Week Woman

A Pox on the Patriarchy

Abortion: One Woman’s Story

The author of this post has asked to remain anonymous

I have asked Week Woman to publish this blog for me anonymously because it’s about my abortion and, while I have absolutely no pain or shame about what I chose to do, I have people very close to me who are unable to have children and who simply would not be able to comprehend how or why I made my decision. I am very publically and vocally pro-choice and, perhaps they have drawn their own conclusions. However, that is very different from them reading the reality of what I did.  Out of sensitivity to their feelings and nothing else, I am therefore going to remain anonymous.

This is a blog I have been thinking about writing for some time; the recent attacks from politicians here and in the US on a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body and the increasing atmosphere of hostility towards those who support women through abortions has tipped me over the edge. Because I am one of *those* women who the anti-choicers love to vilify, the type who (at least on the surface) could easily have had a baby and chose not to for purely selfish reasons. For that very reason, I want to share my story.

So, first a tiny bit of back-story about how I got pregnant (and no, we’re not going to descend into a little light erotica); first date, one too many glasses of wine, split condom and a man who, it turns out, was so scarily controlling he would even deny that contraception had failed on him. I don’t know why I believed him, when I could feel that there was evidence which suggested otherwise, but there you go, I chose to believe him. If I knew (*knew*) that the condom had broken I would absolutely have taken the morning after pill and the whole thing would have ended then and there.

A few weeks later I realised that my period was late and I was craving peanut butter on toast. When I mentioned the peanut butter thing at work, a colleague joked that maybe I was pregnant and something inside me clicked into the chilling realisation that maybe I was. I use the term “chilling” because I remember I went really cold, it was like the horror literally lowered my temperature. That night, after a rather tense dinner with a friend with whom I did not share my fears, I took the test and that devastating, life changing, blue line, showed in the wrong fucking box. There was no question, no debate, no long night of soul searching; I just knew that I was not having a baby. I felt then, and still do, that I had been invaded by some alien creature whose permanent removal was my one and only objective.

I raced to the doctor’s first thing the next morning to demand an abortion – having very limited knowledge of how these things worked, I had bought into the perception that careless girls could just rock up to their GP and be ushered into a line of other silly girls all waiting for terminations and a bit of a ticking off. In reality that first GP meeting was one of the most frustrating of my life because in this country it isn’t simply good enough to say “I don’t want this foetus thanks” . I had to go through, in some detail, the emotional, financial and practical reasons why I did not want to remain pregnant. Having to tell a doctor that you got pregnant after having sex with a virtual stranger who will not be playing a long-term role in your life is humiliating. I am sure my doctor tried her very best to be non-judgemental, but the questions she was asking betrayed a system that was absolutely judging me and my suitability for a termination.

At one point I burst into tears out of sheer frustration and anger at the whole thing. The doctor’s reaction was to assume that I was crying because really, deep down, I wanted this baby and was finding the choice to terminate difficult. Maybe I should go home, sleep on it, talk to the father and then come back. She was a little shocked at my response, “no, I am crying because I am pregnant and I don’t want to be!” said with some unrestrained anger which I feel bad for directing at her. The assumption that, as a woman, really I would want a baby was staggering and unhelpful. From that point forwards I no longer felt that the medical professional was on my side and saw everything else through that prism.

Because of how early I had caught the infection, sorry, pregnancy, I should have been able to have the medical abortion. This is a non-surgical  procedure, which involves taking medication which essentially induces a miscarriage. You have none of the side effects of anaesthetic and the second dose is often taken at home, which for many women makes it preferable and more comfortable. Needless to say, I was all in favour of this option as it seem so much more convenient. I live close enough to a Marie Stopes clinic to be able to walk there and back with my precious tablets and had friends lined up to keep me company.

However, due to an existing medical condition, there was some backwards and forwards about whether or not this was the best option for me. This debate between my GP and Marie Stopes took, what felt like, weeks. At no point was I consulted about this, no one took into account my feelings or even discussed the potential risks with me. The decision as to whether or not this treatment was appropriate was taken completely out of my hands. I had to stand on the sidelines while others decided what was best for my body, my life. Once again, my lovely fantasy that anyone could get an abortion with just a quick trip to the doctors’ was destroyed around me.

During this time my symptoms were becoming more and more pronounced. As someone who had no interest in being pregnant and who already felt as though their body had been invaded, morning sickness was the worst thing in the world. I was nauseous all day every day; the “morning” bit of morning sickness is a lie. Some days I ate nothing except a ginger biscuit or two, because ginger is supposed to help. I was exhausted, both from the pregnancy and the lack of food. Also, as time dragged on, the possibility that I might not be able to abort the foetus weighed heavier and heavier on my mind.

