A is for … abortion
I know. I’m writing about a taboo subject, and it’s bound to polarise opinions. When have you known me to shy away from a contentious issue? Let me be clear that this isn’t an invitation to tell me how wrong you think I am. It’s an invitation to read my perspective. You may agree, you may not.
In case you’re new here, let me be upfront; I’m decidedly pro-choice. Which means exactly what the words say, pro choice. I’m all for a woman’s right to choose the path that’s right for her, with regard to her body, in her life, in that moment. If she chooses to see a pregnancy through to birth, then I support her right to do that safely. Equally, if a woman chooses to terminate a pregnancy, I trust that she is clever enough and knows herself well enough to know this is the right decision for her, and I support her so she can take safe, healthful measures. A woman’s reasons for making the decision she makes, are none of my business.
I’ve had three D&Cs in my life. Two to terminate pregnancies, and the third because perimenopause is the special surprise gift that nobody warns you about (wait till we get to P in this blogging challenge!). The first two abortions were roughly fifteen years apart (you can read about the first one here), but time didn’t dull the effect.
When I had my first D&C, I was 28, my father had recently died, and that was my first pregnancy. The loss and guilt has never left me. I don’t regret the decision I made. Not even a little. It was the right decision for me, at that time. But people are complex and contain emotions in contradictory multitudes. I live with the absolute certainty that it was the right decision, and also the swirling of self doubt and deep, devastating loss.
Nearly fifteen years and two gorgeous kids after that termination, I had my second D&C. It was the same year my aunt died of cancer, and one of my brothers had enormous, aggressive medical issues of his own.
As medical procedures go, a D&C is fairly short and straight forward. As medical procedures go, it can be a harrowing ordeal that leaves you feeling hollow, lost, guilty (for all kinds of reasons), and can trigger depression.
When I was in my twenties, counselling after a D&C was assumed by the clinic. In my forties, counselling was assumed by me.
It’s different for everyone, of course. Not everybody feels torn asunder by the decision, but it’s still a loss. It’s a loss that’s rarely recognised. A loss that is more likely to be met with recriminations, judgement, and forcefully voiced opinions, than with sympathy and gentleness. It’s a loss that many women never talk of, that they tuck into the darkest corners of their hearts, that they try not to think about every again. It’s a loss that’s compounded by never being shared, by associations with social shame and inadequacy, that’s tied inexorably to judgements of women as mothers.
So this is my call for gentleness, my reminder that the termination of a pregnancy is a loss. Whatever your position on abortions, ask yourself if you’re coming from a position of kindness before you decide whether or not to tell someone what you think. Women are subject to enough judgement without adding to that.