“Don’t look down”
How did I know I was pregnant?
It was pretty textbook actually; I went on a girls night out in Clapham. And after 6 months of post-breakup-abstinence, where I couldn’t even bring myself to wank, I found myself sexually attracted to a guy for the first time. We were piss drunk and he had his hands wrapped around my waist as we chanted along to Wonderwall in the cheesy room. Disclaimer: I promise I have way cooler music taste than this – white boy indie bands really aren’t my thang, but a cheesy night out every now and then is a must.
Now, I’ll be completely honest with you because we should speak about abortions honestly. We ended up going back to his and we couldn’t keep our hands off each other. I won’t sugar coat it for you either, he wasn’t a long-term partner and nor was it sober. I am sharing this shamelessly.
I returned home the next morning in last night’s flares, an absolute hot stinking mess, filling the girls in on the group chat: “How big was his dick? Did he go down on you? Did he know what he was doing?” The usual interrogation.
Over the next 2 weeks, we went on dates and had more sex. It turned into a ‘casual fling’ and also led to one of the most traumatic experiences of my life. On 23rd March, my period was late.
Ok… this is a little bit odd, I thought to myself.
I’ll give it another day. The possibility of being pregnant entered my head for a split second before I blocked it out completely thinking no, that wouldn’t happen to me – surely not.
My period has been regular for my entire life, coming on the same damned day of every month – rare, I know. I was on the pill and had the same daily alarm on my phone set for 3pm saying “TAKE PILL” for years. But you know, life gets in the way, and sometimes you miss one. Normal, right? Come to think of it, I’d missed countless over the years but it had never been an issue. Everyone knows when you miss one, you take two the next day and that’s that. We’ve all been there. But this time, I was unlucky.
The first thing I did
7 days have passed now, still no period. Enter *panic* mode. The following thoughts raced through my head at 100 miles per hour:
Am I pregnant? Not surely not. Definitely not. But what if I am? How the fuck am I going to tell my parents? Is this really happening to me? What the fuck am I going to do? What’s going to happen to me? I can’t be pregnant. Am I in danger? Am I a bad person? Why do I feel so guilty? Am I pregnant?
As you do, I called my best mate, and bless her, she was completely shocked and didn’t have a clue what to say. Come to think of it, had the shoe been on the other foot, I would have no bloody idea either. Having been raised a Roman Catholic, it really isn’t something we ever spoke about.
I was on a part time internship at the time and couldn’t afford to buy 3 pregnancy tests (that’s what I’d seen women do in films). So, I went to my local sexual health walk-in service. I was alone and ashamed and my eyes watered for the entire journey there.
Once I had reached the front of the queue, I wiped the tears from my eyes and whispered the words ‘I’d like to have a pregnancy test’ to the lady at reception who seemed to respond through an invisible megaphone so the whole of Streatham could hear when she said “A pregnancy test? Ok, fill out this form and return it to me when complete”.
I waited for 45 morbid minutes, staring blankly at the dull ribbed carpet, my mind full of emptiness. The nurse mispronounced my name as she called me in, making me feel even more alienated. I was asked a series of, what felt like super irrelevant, questions about my sexual history. I could barely concentrate because I was distracted by the blindingly gold crucifix around her neck.
She handed me a pregnancy test, and I freaked the fuck out because admittedly I’d never done one before. Plus, I had all the nerves and anxiety rushing through my head. I asked her how to use it and she said “just wee on the end of it”. I look back at that now and think, you heartless insensitive cow.
So I come back into the dingey little room with a full piss pot and hand it over to her. She taps away at her computer screen and gives me no eye contact at all, I felt like a proper nuisance.
Then, still staring at her desktop, she mumbled “it’s positive”. I felt like the twelfth poor bitch that morning she’d had to break the news too.
With absolutely no idea what she meant, I desperately squealed, “What does that mean?”.
“You’re pregnant, yeah?”
The walls started to close in on me. It was such a blur – the signs were right. The worst outcome had happened.
I started crying profusely. I couldn’t think straight, I was panting with desperation. I’d reached crisis point. Perfectly timed, she asked, “So what do you want to do?”
I hadn’t even had time to digest what had just been said to me let alone decide whether I was ready to raise another human being. Despite everything, I responded:
“I’m not in a financial or emotional position to have a child”.
