Blue lines…one woman’s frank account of abortion
Six weeks, three days
I sit on Jay’s lap, face burrowed into his shoulder. I breathe deeply taking in his cologne, trying to distract myself from the smell of the waiting room at the doctor’s surgery. We are about to find out if I’m pregnant. I’m pretty sure I am but didn’t want to take a test at home. I’d bought a kit a few days ago and then shoved it in the back of my underwear drawer. Taking the test at home would make me feel too connected to the pregnancy. Too connected to undergo the procedure that would remove the baby from womb.
My name flashes up on the screen and Jay squeezes my shoulder and says, “let’s go,” in a gentle voice. We drop down onto worn, uncomfortable upholstered chairs in my childhood GP’s office. She’s a kind woman who looks at me sympathetically when I explain that if I am indeed pregnant I will have termination. “Let’s just see what’s what.” She hands me a sample pot to pee in and I head to the loo, do my thing and return to her office. She dips a pregnancy test into the pot and the two blue lines appear almost instantly. Tears fall. She tells me I’m six weeks and three days gone by checking a little circular calendar on her desk. She tells me that she can make a booking appointment with a maternity nurse for a few weeks time. I tell her no. I tell her that I want an abortion. She gives me a referral to clinic. The appointment is in a weeks time.
Confusion and Guilt
I wake up a few days after my initial GP appointment and I feel sick. I slip out of our warm bed, flinging off the floral duvet cover and barely making it to the bathroom before throwing up. Colour-less bile swirls down the sink. After I’ve finished wretching I look at my reflection. My skin is paler than usual, there are dark circles under my eyes, my face looks rounder. The pregnancy hormones are already affecting me. I run my hands over my stomach, “I’m so sorry”, I whisper. I feel unsure. Am I making the right decision? I’m 23 and recently graduated. My degree is in Chemistry but I work on a make up counter, mixing colours instead of the components of the periodic table, the lure of working in a lab no longer appeals to me but I don’t actually know what I want to do. Jay asked me to move in with him the summer after graduation, so I did. I think I love him but what if I don’t? What if we don’t last? My mind flashes to a future me, minus one Jay and plus a baby. My overwhelming thought is – I am not ready.
Ever since the two blue lines appeared, I can’t so much as move without spotting a fat, happy, gurgling baby and pregnant beatific mums-to-be. They are ubiquitous. I feel freighted with guilt, like an unforgivable felon to womanhood. But why? Women have rights over their own bodies, we have the right to chose and yet abortion is still debated and contested which can leave you feeling wrong when indeed the decision to go ahead and do it is right. Still a difficult socio-political topic to navigate that splits the pack in Northern Ireland, America and many more countries around the globe. A woman admitting to having one can be made to feel like a pariah, denying the existence of an innocent. My constant Googling of the subject reveals there’s a steep rise in the number of illegal abortions in the UK – how can women still need to do this under the radar in a country where you have a legal right to choose?
At the clinic a doctor tells me about the available methods and I choose surgical. I want to be asleep when it happens. A scan verifies how many weeks I am. It creates warring factions in my mind. An alternate universe me would have revelled at the sight of the small blob on the screen with a fluttering heartbeat.
2nd of February
There are about ten of us waiting. Ashen faced partners hold our hands and smooth our hair, kissing foreheads and promising everything will be all right.
Some women are alone, scrolling through their phones or reading trashy magazines, trying to distract themselves from the reality of what is about to happen.
A nurse gives me a pessary to soften my cervix which I have to insert myself. Jay has been so sweet through the process. He rubs my back and says soothing things whilst I wait to be wheeled to surgery. I think he would have liked me to keep the baby, but he just smiles weakly and goes along with everything. A consultant comes by to explain the procedure.
The sound of Jay’s watch is so loud. I will always remember the ticking before I was wheeled away, keeping the rhythm like a melancholy metronome until… “Count backwards from ten” says the anaesthesiologist as he pushes on a syringe. I think I get to six before my lids close heavily.
When I first wake up Jay isn’t there. I desperately need the loo but can’t find my shoes to get there. Another patient notices me ferreting around and offers to lend me her Birkenstocks after I explain my dilemma. When I get to the toilet, a rivulet of blood is swirling around my leg, running towards my ankles and pooling in the cork of her sandal. I feel winded. The baby is gone.
I take time off work and spend my days curled up on my favourite pink armchair with a blanket, staring vacantly at the TV or listening to the radio. Jay makes chicken soup and cups of sweet tea when he gets back from work. We sit in silence, the sound of our cutlery hitting the pates and news bulletins peppering the quiet. There’s a palpable space between us now. The pain of the abortion has been visceral and I worry it may have caused a chasm in our relationship that will never close. One friend knows what has happened. She offers a shoulder to cry on with no judgement, no opinion – just love.
I still think about what the baby would have been like from time-to-time. I’m convinced it was a boy. Jay and I are still together, we learned to close the chasm by talking. He cried over the loss of the child we would never had, I cried and told him I was sorry for taking away the chance for us to be a family. We wiped away each other’s tears. He told me I had nothing to be sorry for. We lived through the experience together and learned to understand each other a little better.
Deciding to have an abortion was still one of the toughest decisions I had to make but I know it was the right one. I look forward to the time in my life when I feel ready to be a mother. Ready to love in the selfless manner a child deserves.