I had an abortion 21 years ago, aged 24 and it still hurts as much today as it did back then.
I used to look down my nose at girls who I knew had had an abortion until it happened to me.There is so much support for women who have had a miscarriage and websites where you can share your experiences, even to purchase remembrance jewellery for that lost child. This is a world where sympathy abounds and loss can be shared. I bought a beautiful forget-me-not necklace from such a site so that I could wear it and remember my child. I do not wear it proudly however and cannot reveal the story behind it when others ask where I bought it from or openly admire it due to my deep shame & constant regret.
I am a mum to two young boys now. I have been with their father for 10 yrs now. It is not a brilliant relationship in that I dislike sex and the intimacy that brings, I feel as a direct result of my experience.
Although not a religious person, I promised god immediately after the abortion that I would never again enjoy sex as punishment for what I had done and this is how I live, although I know this is far from right! I am a professional woman who is used to counselling others, but who does not feel she has the right to ever be truly happy herself.
I found out I was pregnant in the summer of 1991. I had had a pretty volatile on/off relationship with my first love for approx 3yrs. We had broken up some 2 months before I found out.
I remember being sent for a scan and was asked if I wanted to see the screen. I said I did not and silence ensued as the member of staff got on with her job of assessing how many weeks pregnant I was.
I was accompanied by my best friend (only she knew at the time). I had just started my first job as a registered nurse (3 months previously) and was panicking about what the hell I was going to do. I was then seen by a consultant of sorts who gave me an internal and a very stern 'Ticking off' as to my present position.
I was made to feel like the scum of the earth.My Gp confirmed a few days later that I was 9 wks pregnant and that an appt would be offered to me in 3-4 wks time. I was horrified that I'd be between 12 & 13wks pregnant by this time. I did not consult with my ex boyfriend as he'd told me he hated me, the last time I saw him. I also knew his dream was to become a pilot in the RAF and the last thing I wanted was for his dreams to be compromised.
I also feared that I would be labelled as having 'trapped' him by the local community as everyone knew how much I loved him.
I'd been stupid, pure & simple, a nurse for christ sakes who should have known better but who'd thought it couldn't happen to her!
I also didn't tell my parents as they were flying abroad on holiday in a few days time and I couldn't stand to upset their lives and plans when I'd brought it about by myself.
I remember waiting to go through for the procedure and whilst being prepped by the anaesthetist I looked behind me (whilst lying on the trolley) to see momentarily a young woman on the operating table, legs in stirrups. Again I was horrified, but was out unconscious before I knew anything else.
I remember arriving back on the ward and being transferred back to my bed very groggy and to my shame, asking 'Is it out!' I was desperate to leave as soon as possible as I had to take my parents away on holiday to Edinburgh the following day and knew I couldn't let anyone down or anyone find out! Thankfully there were no complications and I left a few hours later, driven home by my friend.
I was so relieved initially that this would be the end of the whole sorry affair.How wrong I was. This was to be the beginning of the next 21 yrs of my life of shame & regret.
I wept uncontrollably often over the next few months.
I hated myself, became hardened to everything and pushed people away. I remember my ex telephoning me 3 months later to ask if he could see me. He came to visit me in the nurses' home and told me that he loved me which was an extremely bittersweet moment. I just cried, but didn't tell him anything as I knew I could not be with him after everything that had transpired even though I'd loved him so much for so long.
The next few years passed and one night, staying at my parents, I finally broke down and told them what had happened some years before.
My mother told me that I'd been lucky as she'd never had that option! I looked at her in surprised shock as she told me that she'd found herself pregnant & unmarried in the 1960's and had been sent to a mother & baby home where her daughter had been given up for adoption. Although it eased my burden somewhat, I never felt 'lucky' as she put it.
I then met up with my ex some 5 yrs later by chance where we had the opportunity to sit & speak. We had both been drinking which is probably why I took the oppotunity to tell him what had happened. I needed to hear from him that he didn't hate me. He told me I'd done the right thing at the time which relieved my conscience greatly to the extent that I felt I could at last forgive myself and move on. For some women however this is much more difficult to do than for others. I know several women who have had abortions and who never give it a second thought. I on the other hand insisted on tormenting myself.
I went into book shops for example and looked up pictures of foetuses at 13wks which I cannot explain.Anyway, several years down the line, I continue to live with the guilt & regret and think I always will to some extent. I just wanted to take this time out to warn others to think long and hard before making one of the biggest & most important decisions in your life.
I wish I'd had access to all the websites such as this one at the time but alas it just was not available in those days. Even if this testimony helps only one person make the right decision, then the loss of my child I feel will not have been completely in vain.
Editor's CommentIt is very painful to live for years with feelings of guilt and regret. I am glad that you have managed to tell your parents and your ex boyfriend, so that you don't feel you are carrying an unbearable secret. When you had your abortion you were at the start of your career and had no security of a stable relationship. It would have taken a lot of courage to change the whole course of your life by continuing the pregnancy, and at the time you did not know how you would feel. Like you I wish that CareConfidential could have been there to support you as you looked at your choices. However, we are here now and many women have been helped by The Journey post abortion support programme, often many years after the event. It is worth you accessing this to work through the emotions that still affect your everyday
This story was sent in on 05/05/2012