I was 24 when I got pregnant. I was in a long-distance relationship, was on the same pill I had been on since the age of 16, and mostly used condoms. I was not some stupid kid who didn’t know the risks. I wasn’t sleeping around. I wasn’t drunk. I wasn’t uneducated. I am up to date with my cervical smears and regularly get sexual health check-ups. I take iron supplements, I eat well, and I don’t smoke. I had a good job at a university teaching biology (ironically). I was in the process of buying a house. I was just unlucky.
Let me just say now that the worst part of my abortion was having to say that I would be seriously harmed emotionally, in order for it to be legal.
That’s not true, I just didn’t want it.
I had other priorities. I like my life how it is. I have a dog, and he is enough baby for me.  It wasn’t even that I was in a bad relationship, I had a great time with my boyfriend; we had a healthy, respectful relationship.
I was in a good position financially, plenty of money to raise a child if I felt that way inclined – but I didn’t, and still don’t.
I was in a good position in terms of my job too, I had a generous maternity plan in my permanent job. I just didn’t want it.
I had a supportive family who would have welcomed a new addition. But I still didn’t want it.
Sensing a theme here? I didn’t want it and I think that’s okay. I have no regrets. It was the right decision.
If you’re thinking that I’m not particularly maternal, or a selfish person, that’s not true either. I am a feeder, I compulsively offer to help people I’ve just met, and I spend most of my expendable income on my little sister.
It’s 2017 and I would love to see attitudes change in our conversations around abortion and motherhood. In NZ 1/5 of women don’t have children in their lifetime and we should stop shaming them.
I told my sister, my best friend, my boyfriend (obviously), and a close friend at work. I didn’t tell my parents even though they are pro-choice, mainly because abortions are sad and I wanted to spare them. When I told my boyfriend he initially refused to tell me what he wanted to do because he wanted me to decide how I felt with no pressure from him. This is the ideal situation that all women deserve. I told him I wanted an abortion and he said he fully supported my decision and that he knew it would be sad for both of us.
Now on to the technical details… I knew I was pregnant almost immediately. I had done a home test which came up positive and my period was late. I had small amounts of cramping but no blood. I googled these symptoms and identified ‘implantation cramps’ as being the most likely. I went up to Auckland Family Planning (I was living in Tauranga but am from Auckland) for my initial appointment to talk to a GP and to do another stick test. I talked to the GP and she asked me what I wanted to do, I said I wanted an abortion and she asked me a few questions and talked me through the process.
I then went for a blood test and yep, preggers. A side note here is that the people at the Labtests NZ did not know I was getting an abortion and asked questions like “is this your first?” and “what do you want, a boy or a girl?” I went along with it because they meant well and I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable.
A week later I had my scan to date the pregnancy, the people there were lovely and turned the monitor off so I wouldn’t have to see or hear anything. I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant. This was a week after my initial at-home stick test.
I then went back to family planning to have a sexual health test done (because if you have a surgical abortion they don’t want to risk infection). I said I would rather have a medical abortion since it was so early in my pregnancy and I was referred to the Epsom Day clinic.
Now it was Christmas time and everything was a bit delayed at all of the clinics because everyone was taking leave so I was told that the wait time would be longer than normal. I developed debilitating morning sickness, fainting, dizziness, fatigue, to the point where I would sometimes throw up 10 times before lunch. I was essentially bed ridden and any strong smells were intolerable.
At Epsom they said I would be lower priority on the wait list because they were so busy and there were other women who were closer to the legal cut-off point and that they would be booked in first. This made complete sense even if it was a nightmare. I was prescribed anti-emetics for my nausea and luckily was off work because Uni holidays! Lucky me!
I am well aware that there are thousands of women out there who had a much worse time than me and are in much tougher circumstances. I am so sorry for them.
At Epsom they asked me if I would like to see a counsellor, I said nah I’m good. They asked me a lot of questions, and I told them the standard ‘I wasn’t ready’ blah blah. The security there is heavy and this made me feel very safe. Also the waiting room is really open, which I liked because nobody is trying to hide.
In the end I got booked in for a surgical abortion at 11 weeks, 4 days. Nightmare! Two months of morning sickness so bad I lost 7kg. The hardest part of my abortion emotionally is that it feels very self-destructive.
Hours before the procedure, you take some pills. One pill relaxes your pelvic muscles to make the whole process easier on you physically, and one stops the heart of the embryo. This was the hardest part, you quietly swallow these pills like you would for a headache, knowing you are stopping the process your body working so hard for.
Then you start to feel a bit drunk because of the muscle relaxants. A nurse comes to get you, you’re in disposable underwear and a gown and you are walked to the operating room. There seems to be a nurse whose job it is just to hold your hand and tell you that you’re okay, you’re doing well. This is the sweetest thing.Then you get up into stirrups like when you get a smear and you really can’t see anything. They insert a speculum and then widen your cervix which feels like intense pressure and cramping – this made me feel a bit faint. They insert a tube and to be honest it reminded me of those old plastic surgery shows where someone is getting liposuction? They push the tube around like they’re vacuuming. Meanwhile a nurse is holding my hand and stoking my hair and saying I’m very brave. I think I cried a bit. It sucks, but the pain wasn’t any worse for me than bad period cramps. The whole thing was over in less than 5 minutes I reckon.
Then they help you to get up and walk back to your room; walking was fine for me, just a few cramps. You go and have a lie down and they monitor your bleeding (they ask you to rate the amount of blood in your underwear). When your bleeding has slowed down enough you are allowed to go home. I bled very little and was allowed to go home after an hour. I haven’t mentioned my boyfriend so far because I told him to stay down in the South Island where he lives. Really he wouldn’t have been much help and would draw too much attention to it when I was staying with my dad. Instead I got an old friend who was living in Auckland to drive me. He had to come up to reception to collect me as you are not allowed to leave alone. He was a bit late but brought me a muffin, “gotta keep up your blood sugar mate!”
I went home, told my dad I felt sick and went to sleep in the room I shared with my sister, while she did her homework. The next few days were like having a heavy period but oh my god, the nausea was better! I felt like myself again. In the following months I had a few issues; namely my follow up pregnancy test a few weeks later was positive (!?) due to leftover hormones, and I didn’t trust the pill anymore. I eventually got a Mirena inserted and have felt safe and protected ever since. The Mirena is 1000% the best decision I have ever made. My boyfriend and I broke up due to distance and I went back to work. I hardly ever think about it and when I do I just feel grateful for all the medical practitioners who helped me, and I wish I could have told the truth about just not wanting it.