I’ve had one, have you?

The husband shouting at the abortion protesters video that’s been doing the rounds today made me cry when I watched it. Maybe this is because in March 2000 I had an abortion. If I hadn’t, I’d most probably have a child celebrating their 10th birthday any day  now. And of course I think about it – as I always do this time of year. And lots of other times.

I’m not saying this because I’m desperate to over-share, but because roughly 30% of adult women in the UK have had one, and yet most people don’t talk about it. People go around feeling like they are the only one and it makes it harder. Harder to deal with, harder to talk about and make sense of your feelings, harder to come to terms with the decision you’ve made.

30 years ago in this country most people thought they didn’t know any gay people, and it was easier for many to be unreflectingly homophobic. A much bigger visibility for lesbians and gay men – in the public sphere, but also in the private sphere – has meant that far fewer people are knee-jerk homophobes. It’s also made it easier (hopefully) for people coming to terms with their sexuality. They aren’t the only gay in the world any more.

It would be nice if we could do the same for abortion.

I got pregnant unintentionally. I’d been in a relationship for 3 years, we’d got a bit lax, we were on holiday and had been drinking and the condoms were in the other room. My spur of the moment calculation had suggested I was well away from the danger zone. A schoolgirl error.

I wasn’t ready for motherhood – although I would have coped – but I felt that the minimum moral action to count as a human fucking being was to seriously consider keeping it. He didn’t. A child right then wasn’t in his plan – five years, he thought. It may sound stupid but I stopped loving him. I didn’t want to tie my life forever to someone who was being such a heartless cunt about the whole thing. An abortion seemed to be the best option.

Yes it was my (our) own fault. Yes, I berated myself for the consequences of my laxness for an innocent ball of cells. Yes, it was emotionally excruciating and I wouldn’t forgive myself if it happened again. I could never have another abortion.

I was 29 when I had mine. I knew friends who’d had them and who I could talk to. But it still fucked me up. I still found it an incredibly hard decision to make. I still cried and cried. I still worried I was being selfish and a terrible person. I still tortured myself looking at pregnancy websites and working out likely due dates, star signs and considering names.

How much harder must it be to be a teenager and feel like you might be the only person in the world who has done this terrible thing? When wankers like this are putting pictures of foetuses on the side of buses to give you an entirely unnecessary guilt trip? When you might be hiding it from your parents, your classmates, your teachers, and having to go round pretending everything is OK, while certain smells make you want to vomit, glimpses of prams make you cry and you know perfectly well, every second you are awake, that an alien creature is growing right inside your body?

I feel sad sometimes, but it was still the right decision for me. It’s the right decision for a lot of people. And better than the alternatives.  I want those scared teenagers – I want everyone in that situation – to hear that and be able to talk about it.

I’ve never met a woman who took the decision lightly. We don’t need sanctimonious pricks giving us a guilt trip and making us feel more terrible than we already do. We need to be able to say, you know what, I had an abortion, lots of people have. We’re allowed. Stop sticking your bloody noses in and trying to make us feel shit about it.  I refuse to feel ashamed.

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Comments

  • Bee  On October 25, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Well said and much love to you. Abortion protesters value human life a lot less than they think they do.

    Bee
    xxx

  • Dawn Foster  On October 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    You are brilliant. Thanks for writing this.

  • Jenny  On October 25, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I’ve had one. I had an abortion in November 2000. I was with a lovely man who I’ve since married and had kids with, and we got accidentally pregnant in autumn 2000, and we knew we couldn’t give the child a good life and it wasn’t the right time for us to become parents.

    It was not an easy, quick or obvious decision and I still think about it often. But I don’t regret it or feel great sadness or anything that the pro-lifers say I do. It was sad and stupid but not evil.

    I rarely talk about it, and never with anyone else apart from my husband. But I do wish we lived in a culture where people felt they could say openly.

    Thanks so much for your blogpost. It means a lot to read a similar experience to mine.

  • matriarchalutopia  On October 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Aw, thanks Dawn, thanks Bee. I’m kind of taken aback at people’s reaction – I suppose it seems like old news to me. I hope it helps someone I guess.

  • matriarchalutopia  On October 25, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for commenting and really glad it meant something. I do think it would make it easier if people felt they could talk about it more openly. You probably know people who’ve had one, but you don’t know they have to talk about it!

