Pandemic Fear

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Submitted by: SJ

I could have been a mother of 2 by my 32nd birthday, but I recently made the decision to terminate a pregnancy in the midst of such an unprecedented time in history, and an incredibly stressful period of my life.

My husband (50) and I have been married for 4 years. We both have great jobs (although mine feels unstable in this time). He has a 13 year old son from a previous relationship. We have a 14 month son, and we both work and are without childcare during this pandemic. Between pregnancy hormones, the stress and anxiety of the pandemic, the isolation, the utter illness and exhaustion, I felt during this pregnancy, the financial worry and instability facing the entire world, after my initial excitement of taking the test and more time under quarantine passed, I had an overwhelming feeling of dread that I couldn’t shake.

My husband and I barely had any time to talk through this decision, or conversations ended in frustration quickly because we disagreed on the best course of action for our family. All day we work in shifts to take the baby or do our jobs. We ate dinner, put the baby to bed, and then continued working to make up for lost time during the day, or I would be asleep by 9 since the the exhaustion, depression, and nausea were so overwhelming. overall, it just felt like there was no time to talk this through before my scheduled appointment. Everything we did was in shifts with no shift for our relationship.

when I went to the appointment, which I had to go to alone due to the current state of the world, I found out I was 7 weeks and 1 day. While I thought I was prepared to make a decision about termination then, I was scared, I cried, I was conflicted, I was so stressed and sad and alone. It was raining horribly which made it worse. I couldn’t do it, but made an appointment for later in the week, which my husband was well aware of.

That week, I was almost waiting for him to talk to me about it. It was unfortunately passive, but again, I was tired and in my state, felt like my mind was made up, despite knowing my husbands feelings differed. We never made the time for each other before the appointment.

He drove me to the doctor on friday and waited with our son in the car, knowing what was happening. We were both quiet but seemingly supportive, or at least understanding of the reality that we were about to face. I went into the appointment alone and was administered the pill to begin a medical abortion.

I was immediately sad but relieved and told my husband just that when I got back in the car, but then stopped me from speaking since he thought I was just saying “bullshit.” He then browbeat me in the car before stopping himself saying that it wasn’t fair. It’s been two days and we’re both grieving. He’s angry and called me a child murderer. I was so shocked but disagree, and know he’s going through this in his own way. We got into an argument about this being solely my decision without any input from him. I’m seeking counseling to help us through this time, as the more I read (which I have energy to do again), realize that this could destroy us. I didn’t foresee the emotional impact that this decision could have.

One of the scariest parts of this is that immediately after the abortion, the pregnancy hormones leave your body and I felt like myself again. like waking up from a bad trip or a bad dream, where a veil or fog was lifted. I wasn’t tired, I wasn’t ill, I had energy for myself and my son and my husband. My face looked different. My body didn’t hurt. Neither did my head.

And then I begin to wonder, wow, how can a person enduring all of that exhaustion and pain and nausea and anxiety and stress of unplanned pregnancy and stress of unplanned worldly pandemic and stress of
finances and health and isolation and depression possibly make a decision like that? I had a thought today, that if I wasn’t under the fog of all those hormones I might have made a different decision. I don’t know who’s feelings or decision would have been more valid.

At the time, with everything I had, it wasn’t right. I wish I had more time, to talk with my husband, to think, to process. I wish things were different. If there wasn’t a global pandemic, I would have wanted to grow our family but the uncertainty of the world has me very panicked. I know life will eventually move on, or move forward in a new way, but the idea of being pregnant with such uncertainty in isolation without help in our current roles as professionals and parents — the stress of anything additional was too much to bear. I thought about how exhausted I was and how I would be more exhausted with a newborn. I couldn’t imagine it. I was so spent. So fragile. So hormonal. So scared.

While I don’t wish this situation on anyone, I wish I could find some solidarity in shared experience here. Women who couldn’t bear the idea of moving forward with pregnancy during this time. Women who are in married loving relationships. Women who are financially ok, but who still have financial fears. The only articles on abortion during this period are unfortunately about potential bans.