How I booked an abortion
She walked out of the room for a couple of mins and came back with a shitty ripped scrap of paper that had a number scribbled on it. She then slid it across to me, still no eye contact. I don’t remember her telling me who the number was for, I only remember grabbing it from the table and running out of the clinic as fast as I bloody could onto a side residential road. I was still crying my eyes out when I rang, I could hardly string a sentence together, the lady on the other end of the phone told me they didn’t fund abortions in my postcode and told me to call Marie Stopes. I didn’t hesitate and got straight to it.
So, calling the second number now I was finally given the space to talk, I was listened to. I wasn’t judged. I was respected. It felt like I’d fallen onto a blanket of feathers, if I’m honest. I was given options. The woman on the other end of the phone gently described the two different types of abortion to me: I could choose between surgical or non-surgical. I went with the second option and that was that – I was booked in for a couple of weeks’ time. I’d also been signed up to a 6-week counselling course. Everything happened very quickly.
Dark times ahead (Content warning: intrusive thoughts / murder)
What followed from this point was a series of hurdles: telling my parents, burdening my friends – which ones do I tell? What lie am I going to have to tell to get the time off work? How am I going to make it through therapy? What will I do when therapy ends? Will there be protests outside the clinic? Will everyone know what I have done?
For the two weeks in the run up to the procedure I was haunted by intrusive thoughts of babies crying, voices telling me I was a murderer and intensely heavy waves of guilt.
Telling my partner was challenging, but important for me. It takes two to tango – but unfortunately for me, he accepted no responsibility and offered no support. Not even a check-in text the day before the procedure.
The procedure itself
The waiting room was full of other young women, just like me. I tried so hard to avoid any eye contact with them but inevitably the 2004 magazine collection got boring and I remember catching another girl’s eye for a split second before quickly looking at the floor. I couldn’t help but wonder what everyone else’s story was. I felt completely numb and as if time wasn’t moving.
“Katriana Ciccotto” – I got up and walked into the white washed room, no one was allowed with me. I lay on a chair and just like I’d seen in Eastenders, the nurse applied a cold jelly to my stomach and asked if I wanted to see an ultrasound. It took me by complete surprise, and I look back on that now and think – the fucking cheek. That nurse’s voice and her question rang around in my head for months after, and still does.
After an injection, I was sent into another waiting room. I was called in again.
This was it, I thought. Never in my life had I been on the constant verge of tears for so long. I had to take 8 pills in total – 4 were swallowed, and the remaining four I had to keep in my mouth until they dissolved.
I was allowed to leave the clinic straight away, I felt like a drug mule of some sort who couldn’t speak because I had so many pills in my mouth.
Once I returned home, what followed was 8 enduring hours of traumatic pain. I experienced contractions, very similar to those just before birth, which became more and more frequent. I was screaming the house down, shouting things like “I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS! WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!” I heard a child in the flat upstairs running which provoked me even more.
‘Don’t look down’ was the advice I had read about time and time again. Low and behold, when I was sat on the toilet, and could feel what I can only describe as a large blood clot come out – I of course, looked down. Funnily enough though, the image hasn’t really stayed with me. I found the advice to be a bit fear-mongering and dramatic.
The day after the embryo had passed, all the physical pain had vanished. Again, I will shamelessly share that I was met with a huge and comforting wave of relief. I had escaped, rescued myself from something I did not want. I was free. Thank fuck.
Looking back on the experience now with a clear mind, I know that my abortion would have been a lot easier to process and cope with had it been a normalised conversation. Of course, the decision will never be made lightly, but because of stigma and shame there are limited resources out there – which is why I share my story.
The saddest part is that the knowledge exists in everyday women – 1 in 3 women in the UK have had an abortion. Think about that the next time you’re out in public.
Abortion is healthcare. My body, my life, my choice.
For help or access to services:
Telephone 03457 30 40 30
BPAS provides high-quality NHS-funded and private abortion, services to prevent or end unwanted pregnancy with contraception or by abortion.
Telephone 0345 300 8090
Find out more here: https://www.msichoices.org.uk/
MSI Reproductive Choices UK provides high-quality NHS-funded and private abortion services. You can book your abortion or consultation online.
Contact page details: https://www.brook.org.uk/contacting-brook
Brook centres provide free, confidential sex and relationships advice and contraception to young people up to the age of 25.
The BAAF provides information and support for women who are pregnant and considering adoption.
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