  • Christine  On October 25, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Thank you for sharing. I have not had an abortion but am old enough to temeber when they were illegal and knew people who had them under truly dreadful conditions. Women will always need to choose abortion and they need to be available safely and with as much kindness and support as possible. You have been very brave. I salute you xxx

  • Applechic  On October 26, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Agreed. We are fortunate to have a choice in this society, and this decision changes our lives. Forever.

    Great blog xx

  • BookElfLeeds  On October 26, 2010 at 10:23 am

    “When wankers like this are putting pictures of foetuses on the side of buses to give you an entirely unnecessary guilt trip? When you might be hiding it from your parents, your classmates, your teachers, and having to go round pretending everything is OK, while certain smells make you want to vomit, glimpses of prams make you cry and you know perfectly well, every second you are awake, that an alien creature is growing right inside your body?”

    Yes. What you said. Exactly what you said. Thank you thank you thank you.
    I didn’t tell anyone at work I was having an abortion because I was afraid they’d judge me, and had to vomit in secret everyday for a month. No one should have to go through that, and these so called Christians should be ashamed of themselves, if this ad campaign goes ahead its only going to make things worse.
    I really wish it was OK to talk about this and thank the stars for the internet for making me, (and loads of other by the sound of it) realise we are not alone.

  • Cider  On October 26, 2010 at 10:30 am

    Brilliant post, thanks for sharing this.

    I have not had an abortion, I am 40 and have never been pregnant. My mother had an abortion though, when I was about 15/16 and I remember being incredibly angry and upset with her at the time. As I became an adult I completely understood and now fully support the decision she made. She did the right thing for everyone concerned, including the unborn child.

    I never talk about this with her and was very, very selfish about the matter at the time, but after reading your post, maybe I will. I should apologise for the way I behaved.

    In my opinion, prevention is always the best way, having an abortion is not an ideal situation for anyone, but no matter how careful you are, life happens and surely an abortion is better than the alternative; an unwanted and resented child. And that’s before we’ve even got on to the subject rape victims.

  • Alison  On October 26, 2010 at 10:43 am

    Oh sweetheart.

    I’m nearly in tears reading this.

    Thank you for saying this. I have kids and I still know there there are times in my life when an abortion would have been absolutely the right thing to do. So much secrecy and difficulty in talking about these things, never a decision made lightly.

    Abortion protestors make me so bloody angry.

    xxx

  • TheRex  On October 26, 2010 at 11:01 am

    insightful to say the least. Shocking how little men know about women and vise versa.

  • Kay  On October 26, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I haven’t. But I almost did, barely 3 months ago. It was my own stupid fault that I got pregnant – like you, my “calculations” were off. I had just started my new job and things between the father and myself were rocky. I felt (feel!) so guilty and irreponsible for getting myself into that situation.

    In the end, I had a miscarriage, but I had made an appt at the Marie Stopes clinic and had gone for a check-up and to book the procedure. It was the hardest decision I ever made, and no matter how much I could tell you how it was the wrong time etc, it sounds so glib. The truth is, it broke my heart.

    In the end I was spared the experience but having to run the gauntlet of protesters to get to the clinic was terrible. I was on my own and had told no one, not even the father. I felt crushed with heartache and guilt, and isolated from everyone. Then when I had the miscarriage I felt it all over again, mingled with relief and unexpectedly – loss.

    Reading your post meant a lot.

  • matriarchalutopia  On October 26, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    Wow, thank you everyone. I’m so blown away by people’s response. I go off for a long meeting, and when I come back there’s all this kindness from people! Thanks.

    People have been saying it’s brave, but it didn’t feel like I was being brave. I was angry really!

    I felt I wanted to say something because it’s much easier for me than for lots of other women. It’s a long time ago for me and the feelings aren’t so raw, and the people I care about all know about it (although it wasn’t until years later that I told my parents) and I’m not part of a faith community or similar who would have a problem with it.

    I hope it’s helped some people – either to feel like it’s not just them, or to understand what other people experience. That’s all really.:-)

  • L1nds  On October 26, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I have. I was 22 and about to start my last year at uni. It was absolutely the right thing to do and I don’t regret it, but I was unprepared for the sudden bouts of tears afterwards. I had to dash to the toilets for a quiet weep one time when someone in the pub showed me their 12 week scan photo. But 9 years on it’s not really something I think about anymore.

