how to support someone having an abortion

Disclaimer - you gotta have a bit of common sense.

When I first found out I was pregnant I phoned 2 people, the first was my friend Amy she was at pre-drinks to go out. I didn’t let on to what was happening, didn’t want to spoil her night so just asked that she phoned me the next day. Then I phoned Ash. Ash has been one of my best friends for years, we’ve helped each other in situations that neither of us deserved to be in and I just needed to hear from someone who knew me really fucking well, who could tell what I was feeling from my tone of voice.

I can’t remember the intimate details of this phone call but I remember he never asked if I was joking, which I would have thought, both of us being 19 at the time would have been his initial response. He asked if he could tell our other friend who he was sat with and then made some stupid joke down the phone to me which is actually when I started to cry, that cry when you’ve laughed and then it dawns on you that even if you can laugh you’ve still got to cry sometimes.

Ash is one of the best people to help you with something like this and heres why. He listened to me a lot, he’d sit on the phone let me cry and bitch to him, without trying to give advice because he didn’t know anything about abortions. It sounds like such cliché advice but I really just needed someone to listen. I didn’t want someone who hadn’t dealt with it to tell me how to feel, I didn’t even want someone who had been through it to tell me how they felt, because every single person deals with it so differently. He texted asking if I was okay but didn’t pester if I didn’t reply. Having a friend that knew me better than I thought he did was a true gift during that time. I wish every person going through this could have their own Ash, and if you don’t, I want this site to be a place to feel some comfort.

Something that really made me lose faith in a friend during this period of time was her annoyance at me not responding. Not responding for the weeks surrounding the abortion and specifically on the day I had the abortion. She texted while I was still in hospital asking if I wanted to go on a night out soon, I opened and didn’t reply, about half an hour later I got an angry message about how I never want to go out and it’s “so rude” that I had left her on read. Even writing this now almost 3 years later it still hits an angry nerve in me. You know your friend is dealing with something at the moment, you know that today is the day the abortion is happening, yet her priorities still lay with the issue she had with me. I’m not saying issues between friends need to be put permanently on hold when someone is dealing with an abortion or any shitty situation, but there should be a level of understanding there.

For a few weeks I had to completely care for myself, maybe selfishly but just look after me. During anybody’s time of difficulty it should be clear (or at least it is to me) to just let them deal with it, bring up your issues with this person later, let them ignore your texts for a while, if they don’t feel like organising a night out at the moment maybe just grant them that.

It’s a hard thing to balance when your friend is retreating into themselves and you’re trying to be there for them. Finding the right mix of reaching out and checking in without being pushy or hurt if they don’t reply is a combination that isn’t easy to manage.
But neither is being pregnant and having an abortion so suck it up and be a good friend.

telling my mom I'm pregnant and having an abortion

My support system at the time of my pregnancy and abortion was my Mom and a small group of friends I’d had since high school.

Most of my uni friends who knew seemed to have other things on their minds, or simply didn’t care. At the time I wasn’t really bothered about this, I was too focused on just getting it done but thinking back to it I wish more people who knew had checked in a bit more with me. The friends who did never did more than just ask how I was doing or if everything was going okay but that meant a lot especially when you’re dealing with something that makes you feel so isolated from everything. I think some of the reason more people didn’t check in is the fear around the subject of abortion, fear of saying the wrong thing and fear of having the person whose going through it breakdown on you and you having nothing to say.

I can take the blame here for having such a small support system because I didn’t tell anyone in my family apart from my Mom, I also didn’t reach out for help. My Mom and Dad have been separated since before I was born so I didn’t really need my Dad to know. My sisters and me don’t have a very emotional relationship, we’re all very awkward around anything remotely personal (probably due to my Dad’s lack of emotional output) not like we’ve known each other our entire lives. Then my Dad and step Mom, in all honesty I don’t know why I didn’t tell them when I was pregnant. I knew I’d tell them I’d had an abortion, but when I was pregnant I just needed to deal with it, get it done and then take it all in after.

