A story of baby loss, abortion and subsequent infertility problems.
I was brought up by strictly Catholic parents, in what can only be described as a dysfunctional household, with a mother who has mental health problems (Bi Polar Disorder). I was fostered with relatives as a baby because mum was too ill, and dad could not cope. I returned home when a toddler, having lost out on the opportunity to bond properly with my birth parents. My experience of their parenting thereafter remained a negative one.
My parents were cold, unemotional and neglectful. They never showed affection, and hugs and kisses were off the agenda. Their only interest in me was conditional - I had to get good grades at school, I had to be dressed tidy, keep clean, not make crumbs from my food, not make a mess, keep my toys out of their way, not make "back chat", stop fussing, stop demanding attention, not waste food, behave, sit up, pay attention, stop making a noise, don't do this, don't do that... Nag, nag and more nagging. That's ALL my parents did - NAG and MOAN.
Mum was an extremely anxious, neurotic and smothering parent. She banned certain foods - because they were too much trouble. She called them "dirty" or "naughty" food - they made crumbs, dripped or were sticky. So I couldn't have them. To save her having to clean up after me! She dressed me up like a silly little doll, endlessly fussing about dirt and mess. I wanted to run about freely. I wanted to play, and climb and explore. She wanted me sitting to attention at all times, hair neatly combed and plaited with ribbons, shoes shiny, nice white knee-socks, pretty little "dolly dress".
Most of mum's repertoire was "Don't". She seemed to live in fear of me doing anything.And, when I did do it, it was NEVER good enough. I was always told that. I was told I wasn't as pretty, clever, polite, charming, etc. as other kids - mostly my cousins. I thought mum didn't want me. Mum smoked (right through her pregnancy), and on one occasion I climbed on her knee. She burned me with her cigarette. Probably an accident. Who knows?
Mum screamed in her manic phases. I HATED her in these phases. She terrified and confused me. Why was she behaving like this? Was it my fault? Something I'd done? Then, she'd scream, blame me for all sorts of things, call me all sorts of names.
Dad; I can sum him up in a few short words. He was pretty much absent most of the time. When he was present - he was abusive. Verbally and physically. He made promises, and broke them. I had no positive parenting, and no positive image of parenting. I spent most of my childhood wishing that other kids' parents could be swapped for mine.
I had boyfriends in my teens. Many were much older, and some abusive. I had no self confidence, and usually ended up with people who treated me like dirt. In 1990 I got a place at University. I was apprehensive - my parents had dictated my choice of studies, but at least I would be away from home. At University, I met, and fell for a gorgeous guy. I was instantly attracted. He was tall, blonde hair, blue eyes. I thought he was far too good-looking for me. I could not understand his interest. Still, we dated. We liked the same kind of music, and shared hobbies. We went to music festivals, gigs, went camping... We both loved Indie Music, and canoeing, and mountain biking, and going to National Trust Houses. I was still a little disappointed with my studies - I found the course I was doing boring - but I had to stick it out for my parents. My relationship, and the fun I was having with this guy made University worthwhile. It boosted my self esteem, and made me feel good about myself for the first time in years.
Fast forward to my final year at University. I still didn't really enjoy my course of study; but my marks were perfectly acceptable, and the friends I'd made, and my boyfriend really made up for everything. Generally, I was having fun, and my studies were progressing well enough for me to pass the course.
Then, in the final term, not long before my final exams, I missed a period... and another. I felt strange - a bit sickly, and my appetite was off. Still, I thought nothing of it. I continued working, and partying, and shopping, and playing sports... I continued doing EVERYTHING as usual. Horse riding, eating fast food, drinking... ALL of it. Out of the blue, I recall fainting one day, whilst standing in a University corridor, looking at a notice board. I felt sick, and went to the bathroom. I noted I was having what looked like a period. So I decided to go home - I thought I'd get some sanitary towels, and return to University classes that afternoon. By the time I got to my shared "digs" I knew something was wrong. My "period" was really heavy, and I felt faint. Things become a blur after this. I recall somehow getting to A&E at the Infirmary. I was kept in overnight. I had tests, and scans. I recall being asked if I was pregnant, then whether I had been aware I was pregnant. I recall hearing the words "spontaneous abortion".
