I believe we need to change education and language around this topic. This is my account.
|We’re divided on this subject. Pro life, pro choice; wherever you stand, you’ll stand somewhere, even if it’s in the deepest part of yourself that nobody ever gets to see. That’s where I’ve been hiding, for sixteen years. Within this hidden cell, I’ve regularly subjected myself to a barrage of self inflicted torture and loathing. Telling my story, I hope to continue in the peeling back of the onion layered damage I’ve done to myself over the course of time and pray that my story might help another human being, to either make a choice that’s right for them, or to educate people that this isn’t just a debate for some of us; it’s our reality, and for others, it’s a prison.
I had an abortion in April 2003 and honestly, the regret hasn’t ever gone away for me. In fact, I believe I’ve been trapped in an unknown grieving for my child for all of these years and if it hadn’t been from a very close friend of mine, a sister, of sorts (who is passionately anti abortion) talking about a girl she knows experiencing this, I don’t think I ever would have come to this understanding on my own because I never, ever talk about it. Years of therapy and none of my therapists know about it. It’s been my darkest secret aside from the people that surrounded me around that time. I’ve mentioned to very few people that I did this and I’ve never been able to acknowledge the emotion I'd attached myself with. Two years ago, I had the concept of grief setting in, after having an abortion. Nobody at that time suggested this as being a possibility and in the last couple of years, with thanks to my friend, I have been able to process this and come to a better understanding of my emotions.
I was young and entirely irresponsible. I’d moved out of home quite young and I lacked really basic skills. I’d started out living with a couple of friends whilst I finished school and as I’d made sure to fail all of my courses, by getting stoned, drunk and/or bunking most of the last year, I eventually found myself being asked to leave my friends house, because my behaviour with the boys was less than wholesome. I didn’t like being told not to seek love, in my mind then. I couldn’t see this was the love I was seeking. Following this, I found a job, and with it a lady who I could lodge with. She was lovely. A really nice family, in fact. It didn’t take too long until I was gifted a bedsit, with a communal bathroom and heroin to be scored, if I so fancied. It had a unique charm.
Anyways, my job came with a boss, on my department. We’ll just call him Bender (like Bender from Futurama, but with less humanity). I thought Bender was the business. I mean, he had a beard. He was a man and I was this lost little kid in a world I really didn’t understand yet. Bender liked me, so I found out. I remember little of our times together actually. I don’t know if this was a deliberate memory wipe on my part or it's just faded, over this time. A couple of things I do remember vividly though, are the fact he used to vomit blood on the way home from the pub, before using a bottle to urinate into (he’d kindly leave me with this scented gift when he left my bedsit) and his prized U2 CD. I do wish I’d have been able to remember other things about him, but you could understand why these might stand out. Oh, I tell a lie. One other thing – I recall a night he took me to his brothers flat and they both proceeded to put their hands down my top at the same time and as much as I felt sick, I could not speak the simple word of “no”. I wasn’t wholesome, so what right did I have, exactly?
So my being irresponsible and such, at least got me as far as getting on the pill. Trouble is, you really need to take the pill responsibly for it to be affective – which I did not. I just figured “oh, I forgot it for a few days, I’m hardly going to get pregnant from that, if I take it now”. No, Laura. No. It most definitely doesn’t work like that (is the advice I’d give to my former six stone self).
I started feeling peculiar. I thought I just had a bug, to begin with but it was persistent. I was 'whooshy' and weaker. Smoking a cigarette in the morning was literally making me wretch and I LOVED my cigarettes, so I knew something was up. I spoke to my best friend and her Mum (who I’d previously lived with) and the immediate response was that I needed to be getting a pregnancy test. I actually instantly knew that this must be it. I did a test. Voila. I got a positive reading and I messaged Bender that we needed to talk. Another test was taken, to show Bender that this was indeed the reality. I think he needed to see reality twice more. His only reaction after that, was to order me to “book in” to organise an abortion. “Hold on a minute, what? What if I don’t want that?” I’d asked. “Its fine, do it now and we’ll have a baby soon. Just not yet.” This would become his one and only mantra, alongside his wonderfully kind gesture of driving me in his car, so as I didn’t have to go on the bus.
