I should have had a baby today.
Oh I know “due dates” are, as any midwife will tell you, less than an exact science. Having four children already, I certainly know this to be the case. I’ve eaten enough fresh pineapple and hot curries in warm baths to know the little blighters appear only when they are well and truly ready. But the fact remains that today should have been the day. But there was no baby because I had an abortion.
There’s a huge difference between needing an abortion and wanting an abortion. There’s a huge difference between wanting a baby and having a baby. I didn’t want my abortion, but I knew it was what I needed to do.
I want my baby. The fluffy hair, the fontanelle, the floppy neck, the tight fitting towelling babygrow against his or her little spine. That beautiful powder-fresh smell. The feel of his or her flesh against mine. His or her mouth at my breast. His or her hand grasping my little finger. Today I am aware of my empty body. I regret that my abortion was the right decision to make and yet I know that it absolutely was the right decision.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it’s that wanting something isn’t enough of a reason to have it. There’s a huge difference between needing an abortion and wanting an abortion. There’s a huge difference between wanting a baby and having a baby. I didn’t want my abortion, but I knew it was what I needed to do. I also know that I will remember it for the rest of my life. At the clinic, my partner and I were told there wasn’t enough room in the waiting room for him to accompany me. He had to go to a shed outside with all the other men. A shed. For the men. Apparently there was sport on the telly and nobody spoke. I went to the waiting room on my own. There must have been forty other women waiting, being called out and then replaced by a steady stream of other women. A constant flow. There was a property development show on the telly. And nobody spoke. I was called in for my scan. They kept the screen facing away from me, and as I dressed a photo printed out at the bottom of the machine.
The reality is, that for most women (and men), everything about pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing is a mushy grey area of winging it and hoping you don’t mess up.
I needed someone to tell me the mixed up feelings of pain, guilt, relief, terror, anger and resentment were ok. That this was normal. That I was not losing the plot. I’ve read angry messages from women arguing that they received no counselling after miscarrying a wanted child, so this argument about abortion counselling shouldn’t even be happening. Many abortions are of wanted babies. But for a million different reasons, wanting is not enough. Surely counselling should be available for both, not neither? I’m so grateful that the abortion process in this country is physically safe and medically sound, but our attention to mental health is abysmal. I was sent a “How Are You Feeling?” PDF document by email from the clinic three months afterwards. I didn’t fill it in. There wasn’t the right tick box for my emotions.
I have always been, and will always be pro-choice, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t times I could give the Pope a run for his money! I’ve grown so angry about the pro-choice/pro-life debate: abortion is bloody awful, but thank goodness I live in a place where it’s accessible, safe and legal. Imagine having to make arrangements to travel outside of your home country simply to take back control of your body and life. The Abortion Support Network provides help for women who have to do exactly this, and relies on donations to continue its work.
The reality is, that for most women (and men), everything about pregnancy, childbirth and child rearing is a mushy grey area of winging it and hoping you don’t mess up. Planned pregnancy testers: consider your initial thoughts when that blue line first fades into life. That mixture of elation and utter terror is unsurpassed by anything else. My last blue lifeline inspired feelings of fear, loneliness and devastation.
I wish so hard that I was having my baby today. I am incredibly grateful that I was able not to. Sometimes I believe that one day I’ll meet him or her. We’ll talk and I’ll explain. And because all of my children are kind, empathetic, caring people, I know that he or she will understand.
If you go through the abortion process, if you struggle, if you don’t understand how you are feeling, that’s OK. It will all be OK. If you go through this process and you don’t get what the big deal is; if you think this is all waffly bullshit, that’s fine too. And if anyone tries to tell you they know better, then remember that simply by virtue of the fact they’ve expressed that sentiment – they don’t.
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