It was my very last day of my first year of university when I found out I was pregnant. I was 19, on the pill and had been with my boyfriend (who I am still with now 5 years later!) for about 6 months. I was (as were all my friends) very conscious about becoming pregnant and had over the course of my first year at university taken a whole load of (negative) tests. As I was packing up my room, I found one in my draw and thought- what the heck, may as well use it! So I did… and low and behold it was positive. My head started spinning, I had no inclination that I was pregnant, but suddenly things started to make sense: I had put on a bit of weight, especially on my boobs recently. I put the test in the bin and walked back into my room where my boyfriend was, and made my excuses and left. He rang me 10 minutes later saying he’d been to the loo and seen the test. The next few hours were strange, we both went to the chemist and bought some more tests, and went to Starbucks of all places to do them. They all said the same thing: I was pregnant! My boyfriend lives on a small Island about 9 hours travel from my parents home. Both of us hopped on our trains back home for the summer a few hours later.
Whilst on the 5 hour train home I started panicking searching for what I should do on my phone. I felt very afraid of the whole situation but this was not based on the decision of my next steps. Luckily in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland), there are no obstructions to obtaining an abortion. It never crossed my mind that I would continue with the pregnancy, I just had to find out what were the steps to get an abortion. My fear was based around the chance that I might be too late to get one, and knowing I would have to hide this from my parents. In the early 90s, my parents had me in their first year of university it was like the story was repeating itself. I didn’t want to tell my parents as I didn’t want them to know that after the sacrifice they made in having me, I was repeating their mistakes and that I wasn’t as brave I guess in making the same decision as they did. In reflection- although it was the same situation- this happened to me in 2011, and to them in 1990. In 20 years society has moved on a long way, perhaps my mum would have made a different decision had it happened in a different time, which is a strange thought I guess- as the result of the unplanned (and initially unwanted) pregnancy!
I found a clinic during the train journey in the south of London and rang them to make an appointment, for 2 weeks time. I confided in 2 friends (as my boyfriend was 9 hours away) and they came with me. The 2 weeks wait was tricky- I was living at home where no one knew the situation, and working full time in a local restaurant. I was feeling increasing symptoms such as morning sickness etc, and hiding this and my anxiousness around the whole situation was difficult, I made a few ‘my cat died’ excuses to colleagues, and told my parents I felt ill to excuse spending a lot of time in bed.
I took the abortion pill at the clinic. The clinic (BPAS) was fantastic- they were so kind and professional, I didn’t feel in any way uneasy or intimidated. In the vulnerable way I felt, it was such a relief to have such kind and caring women there to assure me that everything was OK. Reading of things such as ‘crisis pregnancy centres’ springing up in the US, make me feel a bit sick- the idea that scared women are not receiving care such as I did, and in many cases quite the reverse, makes me sad and I feel very lucky.
I went home before the pill ‘kicked in’. It took a little longer than I expected, and didn’t receive my first cramp until I was sat on the sofa watching TV with my whole family. This was fairly traumatic- I wish I stayed with my friends. It was painful, that much blood etc was pretty scary even though I knew what to expect, and all of this going on whilst watching Saturday night TV with my parents. Concealing pain is not easy for me – I am a light weight! So that was really hard. But again as I had been coached through the whole process by the clinic, I knew what to expect and as a result was not scared.
2 weeks later I went back to the clinic for a check up and also received the contraceptive implant- to ensure I wouldn’t have to go through the procedure again- I couldn’t recommend the implant more.
After being so strong minded about going through the abortion, I was not expecting what came after the abortion. For the next 2 years I became what I can only describe as ‘secretly depressed’. To my friends I was the same girl, but as soon as I was alone (which I was a lot more than before) I would cry and cry and cry. I suffered from bad anxiety and I guess I just felt really alone. This emotional impact was totally unexpected and really rocked me. Having come out the other side, I can now see it for what it is and I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Now I feel like I can connect emotionally with other women so much more easily. When a friend comes to me with a problem I can empathize with them straight away, it is as if I am way more emotionally intelligent. Having gone through this experience, I have been able to give advise to other friends who have had abortions, putting them at ease and making sure that they don’t have to go through the same emotional complicated bits I had afterwards. Being older now, I think I would handle the whole thing differently, so I know how difficult it must be for particularly young women to go through such a thing – they need the most support for sure.
That’s it- that’s my story!