I became unexpectedly pregnant just after my 17th birthday despite having used contraception.
I couldn't face telling my family. I knew my father would make my boyfriend's life a misery, and possibly be violent towards him for getting me pregnant. I knew my mother would want me to keep the baby and would be unbelievably disappointed in me. How could she not be when I was so disappointed in myself? I had also been abused by my stepfather, so felt the only way to start dealing with that was to get out of the house. University was the only way to do that.
I did not believe that abortion was wrong, so wasted no time in contacting my GP. She was very supportive, understanding that I wanted to wait until my exams were over before going to the hospital to get a consultation. She wrote a letter to my school in case I needed to appeal any of my exams. I made it quite clear that I wanted a termination so I could continue my education and keep the secret from my family.
My boyfriend got the morning off work to come with me to the first appointment at the hospital. We had no idea what to expect. He was not allowed to come into the consultation with me. The consultant was one of the most cold, judgmental, arrogant and uncompassionate people I had ever met. He went through the paperwork, wouldn't answer questions I had, my 'informed consent' was handing me a tatty photocopied sheet giving the facts of medical termination on one side, surgical vacuum aspiration on the other, to read. I was in no state to take the information in, let alone to give an answer. At one point I started to cry, and his response was to tell me, "Well, it's your own fault for getting pregnant".
I asked for a surgical termination as one note I did make was the fact that women often experience nausea and vomiting with medical termination. I would not have been able to handle that. I was then shocked to be asked to drop my trousers for him to do a cervical smear, while a nurse came and did a blood test. When I came out, I was in shock. I couldn't speak or look my boyfriend in the eye. I just went home, alone, and sat in a daze.
I was thankful that I was to go to a different hospital for the termination. I was extremely nervous after the experience at the gynaecology clinic at the other hospital. But the nurses were fantastic. I was annoyed though that they didn't let my boyfriend stay with me while I waited to go into theatre. It was difficult for us to be separated and to go through the process alone. The nurses organised for me to be given anti-sickness drugs to make sure I wasn't sick from the general anaesthetic. Again, I saw a doctor who was unbelievably cold and uncompassionate who had to check I still wanted to go through the procedure. My reply was: "Don't ask me that, because I'll say no. I don't want to do this, but I have to". She just walked away. When they took me to theatre, I burst into tears.
The staff in the theatre were really lovely. They calmed me down, comforted me, then put me to sleep. When I came round, I was terrified. I woke up with a massive ventilator type thing in my mouth which I pulled out and sat bolt up right, totally freaked. I was surrounded by other people unconscious and hooked up to monitors. I hadn't been told about where I'd wake up. The nurses again, calmed me down and called my boyfriend. Once they took me back to the main ward, one of the people (I don't know who he was - nurse, student, doctor?) came to see if I was ok, because he'd been so worried at how upset I'd been. The nurses were great and really lovely to me and my boyfriend afterwards and got me discharged as soon as I was 'safe to go home'.
Our relationship became very difficult in the months after. We were both very upset in the weeks after, and then probably just got on with life. It wasn't until I was at university, that it all just suddenly hit me. I felt incredibly guilty. I spent a lot of time getting really drunk to try and escape how I was feeling. I became very depressed, started having panic attacks, and one night became hysterical, crying uncontrollably and screaming that I wanted my baby back. I ended up breaking up with my boyfriend. Too much had happened, and I just couldn't be with him anymore. After working with children for years in lots of different capacity, I found myself unable to babysit, hold or be near a child for about 2 or 3 years. That was all over 7 years ago.
I've been incredibly lucky to have had friends that have supported me and counselled me as I've come to terms with the decision I made. I'm really angry looking back at the fact that I wasn't offered counselling before making a decision to terminate. I had no idea of my options in reality, and I think of lots of other issues that would have come out that needed dealt with had they taken the time to dig deeper into my reasoning. I've now been told I may have endometriosis, so there is a chance I might not have children. I've had a few medical procedures done - minor ones - and with each of them a doctor took the time to explain the entire process step by step, ensured I understood it, told me every possible risk factor (no matter how unlikely) before I was allowed to give permission for them to do it. Why did they not do that when I was going for a termination? I probably would have come to the same decision, but knowing what I was getting into would have made the experience a lot less traumatic.
Editor’s note: Thanks for sharing your story with us…It sounds as if there were many layers to your experience – not only your experience of the procedures involved in having an abortion, but also your deeper emotional response resulting in depression and everything else you mention. It’s very important to be thoroughly informed about all the options available to you when facing an unplanned pregnancy, and to be given time to explore deeper emotional responses rather than just an intellectual understanding of what it means to have an abortion. It is rarely just a medical procedure for anyone – it has more profound aspects for most women.
For you, you seem to have come through with a measure of healing, but I am concerned about one thing for you and that’s how angry you still feel – legitimately - about the way you were treated. It may help you to have a post-abortion check up, even though it was seven years ago, using an assessment questionnaire, which will ascertain areas in which you are healed and which ones you could probably benefit from giving some more attention. This would only be for the purpose of encouraging more emotional health, not to stir up old feelings and memories. Have a think about it, and if you would like to, ring your nearest centre, the helpline or use Online Advisor.