What it’s really like to have an abortion
It was the most painful thing I’ve ever been through
I found out I was six weeks pregnant after taking a test in my office toilets. My period was a few weeks overdue, and I’d been having quite regular sex. When the test came up positive, I was in shock. I ran back to the shops, buying another three tests just because I couldn’t and didn’t want to believe it was true. So I pulled myself together, got out my phone and Googled “how to get an abortion”.
Of course I thought about keeping it. Visions of what my child would look like popped up in my mind, how my life would be, but I think that’s natural. But in my head, I knew there really wasn’t another option. I was 22 years old, didn’t have a proper job and could barely afford to pay my own rent. But more than anything, I didn’t want to be a mother. And I still don’t.
I didn’t want to wait around, so I registered with the British Pregnancy Advisory Service. The whole process of booking it was surprisingly easy, I had a brief ten minute conversation, and was booked in for my first of two appointments the next morning. It was all very discrete. I was sent an email afterwards to confirm, that purposely didn’t mention the word “abortion” or the name of the clinic. As I was over 18 my GP and my parents didn’t need to be informed. Nobody needed to know.
The next morning, I woke up for my 8am appointment. As with most operations, there was prep. I was told to line my knickers with sanitary towels, as tampons can increase your risk of infection when getting an abortion. I also had to drink two litres of water before my appointment for the ultrasound, and wear comfortable clothing.
I’m pretty good at keeping my composure, but I was still a bit scared beforehand. Mainly scared of the uncertainty, and of how painful it was going to be.
Upon arrival I was buzzed in, for security reasons, and met by a woman behind a white screen. She smiled and discreetly whispered my surname and the time of my appointment. The waiting room was painfully silent. There were a few other girls sat there, some with their partners, some alone. Everyone was glued to their phones, avoiding eye contact. The staff were welcoming and reassuring, and Everybody Loves Raymond was playing in the waiting room, which kept me distracted.
My number was called at 8.45, and I was met by a friendly and cheery nurse who asked me personal questions to gauge whether I was certain I wanted to continue with the procedure, reassuring me that it’s okay if I’m having second thoughts. After asking in many different ways and covering my relationship status and whether my partner/family was abusive, I was sent back to the waiting room. She then took me to the room to get my ultrasound. Luckily it only took five minutes, because by this point I was desperate to pee. Next, I had an STD test to make sure there was no risk of infection.
Next, I went to see a doctor who gave me a pill to swallow. She gave me some antibiotics, and only then was I told that the termination sub 10 weeks required two appointments. I was booked in on the Monday for my second appointment and went home. With this pill I didn’t feel any side effects.
On the Monday I was back for my final appointment. On arrival, I was given a number which was to be my new name for the day. I saw the same doctor I’d seen on Saturday. The staff were all so reassuring, which really put me at ease. She asked me how I was getting home and whether I’d like to have a cab booked for me. It was time for the final part of the abortion.
She then told me that this part of the procedure required me to lie down, as I would do with any gynaecologist appointment, and she was going to put four teeny tablets stacked on top of each other into my vagina. I’m quite good with stuff like this, and it didn’t feel to uncomfortable. She warned me it would be painful afterwards, and gave me codeine and antibiotics to help. I was told not to use tampons or to have sex for up to a month after the surgery, to avoid infection. This wasn’t that uncomfortable and I felt fine after I left with my leaflets and pregnancy test for 4 weeks time and my appointment card for the coil. After leaving the clinic, I actually felt physically fine, but was advised to get a taxi home instead of walking.
But the pain that came afterwards was the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life. I couldn’t even move, it was like taking on the period pains of 100 women combined. There was so much blood that I’d have to change my sanitary towel every hour. Overnight, my sheets were covered in blood beyond repair. But I rode it out, and with the medication I was given I was able to get back to work the next day. The heavy pain subsided, and I was just left with some discomfort, cramps and throbbing.
Although it was painful, I know I made the right choice. Abortion isn’t spoken about enough, which I think makes it so much more daunting than it needs to be. The thing I found the scariest about my abortion was the uncertainty, and I think it should be something women, and men, are more informed about.