How many abortions have you had? One
My circumstances at the time of the abortion.
I was almost 37 when I had an abortion and it broke my heart. After having had some dark phases in my earlier life, including bouts of depression and an eating disorder, I was ‘in a good place’, when I fell pregnant. I felt healthy and well-balanced, physically and emotionally. I was already a single mother of a 15-year old and had been in a committed relationship with a decent man for the previous two years. I believed I had a reasonable degree of self-awareness and spiritual awareness, prayed and went to Mass and enjoyed visiting religious sites such as Lough Derg, Clonfert and Knock. I was educated to Master’s level, had a secure permanent job in the public sector, a reasonable income, a savings account and my own home. My circumstances could not have been more different to when I first got pregnant as a 21-year old student, with a man I’d know only 3 months. There was no reason for me not to welcome this pregnancy and have faith in the future.
So why did I choose abortion?
I will never be able to fully rationalise that decision, but old fears of abandonment, of disapproval and of struggle after my last pregnancy resurfaced with devastating consequences. In hindsight, another significant factor was that I was frighteningly and incomprehensibly ignorant of the reality of abortion and its aftermath. Of course, I rationalised, if I am struggling to cope, or if I am once again abandoned as a single mother, it will not be in the child’s best interest. The timing isn’t right. The father isn’t financially secure enough. The logistics of us moving in together would be too difficult. The childcare burden would be on me. People would be disappointed in me that I let this happen. I was setting a poor example for my daughter by having another child outside of marriage. I would be trapped in the responsibility of parenthood for another 20 years. But I always wavered. Up to the last second before the procedure, there was always a voice to tell me that this was not the right decision; that this was not in accordance with spiritual law. Unfortunately, I ignored this voice, and proved to myself once again the old adage that it is not possible to break a spiritual law. You can only break yourself against it. And I was left broken and shattered.
What type of abortion was performed?
I was eight and a half weeks pregnant when I had a surgical abortion. I had completed the pregnancy test the previous Tuesday evening and by the following Monday I had travelled to Manchester to abort. I had been feeling very tired, low in energy and unwell the few weeks prior to doing the pregnancy test but attributed this to the fact that I was just back from a two-week holiday abroad. We had been careful to contracept and it was not terribly unusual for my menstrual cycle to be irregular. I blamed the long flight, the food and drink consumed on holiday, the hectic schedule of activity for this uncharacteristic unwellness I was feeling. By the time I finally did the home pregnancy test, I was at the stage where I was going straight to bed at 5pm after finishing work and had spent the previous weekend lying in bed, though lack of energy. My mood was low and I became very distressed when I saw the result. I immediately thought of abortion, as a solution to my problem. I phoned my partner and he came over (with flowers). We had a huge argument, as he was unwilling to accept the reasons why I sought to abort, resulting in him leaving my home quite abruptly the following morning. This confirmed my fear of him walking out and I began to google abortion. That day I made an appointment with a clinic in Manchester. My partner and I reconciled that same day but I remained adamant that abortion was an option, despite his best efforts to convince me otherwise. But still I wavered and cried intermittently for a week. I made a list of the pros and cons of having the procedure, but crucially never discussed it with anyone but my partner, whose advice I disregarded, as I perceived him to have a ‘vested interest’.
Did anyone bring pressure to bear on you or coerce you to choose abortion?
I could never claim that anyone pressured me into abortion. Quite the opposite. When I discovered I was pregnant, I told only my partner. My partner was very much against the idea, having had two previous abortions with two other women. Although I empathised with his desire to have the child, I reasoned that the decision was not his, as the ‘burden’ of responsibility (as I saw it) would always be mine. It was too easy for a man to walk away, as the father of my first child had done. There was no trust. My experience of having been abandoned as a single mother spoke louder than any words my partner could ever speak.
Do you think you were adequately informed at the time, of the physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual consequences of abortion?
In hindsight, the most inexplicable aspect of my experience was my ignorance of the devastating emotional and psychological consequences of abortion. A friend had once confided that she’d had an abortion, but spoke of it in much the same way as having had a tooth extracted, an unpleasant, yet necessary procedure. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy but life hadn’t been easy and I had toughened up. I told the baby in my womb that I was sorry I had to do this, but that it was for the best. I told my partner the same. I was wholly unprepared and tragically oblivious to the devastation and desolation that was to follow.
What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?
Arriving at the clinic over an hour early, I struggled to fight back the tears as I provided my details. I was asked to wait so that the nurse could speak to be about the possibility of a medical abortion, which they claimed was significantly cheaper than the surgical procedure. Sitting in the nurse’s office I cried as she described the procedures. I finally settled on the surgical procedure. I just wanted it over and done with. I waited again to see another nurse about a scan. I cried as she did the scan and took my bloods. I hated being in that clinic, desperately wanted to run out of there, begged for some kind of sign that what I was doing was right, wished that someone would rescue me. Finally, I was lying on the table. The doctor asked if I was sure this was what I wanted. Although in tears, I nodded. Ten minutes later it was all over, and I saw them take away the blue slop bucket.
What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?
No words can ever explain the desolation and despair I felt in those moments following the abortion. The horror of what I had done was revealed to me, I realised what I had lost and I hated myself and the world. How could I have been so blind, ignorant, selfish? How could I have been fooled into thinking that abortion was ever a viable choice? A quick fix that would let me return to normal life? Back in the hotel room I wailed for my lost baby. I texted my partner to let him know the procedure was complete.
How has/have your abortion affected you?
The following days were the darkest I have ever lived. There was no hope, no consolation. In desperation, I confided in a friend, who contacted me by coincidence (or as I now believe through the intercession of a Higher Power). She was aware of a healing retreat for post-abortion women.
How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?
I was not spared the natural grieving process and shed many a tear in the last ten months since the procedure, including during the writing of this testimony. I have felt a terrible emptiness and sense of loss in my life, and my relationship with my partner has suffered as we struggle to believe in one another again. I have a renewed respect for the miracle of life and for spiritual laws that govern us. I have a greater appreciation of my daughter and other loved ones and what really is important in life. Certainly, my self-esteem has taken a hit. I feel more vulnerable, less confident and trust myself less, but that may not be a bad thing. If anything, this was a terrible lesson in humility for me. I was not the good, spiritual person I thought I was, nor the intelligent, educated girl that could make balanced decisions. But the good news is that Christ still loves me and I am still a Child of the Light and not of the darkness.
What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?
I googled desperately and discovered Rachels Vineyard.. The Friday following the abortion, I attended this retreat and experienced a very powerful healing and this preserved my sanity. I believe that this was primarily through the release of damaging emotions such as guilt, anger and grief, the renewal of my faith and also through the love, faith and support of the facilitators, other participants and their testimonies. I was too raw to attend the entire retreat so left halfway through but that was enough to initiate my healing. I returned to complete the retreat two months later and had an even more powerful healing. I will be eternally grateful for having been led to this retreat as without it I cannot imagine how I would ever have recovered from the trauma of post-abortion.