Irene Vilar had a hard childhood. As the granddaughter of famed Puerto Rican nationalist Lolita Lebron (currently in intensive care in a hospital in Hator Rey, PR)—who famously stormed into the house of representatives in the 1950's armed with an automatic pistol—Vilar found it difficult to escape her family's shadow. Her own mother felt the same way and when Vilar was 8-years-old, she committed suicide by throwing herself from a moving vehicle.
One of the reasons Vilar's mother was plunged into a deep depression was a forced hysterectomy she suffered at the age of 33, as part of the program of American-led mass sterilizations that took part in Puerto Rico from 1955-1969. But none of these reasons can fully explain what caused Vilar to have 15 abortions in 16 years. "Women tend to repeat behaviors," Vilar muses.
"In the beginning I was taking pills and I'd skip a day or two or give up one month," Vilar told ABCNews.com. "I'd think I'll be better next time. But slowly, my days took on a balancing act and there was a specific high. I would get my period and be sad, then discover I was pregnant, being afraid, yet also so excited."
Dr. Lauren Streicher, clinical assistant professor at the Northwestern University School of Medicine, says, "This book really isn't about using abortion as birth control. She is unconsciously sabotaging contraception for self-mutilation. It's a way of escaping feeling empty." After her tenth abortion Vilar said she "needed another self-injury to get the high."
So why tell her story now? Vilar is hoping that her shocking tale can open up a larger dialogue on reproduction, abortion and what it means not only to be a mother, but a woman in this society. She points out the unrealistic expectations that women be perfect mothers, sexually appealing to men and professionally driven—essentially everything to everyone. Vilar says she hopes woman will be able to one day move past the point of using "procreation as power."