How many abortions have you had?
What were your circumstances at the time of your abortion?
At 27 years old I was a single parent of one beautiful little girl. The circumstances surrounding my pregnancy with her and the relationship with her father had been fraught with pain and struggle. Two years on I felt that I had just started to get a handle on the whole parenting experience, we were in a new home and realising some stability.
My daughter was settled in her nursery and had regular activities and classes. I slept in the day whilst she was at school and was able to fulfil all the “full-time” parental duties lost to other single mums. I was able to do the school runs, after school clubs, home dinners and bathing and bedtime routines before heading back into work during the nights.
In 2008 my daughter and I moved into our first house with a garden and a lot of decorating work to be done. In the period of decorating I became quite close to a male friend who had assisted in our move. Consequently, we struck up a casual and physical relationship.
I fell pregnant in August 2009.
How many weeks pregnant were you?
At the time of discovering my second pregnancy I was 4 weeks pregnant. Although I wasn’t “late”, I had suspicion based on bodily feelings, fluttering and sensitivities.
As soon as I confirmed the pregnancy I went into auto pilot. Giving no thought to the possibility of having another child – although I felt connected to the life inside and pained to let it pass. My only instinct was rationalism and logic. I looked at the struggle that I bore in giving my daughter the best I could, and believed that to have another child would deprive her of life of material and parental quality.
I made a tearful appointment at my GP’s and was referred to the local Marie Stopes Clinic the following week. In my head I had the notion that this was permissible up to 8 weeks, before the foetus formed fingers and limbs and became “real”.
Upon my first assessment at Marie Stopes, I was advised that the pregnancy was too early to be detected and sent away to return the following week.
The date of the termination was 18th October 2009, and I was 6 weeks pregnant.
What type of abortion was performed?
The procedure was a non- invasive “medical abortion”. A pill was prescribed in the presence of the nurse whilst another young girl lay writhing vocally on a lounge bed in the centre of the clinical day room.
I was given a second blister pack (of abortion medication) and advised to take the second dose at home 12 hours later. With that it was suggested that I sit for a while before calling a cab to take me home.
It was all over.
Did anyone pressure or coerce you to choose abortion?
No one pressured me to choose the act of abortion. Sadly, no one dissuaded me either.. Or had the chance to.
I know that I am a focused and driven woman and mother. I am head strong and authoritive and determined in my mind once made up.
The decision to abort was made on my own, with one factor in mind: Quality of life for my daughter. Although I felt tears as I went to the doctors and a wistful imagining of a family, in the few days before the event I did not allow myself to consider or feel any sort of emotion or thought about the child within. In retrospect the days leading up to my abortion were mechanical, purely autopilot.
How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?
Being so removed from reality at the time of the pregnancy, I cannot recall much of the days preceding the abortion. Adding to this the fact that I was so conscious of my mental time limit, it all seemed to pass so quickly.
I do recall looking through my first pregnancy guide manuals in order to research information on the development of the baby and when he actually became “real” in my body.
The information and contact that was given by the clinic was brief. The pre-abortive counselling interview was taken over the telephone and involved a 5 minute call by the roadside. This enquired on my reasons for choosing abortion and whether I had spoken to a GP for referral.
On the day of the procedure, both the ‘undetectable day’ and the following appointment I was given health and possible side effect warnings from the clinical staff. The advice was not dissimilar to basic aid advice given to young pre-pubescent girls regarding their coming changes: “Avoid operating heavy machinery, rest for a few days, take pain relief and non intravenous sanitary protection.”
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
Although I can appreciate my time frame panic and my own mental conviction that I was “doing the right thing”, I wish I had sought or been forced to consider the emotional consequences of abortion.
Physically and psychologically, I gave no thought to the personal impact this may have on me. So socially acceptable is the process of abortion in today’s society that I even recall a dinner table debate from my teen days where I had defended the woman’s right of choice and openly expressed that I would have no issue with the process in my life.
Whether the effect of abortion impacts on a woman more after becoming a mother, or whether the effect on the soul is as harrowing in all cases is debateable, and can only be decided by each individual. Today, we do not seem to acknowledge spirituality or religious thoughts as a just cause for our actions or refrains. To admit guilt based on these mind sets is almost to admit an oddity in character.
