* I originally named this ‘Why we shouldn’t ban abortion’ but I went back and changed it to ‘Why are we even having to debate about this’ because I’m really struggling to find any viable reason why there are arguments over what an individual does with THEIR OWN body. *
In light of the stories from the U.S that have been circulating news outlets this week, I wanted to share my story of recent events, in the hope it can give some insight to what it is actually like being pregnant and choosing to have an abortion.
For this story I need to give some context: a year and a half ago I decided to move to Cornwall for a relationship. I moved willingly, aware that the only person I knew was the person I was in a relationship with. I was completely, madly in love, so we decided we wanted to have a baby (I was in a relationship with a woman so naturally we had to do things a little different). I had been thinking about getting pregnant for a while, so this is something I had really wanted. I had tests that indicated I was healthy and fertile and we had an appointment at a fertility clinic to get the ball rolling. Soon after this, the relationship broke down, which meant the end of the pregnancy journey. And although I hadn’t really managed to make any concrete friends outside of work or my relationship, I decided I wanted to stay in Cornwall. Things settled and a few months later I had my own flat and a lovely bunch of new friends.
A few months later…
I don’t actually remember the exact date I found out I was pregnant, but I can tell you it was on a weekday morning in the women’s toilets of a Burger King. A classy situation. Of course I was in denial. I had never had to deal with something like this before. I put it out of my mind and was adamant that the pregnancy test was wrong. I then visited a doctor who told me ‘pregnancy tests are rarely wrong. In fact, they are 99.9% accurate’ and with all faith in my doctor (and the poundland pregnancy test) this was when the realisation sunk in but all I remember thinking was, ‘oh shit’.
I had been with my new partner for only a month, so when I had the realisation about me actually being pregnant, I had the memory of my previous relationship and all of those feelings of wanting so badly to be pregnant flood back to me, except this time, it was a completely different circumstance. It felt like my past was taunting me. Tom (my boyfriend) and I spoke about all the possibilities. We talked about what we would do if we kept it, came up with a plan of action, thought about the sex of the baby, baby names, baby clothes, baby school, baby everything. I think it drove us both a little baby-crazy. We were close and had been since we met but having an actual child seemed out of our depth and completely inappropriate considering the circumstances. After all the late night chats weighing up the pros and cons, with careful consideration, we decided that bringing a child into this world where we couldn’t facilitate for it to the best of our ability was against what we stood for and although it saddened us, we felt a termination was the best outcome.
I was only pregnant for 6 weeks before having the termination but during those 6 weeks, I endured some of the toughest times of my life. My whole body changed, I felt like a completely different person. I would look at myself in the mirror and think about how strange I seemed. I know I probably didn’t look different to anyone else, but to me, I was an alien. The obvious changes happened; fuller breasts, bloated stomach; I had sweats, headaches, morning sickness – except in my case it was not just morning sickness. I felt sick. All. The. Time. I could not do it any longer. I was exhausted. Really, bloody exhausted. I actually now worship pregnant women. They are creatures of an elite species and I’m quite a bit embarrassed admitting that I felt so awful when I only had to endure pregnancy for a measly 6 weeks – I could not imagine going through 9 months of it let alone the actual giving birth – oh and the baby that I was then responsible for!
During my pregnancy, I was living with some really loving and supportive men. I hadn’t managed to make any close friends that were girls yet so there I was, bloody pregnant, surrounded by men. I cannot fault them though and I really do owe them a lot of thanks because they did – try their bloody hardest to – keep me sane. They dealt with me swearing at them, shouting at them, crying (a lot), moaning (a lot) and I don’t think I could’ve wished for kinder, more loyal and protective guys around me. Although, there were times I desperately wanted my girl friends from back home with me, or even just a girl to talk to FOR 5 MINUTES! But I felt like, because I was 90% sure I wanted to terminate the pregnancy, there was no way I could tell anyone about it. As well as being away from friends, I was also away from my family; this was a lot harder. It was a really lonely, scary time.
