The scarlet letter

‘A’.

That’s abortion, rather than adultery in this case. I’ve been putting off writing this post since it tackles a topic that it’s very hard to be lighthearted about. It caused both T and I so much pain eleven months ago that it feels risky to open the can of worms again in case they should all wiggle out. But it is the next segment of the story of Whoopsy and to brush over or reframe that part would feel dishonest in wanting to retell how we came to be parents. I feel like I should start by stating that I am unequivocally pro-choice. I believe access to legal and safe abortion should be a fundamental right for every woman across the globe. When necessary I am happy to stomp around in front of government buildings waving a placard if it protects those women that want or need to have an abortion.

Before I really understood what an abortion was, I learnt that a family member had had one at a young age. Later in life, she was unable to conceive a child and was never able to have her own family, a fact that caused her untold distress and heartache. She never knew whether the abortion affected her fertility but the ‘what if’ question hung over her, and probably still does. Although I had no true grasp of what it meant to have an abortion, I understood at that age that it had the potential to change your life as much as a baby could.

People often ask me what caused me to become vegetarian aged eight. I give them a hazy response about my consciousness developing enough to connect animals in the field to what was being served on my plate, and knowing then that I preferred animals to remain in the field where they were happier than they would be as frozen burgers. The truth is, I don’t remember the reasons why I became vegetarian. The reasons themselves have been forgotten over time (22 years!) as the action became ingrained in my day to day decisions. Likewise, I can’t now recall what informed my feelings on having an abortion. Even as a teenager I chose to have sex in the knowledge that if I accidentally got pregnant, I would keep the baby unless I felt that there was a reason that I couldn’t do that (and even then, I thought I would consider adoption if it was a possibility). I didn’t comprehend the gravity of what I was mentally committing to, but I felt committed regardless.

T and I have been friends for a very long time. I started thinking of him as a best friend around two years before we started dating. During those years of friendship, we had many (many!) glasses of wine sitting on bar stools or sofas or park benches, talking about and debating all the controversial topics we could conjure up. Abortion was one that we’d discussed on a number of occasions. He found my beliefs rather strange as they seemed to him to sit in opposition to my otherwise liberal views. However, since they didn’t affect him, he listened when I spoke about it and didn’t challenge my views.

In the days after we found out about Whoopsy, T gently brought up the big scary ‘A’ letter. “Are we sure about this?” he asked me, referring to the baby. I was shocked. T already knew how I felt and I knew that T already knew how I felt. We had had this conversation as friends – although theoretically and not about our own baby – on so many occasions that I felt wounded that he could consider even questioning my feelings. I didn’t want the baby. But I didn’t want an abortion either. To get pregnant with a baby I didn’t want was painful. In my mind, having an abortion to get rid of a baby that I didn’t want didn’t solve the problem. I believed that it was likely that I would struggle with the psychological impact of an abortion for the rest of my life.

I shut the conversation down. I understood that I couldn’t force somebody into parenthood in the same way that I knew I couldn’t be forced into an abortion. I gave him a choice to back out of fatherhood; I promised him that I wouldn’t ask anything of him if he didn’t want to be a dad to Whoopsy. His response baffled me. Instead of being grateful to me for selflessly – so I thought – offering him a get out of jail free card, he reprimanded me for thinking he was the sort of man who wouldn’t take responsibility for his own child. I understood in that moment that we felt the same way. He wasn’t the sort of person to desert a child, even if he didn’t want it. I wasn’t the sort of person to desert a child, despite not wanting it. The difference between our stance was the point at which we believed a child began to exist. T thought it was from the first breath. I believed it was from the first heartbeat.

A couple of months later, we clashed over something small. The something small was a piece of straw finally flattening a big ass donkey. In the moment, in a flash of anger, T snapped at me in a way that revealed a part of him I hadn’t known existed. We had only dated for three months when we had found out about the baby but I had known him for nine years. I felt confident that our relationship (in all senses of the word) was strong enough to deal with having a baby, whether we remained a couple or co-parented Whoopsy as friends. In the moments after he snapped, all those beliefs that had soothed my panic about having a baby with a man I had dated for less than five months dissolved. The realisation of what – or who – I was committing to slapped me across the face with a cold, hard whack.

My fight or flight response kicked in. Given that I was exhausted from pregnancy, and feeling vulnerable, I felt that I didn’t have fight left in me. Unusual for this scrappy northern girl! Instead, I had an overwhelming urge to run as far and as fast as possible. I hadn’t wanted Whoopsy to begin with and now every part of me that had begrudgingly accepted his existence started to revolt, pushing back at my hope that T and I could build a relationship around our baby. I felt sick. Physically sick with the severity of the situation within which I had found myself and all I desperately wanted was for it all to go away and to return to life before I had found out about the little bean growing inside me.

I knew that I was close to the cut off to have a medical abortion, a miscarriage brought on by oral medication. Knowing that I would be unable to have a surgical abortion, in which the foetus is physically removed from the body, I had only days left to make my decision. I googled organisations offering the former and explained my situation. The woman on the phone had clearly undergone training in order to speak with women who might be emotional or stressed; her voice cocooned me in reassurance and calmness. They had an appointment available for the day prior to my cut off date for the early stage termination. I booked it. I didn’t know whether I could go through with it. I just knew that I wanted all options available to me at that point whilst I considered what my future held.

To be continued.

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