  • Heather  On October 31, 2010 at 1:31 am

    I have not had an abortion, but you bet that I want that right. Your story is not just for people who have had an abortion, but also for every woman that might have one. Obviously I don’t *want* to have an abortion, but I want the option if that ever happens. And I also know that unintended pregnancies happen. They don’t just happen to careless sluts, and they don’t just happen to people who have no respect for themselves, they happen to all sorts of women, from all walks of life and of varying ages. If, for whatever reason, life happens and I get pregnant, stories like these let me know that all THREE of my options are valid and that I can survive no matter what. They let me know that I will not be alone if i get pregnant, and that there are people there to support me no matter what.

    Your story makes life less scary. I don’t know you, and I probably will never meet you, but you make a difference in my life, and I respect you immensely. Thank you.

  • Anne  On October 31, 2010 at 8:01 am

    I was in my second-to-last year of college when I found myself pregnant. I never gave myself the option of keeping the baby; I’ve never wanted or liked kids, and I was already experiencing life-threatening complications at less than two months. At just over three months, I had an abortion.

    For me, it wasn’t a huge event in my life. There was no “before” and “after”. I think I cried -once- because my boyfriend seemed to expect me to be emotional about it. However, since I didn’t ever think of myself as a mother-to-be, or even a potential mother at any point in my future, the idea of giving up a baby wasn’t too hard to think about.

    You’re right, though: I don’t talk about it. My husband knows, because it’s part of my medical history that has landed me in the hospital a few times. My parents don’t know. My siblings don’t know. My friends don’t know. Nobody knows but my husband, myself, and the ex-boyfriend.

    I’m not sure if this is because I’m afraid of being judged, or if I just don’t consider it an important event in my life. In the end, though, it shouldn’t matter: no one has the right to attempt to belittle my choices about my life.

    It does raise an interesting question: if I were ever asked with sincere interest if I had ever had an abortion, would I own up? The rebel in me says “Why wouldn’t I?” and the pragmatist in me says “Telling one truth is easier than remembering which lie you’ve told to whom”, but the social realist (who usually gets shouted down at these meetings) says that telling other people will immediately change their perception of me as a responsible individual. After all, the realist argues, responsible people don’t go around getting accidentally knocked up. It’s a really tough call to make. I’d like to think I could tell someone if they asked the question with the intent of getting a real answer, but the more calculating part of me knows that I’d consider my audience _very_ carefully before opening my mouth.

  • Linda  On October 31, 2010 at 10:27 am

    Hear hear.
    These things need to be said, thank you.

  • Vicky  On November 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm

    I have, nearly four years ago now. It is only this year really that I have begun to heal from it.
    I work with young people, and I’ve worked on a strategy for if abortion or unplanned pregnancy comes up, I don’t want to be afraid to share the basics of my experience. thanks for sharing yours!!

  • khan  On November 4, 2010 at 12:37 am

    It’s been 19 years now. When am I supposed to start feeling guilty?

  • kim  On November 4, 2010 at 4:37 am

    Five years ago. I had been married for 8 years, had a good job, etc. I had wondered for a few years whether I was even fertile, so over the summer I had started tracking and thought it might work.

    Then I forgot about it for six weeks. My cycles were rarely regular, so it didn’t mean much when I was late. I’m not even sure what made me test.

    We were in a good situation, and I wanted a child. That child.

    At ten weeks, I had a restless, uncomfortable night. Woke up in the morning with a spot of blood. My aunt took me into the hospital. They did an ultrasound, and I saw the image of my uterus. It looked exactly like the pictures in the “this is just before you menstruate” images from sex education. Full of lining, empty of cells.

    The fetus had broken through the fallopian tube and I was bleeding internally.

    My situation and the procedure I had was one of the very few cases that the Catholic Church allows. Removal of the damaged section of tubing was necessary to preserve my life. The death of the fetus was incidental. So sometimes I call it a miscarriage, a tubal pregnancy is certainly carried wrong.

    But I know it was an abortion.

    I did need and take time to mourn. I do not regret the decision in the slightest.

  • Molly  On November 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    Thank you for writing about this. I’m sure your strength will be an inspiration to many others who want this topic out in the open.