I found myself in one of the loneliest places I’d ever been, with everyone who knew about it eager to impart their opinion on the subject. “Get rid of 'it'”, “You’ll not be able to look after a baby”, “You’re going to regret it”, “Keep it, Laura” and so on. Two people gave me the only advice I don’t hold negative memory for – my best friend and her Mum. “Do what feels right for you, Laura”. I wish I’d known how to recognise real affection in order that I would have listened to the only advice being presented by it, instead of having created some tally in my head of other people who were telling me it was something I couldn’t do, or didn’t deserve to do - or have.
Before I’d reached a conclusion, I also had the Drs putting pressure on me. The weeks were passing by and “time is running out” they’d say, as I left the office with another urine infection, caused by the extra protein in my urine. A common symptom of pregnancy. The pressure I felt was immense. I’d go as far as to say it felt impossible. I suppose I allowed this feeling of impossibility affect the swaying of the pendulum. For the record, I never used the pendulum swing test. Maybe I wish I had. I did have a scan quite early on, in all of this process, to confirm how far along in pregnancy I was – typing this, I realise I avoided saying “to see how old my baby was”, because we don’t say that when we’re talking about abortions. So – my child was eight weeks old at this point and yes, I was told it’d look like a peanut and yes, I did see. This image is etched into my memory like the brightest light you could imagine. Only it’s not a bright light, it’s a very dark hole, the shape of my heart.
I remember walking from my bedsit – in the infamous, and now converted into a care home - block of drug dens and getting to town feeling so, so ill. I was sweating and shaking like a leaf. My legs were enormously leaded and weak and I thought I might faint. I made it to the charity shop, where me and my best friend would often volunteer, with her Mum being assistant manager. I was put in a chair and offered tea. It didn’t take long before I felt okay again, but I do remember thinking “I am so scared” in that moment. I was absolutely terrified and I didn’t think anyone was able to understand me. Another day, spent in the shop, I was sat outside, on the metal black steps and going through a magazine, looking at pushchairs I liked. I’d look for baby clothes going cheap and I was feeling both lost and found, all in a messy, adolescent confusion.
I’ve touched on not getting much affection. It wasn’t common and I couldn’t really see what it actually was, in any way that was meaningful. To me, the words “I love you” was as good as it got. There was no tenderness or cuddles for me, growing up. I remember my Stepmum tickling me once. Only once. I went to bed and thanked God for it. Genuinely. Another parent brushed my hair when I was six and still tells the story over and over, like it was a regular interaction. I cringe, but I’ve forgiven. I was, on the other hand shown what physical pain looked like.
So, I was in this 'relationship', albeit with a dude who didn’t want to walk ten steps to an actual toilet... But he didn’t leave bruises on me and he said those magical words to me. He loved me. My Bender loved me and so that means he’s not going to hurt me, if he’s not throwing things at me or leaving bruises on my skin. This is what love looks like to Laura, circa 2003. I absolutely craved love, even without knowing what it meant. So, when the repeated record kept whispering in my ear “in the future” etc, I genuinely believe it.
I was not educated in so many ways and yet people would always be telling me how 'street smart' I was because I lived on my own so young. For the readers – you don’t get street smart because you live on your own at a young age, you get street smart by meeting a variety of people, making a montage of epic errors and failing – all of the time. I least of all had any education on what abortion would look like to my adult self. As already exampled here, the language we use around it totally detaches itself from any humanity, any depth or meaning to young girls who haven’t got a clue who they’re going to be yet, or who they are now.
With all of this being said, I gave in to the ideas that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t cope, that it’d happen in the future, and that I was loved. Telling some people that 'I' had decided to end the life of my baby – or to most of us – have an abortion, my beliefs about myself were confirmed when so many people answered with “its for the best”, “you’re making the right choice”, as if I'd found myself in a living, breathing version of Catchphrase and people were praising me for guessing the answer, whilst only having revealed a corner square. I don’t doubt the good intentions of 80% of these people. We all try and offer support in the way we know how and for the most part, I see that this was the case.