I’m not really sure how to end this story. It won’t ever end in my mind or heart.

You deserve nonjudgmental
after-abortion support.

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10 responses to “Pandemic Fear”

  1. jasmine

    You’re the first person that I’ve heard talk about the immediate hormonal changes. My face looked completely different, no longer tired, no longer in the fog, all of a sudden clear minded and able to see solutions I couldn’t see before… That was the hardest part for me. But one thing I know for sure is pregnancy makes you much more intuitive. There were more factors informing our choice than can not ever be quantified by the conscious mind. I remind myself to trust my past pregnant self. My grief and longing can blind me now… projecting all kinds of perfected images of health and love on the present and future. But there was an instinctual concerned kind of wisdom that guided me through a choice I didn’t think I would ever make.
    I really like what has been said here already in the comments <3 Thank you all for making me feel less alone.

    1. Kathleen

      Jasmine. Yes, so true and wise what you’ve touched on here. Thank you for articulating this so well. “I remind myself to trust my past pregnant self….projecting all kinds of perfected images of health and love on the present and future.” So well-said.


  2. Kim

    SJ, We are financially set and have two other toddlers. I wanted the pregnancy and we tried for it. As soon as I saw the line “the dread” you speak of kicked in. I felt like something was going to happen. I didn’t feel like I did with my other 3 pregnancies (2 live births and a miscarriage). The anxiety, the dread, the “can I really do this?” was all I thought of for 6 days of being pregnant. I felt like I was trapped in a cage. I googled “natural miscarriages”. A few moments I convinced myself to keep the pregnancy, moments after that I was taking hot baths praying I would miscarry later in the night. What makes me feel so sad is the feeling that I could have made it work, and I didn’t.

    1. Kathleen

      Kim- I so relate with your experience and so glad to hear I’m not alone. I really thought I wanted a 4th and as soon as I got the two lines, I thought “my life is over.” I became so depressed, couldn’t look my husband in the eye, felt nauseous and was unavailable to my 3 living breathing children. It’s like I became this awful shell of myself. As soon as I had the “intentional miscarriage” ( a phrasing recommended by my counselor), I felt completely back to normal….until the regret and sadness and feelings of “I was too weak, I should’ve stuck it out longer, what’s wrong with me” kicked in. Right now I’m dealing with these thoughts and trying to reframe them into something more useful. Shame and hopelessness are not serving me.

      1. Kim

        My therapist also says I’m grieving but it doesn’t have to mean the loss of a person. It could mean the loss of an idea (such as having a big family) or the loss of innocence. She also told me that women with stillbirths are 22x more likely to bring up to their doctor that something feels wrong or something feels off. Maybe the feelings of dread we both experienced were our bodies protecting our LIVE children in some way AND maybe we just sensed that something was wrong with the little seed. I mean, that’s totally possible….we are biologically engineered to care for fetuses and protect them, if something isn’t right emotionally, financially, mentally, physically…..our body and hearts are trying to tell us to let it go.

        1. Kathleen

          I can relate to what your therapist said about grieving more than just the loss of a person but grieving an idea or an ideal. So true. And I think the feeling of dread we both experienced was indeed our intuition speaking to us and I’m trying to accept that I listened to my intuition and not to look back with rose-colored glasses. I think you are so wise to say that our body and hearts were telling us to let go. Thank you for your kind words, they are so appreciated. How are you doing these days? It really is a journey…

  3. Stella

    SJ I feel for and empathize with you. I ended my only pregnancy at 45 last December, my partner of one year is 51 and was deeply conflicted. Truthfully we both were, I really did not want to rock the relationship, and was not sure it was the right thing for us at this point in our lives. I had desperately wanted children when I was younger, finally trying on my own when a good man just didn’t come along. I did IVF with a friends sperm just a few years ago, but that didn’t work. I had moved on and accepted, and even at times felt relieved that the IVF didn’t work when thinking about the challenge of raising a child on my own already in my 40s.

