, and Irene is sixteen. He insists on his freedom, never paying her way but insisting that she pay for her food, and half of any vacations, as well as paying him rent. Since a child would tie him down, he insists on no children. His basic rule was that he took but did not give back to anyone. Irene's only rebellion, as she saw it, was forgetting to use her birth control. Her pregnancies were acts of rebellion against this overpowering influence, a way of asserting her independance. Yet after a month or two, the thought of losing him overwhelmed her, and she would abort another baby. This book, although it is hard to read at times, is recommended for all women; feminists,women caught in dependant relationships that are bad for them, mothers who want to avoid their daughters falling into this trap as well as any woman ambivalent about abortion. Vilar's life story shows the dangers of giving up independance and control of your life to anyone else, of needing someone so badly that you rebel against your ideals. The reader is simultaneously repulsed by the fate of all these babies and compelled to read further to hear how Vilar overcame this life and all it entailed.
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Jacinta77 More than 1 year ago
Mrs. Vilar will leave America questioning "What has happened to our society?" with this book. Mrs. Vilar, in the story which is true, is obviously a mentally ill, twisted woman with no conscience or sense of morality. And I disagree that she is a victim. Her actions were evil and almost beyond comprehension. The fact that she terminated 15 lives and wants to profit from it financially is shocking and appalling. But we should not just blame this woman, but we should blame the system which enabled her to do this; a system which has no limit on abortion and a system that uses tax payers' money to fund abortions. With this book, Mrs. Vilar will not only become the shame of the Feminist Movement, but of every woman on this earth. The Nazis too killed innocent people for trivial reasons and got away with it because the society they were a part of enabled them to do it. We as a society need to be aware that this kind of thing is happening. Abortion in and of itself is fundamentally evil although some argue it is a necessary evil. We as Americans need to rethink our stand on abortion, and we to place limits on the extent to which a mother can declare war upon her children.