The morning the GP phoned to say that I would have to be referred for a surgical abortion and, even then, there were concerns about my suitability, I immediately booked myself in for some counselling. Having previously suffered from depression, I could feel myself slipping back into the darkest of places and I could not afford to lose what little energy and focus I had left. Pre-emptive measures were in order as my work was already suffering – as a single woman with a mortgage and no savings losing my job was simply not an option. Just as Maternity Leave and childcare were not an option. Just as bringing an unwanted, unloved, baby into this world was not an option.

I had friends who were being utterly supportive through all of this. But in the middle of the night, pacing around your house because the combination of insomnia and puking will not let you lie still, you really are alone. I was already self-harming in an attempt to force the foetus out, regularly punching my womb with all the strength I could muster, which wasn’t really a lot of force but it was making me feel better. Plus the lack of sleep and food were taking their toll on me physically and, to be honest, there was an element of self-harm in that too. I was falling back into the comforting control of an eating disorder. Skipping meals, lying to friends about what was happening, evading eating opportunities, the thrill of making it through 24 hours without consuming any more than coffee were familiar distractions to my own, deeply felt, unhappiness.

To get an appointment with a specialist took further weeks, with my symptoms and depression becoming more and more pronounced. My breasts hurt, constantly. Not just an ache, no, a real sharp pain that would bring tears to my eyes; tears that I was fighting back every minute of every day that I was with other people. My sense of smell was like an X-Men style mutation, if colleagues wore heavy perfume, aftershave or even strong smelling deodorant I might have to excuse myself to be sick. When I wasn’t at work I was pacing, crying, obsessing, harming and trying my best to talk to a counsellor who I knew could and would help but, as she couldn’t abort my infection, she was of limited help to me.

One night I came home from work to find a letter inviting me to my 12 week scan and congratulating me on my pregnancy. How could that have even been triggered? I threw up on the doorstep, curled into a ball and wept until a friend talked me down on the phone. Cue another night of self-harm, of trying to keep down enough gin to possibly trigger a miscarriage – no idea how much that is, or even if it’s possible, it didn’t matter anyway because it never stayed down. In my depressive, paranoid state, I was convinced this meant that doctors had decided I had to have the baby. Not that it would be my decision, not that I had a choice, but that someone, somewhere, who had never met me would end my life as I knew it with one stroke of a pen/keyboard.

Eventually I got to meet the specialist who, I have to admit, was a wonderful woman. She treated me with respect, never once questioned or judged why I might be making this decision and had fabulous shoes which I remember staring at intently as she examined me. Her reason for approving my abortion was simple; it would be more dangerous emotionally and physically for me to carry the foetus to term. That was it; I was booked in for the earliest possible appointment and sent home with a much more positive feeling and sense that the nightmare would be over soon.

On the day itself I was positively giddy; although still exhausted and prone to falling asleep without warning. I can’t say I remember a lot about what happened or what I was told. However I do know that the doctors and nurses in the clinic were fantastic. Once you move from the GP to the specialist team, the judgements seem to stop and the understanding kick in. Perhaps that was my perception because these people really did help me, while I felt my GP hindered me. I don’t know, but I can’t thank them more for the life they gave back to me.

I think these were some of the darkest days of my life, when I look back it is like a black fog surrounds the memories. Imagine being so desperate for an abortion that you would punch your own flesh? Imagine what that would be like if you couldn’t have the abortion. If legislation changed to make it harder for women to make that decision, how many would go beyond self-harm to suicide? I am scared by how close I was in those darkest moments. I could not see beyond terminating that pregnancy, in my mind there was simply no option available to me on the other side. Of course anti-choicers can list all of the other options available to me, but that disregards how I felt. If they stopped thinking about the foetus for a moment and thought about the woman carrying it, hating it, hating the effect it’s having on her body and her mind, I wonder if they would think differently.

I know not every woman who chooses to have an abortion feels the way I felt. I know some who agonised over the decision and some who remain heartbroken by that decision. I am not one of those women and that’s why I believe my story is important. I am more than pro-choice, I believe that abortion on demand (non-judgemental, no questions asked demand) should be available to every woman in the UK (Northern Ireland, I am looking at you). I believe that the whole process should be managed by the specialists and not filtered through the GP. But most of all, I believe that it is the woman carrying the foetus who remains the priority, she is the one I will fight for and I will continue to stand up for her and me against the bigots, the sexists, the misinformed and the down-right dangerous politicos until this becomes the norm.

 

EDIT: If anyone reading this is currently considering abortion, please contact BPAS as your first step, as they will be able to advise you on your options.

