aunt and nephew
Originally uploaded by antje b.
Today my attention was drawn to this article about the intention of the Department of Health to introduce independent counselling for women wanting to terminate a pregnancy, sold as ‘tightening the rules’. I agree that it could effectively be that if the independent counselling caused undue delay, seeing as medical abortions (pill) are only done within the first 9 weeks and anything beyond that up to 24 weeks requires progressively more invasive procedures.
I was a little intrigued by the fact that I was interested in this as it is not necessarily all that relevant to me anymore. Still, I am a strong advocate of a woman’s right to choose whether a pregnancy is what she wants or, if it was a genuine mistake in the heat of the moment (literally), to have the chance to wash her hands off it like the man can at any time, in the hope of a more cautious approach the next time.
I would like to share my experience with you. I had a termination at 27 years of age. I was in a relationship with someone who didn’t want a child at the time I told him the ‘good news’. He was a very good musician and sound technician but due to circumstances in his life largely depended on his car to make some money mini-cabbing outside clubs he used to play in. I was just beginning to find my feet as a freelance interpreter and translator.
Maybe I should have given my partner the benefit of the doubt and the chance to rise to the occasion, although he had said he didn’t want the child. Maybe I was right to be what I thought realistic about me being unable to handle a pregnancy, the early stages of motherhood AND being the sole breadwinner in that ‘family’.
Be that as it may, I was scared of the profound change that was bound to happen, the leap of faith against all odds that was required, and my potential failure to look after a child and myself without entirely depending on someone else. I was on holidays when I found out, so had a good week of debating with myself what to do. And believe me, when you know there is a life growing inside you, there is not much else you can think about!
In the end I went for the termination, and looking back at this decision now, it was based on sound arguments that would convince me even today that what I did was right. (edited) What I would have done differently with hindsight is confide in more people, especially my family, and trust their advice rather than thinking I had to face it all by myself. (edited)
When I got married 9 years later, I got pregnant within a few months. The relationship was a bit shaky at the time for reasons I won’t go into in detail. Suffise it to say that I didn’t want to keep my man tied to me through a child. I wanted him to stay with me because that’s what he wanted. I went to a family planning clinic again but when they checked me, I was told that my pregnancy seemed less progressed than it should be given the time. Tests confirmed that the foetus I carried inside me was already ‘dead’. While that news did come as a shock, I was kind of glad that I didn’t have to go behind my husband's back to get rid of the pregnancy or otherwise blackmail him into making a decision about me based around a child of his, which really were the only options.
In each of the three following years I got pregnant again but lost all of those pregnancies again in the first trimester. Thorough checks confirmed there was no scarring of the uterus from the initial termination, so that was ruled out as a cause of the spontaneous abortions, as were other physical causes or genetic problems. To the last day the specialists shrugged it off as one of those things.
At least the last two of those times I really wanted the baby. I felt ready to devote myself to teaching another human being about life. I didn’t feel it would take away from my work ambitions, which by and large I have realised. And yes, on the odd occasion I thought of the child I had aborted when I was 27 and who would now be about 16 with a tinge of regret.
What has made me ready to have a child now (that it is probably too late), is knowing that you simply cannot plan for everything anyway but that resourceful people will always find a way to cope. I am confident now that I would have acquired the skills necessary ‘on the job’, just like pretty much every other mother throughout the history of mankind. But I am also aware that I didn’t have that confidence then, and that is what made all the difference.
I stand by my decision made nearly 17 years ago. I am in favour of every woman being able to make that decision, preferably together with the man who fathered the child. Just take this from me as you weigh your, your sexual partner’s and your possible child’s life options, though: the time rarely ever seems right if you have to earn your own living, there are many things you will be unprepared for, your flat may be too small, your job uncertain, and it may all just seem too much for you to bear. But where there’s a will, there will always be a way, too. Don’t just let fear decide as fear of the unknown will always be there with every profound life decision. :-)