In my case however, I have found that in searching for peace since the abortion, in speaking to my priest and in counselling sessions, I have heard and seen techniques which I’m sure would have caused me to examine my spiritual senses before undertaking such a massive decision.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
On arrival at the clinic for the second appointment I was scanned to ensure that the baby was in the womb. Following the scan I was then shown to a waiting room with one other lady. The usually talkative part of me was sleeping that day, not finding appropriate words for any sort of conversation opener.
I recall looking at a large wall poster outlining the services of the "honourable pioneer" Marie Stopes in bringing the rights of women’s choice to the public. I recall the poster talking of her first marriage struggles at the hands of a masochistic man who forced her into sex as a marital duty. I vaguely recall wondering about Marie Stopes the woman, and how in Victorian England she had avoided the impact of religion and faith. I wondered whether the bitter marriage she experienced had caused a part of her to suffer and consequently use abortion as retribution against her husband.
As I waited in the room, I recall thinking that it looked much like a health spa reception with the frosted glass walls and flowers. I noted the girls around me. Some of them were older and I wondered why they were there – surely older women would relish a chance at pregnancy? I wondered whether their babies had been diagnosed with some condition causing them to choose abortion as a “solution”. I recall wondering if they were insulted by the young faces in the room and whether they felt any anger or bitterness towards them.
I recall a young mouthy girl on the phone, being very vocal to her friend at the other end about there being “loads’a people in this place”. She was so brash; I wondered if she was putting up a defensive front. I wondered what they were all thinking of me, and whether they were analysing me in the same fashion.
As mentioned earlier: In the clinical room. I recall seeing a girl on a day bed writhing about and moaning loudly, heaving into a bucket or bowl. As the nurse advised me of possible side effects to the tablet – cramps, nausea, bleeding, I did enquire what stage or abortion procedure had that girl undergone and should I expect to be like her. I was advised that she had gone through a surgical process and so was being kept in for monitoring. I wondered if she should be kept separately from women such as me, not on full display to cause alarm to the new “abortees”. Then recall being frustrated with the whole situation – the girl and the faffing, flapping nurse, just wanting them to give me the pill so I could get out of there promptly.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
Immediately after the process came apprehension, more frustration, fear, caution and determination. The nurse wanted me to take water which I didn’t want, rest which I didn’t need, a cab which I couldn’t afford.
I had been advised to bring a chaperone, but had chosen to do it alone, to just get on with it. I wanted to get to my car and get home. I was expecting a massive change to occur within 10 minutes of taking the pill, maybe something similar to the dramatic agony of the girl on the day or growing a third head like a scene from the movie “Alien”. As the nurse showed me down stairs and enquired as to who I was with. I advised that I was alone. She was reluctant to let me leave, which annoyed me all the more. When I assured her I would be fine and would not be driving (despite having parked my car right outside) and would be on a bus, she became even more flappy, running off to get me the number of a local taxi. I took the number and told her that I would call from outside the main door from my mobile.
As soon as I stepped outside, I made my way to my vehicle, put it into gear and drove off .
Driving through Brixton Road I remember talking to myself, my stomach, my car, the traffic lights and the ambulance that whizzed by me to another patient somewhere in London. I willed my body to hold off its punishment for me until I was safe in the confines of my home. I willed my car to carry me back without incident as the old Megane had a tendency to be temperamental in its mechanics. I willed each traffic light to go green and allow me to pass, believing that I had a time schedule before I crumpled: and a I bade hello to the ambulance vehicle making jest at the fact that they may need to about turn and come for me shortly – if the side effects I had been warned of were to come about.
I arrived home without incident. My daughter was staying with her grandmother for the night, a precaution taken to remove her from the view of any suffering which I expected to go through.
Once in my house, I waited…
How has your abortion affected you?
For me, the physical side effects were no more that a heavy menstrual cycle. Or ironically, the post birth bleeds of a mother.
The abortion took place on a Friday morning. By the afternoon and having no pain, I decided I wanted to be with my daughter and drove over to my mum’s to stay the weekend. On the Sunday I attended my church for usual morning Mass and broke. The gospel focused on the celebration of sanctity of life. The month of October honours Our Lady (Mary) and as my Priest declared prayers for the children and souls lost to abortion, the full realisation of what I had just done hit me like a train.
