Jean’s Story

How many abortions have you had? One.


My circumstances at the time of the abortion.

I travelled to the UK for an abortion in 1980, when I was just 18 years old. My boyfriend (who later became my husband) travelled with me.My reason for opting for abortion was principally fear.. fear of telling my grandmother who raised me, fear of letting everyone down, feeling like a failure,feeling ashamed. I just wanted to turn the clock back and not to be pregnant, to put everything back the way it was before. My boyfriend was much older than me,but he didn’t object to my decision or offer any alternatives. I was in school at the time, doing a secretarial course, having done my Leaving Cert the year before.


How many weeks pregnant were you?

I was quite far advanced in the pregnancy by the time I travelled, probably about twenty two weeks, because I had to wait until the school year ended. Wimbledon Tennis Tournament was on TV while we were in the UK, every time I see it now it reminds me of that time.I can remember the first time I felt the baby move, it was like little butterfly wings fluttering in my tummy.


How much information were you given on the abortion procedure at the time and by whom?

We did not consult with anyone else or look for counselling/advice from anyone. At that time of course, the internet was not available and information was very limited. We travelled to Birmingham to visit relatives and from there to London for two days. When we arrived, we looked up the telephone book to find a clinic, having no appointment arranged beforehand.


What do you recall of the abortion procedure itself?

I didn’t realise I had a bump until that day in the clinic,when I lay on the couch and I looked down, I could see it quite clearly. The doctor was quite impatient with me, I remember that much.The clinic was like any other I suppose. I don’t remember much about the procedure,except waking up in excruciating pain and a nurse offering to get me something for the pain and smiling, very kindly. I remember feeling empty and alone.


What was your immediate reaction after the abortion and how did you feel?

We returned to Birmingham the following day and I had to pretend like nothing happened. My breasts were engorged and leaking milk… something I had no idea would happen, I was bleeding and in pain, physically and emotionally. We returned to Ireland and soon after, I became quite depressed, I attempted suicide, ended up in hospital, had my stomach pumped and survived.


How has/have your abortion affected you?

I eventually pulled myself together, got married about two years later and went on to have children, but the pain of the loss of my first child was always there. I buried it for years, just pushed it to the back of my mind and pretended it never happened, but every now and then it would resurface and the pain was just as raw as the very first day, like a wound that has a scab on it, but never heals. It took years for me to come to terms with it, the grief and the guilt were just gut-wrenching, like a physical pain. I still mourn the loss of that child, 32 years on. Nothing could have prepared me for that life-long grief, it’s hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, but it’s like a part of you is missing, like there is a gaping hole in my heart that nothing can ever fill. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.


I have beautiful children whom I love with all my heart, I have a good job and a nice home and on the surface, everything is well. Inside of me though, the loss will always be there. I don’t lie awake every night agonising over it, but it is there nonetheless and it is a regret I have to live with. I would change it if I could, but I cannot.


How has your abortion affected others in your life and your relationships with others?

My marriage ended and I’m a single parent now. I find it hard to forgive my husband for not insisting that we have the child, because I was only 18 and he was much much older.


What has helped you come to terms with your abortion?

I have found comfort and solace at the Rachel’s Vineyard retreats, where I learned to forgive and accept myself and acknowledge and name the baby I lost. I would recommend a retreat to anyone who is struggling with grief.


Based upon your experience, what would you want to tell a woman considering abortion today?

I would not recommend abortion as an option to anyone, because of the life-long pain I have had to endure. There has to be a better way. The very act is inhumane. I think abortion is about making money for the providers, not about helping women. It certainly didn’t help me.

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