How many abortions have you had?
What were your circumstances at the time of the abortion?
I had just come to work in Dublin to, feeling very lonely, needy and sad. I found it difficult to socialise. A friend brought me to a party and I met a guy, seemed nice and asked to see me again. We started seeing each other, it was my first sexual relationship, and I became pregnant after 7 months. I was 20.
How many weeks pregnant were you?
My abortion was performed I was told by suction under general anaesthetic.
I was born in rural Ireland of the 50’s, this was early 70’s. I come from a middle class background and my first thoughts were for my family, a very catholic family, how would they deal with this news? My belief was they would be so full of anger and disappointment, they might disown me. I was in my employment for a year with excellent prospects and so I felt that my employers would not support me, I would be alone. Looking back now I realise that I did not even think of talking with friends, I was so full of shame and pride. My lasting memory of that time was ‘How do I get shut of this problem’, I never gave any thought that the ‘problem’ was a living being, growing inside me. My boyfriend arranged for me to see a Doctor who ‘referred’ Irish girls to a clinic in the UK, and so I made the arrangements. I didn’t feel coerced by anyone to have an abortion; I put that pressure on myself. My boyfriend supported me in that decision, I never heard him say to go on with the pregnancy.
How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?
We travelled on the ferry to the UK and the following morning I had an appointment with two doctors in the Clinic. They did ask me about keeping my baby, but all I could think of was ‘getting rid of the problem’, then everything would be ok. I gave my reasons why I wanted an abortion, they ticked some boxes on their literature, and I was told to attend a residential home the following morning. I was given some information about the procedure that I would be put under anaesthetic, and the rest period staying over-night, but all I wanted to hear was that they would complete the procedure
I don’t recall receiving any advices about possible dangers of the procedure, and certainly no psychological counselling of any sort was offered or given. This part of my ‘trip’ is very hazy, I believe now that there was only one part of me there, I was very much in the moment of what I needed to do and did not think of, or was advised of, any future issues that might arise. I was advised to go to the Family Planning Clinic in Dublin for post operative check up.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
The following morning I travelled to the Clinic alone, when I gave the address to the taxi driver, he knew where to go, told me his daughter had been there a few months earlier and it was the best decision for her. On arrival, I was met by a nurse who brought me to a small ward and she told me I would be ‘done’ mid morning. It was a small ward of four and I got chatting to another girl there from Northern Ireland. When I was wheeled to the theatre by a nurse, we waited outside and I recall the sound of something like a vacuum, that sounds still can haunt me and remains with me to this day.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
I woke up feeling groggy, felt my tummy and then heard a girl in a bed near to me screaming. She was in a lot of pain. I understand she gave the clinic incorrect details of how long she was pregnant and was having complications. My boyfriend said he would visit, but never did.
How has your abortion affected you?
At the outset I had a sense of ‘well that’s done & dusted’ and a lot of my energy went into protecting my secret for a long time. A day never passed but I thought of my baby, anniversaries of the abortion, birthdays on the due date of birth, these haunted me for years and I remained in silence. I did tell my husband early into the relationship about the abortion. Keeping the secret affected me for a long time, and I was also experiencing issues in my marriage which I convinced myself was my fault. I started to drink heavily, and secretly. When I engaged in a Recovery Programme, the abortion came up and so many emotions – guilt, shame, sadness. I worked with a counsellor and one day I found an advertisement for a Healing your Abortion Weekend.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
The father of my child and I stayed together for about four years afterwards, I was very unhappy in the relationship, as it became quite controlling and emotionally abusive. I didn’t have the courage to leave the relationship, fear that he would tell others of what had happened. Those were very unhappy years.
What has helped you to come to terms with your abortion?
Firstly for me the acceptance of what I had done, accepting the reasons why I had the abortion. I attended the Healing Weekend referred to and what I experienced on that weekend was the coming together of broken souls who could share their pain, shame, guilt and extreme sadness. For me it was opening a locked box within me that had been closed for 36 years, and everyone understood. Deep friendships were formed and it was the start of a healing journey for me.
Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering an abortion today?
I understand and believe we all have personal choices in our lives. If I were to speak to a woman considering abortion, I would share my experience, the deep pain and at times despair having the abortion and the subsequent years. I would share this experience in the hope that she might learn that this act, for me, has never been forgotten and the subsequent issues that arose in my life, I thought having the abortion was the end of the pain, it was only the beginning.