I’ve been following letters to the editor that have been submitted in recent weeks, all discussing how terrible abortion is and how so many women regret their decisions and suffer afterwards.
While reading these letters I’ve noticed that no one has spoken up about their positive abortion experience; this is very likely because of the shame and stigma surrounding abortion, the shame and stigma that is reinforced by the anti-choice narrative that abortion is a terrible thing, that goes against a woman’s “natural maternal instinct to nurture her baby,” as M. Elizabeth Hammer put it in her letter published in The Daily Gleaner on August 28th, 2014.
I would like to not only speak to my positive experience, but also speak to the many positive abortion experiences of the women who feel as though they cannot speak up, for whatever reason it may be, our voices deserve to be heard.
I, and all women who have had a positive abortion experience, deserve to hold our heads high, to not be ashamed of our decisions and to not be judged by the harsh words of people who claim to be compassionate but who don’t think twice about the judgmental things that they say to women and about women.
Here is my story:
I had a miscarriage before I made my abortion appointment. I realized that I was pregnant in my third year of university, when I got back from Christmas break. I had denied it for about a month and when I arrived back in Fredericton and still felt ill and hadn’t gotten my period I decided that I should take a pregnancy test.
I bussed to Wal-Mart, bought the test and ashamedly took the bus back to my UNB residence. How could I possibly be pregnant? I was well educated on safe sex practices, I was using birth control and my partner at the time was using condoms. I waited in my room, alone and terrified about seeing a positive pregnancy test, the few minutes that I waited seemed like an eternity. With shaky hands I checked the result. There it was, mocking almost, a positive pregnancy test. I was devastated. I wasn’t ready to become a mother, heck, I wasn’t even sure if I ever wanted to have kids. I knew in my heart that my current partner was not the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I knew that I did not want to raise a child with him.
There is this strange feeling, one that I’ve heard other women who have experienced unwanted pregnancies describe, a feeling that your body no longer belongs to you, that you are no longer in control of what is happening to you. I decided at that moment that I would call the Morgentaler Clinic in the morning and make an appointment for an abortion. I didn’t have the money to pay for it, but I also knew that it would take too long to get a referral from my doctor (assuming that he would give me the referral), and go through the public system, so I decided that I would somehow come up with the money to pay for the procedure.
I went to bed that night, crying, not because I was sad or felt guilty about my decision, but because I knew what an uphill battle it was going to be. I woke up in the middle of the night with intense cramps, I had no idea what was going on, but I spent the rest of the night in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. Finally I passed what I assume was the fetus. I distinctly remember feeling so incredibly relieved, I was no longer pregnant, and I did not have to try to come up with the money for my abortion. It was like a great weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
At first I didn’t tell anyone about what had happened, not my then partner, not my parents and not my friends. I was afraid that people would judge me for feeling so happy and relieved that I had had a miscarriage. After a few months I started opening up about my experience and people shamed me and judged me. People told me that I should grieve the loss of my pregnancy, even though the pregnancy was unwanted to begin with. I stopped telling people, and went on with my life as if it had never happened. This was four years ago, and I’ve decided to no longer be silent.
Two years ago I started volunteering at the Fredericton Morgentaler Clinic, and I was amazed by what I found there. I was welcomed, with open arms, into a community of people who were loving, compassionate and they taught me that I should not feel ashamed about my feelings towards my miscarriage and unwanted pregnancy, but most importantly, they taught me that, contrary to what I had been told by other people. I wasn’t broken.
I’ve never felt regret or grieved over my miscarriage, it was the best thing that could have happened to me at that point in my life, and for that I am eternally thankful and grateful. There are many women, who like me, are happy, healthy, who have no regrets and who do not grieve their abortions or their miscarriages, but a lot of the time our voices get lost in the shame that is projected on to us from the anti-choice movement that tells us if we don’t feel grief or regret we are not “real women” or we are terrible people.
To all the women out there who feel as though they are unable to speak out about their experience, you are loved and you have nothing to be ashamed of. You are not broken.