My Abortion Story

Hello my lovely readers! First let me once again issue my (all too) standard apology for yet another protracted absence. However, as I will soon explain, my reasons this time were better than in past times since, as you can probably guess from my non-cryptic title, a lot has happened in the past few months.

Before I begin, I want to say I hope everyone enjoyed/survived another holiday season. I myself came back from the U.S. six pounds heavier aka I absolutely smashed my vacation time like an American cheese addicted boss! I also had the pleasure/terror of introducing my partner to my family, but he pulled through it like an absolute champ.

meet-family
Image Courtesy of https://memegenerator.net/instance/51863287

Going home for the holidays always carries with it for everyone its own set of joys and complications. For me, it was mainly finding the right time to tell my family that I had had an abortion and was going to write publicly about my experience. Hence why I haven’t written in a while: I wanted to tell them in person which could only happen during vacation time.

But now I’m back in the craziness of Oxford, ready to share one of the hardest experiences of my life. My goal in writing about my abortion is two-fold: to bring realism to a common yet all too silenced event in many women’s lives and to stand with many other women who, at this particularly dangerous time, have shared their stories in an effort to show others that they are not alone. I hope I succeed.

My partner and I moved in together (officially) a few months ago on the 9th of September. I found out I was pregnant the day after. Talk about a housewarming!

I had been feeling a bit “off”, the best way to describe it, and in the midst of picking up groceries, I found myself in our local pharmacy to get one or two things. As I was browsing, I noticed they were having a sale on store brand pregnancy tests. So I figured “what the hell? I have nothing else to do this weekend.”

weekend
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/mhkort/weekend/

After I got back and unpacked everything, I went upstairs and proceeded to take the test. My partner was out at the time, and of course I honestly didn’t think anything significant was going to come of my Saturday science experiment.

So, I unpacked the test, read the directions, and commenced the most well-aimed stream of urine I could muster. I then waited as the little lines slowly began to appear in the window. I knew something was wrong as soon as the word line became plural in my head. Two lines indicated pregnant, one meant not pregnant. So of course there couldn’t be two.

I was so thankful that the test I had bought was a two-pack. So I then proceeded to unleash yet another pinpoint urine stream on the second stick. Surely the first test was just defective. The second line looked a bit faded to be fair.

Wrong again. The second test’s lines were twice as bold just to underscore the situation.

I was pregnant. SHIT!!!!!

pregnancy-test
My actual pregnancy test

The first thing I thought of was my partner. We had literally just moved in together, our relationship at that point was barely four months old, and now I’m, as the Brits charmingly say, up the duff with our bastard. What the hell?!?

Not to mention the fact that I was just about to start my second year of masters at Oxford and couldn’t manage the massive amounts of work I already had with just myself and all of the YouTubers I support with my comments! How the fuck was I going to manage this too?

Birth control has always been a tricky thing for me. I’ve tried so many different versions of the pill over the years but all so far have drastically exacerbated my mental health issues. The one thing I don’t need more of is crazy.

Also, when I was younger I had massively irregular and painful periods that led doctors to believe that I would have a difficult time conceiving, just like my mom did. Hence, we hadn’t been using condoms for a while since we were in a committed relationship together. All of this added up to the less than desirable situation I found myself in.

And you know what, the fact that I just felt the need to explain all of that is yet another reason why I’m writing this blog. The inclination to automatically have to explain and justify just how I let myself end up in this highly preventable situation, lest I am seen as less deserving, shameful, and ruinous is far too prevalent.

Women are constantly pressured to justify every aspect of their lives as sexual creatures, intent on making sure that they are behaving as honorably and morally as possible. The level of societal scrutiny women are placed under when it comes to their bodies and what they do with them is so intense, we often don’t even realize when it has permeated our own self-image.

perfect
Image Courtesy of https://heartjunky.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/i-must-be-perfect-to-be-accepted-by-alshepmcr/

Let me be clear: as with everything I write, I am not ashamed, I have no regrets, and I am not apologizing.

