Great advice from a friend

by BL (New Zealand)

My partner and I have been together for 5 years, I have a job, I studied part time while working, and it has taken me 10 years and a lot of sweat and hard work to get fully qualified and slowly move my way up the ladder to a senior position. I am 30 years old, yet both my partner and I have decided that we did not want children and at the very least not for a few years yet.

It would be an understatement to say I was shocked to find out I was pregnant, I had been taking the mini pill for 8 years with no problem and my periods were fairly irregular and sometimes non-existent. I had been feeling “off” and really tired for a few weeks, but put that down to stress at work, the house renovation we are doing and the Atkins diet I had started. A stomach bug went round my office at the same time which was consistent and fitted in perfectly as an explanation for my morning sickness. It wasn’t until I was watching a TV programme one night where the actress was describing her symptoms of early pregnancy – tender breasts (I thought I was pre-menstrual) sickness and tiredness. The penny dropped for me and I took a pregnancy test that night. We were both stunned. I was definitely pregnant. A trip to the doctor the next day confirmed it and by that stage I was in the full swing of morning sickness- which is also misnamed as I was felt sick most of every day and even sometimes when I woke up in the middle of the night.

The doctor was very good about it all considering he would have been talking to me as I sat like I had been stunned. He asked what I was going to do and I said I was undecided. He wrote a script for folic acid and told me to take it anyway and said I should come back to see him if I did not want to proceed with the pregnancy or else contact a midwife.

I phoned a really good friend of mine who I knew had had a termination a few years back. She was totally supportive and gave me the best piece of advice ever- start the paperwork and process for the termination anyway. It can take a few weeks and you can always change your mind without any pressure at any time. That way you are keeping your options open and within safe time frames. The other piece of advice was to be very limited and choose carefully who I told in the meantime. She stressed the importance of people I told had to be supportive and not push their views onto me while I was making up my mind.

My partner and I spent the weekend deliberating what we were going to do and came to the conclusion that we were not ready to have a baby. I felt guilty that that was my main reason. I had no drama attached to it, I am not too young, I am not single or in an unstable relationship, financially we could stretch to afford it… but ultimately neither of us wanted to give up our jobs or make the sacrifices needed to bring a child into this world. Adoption was briefly considered, but my partner did not like the idea of a 15 year old approaching him one day asking why we did not want him or her. I did not like the idea and the medical risks of going through a whole pregnancy, holding down my job to then give the baby up.
I went back to the doctor the following week and stated that I did not wish to continue with the pregnancy and the paperwork began. I needed blood tests, a scan to confirm my dates and some swabs. An appointment was also set up with a social worker. I spent the next week juggling work, sickness and appointments. Being a really open person, it was extremely hard not to tell anyone especially at work when I kept disappearing for appointments. My scan showed I was 6 weeks pregnant.

I told 2 of my closest friends, my sister and my mother what was going on. It helped to talk and they were all (apart from my mother) very supportive. The support surprised me as one of my friends is pregnant herself, one is undergoing fertility treatment and my sister has a baby who is 13 months old from an unplanned pregnancy. It was touching that they could be so empathetic when their situations were so different from mine. Mum was a different story, she projected all the doubts I had already had by voicing that I was not a young teenager, that I had a stable job and had “no excuse” for not going through with the pregnancy. She is firmly of the belief that all things happen for a reason. It was hard to deal with, and I am glad I waited until I had made up my mind before telling her. Throughout all of this, my partner has been amazing and I think if anything this has drawn us closer that we have really had to have long involved discussions about thoughts and feelings. Something that usually gets lost in the rush of daily life.

I did a lot of research and stumbled across this website which was really helpful (although I am not sure about the name) I read a lot of pro-life information too- but found most of it really overly emotional, rarely fact based and not rational. No person would actively seek out a termination for fun, but faced with the decision, this is the one my partner and I made and I do not feel like I need to justify this to the world. If you do not believe in abortion- that is fine, don’t have one. But I truly believe it is every woman’s right to choose. I always have believed this, and so has my partner. It was a HUGE help for us both to be able to agree to this decision and be on the same page.

The social work appointment went really well. The social worker was non-judgemental, factual and even managed to fit in some mild humour. I felt totally supported as we discussed options and feelings and she described the process for me over a few hours. I left the appointment with a huge weight off my shoulders that I had decided what I was doing and what was going to happen. I think for the most part the biggest fear I had was for the unknown. Another strange thing that reassured me was that I could take the foetal tissue home with me if I wanted (which I didn’t) otherwise it was cremated and the ashes were scattered on a local public rose garden by a chaplain and a Maori elder with a blessing. I am not sure why but this made me feel a whole lot better.

Being from a rural town in NZ, the only facility for termination is in Wellington – which was quite a drive away. The social worker left a message to say that the appointment had been set up, which was 2 weeks from when I had initially consulted the doctor.

I had my termination yesterday afternoon. My partner and I drove to Wellington and I can say the worst part of the whole thing was arriving in the city early and sitting in a café opposite the hospital and waiting. The unit itself is dedicated specifically for providing terminations; the staff were professional, caring and friendly. I had to take pills to soften my cervix an hour before the procedure. At this point there is no turning back as the medication caused foetal abnormalities. I felt calmer once I had taken it. Knowing I could have backed out at any stage up to that point was reassuring, but taking those pills was actively making the decision. The procedure itself took 10 minutes. I was given opiate based medication which took away all the nerves and anxiety, a local anaesthetic in my cervix and I was awake the whole procedure. A really lovely nurse sat with me and held my hand the whole time and we chatted about everyday things and concentrated on my breathing to ease some of the strong cramps that happened for a few minutes.

I got up off the bed after the procedure and was wheel chaired back to my room where a hot water bottle was waiting. I rested for half an hour and had a hot drink and some paracetomol. I had mild cramping not nearly as bad as usual period pain. Then once the nurse was satisfied that I was not bleeding heavily I was discharged to go home. I kept up the panadol that evening and am spending the day today resting. I feel tired and a little emotional, mostly from the large hormonal swing happening in my body.

I feel a little sad that this has had to happen, but in no way do I regret it. I have learned a lot about myself, my relationship and my values as a person from this and am thankful that I had the opportunity to dictate what happens to my body and access to a safe and legal process.

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