    I had one a couple of years ago. I wasn’t in a great place in my life, wasn’t looking after myself, wasn’t financially stable, wasn’t in a relationship… I don’t feel guilty about it. I decided that if I have a child, they deserve better than a father that I resent and dislike and who is not ready to take on responsibility. When I have children, I want to be emotionally mature and in a stable place – that’s the very least they deserve! I feel like I was protecting this potential person from a life that was not good enough for them.

    It was a pretty traumatic procedure – I was treated badly by some of the medical professionals involved. As a result, all I really feel is anger and frustration because I had to spill my guts to doctors who treated me like a silly little girl just to get the procedure approved, because the after care was very stressful (I had an allergic reaction to the drugs they gave me and the nurse sent me into a panic that really didn’t help matters), and because I now feel like I have to keep my mouth shut about it. I only cried once, and it was out of frustration at my total lack of autonomy. The nurse assumed it was because I felt upset or ashamed about what I’d ‘done’.

    Occasionally I hear people say awful things like ‘if someone I knew had one I’d never speak to them again…’ or ‘I knew I had to keep this baby because abortion is just so wrong…’ and I feel powerless to challenge them because it’s a little too close to home. While I’m grateful that at least safe, free, legal abortions are available where I live, I’m so sad and angry that ignorance still prevails on this issue and women are still blamed for the choices we sometimes have to make.

  • Megan  On November 24, 2010 at 7:47 am

    I’m bad at dates, but it was my freshman year of college. I wasn’t ashamed of it because I believed in the choice. So I told those who I felt I needed to: my mom, my closest friends, someone who could drive me to the clinic. I told the boy. I asked him to pay for half.

    It was very quick unprotected sex; he ejaculated very nearly the moment of penetration, possibly due to stress. It was a messy situation. I went there to break up with him, but he told me things that made me question myself, who I was, what I stood for, what I thought mattered; it was confusing. We didn’t break up. We had make-up sex. I wasn’t prepared because I wasn’t planning this; by that point, I probably wasn’t really thinking much at all, because I had no idea what I thought.

    I knew right away that I was pregnant. I could tell my body wasn’t changing on time; I could feel that the monthly physical/emotional cycle was not progressing as usual. I got tested soon after my hunch. I actually had to wait an EXTRA week before I could schedule because it wouldn’t have been big enough to confirm otherwise. They wouldn’t be able to see it. I had to read about fetuses. I remember being surprised by how soon it would have fingernails. How soon it would have a heartbeat.

    But overall, I was relieved. Secretly, I see the abortion as a silver lining. I had been trying to break up with this boy for a year, but he was manipulative and made me feel crazy and insecure and unsure. When I realized I might have a baby with him and be tied to him for the rest of my life, well, everything was startlingly clear. I am thankful, sometimes, because following that moment, my life and relationships became so much better, so much healthier. It was a turning point. The toxic group of friends associated with him left, too, and it was replaced by new friends at college.

    But I stopped telling people about it because they would have such strange reactions. Here I was, relieved, feeling a little strange, but oddly happy; they would cry, just sobbing, their hearts breaking for my incredibly tough decision. I would sit with them and comfort them, hug them, tell them it would be OK. They were projecting all these feelings onto me that I didn’t have, making me feel guilty and cold-hearted and abnormal. And I started to fear people’s reactions and worry that they would treat me differently if they knew. For a while, it was really important to me to tell people my history before things “progressed too far” just in case they would decide we couldn’t be friends. I didn’t want to live a lie.

    Now it’s a piece of my medical history, a strangely fond memory of when I finally let go of someone who was bad for me, of the unquestioning support from my mother and friends, and the way I remember singing while it was happening, Ave Maria, just singing at the top of my lungs until after a while I realized I was just singing this song I loved and not hurting anymore.

    To this day, I don’t like hearing people say this has to be a hard decision that will haunt me for the rest of my life, that this has to be something I cry over and regret. I certainly don’t want for it to happen, don’t want it to happen again. But I think there are other people out there like me. I know there are. We might be the minority, but we might not. I don’t think we are monsters, but sometimes even pro-choice stances make me feel like one, as if “choice” has merit only because it’s a difficult decision. For me, it was an easy decision.

    Anyway, I really appreciated seeing your story and reading the stories in the comments. It’s comforting to see individual stories that are meant just to represent one experience; just your own; no pressure to symbolize everything; just to be honest and say “I did it.” In the spirit of that, here’s my story to add to the pile. I’m sorry it was so long.

