I was twenty years old, terrified, and completely alone.
2014 United Kingdom
I had a very uncomfortable pregnancy - for almost a month I felt relentlessly exhausted and sick. I could not eat without feeling awful. For weeks I was ravenous, yet immediately nauseous at even the thought of food. Getting out of bed was a struggle, and I was sleeping for over twelve hours every day. After the termination, my health improved rapidly and I was initially jubilant. I was full of energy and determined to be positive. I loved feeling healthy for the first time in so long. The problems came when I returned home. The father, who didn't know, was an old school friend and immediately upon coming home I felt intense pressure to tell him. I came back only two weeks after the abortion, and had not anticipated him to be back from travelling when I was home. Right before I found out I was pregnant, he had deeply upset me and I decided to put an end to our two-year 'friends-with-benefits' relationship the next time I saw him. He had treated me with deep insensitivity and I felt used. Upon discovering my pregnancy my feelings of anger towards him had multiplied and intensified, and I was convinced telling him about the termination was the wrong move. I thought he would react immaturely and push me even further away. However, keeping a secret takes it's toll - I was stressed, withdrawn and sullen, and mutual friends convinced me telling him was the right thing to do. Telling him did not go as expected. His reaction was surprisingly poignant, and by the end of our conversation he looked like a small child consumed by misery. It hit me that all along he had cared for me, but he was just a confused teenager who had never known what he was doing or what he wanted. He had never meant harm, and he didn't deserve misery any more than me. Seeing him distressed broke my heart. Since then, I have gone between feeling relieved, and feeling sad. My sadness comes from how me and the father's relationship ended, and the stress that was forced upon both of us. However, we are both making an effort to support each other - I am no longer alone, and it makes all the difference. Even a small message from him every other day reminds me that I have support and help whenever I need it. In a way, I feel almost hardened from my experiences. It made me feel stronger and more powerful; many of my friends called me brave, a word which I would have never used to describe myself before. I now feel far more ready for any challenges life may throw my way - I no longer fear change as I used to. For the first time, I would describe myself as a woman. Before, I was just a girl, no matter how mature I felt... now, I feel I have grown into a woman.
My experience was mixed. I certainly felt very isolated. I knew I wanted to terminate my pregnancy from the second I got the positive test result - I am a student in university and an unwanted pregnancy represented everything that I did not want my life to become. I couldn't get an abortion assessment meeting until a week after taking the test; having to wait a week to find out when and how the abortion would take place was excruciating. It felt like being in limbo. All I wanted was it to be over, and with symptoms of nausea and exhaustion worsening every day it was torture not knowing when it would all be finished. I drove myself mad reading stories of abortion online, and when it came to the assessment meeting I decided a surgical termination would suit me more. It seemed quicker, easier and much less painful, although perhaps more intimidating. Before the operation I was calm and thankful it was going to be over so soon. I arrived at the hospital around eleven A.M and was called in about an hour later. The first hurdle was being told my friend who'd accompanied me couldn't wait with me in the day surgery ward; I would have to wait alone. I then was told to leave my personal belongings except slippers and a robe in a locker, and change into a hospital gown. Being stripped of my phone, clothes and even underwear felt quite dehumanizing, and even frightening. When I looked in the mirror, I saw what looked like a frightened little girl awaiting surgery... it didn't look like me, a confident twenty year old. I didn't recognise myself. I was given a pill to 'soften my cervix', and then waited for approximately an hour before being taken for a blood test. The ward was quiet and relatively empty save for a few nurses, and other women waiting to have their own terminations. I did not realise that the ward would be specifically for abortions, and the sight of all of the women in hospital gowns, bare-faced and terrified, all silently awaiting their turn was jarring, surreal and unsettling. It was a lonely environment. My calm exterior cracked when they attempted to take blood - I am terrified of needles and wept as the nurse approached me with the needle. She was kind and eventually the anaesthetist came in and took blood from my hand while also inserting the tube they'd pump the anaesthetic through so I'd only require one injection. I felt like a frightened child as they sympathetically held my hand and tried to distract me from the needle. Following the injection I felt more confident, convinced the worst was over - all that would happen after was they'd put me to sleep and I'd wake up out of this nightmare. Unfortunately I wasn't called in until four thirty, and the hours of waiting were the loneliest hours of my life. I wished my mother was there to reassure me. I wished my friends were there to distract me. I even wished for the father, despite how angry I was with him. He at the time was travelling, having the time of his life, while I was alone and paralysed with fear. It made me feel like being born female was a curse. I began having awful cramps, so when they finally called me up I was relieved it would soon all be over. They took my heart-rate, blood-pressure and lay me down in preparation for surgery, and I overheard a nurse saying I was the only patient that day who hadn't cried before the operation. Her words left me numb. On the one hand, the small suggestion I was brave made me feel strong... and yet, perhaps I was an abnormality. Should I have been more upset? At that point I just wanted to feel healthy. I was so sick of the endless nausea and tiredness. The operation was quick and painless, and upon being discharged I felt euphoric. The days afterwards were easier than I thought. Despite cramping, I felt jubilant at my lack of nausea. I felt free. It felt like, finally, my body was on my side again.
I had a very privileged upbringing, and for that I will always be very thankful - however, I was always taught university, then a good job was the only path of life that was ever open to me. To deviate from it would have been unnatural and irresponsible... I would be giving up a life that many people can only dream of. So upon discovering I was pregnant, I felt there was only one choice. I do not for a second regret the abortion, and yet a small part of me wonders whether my conviction to terminate my pregnancy was a result of my upbringing rather than my personal feelings. Realistically, it was probably a mixture of both.
How did other people react to your abortion?
The only people I told were close friends of the same age. Most responded with feelings of intense sympathy, and admiration for my outwardly calm façade, unaware inside I was deeply afraid. The father was the last person I told, and I waited until after for reasons related to our complicated relationship. He reacted with guilt and eventually misery; we'd been friends-with-benefits for many years, but he'd always had difficulty expressing emotions and I was under the impression he cared nothing for me. When I found myself pregnant by him, I felt he would never be able to emotionally support me and would be too immature to deal with what I was going through. His reaction surprised me; he was emotional, distressed and sorrowful. Seeing me upset seemed to make him very stressed, and he made an active effort afterwards to support me emotionally.
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