I was pregnant - and miscarrying! I hadn't had a clue that I was pregnant.I'd used contraception - condoms! The shock was horrendous. Details of exactly what happened are foggy - I reckon I've tried to blank it out to this day. I blamed myself for losing the baby. I wondered if it was because I hadn't known I was pregnant. Because I'd behaved like I wasn't pregnant. Had I lost the baby through eating unwisely? Through drinking alcohol? Through going out late? Through too much activity? Horse riding? Aerobics? Swimming? Could I have looked after myself, and the baby, better? WOULD my behaviour have been different, had I known I was pregnant? Afterwards, I returned to my shared student house, and to my studies. Life went on. But I felt SO empty. I was DESPERATE to get pregnant again. Stupidly, my head and heart kept irrationally telling me that I had somehow to make things right, to replace the lost baby! I have no idea why I felt like this. I utterly understand now that it did not make sense. I can only suppose that it was my hormones, and my grief, talking!
I kept everything to myself, and so the feelings festered. Less than six months later, and I was pregnant again. I just knew it. This time, however, the feelings I had were mainly of confusion, and fear. I was just about to graduate. I was in the middle of job interviews. The timing was awful. My brain was in a complete muddle.
My thoughts flipped from wanting a baby, and being a delighted mum, to abject terror, and worry.What if my Catholic parents found out I was pregnant? Did my boyfriend even want to be a dad? How could I start work if I stayed pregnant? Would I get any support from family and friends? Would I be able to work and be a mother? What if no employer wanted me? What if I had another miscarriage? What would everyone think? In fear, I told my housemate. She was shocked. I discussed my concerns with her. She was a good listener, but did not know how best to advise me. She could tell that I was torn between wanting a baby, and fear of what would happen. I knew that my parents COULD NOT find out. I lived in constant dread. Years ago, my aunt (mum's sister) had been an unmarried teenage mother. The stigma of this had stayed in the family for permanence. Even my mother called her own sister a "tart". The baby (my cousin) had been brought up by my Nan, as HER child. My aunt had been forced to treat her own DAUGHTER as her SISTER. To this day, my aunt and my cousin have never truly reconciled - years after my Nan is dead! I could NOT face being in the same position as my aunt. I also found it really hard to break the news of my pregnancy to my boyfriend. Our relationship was going through a rough patch - he had become distant. There had been a change over the University summer holidays. I have no clue why. Before this, we had been talking of engagement. Now, when asked, my boyfriend stated he felt "too young to settle down". Then the nightmare! I got a job offer. What to do? Work? Or baby? How could I manage both? I felt panic every day. I could not think straight. I knew that once the "baby bump" began to show that I could no longer hide from my family. The fear of them finding out was just awful. I had nightmares of my father hitting me, or throwing me out of the house, or cutting me off without a penny. My boyfriend suspected. He let me know this one evening. I remember his words clearly..."Is it mine?" I was shocked, and did not know what he was trying to imply. He then made it clear, and asked if there was anyone else whose baby it could be. I cannot tell you how disgusted I was by my boyfriend at that point. It was SO clear he did NOT want to be a father, and he was looking for a way out. After that, it was almost as though I just KNEW what I had to do, even though I also KNEW that I did not want to. I hardly thought anything through. It felt clear that nobody would support me.
Nobody wanted me to have this baby. I could not ask anyone for support.There WAS nobody. The day I arrived at hospital for the abortion, I was numb. My housemate drove me there. We did not speak. I had no words, and no feelings. I was dead. The only thing in the back of my mind was fear. In the waiting area were other women, some with family or friends, some alone. It was quiet, people whispered, but I got a sense of dread. I remember telling my friend to leave. I did not want her to stay. I felt sick with fear. I recall going into a doctor's office to discuss the "details", but hardly paid attention to what was going on. I wanted to scream. I just wanted it over, fast as possible. I wanted never to be there. Never to have been there.