Anyway, I knew my partner wouldn’t be back until the evening, and I knew I needed to tell someone before I could get my head together enough to tell him. So I messaged two of my good friends, you know who you are and thank you so much, and one, Yulia, was able to come over at the time.

Like in all other crises we have experienced, she brought the essential chocolate, and we talked over what had happened, and what I was going to do.

The moment I found out, I knew exactly what my choice would be: I was going to have an abortion.

I have been vehemently pro-choice my entire life and have always passionately defended a woman’s right to choose. However, that didn’t make my situation or decision any less scary. I knew that abortion was the right choice for me, and I had no moral qualms around it. But that still doesn’t mean it was fun or some sort of right of passage (regardless of what Lena Dunham may think ugh).

pro-choice
Image Courtesy of https://academicobgyn.com/2010/04/06/why-pro-choice-is-losing/

My partner came home a couple hours after Yulia left, and like all things when it comes to me, he could immediately tell something was off.

I didn’t just want to blurt it out the moment he walked in, so I assured him everything was okay until we had settled into bed with Challenge TV and some take-away chips.

I then, as gracefully as I could, told him I was pregnant.

Understandably, he was shocked and laid there for a minute just kind of silent and stunned. I couldn’t help but start crying because I was just so sorry that we were in this shitty situation together.

He immediately assured me that everything was going to be fine and asked me what I wanted to do. I told him I didn’t want to keep it and he completely supported me. We did talk about what his opinion was, but we ultimately agreed that as this was my body, his opinion could only go so far, and he respected that.

Thus, we made the decision to abort and went about the process of how to carry that out.

Thankfully, as I’ve mentioned in previous entries, there is a sexual health centre right in our neighborhood and from our apartment we can walk there in less than ten minutes. We decided to just go in that Monday and see what we needed to do to get started.

The centre informed us that we needed to contact BPAS (British Pregnancy Advisory Service) by phone and make an appointment. Their office was located in the same building, but they didn’t do walk-ins so we had to call.

bpas
Image Courtesy of https://www.bpas.org/

I contacted them with the information I was given in the brochure (I will paste ALL contact info for BPAS at the bottom of this entry) and went through the process of making a booking.

They took the standard details, asked me about my GP, the date of my last period, and any medical conditions I might have. I was informed the consultation I was being scheduled for would take about two hours and would consist of a counseling session to discuss my options and a medical assessment including a scan of my pregnancy if I chose to pursue termination. They were then able to fit me in for an appointment a week later the following Monday.

That week in between was one of the longest I’d ever experienced. All I knew was that I was pregnant, and I just absolutely did not want to be. But there was nothing I could do about it. I was stuck. Trapped. And god I hate that feeling.

I had also started to experience some of the physical symptoms of pregnancy as well, morning sickness chief among them which was a real damn hoot! I was also just bouncing off the walls every five minutes, happy one minute, crying and yelling the next. How my partner dealt with me I have no idea. But he was absolutely essential for me in surviving that week.

morning-sickness
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/550213279447840268/

Luckily, the days passed and before I knew it, the next Monday was there. We went to the consultation together, but understandably there were some portions of it where he could not accompany me. The first part involved the counseling session where I discussed my options and what decision (becoming a parent, adoption, or abortion) was best for me.

I told my counselor, a woman, that I was sure that abortion was right for me and wanted to go ahead with that process. She noted it and then calmly and carefully explained what would happen next.

I was then taken back to the waiting room and told that a nurse would be with me shortly to perform my examination and scan. Thankfully when she collected me, my partner was able to join. I think it’s safe to say we were both scared out of our minds and had no idea what we were doing, not that anyone does. But we knew we were doing the right thing for us and that carried us through.

The nurse then performed a transvaginal ultrasound and determined that I was only six weeks pregnant at the time. This part was admittedly a bit uncomfortable since the instrument does look similar to how I imagine an alien probe would, but for any woman who’s had a pelvic exam, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

alien-probe
Image Courtesy of https://uk.pinterest.com/aliencollector/alien-entertainment/

She then discussed the two methods of abortion they provide: medical and surgical (all following facts and statistics are credited to bpas.org).

