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My abortion story: 'I was horrified. The doctor was talking about childcare in college'

We asked three women to share their abortion stories.

Various

No one can really know what it’s like to have an abortion unless you’ve actually had one. Three women reveal the reasons why they had abortions, how they coped with the procedure and aftermath, and living with the taboo in a country that doesn’t allow terminations.

*Deirdre’s story

I AM A professional, working mother who travelled to the UK last year. My contraceptive pill failed over the summer.

I was certain of two things before I took the pregnancy test, that I was definitely pregnant and secondly, that I would not be able to continue the pregnancy.

We did not want another child

There were many reasons for this, including my own mental and emotional health, the health of our children, the time and financial support we have available to our children. Alongside all the practical reasons, in my heart, I just did not want to be pregnant.

I knew that we could not go through it all again. The choice to have an abortion, was one grounded in the absolute certainty that it was, in so many ways, the absolute right choice for me, for my husband and for our children.

My decision was straightforward and rapid, everything else related to it was anything but. My heart was broken and my head was in a complete mess.

Researching options

I can honestly say that the days between taking the pregnancy test and travelling were among the worst of my life.

I researched ordering the pill online, but the uncertainty of whether or not it would make it through customs, coupled with the waiting time and the prospect of a possible 14-year prison sentence all combined to put me off that idea.

I searched online for ways to induce miscarriage and consumed thousands of grams of Vitamin C over those days, to no avail.

Any of the clinics I called required that you visit over two days in order to take the abortion pill. An overnight stay was not an option. This meant that I faced the prospect of travelling, on my own, to another country, to have a surgical procedure done. This was absolutely terrifying to me.

I had to go and buy some things

I bought a dressing gown, slippers, sanitary pads, and a small case with wheels as I knew that I couldn’t carry any weight after the procedure. There is little more unbearably surreal than the woman behind the counter of the luggage shop coming to help me to find a cheap and hand-luggage friendly wheelie case and asking cheerfully, “Going anywhere nice?”

The loneliness of that airport was a very profound experience. I wondered about those women and couples around me on the early morning UK flights. How many of them were doing the same thing?

At a time when I felt shamed, silenced and stigmatised by my own country (all of which made me, and continues to make me, incredibly angry), it was such a wonder to me to receive the compassion, empathy, kindness and support of the British staff in the clinic. Their warmth, openness, sense of normalcy and expression of horror and quiet anger at what Irish women are made to endure made everything so much easier to bear.

I will never, ever forget those wonderful nurses and how they supported me when my own country wouldn’t and didn’t. They were true angels, in every sense of the word.

Nurses and doctors being allowed to do their jobs and to care for women in accordance with what the women needed.

*Sam’s story

I HAD AN abortion in London 16 years ago.

When I found out I was pregnant it was a shock, albeit a shock that centered me like never before. Rather than wallow in self pity and regret at the bad decisions I had made, I became determined to put my life back on track.

This may be difficult for many to empathise with. Having a child at that time would only have compounded the issues I was faced with. I would not have been able to sever the toxic relationship I had allowed to build up with the father.

Stressing about logistics

While my mind was made up, I do remember the stress over the cost and need to travel. I could not pay for the flight by cash, so had to admit to my parents that I needed their help.

This was so difficult, but they saw and agreed with my reasons for going ahead with a termination. I received a counselling session to ensure I was making the right decision. I was able to finally discuss my situation without judgement and received great support from them.

I felt so ill after the procedure. I’d severe cramps and was throwing up. I just wanted to sleep it all off, but I had to get up and run to the airport for my flight. That was really awful.

Having to muster the strength after such a serious procedure, trying to hold it together physically throughout the trip home, it’s indescribable how low you feel and how much you just want to be home.

Recovering

Once home it took a day or two to recover physically. To this day I can count on one hand the number of people to whom I have told my story.

The normal reaction is one of pity and “you poor thing”. They mean well, but it does sadden me that they think this is something I was forced into or was too young to understand fully.

In a way I was lucky, I had the money and ability to make the trip, many don’t. It takes away from the reality of the situation in that I made this choice and so have many Irish women before and after me.

*Bairbre’s story

I HAD AN abortion was I was 18 years old. It was almost ten years ago.

I found out I was pregnant just after my 18th birthday. I had missed my period and was really nauseous for a few weeks. It was my mum who was concerned, I didn’t ever dream it would happen to me.

My boyfriend at the time and I were always careful with contraception.

Pregnancy test

My mum insisted I went to our GP to check if I was pregnant. I gave a urine sample and within minutes my life literally turned upside down.

I was horrified. The doctor was talking about childcare in college and how they have creches. I couldn’t believe it.

I left the doctor in disbelief with my mum. She said there are more options to consider. The doctor had mentioned nothing about aborting the pregnancy.

I was so scared and confused

I didn’t know what to do. I was lucky enough to have the love and support from both my mum and dad. I was in a relationship at the time and he was just as shocked as I was. Although he was totally there for me and hugely part of the decision making process, the final decision was mine and he respected that. I decided to have an abortion.

My mum researched everything, I had no ability to do it myself. I was in shock and didn’t know where to start. She came with me to Amsterdam.

Because I was in the middle of doing my leaving cert exams we flew over and back in the same day. I also didn’t want to take more than one day off school because I didn’t want people to ask where I was. Only my closest friends knew.

The day is a haze

I had the abortion in a clinic and after a few hours we left and flew home. Feeling like nobody could find out was the worst part. I was so upset and confused but had to pretend as though my life was as normal as it had been a few weeks before.

The next day I went to school just like a normal school girl but really on the inside I was distressed, sad and angry. The emotional stress, the guilt, the feeling I had a secret were hard to deal with.

I went to a therapist once with my boyfriend. I thought I was totally okay, but really I just wanted to pretend it never happened. And that is what I did.

It wasn’t ever mentioned again at home really. Maybe every once in while, which I feared. It made me extremely uncomfortable if the topic of abortion came up in conversation with friends. I was so pro-choice but so nervous of reactions if they were to find out.

Only recently have I been able to actually talk about it with my close friends openly.

*Names have been changed to protect the women’s identities.

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