Telling my Mom wasn’t something I was particularly nervous about, I’m very lucky in knowing that my Mom supports my decisions in almost everything I do. There was no fear of her thinking I was making the wrong decision or that she was disappointed in me, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. I just knew she’d support whatever decision I’d made, like she usually does as long as I’m not being an idiot about something. I’ve spoken to other people who have had to tell their parents that they’re in similar situations to the one I was in I’m very aware it isn’t the case for a lot of women and girls to have support from anyone let alone their families.

After watching TV with my Mom for about 2 hours I plucked some confidence out my ass and said I was pregnant. I said I already had my appointments booked in to deal with it and that she was the only family member I was planning on telling.

“Oh Ab my poor darling girl” - Her voice was pure pain of having to see your kid deal with something shitty.

She was mostly frustrated for me, she knew I’d been safe with everything, she knew I wasn’t naive about those things and she knew I wasn’t in a great relationship. Her main frustration was focused on me being put onto a cheaper version of the pill a few weeks before I got pregnant. This is where he anger and emotion went because it was the only thing either of us could blame other than sheer bad luck.

She offered to come to my hospital appointments with me, but respected when I said I needed to do it by myself. Drove to Manchester a few days after the abortion and drove me back home while I cried and slept.

Writing about it now over 2 years later, we’ve spoken about it multiple times. She’s said she hoped that this would be the decision I would make when I first said I was pregnant. She wanted me to finish university, to travel, live in different countries and be really ready for a baby if/when I finally decide that I want one.

I’m really lucky to have a Mom like her, not just with the abortion but with a lot of other things she does for me. Having the abortion and all the negative side effects that came with that have strengthened our relationship to the max, which really isn’t what I expected to come from it, but I’m very fucking grateful that it did.

If can find any silver linings from the fucked up mess of an abortion I had then I’ll take them and run with them.

anxiety 1 year on

I started suffering with anxiety after I had undergone a medical abortion in March 2016, my first symptoms of the mental illness was my constant fear of my imminent death, sometimes triggered by headaches or muscle pain, but a lot of the time it was something that was constantly on my mind: watching a film, on the bus, in a lecture, at work, eating, drinking, on holiday, it was a worry that had taken over the majority of my mind all of the time. Yet something that did surprise me about this was that I wasn’t afraid of dying, I was afraid about how it would affect the people around me, would my family be alright, who would tell them, what would my friends do, would my dog go on without me.

It wasn't only severe hypochondria that I was suffering with I then started to suffer with intense social anxieties. Friends that I’d had for years I was suddenly constantly worried I wasn't saying the right things, or that they never really liked me. The friends that got me through my abortion I felt only liked me because I was their other friend's girlfriend. I was always concerned about what I was saying rehearsing how I would walk into a room and say hello, listing off different conversation topics I could have with the different people that were going to be there.

I wasn't myself, I was a pushed down, rehearsed, nervous, over-thinker, and I was in constant fear that I wasn't liked along with the constant fear that I was about to die. When I was on holiday in Walt Disney World Florida with my Dad and 2 Sisters is when I think I hit my lowest point, nobody I was with knew about the abortion and they didn't know about my anxieties (my family would always refer to me as a hypochondriac and I wasn’t in the place to explain how bad it actually was) I couldn't go an hour in the "happiest place on earth" without feeling I was going to die in some sort of way.  

When I got home from this trip I started taking medication, these helped me incredibly with the physical panic attacks which then helped to stop the constant fear of death that came with them. After 8 months of being on the anxiety medication I took myself off them, I suffered with mild panic attacks as I had gone off them "cold turkey" (not advised) but after a month I felt more like myself, the fear of death for the most part has gone. I think I’ll always be somebody who over-reacts to something medical, but this I feel has come from being almost 3 months pregnant and not noticing, and then when I did; everything that could have gone wrong dealing with a pregnancy/abortion medically did. 

