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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019
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'I walked past people with signs about how I was a murderer': Getting an abortion as a teenager

One reader tells us her story about having to travel to the UK for an abortion after an unplanned pregnancy at 19.

Anonymous

I’M NOT SURE why I’ve chosen to write this.

I’ve thought about doing it for so long. I’ve thought about writing a Facebook post, or an open letter to some politician but I can’t. I’m terrified of what my peers would think of me, or what other people would think of me.

Three years ago, when I was 19 years old, I got pregnant with my boyfriend of one month’s baby. I couldn’t believe it. I had been living the life of any 19-year-old in college. I was just beginning to find myself and my ambitions.

Then I started to notice I was really tired. I was on a progesterone-only pill meaning I did not get regular periods, so I couldn’t tell whether I was pregnant or not. I remember taking the test and thinking there is no way I could be.

I was.

It was the most harrowing moment of my life. I was just beginning my adult life. Then all of a sudden it was over.

Decision

I lay down on the floor and cried for hours. I thought of the most ridiculous things: suicide, or drinking until I couldn’t see any more.

I thought of my sisters and the young pregnancies they had and how they had been unhappy with them.

I thought about how I would have to give up all of the things I wanted. I wouldn’t travel now, or go to college.

I was not mentally capable of loving someone as they deserved to be loved. I hadn’t even learned to love myself yet.

So I eventually sat up and told myself no. I told myself that I deserved to live the life I wanted. I deserved to choose.

So I went ahead and googled abortions. I thought I could get an abortion pill, but it was too far on for that. So I began to look at going to England.

Family

My upbringing was difficult.

I came from a large family with dysfunctional parents. They both drank a lot, and most of my memories are of them getting into huge arguments.

I used to get myself up for school and bring myself home.

There were instances of my father groping me when drunk when I was young; this was such a difficult and confusing thing to deal with.

Don’t get me wrong. My parents did spoil me, but out of guilt.

I told my mother about my pregnancy after I’d researched going to England. Immediately after, I told her I needed an abortion.

I told her that I refused to be like my sisters and give up my life because society says I have to. Who was I to give birth to someone and give them half a life? I did not have the tools or the mental or financial capability to do so.

My mother was gobsmacked. She told me: “I am not killing my grandchild”.

My stomach sank. I did not share the view that a foetus has feelings or an identity; I had a more medical mindset. I did not think that a foetus could feel an abortion or know what is happening. But her words killed me.

The journey

The week after, I was on a boat with my boyfriend to the Marie Stopes Abortion Centre in Manchester.

We travelled all night and morning and only got to the hotel an hour before my scheduled appointment. The website said you could not bring your partner so I told my boyfriend I would get a taxi.

I was alone, in a different country, giving a taximan the address to an abortion centre, terrified he would scorn me or tell me to get out. I saw him look back at me in the mirror several times with saddened eyes. I tried to look elsewhere.

We pulled up, and I stepped out and walked past a couple of people with signs about how I was a murderer. I rang the bell several times. I couldn’t breathe, and I could hear them shouting at me.

They opened the door, and it was not what I expected. It was small and bland and reminded me of my GP’s office. I found myself whispering.

The nurses and receptionist were kind. I had done as much research as I could, but I still was not sure it was safe. To be honest the only thing I found slightly soothing were the thank you cards behind the front desk. That is what I based my safety on – cards.

I went to a waiting room where a woman and her partner sat and sobbed. I overheard their conversation and gathered that their reasoning was entirely different from mine, an even more courageous decision on their behalf.

At this point, I realised that my partner could have come, and began to cry. I wanted someone to hold my hand so much. Instead, I read a magazine.

A creepy old man walked in with two twins, about 16, giggling and laughing. I felt sick thinking about why they were there.

The procedure

I went into a room and had a scan. I wasn’t supposed to look at the monitor, but I did, and it still haunts me to this day despite my beliefs.

I climbed onto a table and spread my legs. I had never had anaesthetic before. My mother is allergic, so I worried I would not wake up. I was so desperate I accepted that this might be a possibility and went ahead anyway.

I woke up later so confused and in pain. I had dreamt my boyfriend was there, and I thought that he was the nurse for quite a while.

