How it Feels: Abortion

Today’s guest post comes courtesy of a Mother Sider who has asked to remain anonymous as, apart from her husband, nobody knows of her experience.

Sadly, the stigma associated with abortion means many woman are unable to confide in their friends and family – often for cultural or religious reasons (as is the case here), or because they simply do not know what the reaction will be. The pro choice/pro life (or anti choice) debate rages on the world over and women need to have their voices heard. We are honoured that this one chose to share her story via TftMS.

Please give our guest writer a warm Mother Side welcome…

“Four years ago we were away on our own over our anniversary weekend, on what should have been a fun-packed, outdoorsy break but I felt awful, exceptionally tired and weak. As a working Mum to two small children (3 and 5 at this point) I assumed it was because I was just exhausted. We returned home and I didn’t feel any better, took a test and discovered I was pregnant.

It was completely unplanned, and we hadn’t even discussed whether we wanted more children. Our youngest was born with a heart defect and any future pregnancy would mean additional appointments and scans but still without any guarantee that similar problems wouldn’t be found in time. It would also mean a third caesarean section.

A heart wrenching conversation later and we decided that it just wasn’t a risk we were prepared to take. I wasn’t sure I could handle the emotional and mental anxiety and uncertainty of the outcome, and if I’m honest it just didn’t feel ‘right’.

I had no idea who to talk to or how to access the ‘services’ I needed. As a young woman you can contact your local Brook Clinic, but I was a happily married 30-something. So I nervously booked an appointment with my GP for a few days later. The Doctor listened but then simply gave me the information for the BPAS (British Pregnancy Advice Service), and advised me to contact them to make an appointment. So I hadn’t needed to see my GP at all; I could have just gone to them directly.

When I called them the lady on the other end of the phone was lovely. She listened and was reassuring. She asked me a few questions – date of birth, date of my last period, what my current living situation was, if I had children already and their ages and lastly how I’d heard of their service. None of it felt uncomfortable or too indepth for an initial call; just reassuring that it was being dealt with. She booked an appointment for as soon as possible – it was just a few days, we had to travel to a nearby town rather than our home town but that wasn’t a concern. If anything I was more comfortable with that arrangement.

We nervously went to the first appointment together and where they confirmed the pregnancy – it was very early, they estimated no more than 3-4 weeks. I saw a doctor (on my own) who talked through the options of a medical abortion (via a pill) or surgical abortion (minor operation) – this does depend on how many weeks you are and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. The medical assessment appointment lasted roughly 30 minutes and she made sure I was fully aware of what we were discussing. Then I saw a counsellor who made sure I understood, that the choice was mine and I wasn’t being pressured into it. I felt reassured that I wasn’t a terrible person, that it was my body; my choice.

The options depend on your circumstances and dates:
A Medical Abortion is where you can take a pill to end the pregnancy, effectively causing symptoms similar to a miscarriage. It can be used up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
A surgical abortion involves a minor operation and there are two types. ‘Vacuum Aspiration’ can be carried out up to 14 weeks, and ‘Dilation and Evacuation’ between 15 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. Further information on these procedures can be found on the BPAS website.The information they give you to take home is very clear, it explains everything about every option, and how to access support.

As I was only a few weeks pregnant I opted for a surgical abortion via vacuum aspiration. The appointment for the procedure was booked for the following week, at our local clinic this time. When we arrived I was checked off a list and sat anxiously in a waiting area with my husband. There were a few other people there, mostly sat in silence.  A very friendly nurse came and called me through to a tiny room where I was given a gown and she checked my details and confirmed I still wished to go ahead. She gave me pain relief and then I was taken to another room where there were four other girls, all much younger than I, all looking pretty terrified. I just felt numb and matter of fact. We chatted a bit, more I think because it was reassuring as we were all in the same boat and to pass the time.  One girl had travelled quite a long way so that no-one knew what she was doing.

The procedure itself took less than ten minutes, I remember there being about four people in the room. A doctor, two nurses and the HCA, whose role was just to hold my hand. I’m sure she had an actual purpose but it felt reassuring with the alien noises and clinical room to have a person there; even though she was a stranger, that was ok. They did their best to make me feel at ease and there was gas and air if needed. When it was over the HCA took me to a small recovery room, where she had put my personal belongings and clothes. I was given a drink and a biscuit and time to feel ready to leave. I felt empty but relieved that the whole ordeal was over.

We were at the clinic for roughly 3 hours in total before being allowed home. They do recommend you don’t drive yourself there as recovery takes several days. I was exhausted and felt very uncomfortable for the first 48 hours. The discomfort was similar to very painful period cramps and I had some bleeding. I found it most comfortable to sit on a cushion. The bleeding and cramps did ease slowly and lasted a week in total, but can last up to 2 weeks. Emotionally I was exhausted too, I cried on and off over those few days.

We made the decision not to tell anyone what was going on. It is such an emotive subject and people can be very opinionated about it. It also carries a lot of stigma. We felt this most keenly with regards to my husband’s family, many of whom are Catholic and would probably disown us if they ever found out. Actually I never thought it was a choice I’d make.  At the time I had several pregnant friends and that made me uncomfortable. But this was our choice, and we knew it was the right thing to do for our little family unit.  I did worry about what people would think, in fact I still do and to this day very few people know.”

Top Tips for anyone in the same situation:

  • Keep talking to your partner about how you feel and how they feel throughout – it’s important to be honest with each other, although you are the one having to undergo the procedure it can be a very emotional time for your partner too.
  • Seek support if you need it. If you can’t talk to a friend or family member, there are many support lines you can call at any time throughout the process
  • Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to heal physically and emotionally.

The following services are particularly helpful (all clickable):

British Pregnancy Advisory Service
The Family Planning Association                               
ARCH Trust
Brook (for under 25s)
Marie Stopes UK

       

Love, The Mother Side xx

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3 thoughts on “How it Feels: Abortion

  1. Really important issue. I was advised to have an abortion on medical grounds after discovering 12 weeks into my first pregnancy that the baby had the fatal condition anencephaly. I am pro choice but it wasn’t a choice, as a happily married 35-year-old with a planned pregnancy, I ever thought I would need to make. I really struggled, mentally, afterwards but while I was offered CBT via my doctor, what I really needed was grief counselling, which I eventually accessed through my work’s occupational health scheme. It changed my life. I can completely understand why the writer keeps it a secret but I hope, if she needs to, she can find someone to talk to.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Tara. I carry a rare condition that has meant waiting until 10-11 weeks in both pregnancies to ascertain the Dec of the baby. This time around, it’s a boy, which meant a CVS and a 50/50 chance of having a healthy baby. Without question, I would have had a termination if he’d had the condition, which my brother and uncle both died from in infancy.
      I’m so pleased to hear that you get the support you needed, even if it wasn’t immediately forthcoming.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment – I’ll make sure the author of the post sees it xx

      Like

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