The “medical” abortion involves taking a series of pills. This can be done up to 24 weeks of pregnancy. When you are nine weeks or less pregnant, the medication causes an early miscarriage and requires two visits to a clinic which can take place either on the same day or up to three days apart. There is no surgery or anesthetic.

If you are more than nine weeks pregnant and choose the medical option the same medication is used although BPAS literature describes the effect as causing “the womb to contract and push out the pregnancy”. Two visits like before are required, although an overnight stay may be necessary with the second visit.

The “surgical” abortion can be performed up to 24 weeks as well and is considered a quicker option than the medical alternative. Up to fifteen weeks of pregnancy, a “vacuum aspiration” can be performed whereby the pregnancy is removed by “gentle suction”. If you are twelve weeks or less this can be done under local anesthetic while you are awake. If you are up to fifteen weeks it can be done while you are asleep.

If a surgical abortion is performed between 15-24 weeks, it is performed while you are asleep. Known as “dilation and evacuation”, the pregnancy is “removed using narrow forceps through the neck of the womb”. They advise that if you are 22 weeks or more, more than one visit may be needed with an overnight stay being possible.

I already had a vague understanding of these two procedures, and given how early I was in my pregnancy, I decided I’d rather go through with the medical option so I could be at home when it happened. The nurse agreed and thought that would be the best route and then passed us back to the counselor who scheduled the appointment for the procedure.

We were also given a much more in-depth piece of literature which described step-by-step what would happen on the day. We were able to get in for Tuesday the following week, and while I wasn’t thrilled to have to wait yet another week, it went a little easier now that I knew what I was going to do.

So another week passed, I kept vomiting through most of it, and before I knew it, Tuesday was there. We walked to the clinic around midday, mostly silent, not really knowing what to say.

Until, finally, my partner took out his phone and in the most inappropriate and hilarious way put on “Bye Bye Baby” by the Bay City Rollers. I thought I was going to piss myself I was laughing so hard. It was exactly what the moment needed. Right there is exactly why I love him and all his weirdness.

bay-city-rollers
Image Courtesy of http://www.45cat.com/record/1c00696393

My appointment was scheduled for 1pm that afternoon, and we were taken through to the nurse shortly after we arrived. She then took me through the process.

First I took the actual “abortion pill”, mifepristone, which blocks the hormone progesterone, preventing the pregnancy from continuing.

Since I was so early along, I was able to take the second medication at the same time instead of having to wait for a second appointment. This medication, misoprostol, is actually four pills that you insert into your vagina as far as you can. Misoprostol is what causes your womb to contract and miscarry.

I was also given a series of antibiotics to prevent infection as well as a course pain meds to deal with the process. BPAS describes it as cramping and heavy bleeding, much like a substantial period.

I was advised that usually the cramping starts around two hours after taking the misoprostol, with many women passing their pregnancy within four to five hours. But of course every woman is different and if my abortion didn’t follow these guidelines exactly, there was no need to panic.

So by about 1:30, I had taken all the necessary pills and was cleared to leave. I was of course provided with aftercare instructions as well as a number to call if I was worried anything was wrong.

Before I continue, I have to say how incredible every member of staff I met with at BPAS was. They were all caring, compassionate, and discussed my options with me clearly and calmly. Coming from the American South I was expecting somewhere in the back of my head to be judged, and I was on guard for any misinformation or guilt tripping that may occur. But it didn’t. And I am so thankful to everyone at the clinic.

So after we left, we ventured up to Tesco quickly to buy all of the junk food and necessary supplies for what we were now calling “The Big Show”. You bleed for 2-4 weeks after the abortion, and you can’t use tampons, so I had super overnight maxi pads ready to go in bulk.

Once we got home, we went upstairs to bed and turned on Challenge TV (of course) and just waited for it to start. I had started feeling a little lightheaded and was experiencing some cramping but nothing major yet. At this point I wasn’t too worried since I was used to having pretty heavy periods anyways.

