In November 2003, after we had filmed the first season of The Simple Life and before it premiered, I was living my best life. The show started getting tons of great press. My co-star Nicole Richie and I were working it, showing up, doing interviews. I was out clubbing almost every night, posing for the paparazzi, talking to everyone about this crazy, wonderful show about to come out, promising everyone that they’d be blown away. I shuttled between New York and L.A., working the red carpet at premieres and award shows, and wherever I went, the growing army of paparazzi followed. I was having a wild-child moment, and it was sort of glorious.
It all came crashing down when I realized I was pregnant at 22. It was like waking up on the ledge outside a 40th-floor window. I was terrified and heartsick. The hormones sent my ADHD symptoms spiraling. Everything I knew about myself was at war with everything I’d been raised to believe about abortion. No one can ever know how hard it is to face this impossible choice unless she’s faced it herself.
Luckily, I wasn’t fully alone. At the time, I had been dating a guy named Jason Shaw for two years. I had first seen him on the curb in front of the Four Seasons in L.A., waiting for valet parking, and recognized him from a towering Tommy Hilfiger billboard that featured him stretched out in his underwear in Times Square. He was a lovely, down-to-earth guy. He had a degree in history. He bought a house on Kings Road where we could live together… But I knew I wasn’t in the right place to make any sort of commitment. It had nothing to do with him or a baby. I just wasn’t capable of being honest or loyal or whole. After suffering abuse at Provo Canyon School and three other programs within the “troubled teen” industry network, I was damaged in ways I couldn’t tell him about, and the fact that I never confided in him about my past—that says it all, doesn’t it? Secrets are corrosive. They destroy anything you try to layer over them.
Choosing to have an abortion can be an intensely private agony that’s impossible to explain. The only reason I’m talking about it now is that so many women are facing it, and they feel so alone and judged and abandoned. I want them to know that they’re not alone, and they don’t owe anyone an explanation. When there is no right way—all that’s left is what is. What you know you have to do. And you do it, even though it breaks your heart.
Over the years, I’ve looked back on all this with sorrow, even though I know I made the right choice. In my loneliest moments, I’ve romanticized that time in my life and tortured myself with melodrama—thoughts like, What if I killed my Paris?—but the fact is, there was no happy little family at stake. That was not going to happen. Trying to continue that pregnancy with the physical and emotional issues I was dealing with at the time would have been a train wreck for everyone involved. At that moment, I was in no way capable of being a mother. Denying that would have jeopardized the forever family I hoped to have in the future, at a time when I was healthy and healed.
Until I met Carter, who would become my husband, I wasn’t totally convinced that forever was a thing for me.
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With Carter, for the first time in my life, I began a relationship on a foundation of full disclosure. I made a connection that didn’t include separate corners for carefully kept secrets. We were honest with each other. Crazy concept, right? First you own it. Then you can share it.
We’re now a comfortable married couple. We love our Saturday mornings when we go to the farmers’ market for fresh eggs, fruit, and veggies, which we haul home so I can cook an elaborate brunch, and then we sit there and eat and eat and talk about exquisitely nerdy things like cross-collateralization and negative pickup. We laugh a lot and take time to wonder and be grateful. We love our work, our homes, our jobs, and we adore our dogs.
And we’ve started a family—on our own terms, because we were both ready to be parents. That doesn’t mean it was easy. I’ve always wanted twins: a boy and a girl. “It’s possible,” our doctor said. “In a perfect world…” If only my world were as perfect as it looks. For so many people, having babies is like plug and play, right? That’s how it seems, anyway. And when you want a baby, it seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant. It sucks, but I’m not alone in this either. There are so many young women at the fertility doctor’s office, so many families waiting to happen.
That’s what IVF is all about. Possibility. Hope. It’s hard, but you’re willing to go through anything to find your heart’s desire.
Month after month of injections, several egg-harvesting procedures, more IVF injections, new ADHD meds, my natural state of chaos—it was a lot. The shots are painful. At times, I felt like I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to confront the fact that my mind and body had never fully healed—and probably never will fully heal—from the trauma I went through as a teenager. But after two years, we finally welcomed our son, Phoenix Barron Hilton Reum, in January via surrogacy. He is my everything, the child I was always meant to raise.
I know I wouldn’t have this life if I hadn’t made that difficult choice in my early 20s. Women need to control their reproductive destiny. We need to know ourselves, trust ourselves, and know what’s right for us—and when—and stay in the driver’s seat.
From PARIS: THE MEMOIR by Paris Hilton. Copyright © 2023 by 11:11 Media, LLC. Reprinted by permission of Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
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