The hospital gave me 3 options to terminate my pregnancy, none of which seemed particularly appealing. I won’t go into detail about all of them but to give you a little insight, one option had the word ‘vacuum’ in the title – gross. I didn’t choose the vacuum option. Instead, I chose the pill option. I assumed that it was a one-pill procedure, I would have a period and it would all be gone. Not only was I wrong about the one-pill thing, I was wrong about the whole simplicity of the procedure.
At the hospital they gave me a pill to stop the pregnancy hormones. They then gave me a rectal antibiotic (to shove up my bum either in the hospital or at home – I chose to do this at home) and 4 other pills to take home to insert into the vagina the following day. To be honest, none of this fazed me, as by this point I was ready to do anything to not be pregnant anymore. I went home relieved and ready. The gynaecologist explained to me that it would feel like a more painful, heavier period and as someone who has experienced quite painful periods, I felt I would be able to handle it.
The next day I woke up with a sense of relief. Today was the day that my awful, tiring, stressful pregnancy will finally be over. I had to wait until midday to continue the procedure but once I had finished with the tablets, I got a blanket, curled up on the sofa and waited for it to work. Tom sat with me, offering to bring me drinks, food, hot water bottle; anything – he was far more concerned than I was. I actually remember thinking how exhausted I felt and wanting desperately to just fall asleep. I lay on the sofa the whole afternoon, only getting up to go to the toilet to check to see if anything was happening, which it wasn’t. Naturally, I was impatient.
I eventually felt cramping at about 4pm and saw the passing of blood and tissue when I went to the toilet. I was instructed to wear sanitary towels during the procedure and not tampons to allow the passing of the pregnancy to be most effective. This was fine, although I hadn’t worn pads in years as I find them extremely irritating but how more irritated could I really be at this point? All seemed to be going well and the cramping gradually got worse but it wasn’t anything I hadn’t felt before – until it suddenly became unbearable. I was making my way back from the toilet to my living area when everything felt like it was spinning. I felt sick, lightheaded, and the pain was excruciating. Tom thought we should call an ambulance and reminded me that the gynaecologist said that the pain would be bad but not unbearable. I insisted that it was just a symptom of the procedure and protested with him about calling the emergency services. But I couldn’t ignore the pain and was crying out in agony. Tom called the ambulance and they turned up pretty quickly. It was decided that I should be taken to A&E as the level of agony I was in was unusual for the situation. In the ambulance I was given morphine and gas and air for the pain. This helped and was strangely enjoyable considering the circumstances.
I wasn’t released from the hospital until 2am. Drugged up on pain relief and exhausted from being prodded, the doctors told me the procedure had gone wrong and although complicated, it wasn’t completely uncommon. In fact, 1 in 100 patients having the same procedure experience the issue I had. From what I understood about what happened is, the pregnancy didn’t fully pass with the pill and got stuck in my cervix thus causing the pain I experienced. This meant that the doctors had to remove it surgically at the hospital. Relieved it was all over, I went home and had an almighty sleep.
Honestly, the whole thing was traumatic and I do not think I am quite recovered yet. I have been back to hospital twice since the procedure for scans/blood tests and was admitted to A&E again last week with similar abdominal pains. All my tests came back fine and I was given more pain relief but told it can take up to 3 months for the body to heal. I was also offered counselling before and after the procedure to cope with the mental stress. I still think about what if I went ahead with the pregnancy; what if I had chosen to keep the baby? Would I endure more complications further down the line? I think about giving birth. I think about what my baby would have looked like, smelled like even. How would I have coped with a baby? Would I be a good parent?
Having to think about all of this makes me wonder what it would’ve been like if I didn’t have a choice. If I had to keep the baby. If I had to keep it based on a law. A law decided by men. Men who don’t and won’t ever have to feel what it feels like to be pregnant. Sounds like utter bollocks, doesn’t it?
2 responses to “Why are we even having to debate about this”
[…] years ago I wrote about my experience of having an abortion here after the news that was circulating about abortion laws in the US. I talked about being pregnant, […]