I want to share my story with the hope
that it will help others with the experience of choosing to have an abortion.
I also hope that by telling my story, it will help me find some closure to this
My name is Erin. I am 24 years old, and have been
married for about a year and a half. I found out I was pregnant just over a month
ago. My husband and I always considered ourselves to be very careful with birth
control, but right after my last period ended, we had unprotected sex, not
thinking that I could possibly have ovulated that soon afterwards. However, what
we didn't realize until I spoke to my doctor was that sperm can stay alive in
the woman's body for up to ten days! I don't think that we were the only ones
naive to this fact, but there you have it.
I had always felt strongly that
women should have control over their fertility, though I never was clear about
what my own decision would be should the situation arise. I, like so many others
had plans for the immediate future that didn't include being a mother. My husband
and I have been planning for two years to move back to the big city after four
years in a smaller centre so that I can return to university and complete my commerce
degree. The decision to return to school was a challenging one in the first place,
as my husband and I both have good jobs where we are (he builds fine homes and
custom furniture and I work in a bank). However, I knew that in a matter of time
I would hit the so-called "glass ceiling" within the ranks of the bank,
and without a university degree, my options would be limited. We envisioned a
certain lifestyle for ourselves, and part of the plan was to maximize my professional
and financial potential. Once we had our finances on track, we wanted to travel,
own our own home, and after I had satisfied some of my career goals, then we would
think about starting a family. I planned to be about thirty by then.
we are just starting out on this life path, it has been a struggle financially
for just the two of us, not to mention bringing a child into the picture. As obvious
as the decision may have seemed at the outset, the past month has been tortuous.
My husband's feelings were fairly clear from the beginning that our only option
was to terminate the pregnancy. My logical self agreed that we were not in a position
to raise a child, but I could never have imagined the turmoil I would go through
in reaching a final decision.
I started out with the assumption that I would
have an abortion, simply because I didn't feel that having a baby was an option.
Still, a lot of tears were shed at this point, mostly out of the fear of having
to go through something like this. I was terrified. I resented that I had to make
this choice because of financial reasons; unless one has the financial means,
society makes it very difficult for a woman to pursue motherhood and career at
the same time. I resented that though my body was healthy and doing exactly what
it was designed to do, I would have to subject myself to an incredibly personal,
invasive medical procedure. I resented that this didn't feel like a "choice"
at all; that even if I wanted to keep this baby, it would mean a life of financial
hardship and professional limbo. I know many women who have chosen to have babies
at a young age, and it makes me feel claustrophobic to imagine myself trapped
in that life. I resented that though my husband and I were both responsible for
being in this situation, and we would try to reach a decision together, the final
word would be entirely up to me.
Still, this was supposed to be about choice.
I began to wonder if it really would be so impossible. After all, many people
have children without planning on it, and they manage. I even know some women
who have gone on to have successful careers, it just takes longer. Maybe it meant
that we just needed to reassess our plans. I thought about our marriage. I knew
we would be able to make it through even the greatest struggle; our love is strong.
This baby was a product of that love. This was our baby, our family, a part of
each of us. Suddenly, I began to think of this not simply as something that was
happening to me - an unplanned pregnancy - but as a being, a life inside of me.
Then the tears really came. The anger and resentment gave way to guilt and sorrow.
How could we take it upon ourselves to destroy the life, the soul that had chosen
to come to us?
In sharing these feelings with my husband, I think he was
able to reach beneath the strong exterior he had maintained to hold me together.
We both wept for the little soul that had chosen us to be its parents. We thought
about what life would be like with a little one. We hadn't told anyone about the
pregnancy, because it felt like something we needed to work through on our own.
My family, especially my father, was so excited about my returning to school,
and I knew he would be disappointed if I told him that our plans had changed.
He has such high hopes for me. At the same time though, I knew our families would
support us in any decision we made.
I began to read up on the first trimester
of pregnancy. I had certainly been feeling the effects; fatigue, breast tenderness,
and above all, nausea. I had hardly been able to eat, and even when I was hungry,
I would feel sick as soon as I took in any food. I had been trying various remedies
for morning sickness, but coupled with all of the emotional stress, I generally
felt pretty awful. But, the illness subsided somewhat after the first couple of
weeks, and I was even able to forget about being pregnant from time to time, which
was helpful in continuing with work and daily life, given that I was keeping a
significant secret from all those around me.