24 comments on “Abortion: One Woman’s Story

  1. Pingback: 104 Real Abortion Stories |

  2. Pingback: Abortion: One Woman’s Story | feimineach.com

  3. Guls
    January 22, 2013

    Thank you for sharing this. From a guy’s point of view it really leapt out at me how selfish and unsupportive the ‘father’ was – even though it seems apparent (my inference) that he wasn’t so thrilled about the prospect of a baby either. I like to think I’d have done better in the circumstance.

  4. trozellerosio
    January 5, 2013

    I applaud you for writing this… many people view pro-choice as evil people… I have never wanted children, and at age 19 was wishing I could have my tubes tied as my form of birth control. I was finally able to do so at age 25, after a lengthy debate with my doctor, however, it is my greatest fear that my ligation will fail and I will end up pregnant, if that is the case – an abortion will be my only option. Even though I am married – being pregnant is nothing I want to deal with. EVER. and I wish that no one had to deal with the complications you had to deal with… the issues that the Republican party were against – was one of the main reasons I wouldn’t even consider voting for them. I have always voted for the pro-choice candidate, regardless of whatever else they stood for…

  5. thechattyfox
    November 12, 2012

    Hello, I am glad to have read this for the honesty, though obviously saddened by the authors experience and the trauma. I agree with the above, I unfortunately also got pregnant despite using the morning after pill, at which I was devastated. I can recommend, also like the above going to a sexual health clinic. I did this without appointment, going to a walk in one, and was issued a referral (counting for one signature)on the day after a short chat. Though I had to give the details of my GP, neither the clinic or I had to communicate with them. The second signature was given at the clinic where I had the abortion. I did not want to go to my GP so was relieved by this route, as I have previously found him judgemental in regards to other illness, and couldn’t imagine the response to unwanted pregnancy. Though I was relatively lucky in my experience, there is no doubt that women need to be told and talked through how they practically go about getting an abortion, and what the physical effects will be, e.g. for me my period took a fairly lengthy time to return to normal. We deserve communication, and being made to feel that we are entitled to access this right easily and as previously discussed, without judgement. No matter individuals reasons, no-one goes into an abortion for a good time, some medical professionals I encountered inferred that I had made the decision in a carefree and light hearted manner.Glad that people are discussing it here openly and supportively.

  6. J
    November 5, 2012

    Thank you for sharing. I got pregnant despite taking the morning after pill – be warned if you are at the most fertile of your cycle and have unprotected sex the morning after pill will probably not work! Apparently you need the emergency coil. Even the nurse at the emergency clinic I initially saw didn’t know this hence being given something ineffective.
    I was luckier than you in that I didn’t see my GP about this as booking an appointment there is ridiculous. I went to the local sexual health clinic, the doctors and nurses there were amazing – they never questioned my choice, gave me really good advice, arranged the termination at the local hospital for a couple of weeks later, and contacted my GP for me.
    I am really shocked at how much of a hard time you had, and I really hope you never have to deal with this again.

  7. Pingback: [link] Abortion: One Woman’s Story « slendermeans

  8. Pingback: Abortion: One Woman’s Story « CONSPIRING TO DESTROY THE FAMILY

  9. Fem
    October 17, 2012

    I never understand what other women’s abortions could have to do with my infertility, it’s not like there is only a number of pregnancies in the world and you choosing not to carry yours is the reason I will never be pregnant.

    I really think every child deserves parents that want them (whether biological or not) and that every woman should decide for herself whether she is capable of being pregnant and/or being a mother.

    You clearly didn’t feel you were, I’m very happen that you did manage to get an abortion. And I sincerely hope that your blog will contribute to a system where it would be less of an ordeal.

  10. P
    October 17, 2012

    amen, I had to fiht like hell for mine and I felt the same it was a grwoth I did not want same as any tumor, it was sucking the life from me and I went through hell trying to get the doctors to take me seiously

    • P
      October 17, 2012

      blinking phone keyboard! I had to fight and it was a growth! I have chosen not to have kids and will not change my mind this does not make me less human like some would have me think!

  11. not for me thanks
    October 17, 2012

    You’ve done a fantastic job of describing the horror of an unwanted pregnancy and the fog that hits your brain. I didn’t go as far as thumping myself in the stomach but I vividly recall the 24 hour nausea, the violent reaction to everyday odours (25 years on and I still feel retch at the smell of coffee), and the sheer sense of helplessness in the face of hostile health ‘professionals’ who dragged out the process for no reason that I could see other than to punish me for not being overjoyed at the result of failed contraception.

