An unemotional account of what it’s like to have an abortion

‘I’m 95% sure I’m not pregnant,’, I told my best friend on the phone as I walked home. But the itchy nipples, crying outbursts, and the change in smell of my personal biology belied my words. As did the 3 different brands of unopened pregnancy tests in my bag.

I’d had a very expensive education at a girls’ school where we were repeatedly shown videos in biology that implied if we so much as looked at a boy we could get pregnant. However, by the age of 26, I’d been in a relationship for three years with not so much as a scare. I’d also been stoned every single day of those three years, so the fear had really mellowed. So when I came off the pill because it was giving me acne, I didn’t think it was very urgent to sort out a new form of birth control. I thought that if my (now ex) boyfriend was always stoned, then his sperm would also be stoned, and therefore, they’d probably be way too lazy to even attempt to fertilize my also stoned eggs. That is genuinely what I thought. Say no to drugs, kids.

As soon as the first splash of urine hit the test, a dark blue cross immediately confirmed what I didn’t want to believe. I couldn’t even finish my wee in peace. I wasn’t even bestowed two, final, blissfully ignorant minutes that all the women in the movies get. Did this make me more pregnant than the typical test user? I took another test, a fancy digital one that spelt it out to me: I was indeed 3+ weeks. I thought back on the past couple of months with my skunk addled brain. I had been using a period tracking app but I assumed my period was late because after 10 years on the pill it was taking a while for my cycle to get back on track, and for my hormones to ‘rebalance’. More stoner science for you there. I joined my boyfriend on the sofa where he was playing his Playstation and smoking a spliff (obviously). There wasn’t really any discussion about it. I immediately said ‘Get rid,’, a cold mantra that I clung to make the process easier. I felt like my body had been invaded without my permission, and I thought of the embryo more like a growth that needed to be taken out. I had to dehumanise it.

I called BPAS (the British Pregnancy Advisory Service) and booked an appointment for a week later, although sooner was available. I couldn’t go immediately because I had a girls holiday to Santorini, and I wasn’t missing that for an abortion. I worked out I was about 6 weeks, so whichever procedure I would go on to choose, none of it would be compromised by waiting an extra week. Aside from some angry outbursts at sleazy men and shit drivers, and being unable to smoke a cigarette without gagging, the holiday took place as it would have without the uninvited plus one.

Back in London, on the morning of the appointment, my boyfriend and I took the bus to the nearest BPAS centre. We arrived at a nondescript clinic, and were greeted quietly by a kind receptionist. The seats were laid out like a cinema, in rows facing forward, so no one can eyeball each other, or examine anyone’s faces to minimise recognition. There was a TV fixed to the wall at the front, showing trusted re-runs, to ensure there would be nothing triggering. The Big Bang Theory was on.

The first person I was sent to see did a pin prick blood test to confirm I was pregnant. The test was negative. I told him that it would be really great if that was true, but unfortunately it was wrong. He took my word for it.

My next appointment was the consultation. My nurse was called Florence, which I found comforting. She asked some questions about my medical history. My options were discussed: become a parent, adoption, or abortion. For abortion, there are two routes: surgical or medical. I opted for medical, because it felt right for me. It involved less people, it would happen at home, and was most recommended for early pregnancy. It is essentially an induced miscarriage. Then, I had an ultrasound (mine was a vaginal one). She asked if I wanted to see the screen. I did. She turned it to me, and said, ‘There’s the heartbeat,’

‘Get rid,’ I said.

She printed out 6 images from the scan and folded them in half so that the images were facing inwards. They looked like the scans that proud parents share on Facebook, as if their baby scan looks any different to the top hit on Google images. She put it inside my file (which was for their medical records — I never saw it again). I wondered if anyone ever asks to keep the pictures, but said nothing. After the treatment was formally consented to by her, she booked the appointment which would be in a couple of hours. My boyfriend and I went for brunch around the corner. I had poached eggs.

The final appointment was in a third room. I was presented with some pills. One is mifepristone which blocks progesterone (the hormone needed to maintain a pregnancy), which I swallowed along with an anti sickness pill. Then I was given three misoprostol pills to go up the vagina, inserted with my fingers in the toilet by the waiting room. They soften the cervix and cause the uterus to contract. I booked an appointment for an IUD to be fitted, and then we got on the bus home, hoping we’d get back before everything started. I was anxiously watching the time as we sat in traffic through Streatham and Brixton, and then worried that it wouldn’t work after a few hours of waiting at home and feeling nothing. When the cramps finally arrived, no amount of codeine or weed could stop the pain. Hours of groaning on a beanbag ensued, until I went to bed, hoping that being unconscious would stop the pain. When I went to the loo in the middle of the night, I remember the feeling of passing something. My research suggests it was something called a sac, and I will leave it at that. By morning, all the pain had gone. I felt physically emptier, although I hadn’t realised I’d felt full whilst pregnant. And relief. Such relief.

As I was boarding the flight to Santorini with my friends, ahead of us was a vlogger getting on the same plane. She later announced her pregnancy, and told her fans how many weeks she’d been on that holiday. It was exactly the same as I had been. I check in on her occasionally, mostly to look at her daughter, knowing mine would be the exact same age, but I make a point not to indulge myself too much. It’s a futile exercise.

I feel lucky that it wasn’t hard to make my decision. There was no agonising over it, no doubts, no regret. I was working 48 hours a week and earning less than the London living wage, whilst living in London. My relationship was deteriorating, I was isolated from my support network, and my womb was addled with weed. It was the right choice for me at the time. The only choice.

Please seek local professional advice if you need it. In the UK, visit the BPAS website.

Thinky thoughts and unflattering likenesses.

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