Luckily, it was done under general anaesthetic. Otherwise, I think I'd have run!I came to in a ward, with other women. Clearly all had been through a similar experience. They looked pale, sad and in shock. Somewhere, I could hear a baby crying on a maternity ward. I wanted to curl up and die! At that moment, I resolved that I would never speak of this again. Something inside me was dead and gone, both literally, and figuratively. For months afterwards, I was numb with shock. I tried to function, to black it out. I became obsessed with the Gym, and exercise. Every spare moment outside work, I was in the Gym, or at Aerobics, or cycling, or swimming. I could not relax, or sit still for a second. I suppose the guilt I felt seriously affected me on a daily level.
Worse still, my parents found out about the abortion. I had returned home after graduation, and lived with my parents again paying nominal rent, whilst I saved to leave home. My mother has no respect for personal privacy, and opened all my mail. She also frequently entered my room without permission. I recall one day getting back from work. My mother was sitting on the end of my bed, her face like thunder. The rest of the day descended into a screaming argument. I had foolishly made an entry in my personal diary - I had admitted to the abortion, and wanted to say goodbye to the baby. The diary was private. My mother had read it! When my father got home, he and mum ganged up on me. I was called a "slag" and a "whore". My father chased me about the kitchen, and thumped me. I could not even escape to my room - my parents followed me, screaming abuse.
My boyfriend and I split up not long after graduation. I met someone else - the man I'm now married to. However, my ex drifted back into my life for a while. He even seemed to want to find out why I had not had the baby. Like that needed a great brain to work it out!
Fast forward again, several years. My husband is a fantastic bloke, and would make an excellent father. He is attractive, easygoing and good company. He is caring, and sensitive. My husband and I are happily married, and would love to start a family. Sadly, that isn't happening. You see, in 2002, I began to suffer from serious menstrual problems. In 2006, I was referred to a Gynaecologist and fertility specialist, as my period problems had got worse. Nothing helped - I had painful, heavy and irregular periods. I lived with constant pelvic and lower back pain. I was tired, and anaemic. Hardly in the best condition to conceive! In 2011, I was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis, and Adenomyosis was also suspected. I have since had three surgeries to try and remove the Endometriosis, which has adhered to the inside of my pelvis, and grown on my pelvic ligaments. I am still in pain, and unsure if I will ever have my own child. The risk to the baby, if I were to become pregnant is considerable. My husband and I are devastated. All I can say is let this story be a warning.
I live every day to regret my abortion.Many women will find themselves in this position.
Women who face unplanned pregnancy need support, and advice - a sympathetic, non-judgemental "listening ear". Their partners need support and advice, too. It is not fair that so many women "choose" abortion, **when it is NOT really a choice.** They are forced into it, by threats, coercion, fear of retribution, fear of abandonment, fear of punishment. They are terrified of being alone, isolated and stigmatised. They cannot weigh up which is the worst of two supposed evils - to live as an unmarried mother without support, or to have an abortion.
I can tell you this... If I had the time again, I would wish for all the support in the world. Then I might actually have the baby I now miss so much. Perhaps I am being punished for making a bad decision? Can anyone truly decide, when fear and lack of support are the overriding factors?
Editor's CommentThank you for the courageous way you have told your story, which is very painful and moving. It is sad that you did not find the help and support when you desperately needed it, and I wish that you had found CareConfidential who offer support and help for women facing a crisis pregnancy. Your difficult childhood and abusive relationships must have left you with no confidence, and poor self esteem which made it hard for you facing this crisis in your life. Having found the love and support of your husband it seems very cruel that you are now faced with fertility problems. If you feel that CareConfidential can support you please contact us.
This story was sent in on 25/04/2012