My social anxiety is something I am still struggling with on a somewhat daily basis, on one hand I have friends I have never felt more comfortable around and who I can be my true self with, but I do still have people I can't quite relax around and still maintain that fear of judgement and rehearsing what I'm going to say, I’m trying to decipher if this is my personal issues or their friendship isn’t right for me. I have become a lot more open about my experience and my illness with my friends and family members which has given us a new stronger relationship, but unfortunately it’s still something a lot of my family don’t really understand and don’t try to.

It's an issue so much in my own head that's a constant mental battle along with the battle of trying to get people to understand.

 

the process of a medical abortion at 12 weeks

I'm not a doctor, this was also over 2 years ago, I might get some medical information wrong, pls go talk to a doctor if you want real expert medical advise.

When I decided between having a medical termination or a surgical my choice took me around an hour, I went back and forth between the idea of simply going to sleep and it being done, and my hypochondria of being put under anaesthetic and not waking up.

In the end my hypochondria won, I didn't want to be put under and felt it wasn't described as too bad when discussing the option of staying awake. OoOH man was I wrong. I don’t want to scare people who might be going for this option but nobody I knew had dealt with this before and I wish I had been more prepared.

1 or 2 days before my full day appointment I went to see the nurse who gave me the initial pill, myself and my friend went I took the pill and got on a bus home. This pill begins the process of separating the foetus away from my womb. This pill made me feel sick about an hour later where I couldn’t sit on a bus without throwing up in my mouth so attempted to walk for an hour before the cramps hit me.

I arrived at the hospital with my (now ex) boyfriend at 11am and began the process at around 1pm, I had tablets inserted into my vagina (misoprostol) to make my womb contract, and then I was given tablets to take orally (mifepristone) to bring about the abortion, along with painkillers, anti sickness tablets and injections throughout the day. 

In my film Choice: My Abortion, I briefly describe the side affects these tablets the sickness and cramps, but these were the worst hours of my life; both mentally and physically. I felt nauseous the entire day, the only relief from this were the minuets after I had thrown up until the nauseous feeling returned. For me personally the cramps along the front of my stomach were not too bad, through the taking of pain killers, but the pain I had along my back was unbearable, I was writhing around in pain, hot, sweaty and bleeding through the nappy I was wearing onto the hospital plastic mattress. Passing blood clots is a feeling I could not get used to even after 5 weeks of it happening to me (this isn't normal, please watch the film to understand) so going to the toilet to pass blood clots and a foetus and then the placenta always into a cardboard bowl was an extremely uncomfortable 8 hours. 

Mentally I hit my low point 4 hours after the foetus had passed. I wasn't pregnant anymore but I still wasn't done, waiting for placenta to come out was infuriating. I could no longer walk around due to the cramps and back pain, so I was tired in bed crying, quite literally in a puddle of my blood. This was when I needed my Mom. Phoning my Mom and crying down the phone that I couldn't do it anymore is a feeling and a memory that stands out most to me from that day, even as a 19 year old who had moved almost 100 miles away for university, all I wanted was my Mom. My boyfriend tried to be supportive but he was only young too, scared and didn't know what was happening to me. If you're having a medical termination take somebody you feel completely secure around, they will see you in the worst states (I almost shit myself at one point so they've gotta be down for holding your hand even through that mess.) I wish I had taken someone who wasn’t my boyfriend, but our relationship was a mess before this and this was just the final nail in the coffin.

Once they thought everything was out I was allowed to go home, the cramps did stop almost immediately, but I just felt shit, the most shit I could possibly feel. I hadn't kept food down for hours, I'd been piled up with pills and just wanted to cry and sleep, which is exactly what I did for about a week when I got picked up the next day by my Mom to be properly cared for in a clean warm house, not the squatters excuse for a house that my boyfriend lived in.

Medical termination is physically and mentally exhausting, surgical for me wasn’t as harmful to my mental state. If I was ever unlucky enough to get pregnant when I didn’t want it I would go for the surgery. (I’m gonna hope that doesn’t happen but with my luck who knows)