Despite our thoughts about
keeping the baby, I couldn't commit to the idea of being a mother. As much as
I was sure we could handle it, that wasn't the way I wanted to raise a family.
I had grown up in a middle class home and had many opportunities that wouldn't
have been available without adequate resources. I wanted to be able to provide
the same quality of life for our children, without the worries of financial hardship,
which would be unavoidable at this point in our lives. The idea of having to reduce
ourselves to one income was terribly daunting, and I knew that if we were struggling
to get ahead as it was, then our situation would have no hope of improving with
the addition of a new family member. I felt that it would be unfair to bring a
child into the world when we would not be able to give it the life it deserved.
My doctor had given me the name of the physician in our town who performed
terminations, though she had warned me that because I have a somewhat common congenital
reproductive variation (a septate uterus - two cervices and one uterus, separated
by a vertical wall, or septum), the procedure might be more complicated, necessitating
a trip to the nearest big city, eight hours away, to see a specialist. This made
the idea of following through with the procedure even more frightening and overwhelming.
In any case, I would have to see the local physician first, to determine just
what the situation was. I had never been to a male doctor, so I was not looking
forward to the visit. I made an appointment just to talk to him, reassuring myself
that I was not committed to any course of action just yet. I put on my bravest
face, and brought my husband with me so we would both understand what was entailed
in terminating the pregnancy.
Fortunately, the young doctor turned out
to be incredibly kind, sensitive and understanding. I immediately felt comfortable
and trusting of him as he carefully explained the details and effects of the procedure.
He determined that at this point I was about eight weeks pregnant. He gave me
some helpful information to read, and arranged for an ultrasound exam to help
clarify my physical makeup. After meeting with him and pouring over the information
he had given me, I felt much less frightened about going through with the abortion.
Though our meeting made me feel better, the ultrasound again raised doubts for
both my husband and myself. If we had managed so far to distance ourselves from
the pregnancy by thinking of it simply as an embryo, an unformed group of cells,
the ultrasound gave us a clear image of the life growing inside of me. The technician
(who was also clearly pregnant and unaware that we were considering termination)
told us that the embryo had a heartbeat and that it was at 66 beats per minute,
perfectly normal for that stage of development. A heartbeat! This was an especially
difficult revelation for my husband. The decision was not getting any easier.
I decided that I needed to know more about the embryo at this stage of
the pregnancy and found a timeline on the internet complete with life-size drawings.
The doctor had said that terminations are generally performed between ten and
twelve weeks, so that during the procedure, there will be enough evidence to determine
that they've completely removed the pregnancy. According to the timeline, the
fetus would have eyes, a brain and fingers and toes forming. This was a chilling
image. I felt, however, that should we continue with the termination, I could
not deny the consequences of our actions. I felt a responsibility to be completely
aware of our choice and I needed to know these details before I could make a conscious
Still, I struggled with the idea of this little creature's soul.
I had been reading some women's accounts of their feelings surrounding their abortions.
One woman related that she had said a prayer for the little spirit to pass to
someone who could be more receptive. My husband and I discussed what it meant
to us to let go of this baby's soul. This was the most difficult aspect of this
whole ordeal for me to come to terms with. We decided to ask that the little soul
understand that we were making this difficult choice out of love, in order to
be able to better provide for it in the future. We hope that our baby's spirit
will be able to understand the decision we felt we had to make and that it will
come back to us when we are ready to accept it with joy and happiness. Please
forgive us, little creature.
As you will be able to gather by now, we decided
to continue with the abortion. The doctor informed me that despite my unusual
anatomy, he did not foresee any significant difficulty with performing the procedure
at the local hospital. He did warn me of some slightly increased risks, but I
was relieved nonetheless that I would not have to travel away from home. After
a month of torment and struggle, I really felt that we had made the best choice
we could have and was prepared to go through with the abortion. That was Friday.
