Usually quite able to cope with everything life throws at me I was totally unprepared for the day they told us the small life growing inside me was so ill. We went along and watched the scan like any excited first time parents – and then our world fell apart.
In between the tears and heartache in the week or so of repetitive scans and invasive tests the final phonecall came from the lab confirming the worst ever news. My heart hurt. That’s the only simple way to describe it. Lifting myself up off the floor I sat on the sofa and we finally tried to think.
Pregnancy is all very well if it goes along normally but when it doesn’t and once the “a word” is on the cards, for us at least it all seemed to become bewildering. What we needed at that time was sound medical advice. What to expect, what the complications could be etc. Sound sensible medical guidance.
Maybe the fact that we had, in our desperation, decided to pay privately for a second opinion, removing ourselves from the NHS system temporarily had meant they no longer cared. There was certainly very little manoevering towards a particular decision. A point I want to underline since the NHS often comes under fire for guiding women towards a decision to abort when it does anything but. Once temporarily in the private zone however we were even more marginalised. None of this information had been fed back to my midwife who never got in touch. It never occurred to me to call her either as she had played so small a part in the whole process at that point, at 14 weeks along. The hospital didn’t provide any counselling that we were aware of or any guidance about what to do once a decision had been made. Were we supposed to call them up and ask? They had been great up until that point. Prompt and efficient, excellent scanning, were we to have examined it all at that point in such a manner. But we weren’t. Emotions were running high, desperation with and at Mother Nature or God was all we both felt.
Left in limbo we fought our emotions to come to a decision. The only people I could think of to turn to then were Marie Stopes. The phonecall was practical sounding and efficient seeming. The contrast with my emotional self at that point made me feel grounded. I wanted for someone to lead me by the hand through what needed to happen next. But the call lasted only a few minutes, an appointment was made and that, as they say, was that.
I searched on line for what to expect. The internet a ghastly place at times. Deep in among the anti abortion propaganda I was made to feel fearful and guilty though I knew it wouldn’t sway our view. Guilty of what I wondered? I didn’t choose this lot in life. And yet abortion is so casually debated that there is no distinction made between the women who enter and exit those clinics. No allowances made. Why were we not giving birth to a child who stood so little chance of living life to the full? Surely we had considered there may be a chance of life? How dare we not consider this! Such bitter angry judgment from people with little or no experience of the pain and heartache of it all much less knowledge of all the tests we had undertaken. Tests deeply personal to our situation.
As I searched further however I found a small quiet dignified pragmatic corner of the internet. A corner where simple kind gestures were in an abundance equal to the toe curlingly awful experiences of the women sharing them. I joined, posted a comment and waited. As the responses rolled in, A gathered me up in his arms and we read them. Tears swelling and rolling down our faces. We know as a society that discussing the termination of a pregnancy or a life is not met with concern in the same way as say a miscarriage might be, where the quiet nods of sympathy are at least there. There is too much vested anger and opinion where “choice” is on the table. These hidden women, couples and their hidden sorrows. And yet for such couples whose pregnancies are longed for, there is little difference in the outcome or the sentiment. To us this pregnancy was everything we had hoped and prayed for.
I cried through the whole brutal procedure. Noone prepares you for how painful and brutal it is at 13 weeks. I understand that I am ‘lucky’. From what I gathered on line the more usual outcome is to go through a sort of birthing process. Eventually it was over and I was despatched from the clinic half an hour after the procedure with some anti-biotics. There was little sympathy on hand. I had watched as I waited in the recovery room as one young Polish woman who had been giggling with her boyfriend prior to the procedure insisted she was OK to leave and breezily pursuaded the nurse of that fact. I felt anger towards her, envy as no doubt that baby she had carried was healthy. I am not anti choice at all. These are simply the sentiments I felt at the time. A wasn’t allowed to be with me before during or after the procedure. We had shared in every second of the life inside me, every second of the thrill and then every second of the heartache and now we were denied the chance to comfort one another or mourn together.