Standing near the confessional booth with my pram (my usual spot in the overly crowded church), I wept quietly as the priest spoke. On feeling a tug at my hand I looked down and saw a little girl who had wandered out of her mother’s pew position, she stood below me looking up at the crazy lady weeping in the aisle. I felt that she was intimating “the children don’t hate you, it’s ok”. With that my I felt awareness of sin and shame with despair.
I met my Priest on the way out of Mass and requested time from him for the following day. On the Monday I met him in the priest house and divulged the events of weekend. In the months following I was unable to take Communion at church, feeling such a wretched thing that although I had been absolved on the instruction of my Priest, I was in no way worthy of religious interaction.
I sought counsel from independent advisors and other religious leaders of sects of the Christian faith. Hoping that someone would grant me some relief from the massive grief I felt.
I built massive moral tasks to fulfil, intending that if I could do so then it would repay my sinful debt. For months I undervalued and hated myself, refraining from Catholic privileges in the belief that I was not worthy of any forgiveness or love.
I ricocheted into a semi-abusive relationship, with a controlling male who seemed to take strength in belittling and insulting me. I allowed it to continue as the presence of someone who wanted me was like a testimony to my conscience that I wasn’t the worst person in the world. In addition, the fact that I had given myself physically to this male as the first person following the abortion…. I felt that I owed it to someone, maybe God, to MAKE the relationship work into a “correct marital situation”.
Constantly I would walk about with tears in my eyes and would weep randomly. Searching through internet articles of post abortive retreats and wondering why there were none in the UK.
I bought book on book, wrote diaries and letters of my feelings and on listening to the radio believed that I could hear messages in songs. Messages from my aborted son (I believe) and my living daughter. These messages were of comfort and forgiveness; to this day I believe I have felt the presence of my child pulling me through such a dark and despairing time.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
Since the event I find that I cherish my daughter in a more honorary way. I feel a need to prove my parenting to her by providing her with everything I can.
At the time of my abortion two of my close friends were pregnant with their second children. There is no bitterness or malice towards them or their children, although I find pangs of emotion and pain hit me when I see how my daughter interacts with the new babies. She is so desperate for another sibling; I do believe that my sacrificial action to give her more materially was the wrong decision. She would have loved a brother more than anything.
Personal relationships are currently a difficult issue. Frigidity and guilt surround any idea of physical intimacy. Consequently I worry if I will ever be able to meet that ‘right and special’ person, settle down and create a family. Celibacy is such a foreign concept to modern day relationships.
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
In searching for some solace I have been involved in a year long counselling programme looking at all the emotions, feelings and relationships surrounding myself then and now. This was a help and bought into the fore some other issues of considerations which I may need to tackle in my life. However, the lack of guidance given by a counsellor, the concept of helping me to explore and find my own resolutions sometimes left me feeling lost and further misunderstood. On my most rational level I could reason that the decision to abort was solely mine, there was no blame or anger to tackle. My turmoil resulted from a feeling of religious guilt which was just not addressed in its fullness by one who could not share my Catholic persuasion.
As the counsellor could not give me guidance, direction or absolution I felt lost. I think that the loss I was experiencing required a sense of leadership to bring me back into the fold, to take my hand and draw me there. This is not something I could do with distant guide and a well meaning poke in the right direction.
I continued to seek this guide by speaking to Pastors and Preachers. A year on from my abortion I met a Friar a vigil mass for the victims of abortion. He directed me to an Irish spiritual retreat, which was to be the biggest turning point in my road to healing.
At Rachel’s Vineyard, after a tearful weekend of reflection, discussion and love, I finally found a sense of guidance. Every nerve within me was touched as I felt taken. With my Irish roots I felt as though I had been drawn home in so many ways: spiritually, physically and literally.
There I finally learnt and accepted that we can make mistakes… even the best of us.
And we can still be loved and welcomed back home.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?
In our natural make up we are designed to bear and care for our children from the very moment of their existence; yet abortion goes against this in the most perverse sense. Not only might we feel the failure element in our lack of protection, but we also have to accept that the failure was of own making and at our hands.
The Lady Macbeth syndrome: an awareness of guilt that you cannot wash away or blame elsewhere is one that causes great emotional torment.
I believe that even for the non-religious, the modern, the hardened and most women’s lib of us: the dawning realisation that one has the un-retractable death of a life at its most vulnerable on their hands, affects the very fabric soul of a woman and tears holes in that fabric.