Every woman experiences an abortion in a different way, so we asked some women to share their stories. When they’ve requested it, we have changed their names.
Warning: Some of the issues discussed in these stories may be upsetting.
I had a one-night stand with an acquaintance when I was 25. I wasn’t on any long-term contraception, and I took the morning after pill, but it didn’t work. I started to think I started to think I was pregnant before I knew for sure. I was in denial until the day before I had decided to take the test, when I unwisely went drinking with friends. Drinking was a very bad idea; it led to an explosion of stress and grief.
I had already thought a lot about what I would do if I fell pregnant. I have a mental illness and was almost guaranteed to get post-natal depression. I also wasn’t in the type of situation economically, emotionally, or health-wise to have a child. It also turned out that, had I continued with the pregnancy, I would have had to come off my medication immediately, which would have had very bad effects on my mental health.
I was very informed about abortion before I got pregnant, which worked well for me. It meant I knew what to expect from the New Zealand system. However, I soon discovered I knew very little about pregnancy. I wasn’t prepared for the weird feeling of disassociation from my own body. I was also always hungry or tired, and my work suffered as a result. I now have a much deeper respect for anyone who has gone through a pregnancy.
The process wasn’t difficult, but it was extremely time-consuming. Because my work and study were not near the clinic, I had to take a lot of time off. At the time I estimated that I lost about $600 due to missed work hours. That was a lot of money. I was lucky as the father heard about my financial loss and helped me out, but many other women wouldn’t be as fortunate.
“All I need to know is whether you want this baby. If you want it, we can help you with the health problems; if you don’t want it, we can sort out the paperwork.”
The process was somewhat sped up in my case, as the day after I took the pregnancy test I had abdominal pain and went to A&E. They were worried my pregnancy was ectopic, and if that was the case I would need emergency surgery to prevent me from dying. Fortunately it turned out not to be the case. However, while in hospital, I told the staff that I was planning on getting an abortion and so they started the process for me.
The doctor I saw for the first approval was quite young and seemed very nervous. I emphasised my mental health, but he was fantastic; when I started talking about my mental health problems, he stopped me and said “All I need to know is whether you want this baby. If you want it, we can help you with the health problems; if you don’t want it, we can sort out the paperwork.”
I was fortunate enough to be able to get a publicly-funded medical abortion. My local hospital was running a trial on the medication at the time, and I was eligible for it. The day before, I took the first lot of pills and signed a bunch of paperwork. These pills separate the lining from the uterus, thus killing the foetus.
The next day I went back and had a second lot of pills inserted into my vagina to start contractions. That was rather uncomfortable. I then started getting cramps, similar to bad period pain. The nurse advised me to walk around, even though all I wanted to do was curl into a ball, so I walked around the hospital grounds for an hour. Then I felt it happening and rushed back to the nurse. I was still in the middle of my first trimester, so this part wasn’t really painful. It’s also not like I saw a tiny baby fall out of me, as many people seem to think happens. Instead, there was a lot of blood and what I presume was the embryonic sack.
I have been very fortunate. My parents and brother were incredibly supportive. When my father found out I was pregnant he just said ‘I love you’. The first thing I felt afterwards was relief. But for some time afterwards I also grieved deeply. This is something few people seem to understand. Certainly a part of it was that my hormones went crazy after the abortion, but it was deeper than that.
I knew that had I had the child, a genuine, loving relationship would have been created. I mourned its loss. But most people I told didn’t seem to understand that. If I talked about my grief they would immediately frame it in terms of regretting the abortion, and that wasn’t what I was experiencing at all. I knew the severity of the consequences of the decision I was making, and it was a painful experience, but that doesn’t mean it was the wrong decision for me.
(Cover Image: Flickr user Graniers)