  • wasp  On January 19, 2011 at 11:47 am

    i had one…i was 18 and too young to be a mother…i’m not proud of it,but it was the right decission for me.i still think that it is the right decission for manny wommen.10x for writting this

  • Lilian Nattel  On January 28, 2011 at 2:35 am

    I’m glad you posted this. (I came here via Ed Yong’s post on great science bloggers who are women.) Years ago, when I was a young writer feeding myself by accounting, I did some work for a pro-choice organization. While there, I had lunch with a volunteer who cried over an abortion she had. What struck me then was that she’d never told anyone else. I don’t know why she told me, maybe it was the moment, but even though she worked with people who supported a woman’s right to choose, she had never felt like she could say anything about it. Too many people are alone with too many things. We shouldn’t be.

  • Tess  On March 8, 2011 at 2:12 am

    I can’t thank you enough for writing this. I had one a year ago and i think about it everyday but have hardly told anyone about it, your writing is so inspiring. thank you so much :)

  • Julia  On June 28, 2011 at 9:48 pm

    I’ve read this a couple of times over the past few months. I had an abortion 18 months ago. My husband and I never want children, and the pre-vasectomy contraception failed. I occasionally feel sad, but I have never regretted it – I look at everything I’ve achieved since December 2009, and the positive effect I’ve had on people’s lives, and that makes me glad.

    I’m glad you shared this – it means a lot to me to know personally someone who has also been there, even if we’ve only met once. Maybe some day I’ll feel brave enough to associate my full name and online identity with my story. The main reason I have never done so is that I’m afraid of hurting my parents. In fact, other than my GP, the nurses and doctors who saw me at BPAS, and my husband, you are the only other person who knows.

  • Astrid  On August 12, 2012 at 7:21 am

    I’m 19, I live in Kansas, US. I’m a sophmorein college, and my abortion is scheduled for the 18th.
    I’ve always known that if I ever got pregnant before I graduated that I would get an abortion, I just never expected it to actually happen. I’ve actively been on birth control for 5 years, but, due to moving, I was off for a month. I was out drinking with some friends and ended up with two of them in my bed (one of my best friends and a friend of his).
    My mom knows that I am pregnant, but she wants me to keep it. I don’t plan on telling her until after I have the abortion, for fear of her trying to guilt me out of it. I have only told two people about my plans, my future life partner and my best friend, who is going to be taking me to the clinic.
    I have no plans to ever tell either of the potional fathers – they are both pro-life and would want me to keep it (even though neither would want to settle down and raise it).
    I’m nervous, and scared, and I feel very much alone. Although, I do not “feel pregnant”, perhaps because it’s soo early (only 4 weeks).
    I know this is the only thing to do. I live in a dorm and can barely take care of myslef, yet alone a child. I’m afraid I will not be able to talk about this with anyone once it happens.
    I’m very glad that there is support for women like me out there.
    I made a mistake, and I’m soo glad that I do not have to live with the consequences forever.
    Thank you.

  • Chrissi  On February 26, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    I don’t have a lot to say about this, as you’ve already said it, and so have a lot of the commenters. Simply this: I was 16. And thank you.

  • A.Rams  On May 9, 2013 at 10:52 am

    ‘m 19 and currently doing my second year in varsity. 8 weeks pregnant and terrified,I’ve made an appointment for a termination next week but I’m so scared. I don’t know if its the right decision but considering that I’ve only been with my bf for a year,I’m not financially nor emotionally stable yet to have a baby. Reading these posts have kind of put me at ease but I’m still scared that I will regret it for the rest of my life and will just hate myself.

    • matriarchalutopia  On May 12, 2013 at 8:24 am

      No-one knows what the right decision for you is. But, 13 years after my abortion, I’m eight months pregnant with my first child. I’m now in a relationship with a wonderful, kind, gentle, caring man who will be a fantastic Dad.

      Everything that would have been wrong with having a baby 13 years ago is right this time. I’ve realised that I don’t regret the abortion now at all. I did my grieving at the time and I made the best decision under the circumstances.

      Having a child is an enormous responsibility and commitment. Not to mention, pregnancy places huge demands on your body and impacts on every aspect of your life.

      Plenty of foetuses spontaneously miscarry at this stage of pregnancy anyway. It’s tiny, it doesn’t have a brain or a personality yet. Don’t feel guilty if you decide this isn’t the time for you to bring a child into the world.

      Big hugs and good luck with everything.

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