the I, she, or it that thinks (ironed_orchid) wrote in imnotsorry,
the I, she, or it that thinks

not traumatised at all

This is xposted from my own journal. Someone suggested that I should post it here as well.

This is a my story about my abortion. It's an attempt to put together some of the facts and to remember how I felt at the time. I should perhaps warn readers that I was, and still am, quite ok with the fact that I had an abortion and that if I found myself pregnant, I might do it again.

[edited for the imnotsorry readers -Please note: All the event that are described took place in Perth, Western Australia. Our abortion laws may not be the same as your abortion laws. I provided a link to some information about our abortion laws where it was appropriate to do so in my story.]

First, a couple of the pertinent facts:
This all happened in May 1999 - at the time I was nearly 27 years old and in a long-term relationship. I was taking time off my studies, and experiencing some doubts about what I wanted to do, career-wise, with my future. Aside from that, things were pretty good.

I know precisely when I fell pregnant. Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but once I discovered that I was pregnant, I could quite easily pin point the date. It was a Sunday morning and we had come home from a doof in the hills at about 7am and I had not been as careful as I should have been. But I hadn't really been worried either, at least, not until my period was 3 days late.

The worst part of the whole experience was discovering that I was pregnant. I didn't want to be pregnant and I certainly didn't want to have a child. I wanted to go back to university and finish my degree and then figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. The man I was involved with didn't want to have children, and I wasn't fully decided about the issue at that point, but I did know that I didn't want to have a child then. I had lived with people who had small children, and I was well aware of the realities involved in taking care of children, both the negative and positive aspects that come from being responsible for and spending time with young humans beings. I don't hate children. I just didn't want to have one. I still don't want to have any.

So, anyway, my period is usually very regular and I keep track of the days of my cycle, so I was very quickly aware that I was late. I was also aware that we hadn't been as careful as we should have been on a day during the first 2 weeks of my cycle, i.e. when I was most fertile. So when my period was slightly late I decided to get a home test, because I wanted to know rather than wait anxiously. It was the first time I'd used a home testing kit, and I was a bit nervous when I was trying to choose which kit to buy. In the end I when with something which was fairly cheap and could be used at anytime of the day or night.

So I went home and used the test and took it to my room and waited to see if a pink line would show up - which it did. Then, I admit, I sat on my bed and cried for about an hour.

Then I rang my boyfriend and told him I want to see him in private later that night. He was working late (for himself), and didn't really want to stop what he was doing, but I was insistent and he came over later on. When I told him he said that he had thought it might be the case, because of the not wanting to explain things on the phone. He asked what I wanted to do. I said I wanted to get rid of it. He said, "That's what we'll do then." So that part, the telling my partner and the making a decision, was easy. We were both agreed that it was not the time to bring a child into our relationship.

The next day I made an appointment with the doctor to be properly tested. Again, the test came back positive. I explained to her that I wanted to terminate the pregnancy. She gave me the contact information for the nearest clinics, and explained to me what the procedure involved and that it wasn't fully subsidized by Medicare. We also talked about contraceptives and other related issues.

When I got home, I rang up the clinic. Because I had been aware that my period was late and not waited before taking the test, they said that they wouldn't be able to perform the abortion for another 3-4 weeks. Because I was only 3 weeks pregnant and so there was no rush and apparently it is easier for the doctors to perform when the fetus is 6-8 weeks old. (I haven't been able to verify this; I've heard different things from other women). So I had to wait for several weeks. The also said that there might be some protesters outside, but to walk straight past them and not to let them hassle me.

I know I said that finding out was the worst part, I lied. Morning sickness was the worst part. I was really sick all the time, food nauseated me and I couldn't keep anything down. Also, morning sickness is a misnomer. I was vomiting at all times of the day and night. It was really very unpleasant. It did, however, help my resolve not to continue with the pregnancy and I was glad to know that it wouldn't go on for much longer.

I told the people I shared a house with, because I figured that if they were likely to suffer from my hormone induced mood swings and nausea, they ought to know why. They were all very supportive of me and of my decision. I also told a couple of friends who I knew had had abortions, and they were very supportive and assured me everything would be ok.

So the weeks eventually passed and it was the 20th of May, the day before my appointment. There was one slight hitch, we didn't have a car, and at the time my boyfriend was on crutches due to a knee injury - at the clinic we went to they asked everyone to come in at 7.30am, and it was a 40 minute drive. He was meant to be borrowing a car from a guy he worked with, to whom he'd had to explain why he needed it, but at the last minute this guy had made everything needlessly complicated and had wanted to use his car the night before, then he missed the last train, at midnight, and wanted my BF to drive him to the other side of town. At that point, my BF rang up someone else to see if he could pick up their car and return it the next day. That person didn't ask awkward questions, and so we were set. Even if it did mean that we'd been a bit stressed out and had not got to bed early as we'd planned.