  12. normalfornorfolkblog
    October 17, 2012

    An amazing story, thank you for sharing. I totally understand where you are coming from, I have never wanted children and am quite open about the fact despite peoples protests of “you will change your mind when you are older!”. I hate how they always give you a “oh, poor you.” Look when you say you don’t have any children. Why is it so difficult to understand that not everyone has the desire to breed??? I can say that falling pregnant would be one of the worst things that could ever happen to me and I totally know where you are coming from with your feelings. I remember in my 20’s having a scare and repeatedly thumping myself so hard in the womb until I had massive bruises. I am probably what most would concider over the top regarding contraception, so in theory should have no problems but I had always naievely assumed as you did, that an abortion should not be difficult to get if the worst ever happened. If this option were to be removed or made virtually impossible for me then I can say without any doubt I would choose the only other viable option for me,which would be suicide.

  13. Aj
    October 17, 2012

    Thank you for sharing – what a horrific experience but one that was very powerful to read. I think it is important to share these stories – abortion does not happen to “that” woman – unwanted pregnancies can happen to any of them. My only worry reading your story is whether someone who was not suffering from depression / had not suffered depression in the past would be able to convince the doctors needed that there was a medical reason why they had to have an abortion. For this reason, I agree with the poster above, that we should fall into line with other European countries in having abortion on demand up to 12 weeks. (or beyond..)

  14. ProChoiceUK
    October 17, 2012

    Do you have to go to your GP to get an abortion? The first step on my “pregnancy plan of action” is to call BPAS and refer myself to their local clinic – can I not do that? Would it not be NHS-funded if I did?

    The whole system needs to be clearer and to put the woman in control.

    • Silv
      October 17, 2012

      You need to have the agreement of two doctors that it’s okay to have an abortion, which I believe is usually your GP and a specialist.

      • ProChoiceUK
        October 19, 2012

        Ok… my local NHS page on abortion gives a number to call, which is the BPAS hotline, so I assumed I could do it that way.

        This confusion would all be fixed if we had abortion on demand. I’ve spent hours researching and it’s still not clear about what the quickest way to get an NHS abortion is. When is the UK going to join the 21st century?

  15. Scheherezade
    October 17, 2012

    I have always been pro-choice but never really acted on that, apart from signing the occasional petition. I had a pregnancy scare once when i was 17, and would have had an abortion, too. So I have been through the process of making the decision, even though I didn’t have to take the action, because it turned out I wasn’t.

    This blogpost has made me want to fight for abortion rights. Thanks for sharing this story.

  16. Melanie
    October 16, 2012

    Thank you for sharing. I made the same decision, was required to wait 48-hours before acting on it, and then spent hours in counseling being questioned about my “stability and ability to choose”, and was forced to take Valium to handle it. If I had to go back, I’d do it all over again.

    • Week Woman
      October 16, 2012

      thank you for sharing your experience too

  17. herbsandhags
    October 16, 2012

    Brilliant and moving, thank you

  18. TheRealThunderChild
    October 16, 2012

    My letter to the grauniad last year
    Holly Dustin Director, End Violence Against Women Coalition
    • What the “pro-life” lobby fails to be honest about (which is why their influence is increasingly dangerous) is that – unlike the “pro-choice” lobby – they seek to remove from women their ability to choose a course of action best suited to their own circumstances and conscience.
    I am a Catholic. I am against abortion. But – as the mother of a girl – I’m fervently “pro-choice”. As much as it’s every woman’s right to choose not to terminate a pregnancy, it’s also her right to choose the opposite action. Every person has the right to complete sovereignty over their own body, and the right to deal with whatever consequences exercising that choice involves. “Pro-choice” only advocates a woman’s right to a termination if that’s what she chooses and, unlike “pro-life”, seeks neither to coerce or legislate (or coerce via legislation) over a person’s ownership of their reproductive destiny.
    Medically speaking, allowing choice is ethical; removing it is not. Along with the abolition of the death penalty and the creation of the NHS, the 1967 Abortion Act stands out as the most ethical, humane piece of legislation in British history. It’s about time we of the “liberal left” grew a backbone and defended it as such.
    Sinead Connolly
    St Athan, Vale of Glamorgan

    • Week Woman
      October 16, 2012

      Thanks for this – great letter

  19. TheRealThunderChild
    October 16, 2012

    Oh my word what a hideous horrible ordeal.
    More than ever, it confirms my fervently held belief that current UK abortion laws SHOULD be changed- not the 24 week limit (which is a fiction- as it should be- some are later- for good reason), but that, up to and including- 12 weeks, abortion should be ON DEMAND.
    We are alone in European countries where abortion is legal in not having this, and it is not only wrong, but downright cruel.

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