The day arrived and I had an early morning appointment at an abortion clinic. I think there was a pill you could take back then, but I was too far along and already over the edge of what was considered too late. Driving me, to Brighton clinic, was Bender. Accompanying him, was my Mum. The mood from both of them was eerily jolly and I totally lost it. I screamed at both of them. I have no memory of what the words were, I just remember having a total meltdown. Bender excused this as me not being allowed to smoke that morning. Seriously. I don’t remember entering the building, or what it looked like. The next memory I have, I’m sat in a robe next to another lady in her own nightgown. She leaned in and whispered to me “is this your first?”. To this day, I wonder if she meant baby or abortion and when I responded with a nod she said “its alright, it’s my third” which gives me no more clue on what she meant. All I know is that she was someone who offered me comfort that day. I remember holding a nurses hand after I’d been led to a room and being told to relax and offered assurances that “this will all be over before you know it”. I woke up with a nappy sized sanitary towel, which I knew full well, was already drenched and I was told I had to try and wee. Another image etched there. As a sat in a daze, I was told I had to eat before I could go and I was desperate to leave. It took me forever to eat this ham sandwich. All I wanted to do was go and I couldn’t get this food to react properly in my mouth. You know when you get a really chewy bit of dry beef, the size of a baby’s fist and you chew and chew and chew some more with no promise of it breaking down? It was like that. I never finished all of it but I’d clearly made an effort and had half a tea, so I was given the go, to go. I walked out into the waiting room and this is the third, etched image. The smiles that awaited me. I think my Mum’s was at best, ignorant and an attempt at being encouraging but Bender was awake on Christmas morning before anyone else and that was the moment I began to suffocate alone in grief. Needless to say, he dropped me off to my Mum’s after that and dropped me altogether after bringing me an Easter Egg in the evening. Well, two, but I wasn’t counting like the lady I met earlier.
Once I was medically recovered, I was now somewhat on a mission to ensure I derailed my own life, one way or another – which is what you do when you have no affection presenting itself to you and you have no idea how to affect this mystical ideal within the self to cope with unknown grief. The emptiness I felt was filled by using drugs. The lack of love I felt presented itself as promiscuity and my life went from bad to worse, leaving me homeless and alone. My old friends didn’t want me around because I was using drugs and my new friends ditched me, once I lost my flat – the drug den. One night, it kicked off and I left. I moved away.
Of course, many details of my life brought me to this place. There’s been a lot of good things and a lot of bad. It’s a life, thus far and a decade and a half later, I have reached a place of wanting to share my secret, not just for myself, but to hope there can be a shift in the dialogue. This experience changed the course of my life and it’s still giving me lessons to this day. Forgiveness, self acceptance and accountability, compassion and empathy are all qualities that have in part, been shaped by this.
So... Why have I detailed this for reading by strangers? My only regret; my deepest secret – that I feel I murdered my child – because it’s of no use in a heart shaped, dark prison. It doesn’t teach anything, it doesn’t allow me to grow, to accept, to forgive and it doesn’t pay respect to my baby, who had a life and who’s life I ended.
I don’t blame anyone else for the choice I made. Even pressured, I allowed myself to be pressured and I allowed all of this to happen. I caused the chain of events by being irresponsible in the first place and that’s why I have carried the depth of the pain in silence for so long.
I used to tell people I never wanted to have children. I used the excuse of not wanting to repeat my history and though there is truth in that, the truth is this – I had a child and I killed him, or her. I felt for a long, long time that I did not deserve to have another child after that. My baby would be fifteen now, maybe struggling with exam results as so many are, maybe spray painting graffiti onto a wall, maybe making a romantic partner laugh.
Before we start debating subjects, we first must be educated on them properly, and with no holes barred. Language should be changed appropriately so we as people may recognise when a spade is a spade. That being said, each and every person on this planet should have a right to be heard on this subject. Not if you’re the only one with a uterus. Every single man, every single woman. It’s not about either, it’s about a new life entirely. We must stop judging other people’s journeys and choices. My feelings on the subject and the ways I dealt with this are mine, my story alone and I am not in any place to get to judge the thoughts of you, her or someone else’s actions. We all have our own story to tell and we are not authors for other people and most definitely, not qualified to be their critiques.
Education for young people around abortion – let’s stop depersonalising the personal.