We had to go back to work a few days later and lie about the pregnancy. So noone would judge us.
The strain of this is often too much to bear but we determined to carry on, to buy a house, to work hard and to try again for another baby as soon as possible. So many other couples after all had experienced the same. We must carry on as normal.
When my periods didn’t return life seemed to be determined to ensure that carrying on as normal was going to be harder than we both thought. When the issue of the Marie Stopes advert put the whole abortion debate back in the spotlight, I found myself feeling tearful one minute and gradually hardened to the anti choicers the next. Three months down the line and facing urgent surgery as a result of the initial procedure I feel anger.
At the time of leaving the clinic we both felt somewhat like pariahs. The overall message we seemed to pick up was that no further contact with Marie Stopes was required. No follow up was arranged, a baffling concept considering the brutality of this procedure. A phone number was of course made available but on the two or three occasions I called to relay concern that something wasn’t right I was advised in a kindly way that this was normal. Eventually I was advised to go see my GP. There is a disconnect between the GP and the procedure so this seemed to me a somewhat laxadaisical approach to such a serious healthcare issue undertaken by them.
Initial consultations with my GP determined the same sort of reaction. It was probably normal but the GP would run blood tests to check my hormones. All the while I remember thinking surely the onus is on Marie Stopes here and surely the priority is to run a scan? My blood tests were normal. The next step was – finally – to arrange a scan. This is some three months on from the abortion. But before we moved to that stage I presented to my GP Monday morning in serious pain. The onset of such serious pain required a bunch of pain killers just to even make it down to the doctor’s. My GP did internal tests and immediately recommended I see a consultant gynaecologist at UCH for (now) an urgent scan.
And so it was that we wound up back at UCH hospital where the pregnancy had been first monitored way back in April. For some peculiar reason I needed to be admitted through A&E . Frustrating since I had to see another doctor who conducted another internal and seemed to want to reason with me that this was, again, normal and that a scan was unlikely to reveal anything telling. I was tired of justifying my concern. Nonetheless she fixed a scan and a few hours later we saw two gynae experts who concluded that actually – there is a problem. And here I am again worrying again about the repercussions for my health and flailing around in the dark somewhat.
Apart from the utterly pointless A&E rather than gynae clinic admission, I have only minor criticisms of the NHS. My chief complaint is that we have been left to flail around hopelessly throughout this whole process by Marie Stopes. Most pressingly of all is that my health was ignored by Marie Stopes who claim to be providing for women in this regard.
Our ordeal is far from over. Laparoscopy, surgery, D&Cs are all still on the table at this point with weeks more of this to come and now an uncertain future regards my fertility. The gynae at UCH even looked at me startled to hear that I had endured the abortion under only mild sedation. Where she asked had this happened, under the NHS? No with Marie Stopes. And where are they? she enquired. Two minutes walk from here my husband responded, himself startled that they didn’t know the clinic. You should never have had that procedure under only sedation at that many weeks gestation she tutted. Confusion reigns even more now. Why was I not counselled properly this at the time? I was offered a choice as though there was little difference between sedation and general anaesthetic by the nurse at the MS clinic. I would likely feel nothing she said. Not true. To say nothing of the psychological scars.
With respect to the abortion debate itself I wanted to add this.
There seems little depth to the abortion debate other than the prothelitizing from both sides. Caught in the crossfire for so many months of this year in so many ways, I certainly feel it’s about time the debate matured. A better understanding might be this. Abortion is not going away. Every case is different. It is deeply unpleasant and risky. It should no longer be about getting at the other side in the debate, and investing in propaganda with women as pawns in this political game on both sides. In all the hubris I feel that we, yes WE, A COUPLE, wound up lost in all of it, lacking in any medical guidance throughout – and that the outcome has been nothing if not physically painful, potentially damaging to my longterm health and devoid of any real concern for the situation we found ourselves in. People with a hard view one way want to tell you what to do. But so few of them truly understand. And how can they when it is such a deeply personal situation? Noone in our position really chooses such a tragic outcome to a pregnancy.