I sat in a room on a bed with three other girls in a circle. We were given fruit juice and biscuits to get our blood pressures up.

Mine was not rising and I was so scared. The nurse told me if it did not begin to increase in the next 15 minutes they would send me to the hospital.

I had to put a nappy on. I stumbled to the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I was petrified. I did not know what just happened to my body or if I was alright. I had nobody to tell me any of that; I had no safety net. I had no idea if I was going to be OK.

It was the worst day of my life.

I should not have had to sacrifice my safety to be given a choice. I should not have had to wake up in a foreign country wondering if the treatment I had was safe.

I finally came around and was allowed to call a taxi. I went to the waiting room and one of the girls’ partner was there. I told him she was fine as I had spoken to her before I left. I had comforted her while she cried and she had thanked me. He went on to do the same for me, and asked if he could do anything.

My partner came and picked me up in a taxi. Bear in mind that my boyfriend and I were only together a month at this stage. Think about how incredibly huge this was to go through for a 19 and 20-year-old. He saw me at my very worst that day.

I was still fairly out of it and for some reason my lips were swollen, and I can remember touching them a lot. The hotel staff looked at my bracelet and saw me stumble to the lift. I knew they would guess why I was there. I felt so ashamed.

The lift reached the top and I projectile vomited everywhere. I lay down in bed and cried until I fell asleep.

After

I woke up later and decided that I would try and go to get some food. We went into town, and the strangest thing happened. I saw the girl from the abortion clinic, in the middle of this busy centre. We smiled. I felt we had been through something so huge, yet we just walked past one another. There were no words.

I suffer from horrific migraines and immediately got one from the hormone imbalance. I could not see. I was not sure if getting a migraine was abnormal. I did not know what to do, and I had no one to ask, so I bought some paracetamol and went back to the hotel.

While buying it, I spotted the headline on a newspaper about a woman who had died from an abortion in a Marie Stopes clinic the year before. The worst coincidence I ever encountered.

I woke up the next morning and felt both brilliant and terrible. I felt proud that I had respected myself enough to choose. I was not disgusting; I had not murdered anyone. I had saved myself.

But I was afraid. I had been through so much psychologically.

I developed terrible anxiety in the months to come and the year after was the absolute worst time of my life. I had reoccurring dreams about the moment before I was put to sleep. I still have these from time to time. I often am totally convinced that I’m dying.

I could not say with certainty that my anxiety was totally down to the abortion alone, but it was there. I am trying my best to deal with this. Quietly.

One of many stories

If you were to walk past me on the street, you would not ever think this was my story.

I am now 22 and have a huge group of amazing friends. I travel a lot, have my house and have the makings of a successful career. People I know would never guess.

A lot of the time I feel like people who do not want to legalise abortion have this crazy idea that it would mean people will just have unprotected sex and think, “oh it’s fine, I can just get an abortion”.

The process is not easy for anyone.

I refused to bring a child into this world who I could not take care of. When I have a child, I will have a very solid career and a house, a car and a dog and I’ll give them a gorgeous bedroom and spoil them rotten. I will not fall into the same cycle as many women have done. I will not struggle.

If you do not want to have an abortion, then you do not have to. You have no right to stop someone else from doing it. Your opinion inflicts a lifetime on someone. They have to deal with it, not you.

We live in a ‘Catholic’ country. I call myself a Catholic, but I could not tell you the last time I went to a church. I know for a fact that this is the same for most people of my generation. So why are we still basing so much of this debate on the fact we are a Catholic country?

I have asked to remain anonymous because I am still afraid to share my story publicly. I can only dream that one day I will feel I can.

I want all women to have a choice and for them to be able to bear this unbelievable burden knowing that they are safe, knowing who to hold accountable if anything goes wrong.

This happens to so many people every single day. Women make mistakes and feel like they have no choice. The body they have grown and nurtured for 19, or 20, or 30 years becomes someone else’s.

Women need to stop being shamed. They deserve to be happy. They deserve to be the masters of their own destinies.

One more thing – the Sydney Rose rocks.

Read: British group launches helpline for women in Ireland who buy abortion pills online

Read: Woman delivers letter ‘formally complimenting’ Sydney Rose to RTÉ

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About the author:

Anonymous

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