    Then I finally met this great man and this was the relationship I had been waiting for. I was naive to think I wouldn’t get pregnant or that it would be fine I if I actually did. We never really discussed birth control. My partner knew we weren’t protected and that I had wanted and tried to get pregnant earlier. But we both thought it so unlikely at my age and with those past failures. I realize I avoided talking in depth about protection, as part of me did not want for the possibility of pregnancy to be taken off the table. Then it happened and I was immediately unsure and frankly terrified. I knew, and was right, that my partner was really not in a place where he was wanting to welcome this huge life change.

    We went quite far into the pregnancy, time limits here in Canada are less strict. We went to ultrasounds together and counselling. My partner expressed support and love for me and was willing but not embracing the idea of moving forward with the pregnancy. Finally it came down to the wire and ultimately up to me to decide. I was wracked with uncertainty, depression and anxiety. I was worried about potential developmental problems given our ages, and how that would be a huge challenge given the uncertainty of this situation. Those hormones really do do a number! In the end, I just really wanted my life and sanity back. Before this crisis pregnancy, I had begun to be finally happy, after years of being alone. I did not want to lose that. I ended the pregnancy with his support.

    Like you, as soon as the hormones left my body I felt more myself, and a significant dissonance settled in. How could I go though all those needles trying on my own, finally to have a natural miracle pregnancy and then let it go? Despite choosing largely for the relationship, I am now fighting some resentment for my partner. Things are still good and in many ways this brought us closer together, but in the hard late night moments I wonder if he really should have supported me more to have the child. I worry that we both acted out of fear.

    Now the pandemic hits and l feel some relief in what is certainly a challenging moment to bring life into the world. The strain you SJ are already under! The stressors you face that shaped your decision are very real and very acute. It is a very moral choice to choose what is best for you and your son. I think your husband is being unfair and unkind to attack you, it is true that people manage big emotions and grieve in different ways, and are not always their best selves. I commend you for your understanding and for seeking counselling to support yourself and your family. You have had to endure something extremely difficult, you have shown great strength and love.

    In my position, we are financially stable but also feeling a relief in the fact that we are not still facing a conflicted pregnancy in these very uncertain times. If I had known in December this pandemic was about to hit it would likely have strengthened my resolve to terminate. On the other side of the decision I’m less resolved about my choice, but I do think that is the nature of these very very tough choices. It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of what might have been when the reality of the choice is no longer there. These times of instability and isolation are rife for increased depression and disruption. If you were still in a conflicted pregnancy I think you would be facing increasing anxieties and challenges.

    I wish you and your family health, peace and happiness.

    1. Kathleen

      Stella, The dissonance. That is what I am dealing with. You nailed it. I just read somewhere that the What ifs are the thief of joy and that is my mantra these days. I keep telling myself that I made the best decision at the time with the information I had. Keep coming back Stella, your words are wise and comforting. Since I seem to be into quotes these days, these are also bringing me great comfort–

      “If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”–Lao-tzu

      “There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” William Shakespeare

    2. Belle

      Thank you so much for sharing your story. It means the world to me as I have recently been in a very similar situation. The pain I have felt has been immeasurable and I am working closely with a psychologist to help me. My situation has brought me to my knees: I have no motivation, Ive been scared to leave the house, I can’t bring myself to do simple tasks. Only in the last week have I begun to regain something of myself. You touched on something so poingnant when you said: It’s easy to get caught up in the fantasy of what might have been when the reality of the choice is no longer there. What if’s are so dangerous. We can only live in the now by grieving, feeling, healing, amdloving and being kind to ourselves.
      Take care and all the very best.

  4. Jessica

    So sorry you are dealing with this. I’ve scheduled mine for next week. It’s a struggle internally but with you this is a crazy time. I do not have a job currently and don’t know when I will have it back or if I will have it back. We can get through this together.

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