So we got up, and drove to the Zera clinic in Midland (which is now a Marie Stopes International clinic). There were quite a lot of other women there, about 16. Some of them had friends or mothers with them, one other woman had her boyfriend or husband. Some were young, teenagers, some were older than me, in their mid to late thirties. I got shuffled around from nurse to counselor. The nurse went over what would happen, they would put me under general anesthesia and remove the fetus by the dilation and curettage method. She discussed the effects of the general anesthetic, and how when I woke up I would feel lightheaded and possibly a bit sick. She explained to me that there would be bleeding and possibly cramps in the days following the abortion, and that I must wear pads and not use tampons. She provided me with painkillers and muscle relaxants to take home with me. She also discussed alternative contraceptive methods with me, and said that as we had been effectively avoiding pregnancy for over 6 years already, she wasn't too worried about my understanding of contraception.

The counselor talked to me about how I felt about the procedure and my general belief systems. I was able to explain to her that I didn't believe in immortal souls, or god, and that I didn't think that abortion was morally wrong. I also talked about my general emotional state and the poor financial situation that we were in. I explained that even if I did choose to have a child in the future, I didn't think this was the right time in my life to make such a decision, let alone allow a chance occurrence to determine my future and that of my partner. She seemed convinced that I had made up my own mind and that I knew what I was doing, and sent me back to the waiting room. She also told me that they were doing more procedures than normal, because it was the first anniversary of the law reform on abortion in Western Australia, which meant that the anti-choice protesters were all picketing at the high court. (The changes to the law made abortion effectively available on demand, as long as the doctors saw no potential problems, physical or psychological, with the woman in question.)

The really surreal part of the whole experience was in the waiting room. My bf had been stuck in there while I went to see the nurse and counselor. By the time I'd finished with those it was about 9am, and I sat with him and we, and all the other people in the room, watched the TV that they had on.

It was tuned into a show called Good Morning Australia, with Bert Newton, who will be terribly familiar to all the Australian readers. The show was one of those weird mixtures of entertainment and infomercial that you get in the daytime. It was clearly aimed at stay at home mothers. That morning, they were interviewing a woman who'd written a book on nutrition for pregnant women. They kept using phrases like "for all the mums out there" and "the mums out there will know how important this is". After the interview, they demonstrated some food processors which would "make mum's life easier."

Now firstly, because I don't watch daytime TV, it really surprised me that there was so strong an adherence to gender roles and this notion that the most important thing a woman could do was be a mother. Secondly, and far more pertinently, it was really fucking inappropriate in the current setting.

When I think back on it, I think I should have gone and asked the receptionist if she could change the channel. I could make excuses about not having eaten since the night before due to the being about to go under general anesthetic and the general feeling sick and a bit nervous, because although I knew I wanted to end the pregnancy, I'd never had any sort of surgery before. But I didn't get up, and nor did anyone else. This was the only issue I had with the clinic. Aside from the content of the TV show, everyone there was very nice and helpful.

By the time they called me to go through to the operating area, it was nearly 11am. I went through into a change room and put on a hospital gown and folded my clothes up into a basket with my name on it and put a pair of clean underwear, which I'd been asked to bring along.

My doctor was John Charters, he seemed very old, but I figured he'd been performing abortions for a long time. They did an ultrasound to check that I really was pregnant, and then the anesthetist put a mask on my mouth and told me to count back from 10. I got up to 4.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up. General anesthetic is really weird, time just vanishes. Also, I was wearing something like a menstrual pad, but it hooked right around my legs. I think I was more weirded out by the idea of someone put that on me, and having to manipulate my sleepy legs to get it on, than I was by the though of someone dilating my cervix and using a curette to scrape out my uterine contents.

I was also really incredibly hungry and didn't feel in the slightest bit nauseated. In fact I felt pretty good. They gave me a biscuit and asked if I wanted a cup of tea. Then they let my bf come in and see me, he'd gone out to get something to eat and had bought a big bunch of flowers. I was the luckiest girl in the abortion clinic! Then I got dressed and we drove back to our friend's place to drop off the car, we told him where we'd been, and he gave us avocado on toast for lunch.

Then we went home and lived happily ever after.

Well, OK, there was some bleeding for the next few days, but I didn't have to work and it didn't seem any worse than the times I got bad menstrual cramps. The weirdest part was using pads, I hadn't used them since I was 17 and I haven't used them since. I went and had a check up with GP after 2 weeks, and she assured me that everything was ok.

I didn't regret it then, and I don't regret it now.

Also, although that bf and I did move in together about 3 months after that, and stayed together for several years, we aren't together any more. However, for a lot of that time we were pretty happy, and as a domestic unit, the two of us worked pretty well. I never felt that we needed to have a child together in order to make our family complete. Being a family unit of two seemed to make sense.

Finally, I'm glad that I chose not to have a child, as that would have made the last few years much more complicated. I doubt I would have made some of the choices I did, such as moving interstate in order to go to the grad school of my choice, rather than enrolling at the one that was nearest to home. I'm not planning to have children, although I haven't completely ruled out the possibility, it seems less and less likely as I get older.

I think that covers just about everything.

[ETA: I google searched Dr. Charters and discovered that he died the following year. Here is a eulogy]
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