It has been one year and 6 weeks since I discovered your accidental existence. I was hungover, having partied hard the night before off the back of finishing an intense PGCE training placement. I knew I was late for my period: I was quite vague as to how late.
Given that I’d had the copper coil for 6 years, pregnancy wasn’t a possibility I’d really considered. I just assumed that it was stress and exhaustion taking its toll, disrupting my cycle. The only reason I chose to take a pregnancy test that day was that a close friend had recently told me she was pregnant, unplanned.
So I did the test, ready to have a small niggle of panic put at ease. When I looked 3 minutes later, I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. My partner walked into the room and we looked at the two red lines together. The reaction that followed wasn’t horror. It was joy, of sorts. Shock, fear, exhilaration and joy.
We were both too shocked that night to get into much discussion of what we were going to do. I remember lying in bed and tearfully whispering “I’m scared” to him. He held me and told me everything would be OK. We’ve been together since we were teenagers. Ours doesn’t perhaps look like many other 15 year long relationships.
We haven’t taken any of the grown-up steps together that many do – we live together but not alone; marriage is not on the table; no real joint responsibilities or commitments. We’d talked about the future, talked fancifully about the idea of being parents one day, but generally leaning towards the ‘no kids’ end of the spectrum. I was about to enter my thirties, training to be a teacher. I had 4, soon to be 5 nephews and nieces, and although I loved them dearly they made me fairly sure motherhood wasn’t for me. I liked the idea of freedom from needing to make long-term, responsible decisions; the option to travel and live abroad again.
The next day we got up, a bit giddy about the possibility of our current lives being upended. I did a second test and, sure enough, it came back positive. The giddiness turned to numbness when, a couple of hours later, we learned of Charlie’s death. Charlie: the 6 month old baby boy of our friend who’d taken his own life a month before his son was born.
None of us had gotten to meet him yet. We looked forward to meeting him and telling him all about his dad, trying to make some amends for his dad’s pain and suffering by showering him with love. But he was gone. I felt so furious, so guilty, that his young life was over and here was another one beginning in me that I wasn’t even sure I wanted. That guilt and feeling of injustice follows me round still.
I sometimes feel like I’m surrounded by people struggling to conceive a baby, miscarrying babies they so badly want, or trying again and again to adopt babies whose biological parents can’t raise them. My abortion feels like an act of ingratitude in the face of people with so much love to give to children they are struggling to have.
The 6 weeks that followed were a rollercoaster. To begin with I blundered around in a kind of stupor. I felt so fiercely proud and protective of you. I wished you weren’t there but also welcomed your stay. I tried not to connect the coincidence of your existence to the death of Charlie. I felt perturbed by how quickly my body changed, as if to catch up with the fact I’d been ignorant of for so long.
I was quickly referred to an Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit because of concerns about how the coil might impact the fetus. There I learned that I was 8 weeks pregnant. I saw your heartbeat. I sat in a waiting room with other women, feeling acutely aware that they might be there because of complications with their own planned, wanted pregnancies and felt guilty, wondering at the heartbreak they might be enduring.
Every day I swung wildly between decisions. Every phone consultation that took me closer to the possibility of termination threw me into more uncertainty. I dithered, approached and passed the window for a medical abortion. I felt paralyzed with fear and uncertainty about what sort of changes and decisions we’d need to make in our lives to prepare for and accommodate you.
The family life I tried to picture felt like a fantasy, even though it had potential to have already begun. My heart aches for the versions of me, and Sam, at that time, trying to muddle our way through.
In the end it was a final, tearful conversation over pizza in a retail complex car park one year ago today that took me to a strangely calm sense of certainty that this was not the time for you to be born. Sam drove me to the hospital the next morning for the abortion. He went and bought me cookies and XXL sanitary towels while I was in surgery. He cried when I was wheeled back in. I think about that a lot.
Choosing not to bring you into the world outside my body was the hardest decision I ever made. I think about it, and you, every day. You’d be about 5 months old now. I wonder what you’d be like? There are a lot of things I wonder.
I still don’t know whether I want to be a parent. The groggy version of me who wept to a nurse “I’d have been a really good mum” as I was coming-to from the general anesthetic certainly did. But I accept that I’m a complex human and it’s possible to feel different ways about the same thing.
I don’t know whether this multi-faceted grief that I have felt in all kinds of ways over the last year (sometimes in a dull taut ache in my chest and throat, sometimes in surprising, hot tears, sometimes in sickening lurches in my stomach) is a life-long thing. But I do know I’m sorry. You will stay with me always. I hope it won’t always be sad.
I am so grateful to have been surrounded and supported by wonderful friends, an empathetic ally of a partner and non-judgemental family. As one friend wisely and comfortingly said, “you’ve got this because we’ve got you”.
Submitted by: Sal
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