A couple of years ago, I found myself in the invidious position of being pregnant in circumstances that made it impossible to have the baby.
I won’t go into the whys and wherefores but I hope, by recounting what happened on that horrible day, it may facilitate the decision making process for another woman in a similar position.
Living in England, I’m lucky that, when I went to the doctor and explained why I couldn’t keep the baby, they put me in touch with a clinic 30 miles away and I got an appointment for the termination the following week.
Being almost nine weeks along, I no longer had the option to go to the local hospital to get the first of two pills that would cause a miscarriage. I was left with no choice but to undergo the surgical procedure.
I spent most of the night before crying. It wasn’t helped by the fact that, being so tiny, every time I lay on my belly, I could feel the small hard lump of the baby fluttering inside me. I was aware of it moving around. It wasn’t just the hormones that made me feel sick as I thought about what I would have to do the following morning.
Despite my worst fears, there were no pro-Life campaigners outside the clinic and so, with my full bladder, I sat in the waiting room until I was called in for the ultrasound scan that would confirm the gestation of the foetus inside me.
When the nurse pressed the scan tool onto my belly, the foetus inside me lurched so violently that she almost dropped it.
That’s when I asked to see the screen. She stopped for a moment and waited for my to repeat the request to be sure but she assured me that it was no unusual to be asking to see, bearing in mind what the future held.
Because I was having the surgical procedure, I was offered the opportunity to be sedated but, because I had to drive home afterwards, I had to decline. She told me that it would be rather uncomfortable but I had no choice, even though I recognised a euphemism for pain when I heard it.
The delays between each stage of the evaluation process were very hard as it gave all the women an opportunity to reassess what they were about to do, but most of us had little choice and, when the nurse came to tell me to place a sanitary towel in my pants, I had composed myself.
Wearing my socks, a big tshirt and a surgical wrap around my lower body, I tucked my pants under the pillow and a nurse helped me up onto the table, tutting when she realised that I was not sedated.
With my ankles in the stirrups and legs spread wide, my pubic area was doused with a local anaesthetic before a speculum was inserted. A rod was pushed inside the speculum and then a sort of tube up the centre of it right inside my uterus but it was no more uncomfortable than a cervical pap smear.
The nurse holding my hand started chatting to me and, as things started to happen, the panting breathing that I had learned almost two decades previously when I attended all those natural childbirth classes for my other pregnancies and learned how to give birth without pain relief suddenly came into play.
There was a ‘pulling’ sensation inside my lower belly as I panted and tried to distract myself. Two or three times he hoovered round my innards but then the next two were the most excruciating pain you can ever imagine where the panting became three loud, very unladylike expletives at the top of my voice followed by some shushing as I tried to breathe through it.
All the staff were so kind and tried to calm me, before he went in for the final time. No amount of pregnancy breathing could ever have prepared me to deal with the torture of having the last remnants torn out of me.
Removing my shaking legs from the stirrups, they let me catch my breath and put on my knickers, before helping me off the bed and into the reclining chair of post recovery, carefully keeping my gaze away from the receptacle that contained the remains of my poor dead baby.
After some water and paracetamol and, later tea and biscuits, I realised that the nausea which had been permanently present for the last two weeks had disappeared and they allowed me to go home, with the instruction that I couldn’t have sex for two weeks.
Four and a half hours later, I was bleeding heavily and had the drawing, cramping pains of a period which required some more paracetamol.
And, the following morning when I went back to work, I was still bleeding, in shock and I kept on crying. It was very much like the third day baby blues after labour, when all the hormones associated with pregnancy start to dissipate.
It didn’t help that almost every woman I saw that morning was either pregnant or pushing a small baby in a pram.
The Aftermath of An Abortion
I was lucky. The termination was successfully completed without any residue, the bleeding stopped and I was physically able to return to having sexual relations a few weeks later.
Mentally, like most women who undergo this procedure, I am scarred and the enormity of what I did will live with me forever. The guilt never really goes away.
It can be rationalised but never excused.
For the man, things are normally somewhat different since, to many, the foetus is just an inconvenient cluster of cells. They cannot feel the baby inside them, it is not a part of them in the same way that it is for the woman.
However, that is not to say that they don’t feel emotion about the procedure, even if it is some years later.