More than 13,000 abortions were performed in New Zealand last year, yet the reasons why women have one remain largely hidden. One reason for the secrecy: the stigma of abortion, exacerbated by its inclusion in the Crimes Act. Here one anonymous mother explains why an abortion was the right choice for her.
Why are we posting about abortion again? Because we’re taking a position. The kaupapa of The Spinoff Parents is to uplift, love, and support parents – but especially mothers and women who want to be mothers. Abortion access is absolutely an issue for mothers, because we know that in 2015, 57% of women having an abortion had already had one or more previous live births. Our position is that we support women making the right choices for them and their family – whatever that choice is. Therefore it is obvious that we are pro-choice. For that reason we will continue to share stories about abortion here. For more information about abortion access in New Zealand please visit Abortion Law Reform New Zealand. – Emily Writes, The Spinoff Parents editor.
I write this letter on the one year anniversary of my abortion. I write it because I want you to know what you did for me and for my family. I write it because you probably don’t often hear from us, the women who use your services. I want you to know what happened to me after my abortion.
Before I tell you, I want to talk about what it was like finding out I was pregnant. I had a five week old baby who I was breastfeeding round the clock. I had no period. I had a toddler as well, one who was getting used to having a new sibling. My toddler didn’t even have words yet. Our second child had been sudden, unexpected, but not an accident. Getting pregnant the first time we had sex after our second child’s birth – that was an accident.
When I found out I was pregnant I sobbed on the toilet. My husband came in and began to cry too. It was the worst feeling I’ve ever had. We did not want another baby – we did not want three tiny babies. I had just given birth. We hugged each other. I thought about committing suicide; the thought came to me straight away. That’s how much I didn’t want another baby. I just have to die, I thought.
My husband was devastated. I watched him hold our baby and look at it and I knew what he was thinking. We cannot do this again. We cannot afford it. We cannot cope. We cannot do this, we cannot do this at all.
We went to the GP and couldn’t get the words out we were crying so much. Both of our children screamed throughout and the receptionist took them so the doctor could talk to us. Please, we said, what can we do. We cannot have another child.
He referred us to Te Mahoe clinic. On our first appointment the waiting room was full of children, and full of mothers like me. My husband had to work and I couldn’t afford a babysitter so I had my children too. You, the staff of Te Mahoe clinic, were so kind to me – I thought I would be judged. I thought you would tell me I was a terrible mother.
I couldn’t believe I had to wait so long for the termination. You said sorry. I cried so hard at the thought of having to wait so long that I couldn’t breathe. You said you would call every day and if there were any cancellations you would try to fit me in. But nobody cancelled. Women were brought to Te Mahoe on buses from Whanganui. Women drove hours to Te Mahoe. I was just one more woman who had to wait. But you never made me feel like just another woman. You genuinely wanted to make sure I was OK – physically and mentally.
I told you I’d die if I had to have another baby.
When I came in on the morning of the termination, you were so kind. I sobbed during the procedure and the doctor who did it held my hand and said “Are you OK? Do you want to talk through this?” and I said “These are grateful tears. Thank you for saving us.”
Here’s how you saved us: One year on I am a mother to my children. I have a job now and I work 20 hours a week in the not-for-profit sector. You inspired me to help other women and now that’s what I do for a job. I bring my baby along. I think of the anniversary of my termination and I think of it as the day you told me I could live again. I promise I will never waste that and I will never take it for granted. I work so hard to be a good mother and that’s because of you as well. Every day before I start the day I make the same promise I made in my head during that first appointment: if you save my family, I will commit my life to helping others. That is what I do.
You will never know that my story is the same as so many others. You are doing the work of angels. You will never know how many lives you’ve saved because what you do is send us out in the world to have lives. And when you have a life you forget, in the day to day, that these opportunities you have were given to you by others.
I will never forget and my husband will never forget. We will never ever take for granted what you did for our family when you gave me a termination.
I know to many people I am a murderer. I know I’m considered stupid, dumb, shit. I know what they say about us. But the women in that waiting room were all mums. We were all scared. We were all afraid for our lives and for the lives of our babies who were tugging on our skirts and crying in our laps. None of us exist to the people who call us murderers. We are not human to them. The only thing that matters is the baby inside of us. If they think I should have died instead of my baby, I will hear that. I won’t ever be of value to them.
But I won’t hear their words when I work for my family and community. Instead I will hear the words of the nurse who sent me home after my termination. She hugged me and said “You matter, don’t forget that.”
I won’t forget.
More from The Spinoff on abortion in New Zealand
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.