The date was set for the following Thursday. So far, my husband, the doctors and
myself were the only ones to know about any of this. I had to tell one more person;
I needed to ask my manager for some time off. This was easier than I expected.
I knew he had the obligation to keep our conversation confidential, so I simply
reiterated that nobody knew about my situation. A little taken aback, as was to
be expected, he simply offered me even more time, and asked what he should say
if any of the staff should ask.
The final details taken care of, I continued
with the rest of the week feeling a little scared, but prepared. The day before
the abortion, I felt quite nervous, but tried to put my feelings aside, thinking
that by the same time the next day, the whole ordeal would be over with. Life
would be on the road back to normal, though my husband and I vowed never to forget.
I woke in the middle of the night with terrible dreams about what I was about
to go through. I couldn't sleep for the rest of the night and my husband held
me as I sobbed and wondered what was going to happen to our baby. I am not religious,
but I prayed for its little soul. As we lay there waiting for the sun to come
up, I tried to make some final peace with the most difficult decision of my life
so far. I knew it was the right choice, so I did my best to be brave. My husband
was an amazing pillar of strength throughout. I don't know how I would have done
it without him.
We arrived at the hospital, and the nurse was kind and very
sensitive to the situation. As it turned out, I was not the only one going through
this. There was a girl there by herself and another young couple. I ended up having
to wait much longer than I expected, due to some scheduling complications, which
only prolonged the stress. Eventually, the nurse asked me to get into my gown
and lie down on the stretcher. I was to be the second patient. Fighting tears
all the while, I squeezed my husband's hand and tried to be brave. I was given
a relaxant to calm my nerves, though I don't know if it really helped. The time
came to wheel me down to the operating room. The nurse allowed my husband to follow
as far as the operating room entrance, and then I was on my own. I couldn't keep
myself from crying a little at that point, but the operating room nurses were
very kind and understanding. I had an I.V. inserted and the doctor came by to
see how I was doing and gave me some tissues before the nurses took me into the
operating room. I remember shivering a little, though from cold or nerves, I'm
not sure. I was grateful that the medical staff walked me through what they were
doing and what was going to happen each step of the way. The anesthetist introduced
himself as the nurses hooked me up to several monitors and placed an oxygen mask
on my face. I remember trying not to be frightened and the anesthetist warning
me that I would feel a stinging sensation in my veins as the anesthetic was injected
into the I.V.. I felt the stinging up my arm for a brief moment...
next I woke up in the recovery room. I believe the total time elapsed between
the moment I entered the operating area and the moment I woke up was about an
hour and a half. Though my memory is a bit foggy, I recall saying "hello"
as soon as I woke up, and one nurse telling another that I was awake. The nurse
asked me how I was feeling and I remember telling her that I felt some mild cramping.
She wheeled me out of the recovery room and my husband was waiting in the hall.
I was brought back to the room to rest and was given something to eat and drink.
I was soon very hungry and thirsty, as I had not been allowed any food or liquids
since the night before, about thirteen hours earlier. I actually felt remarkably
well, aside from being a little weak and dizzy. I didn't even need to take any
of the painkillers they gave me. I did feel extremely relieved.
evening, I cried, though it was different from the many times up to now that those
tears had been born of fear, or anger, or guilt, or frustration. This time, it
felt good to let the tears flow. I felt like I could finally let go of all of
the emotions that I had been carrying around with me for the past month. These
tears felt like sorrow, and loss, and loneliness for our baby, but in a way that
felt natural as part of the grieving process; something it was okay to go through.
I could see the end of the tunnel for the first time since this story began. That
Today as I let my story flow from my fingers, I hope it will
help me remember what I've been through while all of it is still fresh in my memory
and maybe it will help someone else. While I would never wish for anyone to go
through such an ordeal, I don't regret any of it. I made it through and I'm standing
on the other side. Husband of mine, let me hold you up now, it's my turn to be
strong. Little one, you will always be in our hearts.Erin
5 March 1999
more stories -- share your story
= Being strong. Leveling the playing field. Respecting the differences between
men and women without putting anyone in charge of the hierarchy. Identifying the
"me" I am from the "me" I was taught to be.