I’d say by around 4:30 is when the cramps started to get more and more intense. It was around this time that I started to get scared at the level of pain I was experiencing. I had taken two of the pain pills, as prescribed, but they didn’t seem to be helping.

The cramps, or rather contractions, kept coming in waves which got worse and more frequent with each cycle. By 6pm I was really hurting. I was trying to breathe deep and rest and lie down but I just couldn’t. I just had this urge that I needed to be on the toilet but sitting there hurt so much and even then I was barely bleeding yet.

My partner did all he could to comfort and soothe me, but by that point I just couldn’t respond to him. I remember just closing my eyes and gritting my teeth, hoping and pleading that it would be over soon. I kept getting up and going to the toilet every five minutes, not really knowing if that was the thing to do, but I didn’t care. I just couldn’t sit still or get comfortable.

I was crying and trying so hard not to scream. It was like every muscle in my body was involuntarily contracting every thirty seconds, and I had absolutely no control over it.

By 8pm I seriously thought I was going to pass out or have to go to the hospital. Not that they could do anything that wasn’t already being done, but I just couldn’t take it anymore. All I could do was just sit on the toilet, gnash my fucking teeth, and try to take it.

And then, all of a sudden, it happened. As quickly as I had been in agony before with no end in sight, the pregnancy passed, and the contractions immediately subsided as I heard something squish out of me and drop into the water. I just sat there stunned, knowing exactly what had just occurred but still full of disbelief. It really was that simple.

I then started crying the hottest tears of relief I’d ever cried in my life. I was beyond grateful to not be in pain any longer. But mostly, I just felt this huge sense of relief. It was over.

I stood up to look at what had just come out of me. It was a slightly yellowish, transparent sac about the size of tennis ball. I knew immediately this was the amniotic sac that contained the actual pregnancy.

It didn’t really look like anything, just a ball of mush. I then flushed the toilet and got into bed with my partner, crying while telling him that I had done it. He hugged me and told me he was so proud of me.

The rest of the process carried on without incident. I passed a massive blood clot about two hours later which I’m assuming was going to develop into the placenta. I then bled for about a month afterwards, somewhat heavily at first then more like a normal period. It’s hard to believe almost four months have passed since it happened.

So here we have the what and we’ve briefly alluded to the why. Now let’s really dig in.

Why am I choosing to write publicly about something so private? Well first of all, as those of you who read regularly know, I believe in living my life as openly and as honestly as possible. But I felt a particular obligation to be public about this because of  the atmosphere of shame that permeates even pro-choice circles when it comes to abortion.

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Image Courtesy of http://bjkahuna.podbean.com/e/121-no-shame-episode-v-pods-sods-strike-back/

According to BPAS, 1 in 3 women will have an abortion in their lifetime. Meaning roughly 33.3% of 3.5 billion people will go through this. And yet it is still so tainted with stigma and shame. If you have had an abortion, you do not talk about it. Period. Unless you are going to talk about how much you regret it and hate yourself. That is the only kind of acceptable emotion you are allowed to express.

If you’re like me, and feel no regret, no remorse, have no second thoughts, and only feel relieved then you do not express it whatsoever. To do so is thought to be tantamount to glamorizing or even fetishizing the experience. Pretty soon, all the kids will want one.

Again, let me be clear: I am not saying that any woman who does not start every dinner conversation with her abortion story is ashamed and filled with self-hate. If she decides to keep it private, that’s fine and absolutely none of my business. But that decision should be the result of her own personal choice, not fear of societal judgment or repercussions.

I also think that now more than ever these conversations and open discussions are needed given the current political atmosphere in the U.S. and the renewed vigor of policing women’s bodies. With the election of Donald Trump (yes I’m going there!) as president of my homeland, I feel that with all due respect, we don’t have the luxury of being anything less than militant and explicit about our choices anymore.

In the short time that has passed, state legislatures from Ohio to Texas to Kentucky have been emboldened to pass new, harmful restrictions on abortion access, including 20 week bans, so-called “heartbeat bills”, and even laws that would require women to hold funeral services for their aborted fetuses.

