A combination of nightmares about being pregnant and a very late period pushed me to talk to the nurse about having a test.
I’m lucky I have quite an honest and open relationship with my mum and when I told her about it, the response was ‘don’t be silly’. I finally took another test in August 2006 and there was blue line… I was pregnant. My instant reaction was that I wanted to run and hide. I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening to me, combined with a mixture of ‘Wow, I’m going to be a mum!’
I had only been with my boyfriend for about six months and I felt we were still getting to know each other let alone bring a child into the world. I didn’t have a suitable place of my own to raise the child or on an adequate salary to support them. I went to the clinic to ask for an abortion and was told I could see the doctor in two weeks time. I felt frustrated with waiting to see the doctor because, as time went on, I found myself becoming more attached to the child I was carrying. I began to experience morning sickness and the whole pregnancy was beginning to feel more real to me.
The nurse had told me she believed I was about 8-10 weeks pregnant. I remember looking on the internet and thinking, ‘Well, the child's not that developed; it’s just a seed. And I felt confident I was making the right decision for me. It came to my appointment with the doctor. I told her about my financial situation and that I hadn’t been with my boyfriend long and I wanted to have a termination. She scanned my stomach and told me the baby was quite high up in my womb. I asked her what she meant and she told me I was actually nearly 16 weeks gone. I remember bursting into tears, as my coping mechanism for having a termination was the fact I felt my child wasn’t that developed…and, in my eyes, my child was developed at 16 weeks.
I was under the impression I still had to make a decision there and then as the cut off point for having a termination was 16 weeks which I later found out was not true. You can have an abortion up to 24 weeks (?). The whole process felt really rushed. I originally hoped to have had a medical termination but due to the lateness of the pregnancy, my only option was to terminate my child through giving birth. When I asked if I could have the ashes of my child after the termination, I was asked if I wanted to see a priest and as the thought of religion really scared me, I changed my mind about having the ashes (something I personally later regretted).
I remember taking the tablet on Friday to come back in a couple of days to have the termination. I just locked into auto pilot. I thought if I don’t put the tablets in my mouth now I won't have the heart to go through with it, so in the tablets went and I thought, 'Well, there's no going back now'.
I ended up spending two days in the hospital and my child ended up being passed in a toilet bed pan. Not how I had originally hoped my first pregnancy would turn out.
The reality is that not all abortions are as straight forward as you read on a leaflet. I was left with the sense of relief that I was no longer going to have to face having a child but this soon left me and the memory of the abortion remained. I became extremely depressed, crying when around children and felt this amazing sense of loss that I’d never experienced before. The decision to have an abortion was right for me from a practical /financial point of view but I hadn’t fully considered how I would feel emotionally after having a termination. Guilt and shame were the emotions I felt I was left with and a feeling that my life would never be the same again. I had some time off work as I was struggling to get over what I had done and my doctor recommended I see a counsellor. I ended up making an appointment at the Norwich Pregnancy Crisis Centre. And it felt good to be able to talk to someone who wasn’t my mum or my boyfriend. Although they were extremely supportive, I needed time to hear my own voice and not the voice of others around me. I needed someone who wasn’t going to judge or be hurt or be angry by what I had to say.
I regretted not seeking out or being offered counselling by the NHS when trying to make my decision, as I feel it’s so important that you’re 100% sure that a termination is what you want to do as once you've had the termination, there is no chance to go back and change your mind. This is something I feel extremely passionate about and would like to see changing in the future!!! I don’t think its fair for women to make a decision without the offer of counselling to help them. It’s been nearly one year since I had the termination and I feel my life is finally back on track and only because I’ve had the help from counsellors and been able to talk and make friendships with other women who have experienced having a termination themselves.
I planted a magnolia tree with my boy friend when we went on a holiday in Wales and I felt this gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to the child I never had. It helped bring something positive to the experience and I now have a tree that will grow as I grow through life...
I’m sure deciding to keep a pregnancy must be really hard thing to do and scary, but having a termination is also a traumatic experience to face. There are no easy options, I’m afraid. And my heart goes out to you if you’re having to face making your own decision right now... it’s not easy. My advice to you would be to make sure you've got as much support around you as you can get (because you’re definitely going to need some whatever you decide to do). Don’t worry about what other people are hoping you will decide to do because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what other people think or say about your decision because it is your life and you’re the one that has to live with your decision and not them. So choose carefully. If you do choose to have a termination I strongly recommend that you get some counselling afterwards to help you get your life back on track as it’s not an easy thing to have to go through. Remember that you’re not alone and thousands of women have found themselves having to make the same decision. I send my love to all of you and I hope you make the decision that is right for you...
Editor’s note: Thank you for telling us your story…It seems that you also felt the split between your head and your heart, your head telling you all about the practical problems of the pregnancy but your heart giving you a completely different message. You even say at one point, ‘If I don’t put the tablets in my mouth now, I won’t have the heart to go through with it.’ And it’s from your heart that you most likely felt the pain of guilt and shame.
In your story, you query the latest time you can have an abortion. The doctor was probably referring to the fact that different methods of abortion are used at different stages of pregnancy, which is why you had to undergo delivery. Some clinics or hospitals only offer abortion up to certain stages of pregnancy and no later. However, legally, abortion is available up to 24 weeks. For a pregnancy where a disability has been diagnosed, abortion is legally available up to the due date.
Thank you for being so honest about your experience. I think it will help others to know that without really thinking it through, not only in terms of the practicalities but also in terms of our deeper feelings that sometimes get smothered in the decision-making process, there is a risk of emotional problems afterwards. It’s good to hear how you have walked a journey of recovery and come to the place where you can let go. We’ll be thinking of you and we'll remember your magnolia tree with you.