Standing in My Power

by Hayley

September 8, 2020

Sitting in the back of the lecture hall, I fixed on the clock waiting for it to reach 12. At the final tick of the minute hand, I pulled out the Mifepristone tablet I’d received from the doctor a day prior and swallowed it while my friend gave me a loving look, quickly rubbing my back. Two days later I would go in for the Misoprostol tablets to complete my medical abortion.


When my husband told me he didn’t want to have children with me because I wasn’t ‘religious enough’ and therefore he didn’t trust me to raise his children properly, I knew I needed to leave. A year into my journey of finding the courage to walk away, I went for a fertility test – despite never having had any gynaecological issues – just to ensure I would in fact be able to get pregnant were I to remarry at some point down the line. I was shocked and devastated when the bloodwork and ultrasound revealed I was almost infertile. The unexpected news made me realize just how strongly I wanted children, wanted to carry them and birth them myself, wanted to create a family with a man who adored and respected me.  It was a blessing in disguise as it turns out – this news was the push I needed to finally end my nearly decade long marriage.

I completed two rounds of hormone treatments to freeze my eggs for the option of IVF. Only a total of seven eggs were viable. My doctor encouraged me to try a third time but emotionally and physically I wasn’t up for it.   

Six months after completing the second egg retrieval procedure, I met a man at my friend’s wedding. We slept together without using protection. When my next period was late and I was experiencing intense nausea, I decided to take a pregnancy test. And then another test 24 hours later to make sure. They were both positive.

If I hadn’t been so overwhelmed, I’m sure I would have found the irony comical: I was told I’d likely never conceive naturally so I froze some eggs and now here I was five weeks pregnant without even trying. I knew it was a terrible idea to have this baby, a terrible time in my life to have any baby. Sure I was 34 not 15, yeah maybe this was my only chance, but I was still in graduate school, recently divorced, had limited finances, and was getting a clearer picture every day how deeply narcissistic the father was which made the prospect of being tied to him forever unbearable.

South Africa has liberal reproductive legislation, but access remains a problem. Healthcare professionals are permitted to deny abortion services so long as they refer the woman to another provider, but not surprisingly there is little to no oversight to ensure this happens. My primary
gynaecologist wouldn’t perform my abortion nor give me the name of another doctor in private practice who would, so I literally started knocking on doors.

Fortunately I found a caring, non-judgmental gynaecologist who even came in after hours to see me. On a Saturday morning in late February, he inserted four Misoprostol tablets into my vagina, I signed a form, and left. At home, I put on sweat pants and crawled into bed. Getting up on all fours, I swayed back and forth, breathing gently but intentionally into each contraction as they became more intense. Four hours later I passed the pregnancy. Shortly thereafter I performed a closure ceremony to honor my body and my choice. I lit scented candles, drank hot
chocolate, wrote a letter to my embryo, and cried.

In the days that followed I was surprised by the degree of sadness and loss I felt despite knowing it was the best possible outcome and something I actively chose. Grief and relief seemed a contradictory pairing, yet there they were, filling my heart together. I learned to give myself time and space to sit with this duality, to remind myself I can be pro-choice and thankful to no longer be pregnant while simultaneously mourn the loss of something I wanted under different circumstances. On the phone with my sister I said through confused tears, “all it did was make me tired and nauseous, but I miss it. I don’t want it back. But it was part of me for awhile, and I miss it.”

My abortion experience included some fear and anxiety, but it was overwhelmingly filled with dignity, peace, and standing in my power. I’m profoundly grateful for this.   

Remember that our stories are ours to tell. We’d love to hear your story too!