I was fortunate enough to have easy access to medical resources at no financial cost to me whatsoever provided by an informed staff as well as supported by a loving partner who was with me at every step.

And it was still one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I cannot imagine how much harder it is for women who are subjected to financial and/or political barriers on top of this. Not to mention when this process is further compounded by a woman being a victim of rape or incest.

The level of disgust and anger I feel towards these fucked-up laws would have been palpable before my own experience; it is now ten times more intense.

pissed
Image Courtesy of http://www.evilenglish.net/pissed-off/

For too long, women’s bodies and their reproductive autonomy have been co-opted by mostly white male politicians used to score points with bases who are both fundamentally religious and scientifically ignorant i.e. those who are most keen on infantilizing women to the point that we are incapable of making our own choices.

But it’s also bigger than that. Recently last spring I had the privilege of hearing Gloria Steinem speak at the Oxford Union, and she made a point that will stick with me forever. Much like Karl Marx argued that those who control the means of production hold power within society, the same goes for those who control reproduction. Whoever holds dominion over procreation within a society effectively has the strongest power base that exists.

And I sincerely believe that is what has been happening and what is continuing to happen in the U.S. as well as around the world. We are poised for the most backward, misogynistic four years of American politics to come about in recent memory, and I for one am terrified.

But despite being terrified, I’m even more angry. And that anger is what will keep me along with millions of other women shouting from the rooftops and marching in the streets until this bullshit finally stops.

We cannot and will not let them win.

To close this piece, I would like to personally thank my family for their understanding. They absolutely do not agree with what I did, nor with my decision to write about it publicly. But they are still there for me, they still love me, and that definitely counts.

Once again, this is not about approval.

This is not about apology.

This is not about regret.

This is not about sympathy.

This is about abortion, a vital resource we need access to now more than ever.

And I can only hope that with sharing my abortion story, I will have contributed in some small way to securing that right for all future women, including any daughters I may choose to have.

I love you all 😊 ❤️

For more information, I have provided contact information for some excellent organizations and resources below:

UK

BPAS:

www.bpas.org

03457 304030 or +44 1789 508 211

Oxfordshire:

http://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/

US

Planned Parenthood:

www.plannedparenthood.org

1-800-230-PLAN

NARAL (National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League):

www.prochoiceamerica.org

202-973-3000

For information on international abortion rights and legislation:

http://www.worldabortionlaws.com/


 

4 thoughts on “My Abortion Story”

  1. Thank you Carlie for this blog. Not only did you share the very important issue of pro-choice but also the very personal impact for you and your partner and your life story. I will share with you at an appropriate time my abortion story that at age 72 still impacts me. The short version is that in January 1965 when I became pregnant abortions were still it legal. The pain and shame of an illegal abortion is something no woman should ever have to bear. While the abortion was supported and arranged by my parents, I emerged from the procedure still pregnant. The horror show and details are not necessary to understand that a major life altering decision was then made. I then chose to carry the baby to term. The term by Providence ended up two months premature birth, three weeks before my senior year in college began. Emotional subterfuge prevailed for years. I never birthed another child. My birth daughter found me when she was 32 years old. I have three grandchildren, teenagers and in college years. After years of healing, I am open and clear about my life story. I have no regret, my daughter knows the story. I cannot vision in anyway the return to illegal abortions which will happen if abortion laws are reversed in the USA. With unlimited love for your honesty and strength. Delia

    1. Thank you so much for sharing this with me! You’re strength and courage is beyond inspirational. I am so sorry for all of the pain you went through, but I am happy that now at least you can have some peace and comfort. I appreciate immensely you taking the time to read DeeDee. Your story and your words mean so much!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The way you write is so informative and engaging. I admire you for living honestly and openly.

    Love,
    Elanya

    1. Thank you so much Elanya! I love reading about your travels and journeys as well. I hope one day to have visited half the world like you have. Hope you had a wonderful holiday :)

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