An Act of Love and Respect

by Aimee

February 18, 2020

If you’d have asked me the day before I found out I was pregnant, “If you found out you were pregnant would you get an abortion?” I would have said, “Probably not, no.”

 I was thirty-one and assumed I would have kids one day, which I mistook for wanting kids. It is what you do by or in your thirties, right? And in your thirties your eggs begin to shrivel up, so you make the most of the opportunity, even if it’s accidental, just in case by the time you actively decide to have a baby your ovaries are barren, right? You don’t take your fertility for granted. Everything happens for a reason. No one ever feels ‘ready’ anyway.

I became pregnant with someone I really liked. We’d known each other for about a week. The connection was immediate. We didn’t use a condom. We didn’t use a condom because I thought I was further along in my cycle than I was. “It’s fine,” I said. I worked out the following day that it might not be fine. If I ovulated a day later than usual, I was still in the fertile window. So, I went to get the Morning After Pill.

I should mention at this point that I am British, and I was living in Singapore at the time, which despite some staggeringly backwards thinking on many sociocultural topics, does allow abortion (albeit at a handful of clinics).

The Morning After Pill has to be acquired through a GP. She, nor anyone ever, has ever told me that the pill only works before you have ovulated. I had already ovulated.

On Christmas Eve, when the man involved was back in the UK and I was still in Singapore, and a couple of days after I’d singlehandedly moved myself into a new apartment (which was a stressful time because I hadn’t expected to have to move – my landlord sold my old apartment and broke with our contract – I was threatened with them withholding my deposit until I agreed to leave), I took a pregnancy test. I didn’t think I was pregnant (not consciously anyway, but on reflection I think I did know, somewhere, somehow). I’d never had to take the Morning After Pill before and on the day I was due to get my period (happened to have been Christmas Eve) I was anxious. I get anxious. So, to kill the anxiety I decided to take a pregnancy test so I could see in black and white (i.e. one pink line) that all was fine, and I could indulge in my solo Christmas with peace of mind.

As soon as I purchased the test in the local mall I had to take it right away (this is why I now think I knew). The test was positive. Was it faulty? I bought another test and did it in the mall. I bought two more tests, one digital because they are fancier, and did them at home. I laid them in a line on my dining table and paced the apartment. ‘Shit’, is all I remember thinking, but somewhat more for the inconvenience of it than anything else.

I called a dear friend who, despite arranging the last-minute details of her wedding which would be little over a week later, rushed over. She was calm and pragmatic. We walked my dog. She did not judge nor influence. When she left my apartment, I was left with the gift of unconditional support.

I then called the man once it was decent time to do so in the UK. It was a surreal conversation, although I don’t really recall exactly what I said. He was incredibly gracious and supportive. He empowered me to make the decision about what to do next without neglecting his responsibility or support. Given the geographical distance he really couldn’t have done more.

I went to bed on Christmas Eve preparing myself for waking up in the morning in blissful ignorance to then be smacked in the face with a tough decision, and probably having to get my head around becoming a mother.

On the morning of Christmas Day, I awoke, and I just knew that that was not the time for me to have a baby. Not because it was inconvenient. Not because I was living abroad. Not because it was the super early days of a relationship, not matter how wonderful or promising. Not because I’d just sunk all my savings into a house for my parents. But because I just didn’t want to be a parent enough.

The things I’ve been successful at are things I’ve really wanted. I’ve made the best things in my life happen because the ‘want’ of them bred the drive and determination it takes to be great. For me, if or when I have children, they deserve that same desire. That doesn’t mean I think it’ll automatically make me a great parent, but for the way I’m built and the way I approach my life, it’s the very least that tiny human would deserve from me.

Not wanting to be a parent surprised me. I had always assumed I did. Turns out it was an assumption that upbringing and culture had imprinted onto me and a piece of my identity that I had never interrogated. And it was a response that took me over a year to really comprehend. It was shocking not to know myself as well as I thought I did.

In less than twenty-four hours I had found out I was pregnant and decided abortion was the right decision for me. The season and Singapore did not make it as straightforward as it might have been. Surgeries were closed for two days, so I had to wait it out a bit, which gave me time to research. I knew that a medical abortion (pill based) was the right route for me to end my very early pregnancy.  

When the surgeries did eventually open, I had to ring nearly all of them to find one that offered a medical abortion. Singapore’s private healthcare system profits more from surgical abortion (where they insist on using general anaesthetic) than a pill, which still costs a thousand dollars. I am still grateful that I found the surgery I did. The doctor trained under the NHS in the UK and strongly believe that the less invasive pill method was best for early terminations.

In a brand-new shiny building full of private medical offices, I went to my appointments. The first consultation confirmed my pregnancy with a scan (it looked like a bean) and I watched a video that the government insists you watch. It described the medical procedure, which was not relevant to me but proves how common that method is, with a surprising lack of judgement. It is then law that the patient takes a forty-eight hour ‘cooling off’ period before undertaking the termination.

Because of the time of year I had to wait four days until after the weekend and New Year’s Day. On January second, I went to the office to have a short consultation to confirm my decision and get a prescription.

I attended both of my appointments alone. It wasn’t until I was told that the island may have run out of the pills I needed that I felt anxious and terribly lonely. Thankfully, the pharmacy in the hospital I went to, across town, had one set of pills left.

The process is to place three sets of pills under your tongue until they dissolve at two-hour intervals.

My friend (a different one to before as her wedding was imminent) came over to my apartment with her boyfriend (who was visiting from out of town). We ordered take out. We watched Netflix.

I bled about an hour after taking the first pill, and I took a breath as if I hadn’t taken one since I first found out I was pregnant. A couple of toilet trips into the process I think I saw the little fluid sack which the little bean was inside.

In the year that followed I did think back and wish that I’d maybe taken more of a moment, an acknowledgement of the process, before flushing. I’d look over from my bed at that bathroom that it happened in and question if I was respectful enough of those cells, because at times I did wonder if I was a bad person, if I was selfish or dismissive of life, of opportunity, of fertility. But, that’s what our general cultural view of abortion can do, even in countries that make it relatively easy to have an abortion. When you are a person who makes the decision but does not see their type of experience even remotely represented you do question whether that’s because you are bad, that being younger, or poorer, or more vulnerable are the only extremes in which you are allowed to take complete control over your body and your life.  

Because of this conflict and the ending of the relationship that prompted the abortion (we are now thankfully still in each other’s lives and he remains a hugely positive and loving force), I was often sad. What is all for nothing? Did it all result in gross loss?

It’s now been two years since my abortion, and I recognise that the experience was far from a ‘loss’. Two fantastic things have come out of the experience.

Firstly, I am now free from some social conventions that I didn’t even realise I was tied up in. I no longer assume what it is I want, because that is what I see or what I am told. I trust my gut. Does it feel right? Do I really want it? I know myself better than ever and therefore I really know what makes me happy and who I want to be. Which also means I’m confident I will know for certain if and when I want children at a time when I am best placed to be the best parent I can be.

Secondly, I have a profound sense of ownership over my body. Not only does my body not belong to cultural pressures or the government, it no longer belongs to the media, or any other opinion or influence. I am more comfortable in my own skin than I have ever been. I’m not fully immune to wobbles of self-confidence connected to how I look but they pass quickly and are replaced by an appreciation of what my body can do, that it is uniquely mine and that I was fortunate enough to have a choice on how I use it.

My abortion was an act of love and respect for myself and for the art of being a great parent. It changed me in a way that I will be eternally grateful for.  

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