While you are reading this a mother somewhere in the country is making the heartbreaking decision to terminate a wanted pregnancy. Continuing our series of real stories of abortion, one mother shares what it’s like to have a termination for medical reasons.
This post discusses abortion of a wanted pregnancy – there is support available if you need it.
“You have to do further tests.”
Those aren’t words you want to hear from a medical professional when you’re growing a tiny human inside you. But I already knew it wasn’t looking good by the radiographer’s silence. I knew because the picture of the scan on the brochure was so different to what I could see on my own scan. I knew because I saw the numbers on the screen and they weren’t right. But I knew for sure when she called in her supervisor to check her findings. The supervisor said it could disappear. She said ‘abnormal’. She said not to get upset. She said to call my midwife. Some words came out of my mouth, short ones like ‘OK’ and ‘yes’ because I knew my life and the life of my baby were about to change.
I tried to convince myself there was still a chance my baby would be OK. Maybe out of the possible outcomes of testing, there would be one that would give me an easy choice. But the disorder it was most likely to be was the one that would be the most difficult decision. But mostly I wished the pregnancy would just end on its own. I wanted the anxious waiting to end, to not have to make a decision I knew would follow me like a shadow for the rest of my life.
Just days after that scan, my worst fears were confirmed: my baby had the disorder they’d suspected, along with other organ complications. They told me I was one in 10,000. That was the likelihood of this disorder occurring in a pregnancy at my age.
Was I supposed to feel lucky or unlucky?
My partner and I had already talked over the possibilities before hearing the diagnosis but there were still so many decisions to make. Which type of termination would be less traumatic but best for me. Whether my partner and I would tell people and how much would we tell them. Whether we wanted any form of ceremony. How soon to start trying again.
None of them were nice decisions.
They were all hard.
All the options were scary and riddled with doubt.
All involved regret and guilt and a lifetime of “what ifs”. It was a time where deciding whether I wanted a cup of tea was impossible, I didn’t how I would ever get through it.
There are sad little rooms in child health wards with couches and tissues. They are a midpoint, a purgatory, where parents wait to know whether their reality is about to be damned or saved.
Every almost-parent who came before you left a piece of hope behind in that room; you can feel the stale heartache. My partner and I sat and heard the options for the umpteenth time. As painful as it was to have to verbalise my choice again, the law states doctors have to ensure you are aware of the actions you are about to take.
I had already decided that I wanted to be induced (a chemical abortion) over being anaesthetised (surgical). I wanted to deliver my baby. I was lucky – the doctor who saw me gave me clear information and fast tracked getting the two signatures required for a termination.
Once I’d signed my name on more pieces of paper than seemed appropriate, I was taken to the birthing unit, with its framed pictures of babies on the walls and the sound of healthy babies crying.
After being reminded again that there was no going back after the next step, I took the pill that would end my baby’s life. I managed to keep it together until I was out of the hospital then I cried on the long journey home, I cried the rest of the evening and I cried until I fell asleep that night.
Three days later, in hospital, I delivered my baby. I became a mother, but I left the hospital with empty hands.
I don’t “think about my baby”, everything just IS my baby. I’ve never experienced such sadness and grief. It sticks to everything you see, everything you do. Colours fade and everything looks grey. Every parent with a baby seems to be timing their outings to coincide with yours, like you’re stuck in a cruel version of your own Truman Show.
To be happy or to see other people laughing feels like betrayal; you feel as if the whole world should be mourning your loss but it just keeps on going and it hurts so much you want to scream for it to stop.
Having a pregnancy termination for medical reasons is not a miscarriage, and it’s not an abortion.
It’s not a choice, it’s a decision. One that I made because I already had so much love for the little life inside me. And because I chose to suffer all my life so that my baby didn’t have to suffer for even a second.