Contraceptives Do Fail

Note: The Exhale Pro-Voice After-Abortion Stories Hub includes people’s stories of their experiences and emotions, exactly as they have written them in. We do not edit these stories at all, and the content that follows this message is exactly as we received it. We know that people’s experiences are complex, and these stories reflect the many emotions they may be feeling after their abortions. From relief to grief, and everything in between, and all at the same time, we’re here for you.

Submitted by Katherine

I am writing this after 3 days of my surgical treatment at 6 weeks. I am 28 years old and I live abroad, far away from home. My story may be a bit long but it is important for me to tell the whole context of my experience.

I don’t have a stable relationship at the moment, which is why I chose condoms as contraception, to prevent everything — not only unwanted pregnancies. I was always very careful about that, I never had unprotected sex. I was dating a guy for some time when the accident happened. For the first time in my life, the condom broke, so I took the morning after pill like 4 hours after that. I was calmed and trusting the pill, until 2 days later when I found out (through my cell phone app) that I could have been ovulating exactly the weekend that the accident happened. I know that the main mechanism of the pill is to stop ovulation so I was panicking and thinking about the possibility that I would have already ovulated when I took the pill.

Immediately after that, I made an appointment and visited my doctor, I explained the whole situation and I told him that I was willing to get an IUD inserted as an emergency method if he thought it was needed. He said it was not. He told me I did everything right with the morning after pill, so my possibilities of a pregnancy were already low. He advised me to wait for my period and start birth control.

I waited almost two weeks for my period (I am very regular), but to be honest, I felt deep inside me that something was not right, and visiting the doctor was not a relief. Two days before my period due date, I started having a very light spotting that lasted around two days. Somehow that made me feel a bit more relaxed since I blamed the pill, I thought it was just my period being weird because of the hormonal disorder. However, I needed to be completely sure so I did a home pregnancy test one day after my period was due. The test was a clear positive, I almost could not believe what my eyes were seeing; contraceptives do fail, I was shocked.

I had always thought that if this ever happens to me I would be panicking but I was not. I was shocked for a few hours but I was still thinking clearly and I knew what I wanted to do. There is a lot of uncertainty in my life right now, I am not even living in my own country, I am about to finish my graduate studies and it is time to decide where I want to live for the coming years and to find a job. Besides that, I am not even sure if I ever want to be a mother, but definitely not under these circumstances.

To be completely honest, I never doubt on my decision of an abortion. I was not even able to imagine a different scenario. I am simply not ready to have a kid, and that decision is so important that I don’t think it should be relegated to a contraceptive failure. This does not mean that it was easy. I still had a rollercoaster of emotions, tons of shame thoughts and the evaluation of many aspects of my life. I have never been more stressed in my whole life, but I never doubted my decision. Not even a second.

I talked to the guy I was dating and he was very supportive of my decision and during the whole process, he assumed his responsibility on this. However, I did everything on my own because I was feeling more comfortable that way. I asked a friend to come with me to the clinic, even though the guy offered himself, I chose to go with my friend.

Interrupting a pregnancy is completely legal in the country where I am living, and the whole treatment was free since there is a subsidy from the government if you are a legal resident. I went to the clinic for the first time a few days after I found out I was pregnant. They made an interview to be sure I was making a free choice, and I have not been obligated or abused in any sense. Then the medical interview and the ultrasound. I was four weeks 5 days pregnant that day (based on LMP), so there was nothing to see in the ultrasound.

The nurse took a test to confirm my pregnancy and told me that it was not possible to perform a treatment until they were able to see it on the scan. They explained the options and asked me which treatment I wanted to have. I chose the surgical abortion with local anesthetic because I was very afraid of medical abortion; the idea of being at home bleeding without knowing what was happening freaked me out. I would rather be at the clinic all the time with professionals taking care of everything. They explained the whole procedure in detail and told me how to prepare for it. My new appointment was 10 days later.

Honestly, the waiting period was the worst part of the whole experience, between the stress, the worries about the procedure itself and the first pregnancy symptoms that were making me feel that I was living in a body that was not mine. Being pregnant is not a happy experience when you do not want to be a mother.

While waiting, I tried to educate myself as much as possible using reliable sources; I was reading scientific papers about the procedure. I watched many empowering Ted Talks (that is how I ended up writing my story here). I read all the information provided by the clinic and the WHO, tons of experiences from other women and I talked with my closest friends for hours. While wading through the sea of information, I felt privileged for being able to choose. I could not stop thinking about other places where women do not have this right. I did everything the best way possible, I made a very informed decision always under professional care, and I was still scared. I cannot imagine how it is for women who have to perform illegal, risky procedures or just carry to term an unwanted pregnancy. Now more than ever, I believe that this should not be a privilege but a right.

The day of the treatment arrived, I was nervous but I was managing my anxiety well, overall I just wanted this experience to be over. I arrived at the clinic very early and they immediately called me to the scanning room. This time it was visible, the doctor asked me if I wanted to see the screen, I said no, but I saw it later anyway, a dark spot in my tummy. I will not lie, I had a very weird feeling while seeing it, but I was still completely sure this was for the best.

After the scan, I signed the consent forms, changed my clothes and installed myself in a bed. I asked my friend to wait for me in the waiting area, so I was alone all the time, but that was not a problem for me. The nurse came with many pills: painkillers and misoprostol. She waited until I took them all and put the latter down my tongue. The personnel at the clinic was lovely, they made me feel safe and they were looking after me all the time. I waited for about an hour, I was still calmed and focusing on breathing even though I started to feel light cramps. The doctor came and asked me to empty my bladder so we can start. I did, and I walked with the nurse to the treatment room.

They explained every step and the procedure started. I got the speculum and the local anesthesia, so far I was not feeling pain just uncomfortable sensations. I was still managing my breathing, the nurse was holding my hand and asking me about my experience in the country, I guessed she was trying to distract me. Then, the actual procedure started and the cramping became very strong, I started sweating and I felt faint, I was uncontrollably moving even though I was aware I should not be moving. The nurse was holding me, telling me that I was doing it great and that we were about to finish. The cramping was severe and I started to feel also very nauseous. The doctor confirmed the procedure was over and I threw up immediately after. I was told that all the things I felt were normal and common reactions. Please consider that every person reacts differently to every medical procedure, do not be afraid, the professional treatment is very safe and the medical staff will take care of every detail to reduce risk.

When I returned to the recovery area I was very weak and the cramping was still very bad. Once in my bed, I realized that I was in the treatment room for about 15 minutes, it was indeed very fast. The cramping started to decrease quickly until it became like a regular menstrual pain and then disappeared completely before leaving the clinic. The nurse gave me something to drink and some biscuits to level my glucose. After that, the weakness also disappeared. I stayed there for about an hour after the procedure. They checked everything was fine, explained the aftercare, and what to expect the following days. I received antibiotics and the contraceptive pill to start immediately, we agree on this previously. I was told that I was able to leave when I felt ready. When I left the clinic I was relieved. Once at home, the recovery was very gentle, I did not experience any more pain and the bleeding was almost nothing, I slept like fifteen hours that day and I woke up the next morning feeling completely fine, physically and emotionally.

I will not lie, it was a painful and stressful experience, but I learned a lot from it. I don’t regret my decision at all, I am still convinced it was the right thing to do. I do not feel ashamed anymore, being able to share my experience is very empowering and I do believe it is important to do so. It is the only way we can break the shame vicious circle around it that just leads to more and more ignorance.

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