This week, Cosmo journalist Emily Letts put a video of herself having an abortion on the Internet and lots of people got angry about it. It was a proper video, edited with music and stuff, that showed how Emily felt as she went through the process of having an abortion. To sum it up - she felt fine and wanted to show that the procedure itself was not something that women should feel scared of.
For me, it was never the actual procedure that I found scary. Watching Emily’s video made me think back to my own abortion (fuck, that’s a scary thing to write) and I recalled that what I found most scary about the whole thing wasn’t the thought that, at the last minute, the doctor was going to tell me that I was too late to have a medical abortion and that I’d be held down whilst it came at me brandishing ‘The Hoover Thing’ (I imagined a Henry, but with red, glowing eyes) or that ten years down the line I would be sitting in a mahogany office listening to a doctor say that I had a 0% chance of ever having a baby - zilch, nada, finger across the throat. It wasn’t even the worry that, once the pills had done their thing, I would look down into the toilet bowl to see that the lining of my womb had formed the word MURDERER and that something would blink back at me.
None of that scared me as much as my own reaction. In short, having an abortion made me think that I was a sociopathic monster.
It started when I saw the two blue lines, of course. I knew that I didn’t want to be pregnant, that I didn’t want to have a baby and that the way for me to not have a baby was for me to have an abortion. I don’t think the context or the backstory is important, and I didn’t think it was important at the time either. I realise that refusing to cite an acceptable abortion reason will mean that some people will assume that I had a one-night stand, that I didn't use a condom (because the guy was so hot - like, willing-to-have-an-abortion-for-him hot) and that I walked home in the early hours wearing a arse-skimming dress and smeared mascara as I swung my shoes in one hand whilst thinking, "I wonder if Pret have the hot food in yet...”
That’s fine - think that.
So, I made the decision to have an abortion quickly. It felt easy. That was the first thing that scared me. I felt like I was doing it wrong. That I should have taken my time, really thought about what it meant, been plagued by every advert featuring babies ever for at least a week, had long talks with people who weren’t me and then made the difficult decision. The outcome would have been the same, I know it would have, but doing all of that stuff would have made me feel less like an ice cold bitch.
The next thing that I did to appall myself was spritz myself with perfume before heading out of the door to the clinic. It wasn’t a conscious decision - I wasn’t trying to be pretty for my abortion, or pull a doctor because I am an insatiable nympho. I felt awful about spraying that perfume, what the fuck was wrong with me? I actually contemplated being late for my own abortion in order to shower again and wash the scent off me so that the nurse wouldn’t think that I was a complete sociopath. Thinking about it now, I was just trying to be a bit normal in a very not-normal situation and normally, I wear perfume. NORMAL.
In her video, Emily Letts leaves the clinic and says “I feel good.” Bloody hell Emily, YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO SAY THAT. When I came out, I did my biggest smile ever at one of the nurses, only to remove it so fast that my cheeks hurt. My smile wasn’t because I’d just had the best abortion ever, or because I’d just joined the abortion club or whatever other bullshit angry internet people accuse women of feeling when they express anything other than all-consuming self-hatred after having an abortion. It was a smile born (is that a bad word to use in a piece about abortion?) out of nothing other than total relief. I felt better than I had in weeks, possibly even 'good', but I felt guilty about feeling better and possibly 'good' and attributed this to the fact that I was, clearly, emotionally inept and incapable of loving anyone but myself.
I did feel better about myself briefly when I encountered the picketers. They got me on the way out though, which is a bit late really. There was nothing they could do, other than make me feel like shit, which was how I felt I should feel.
One lady told me, very solemnly, that I was selfish. That might be true, in which case it’s probably best that I didn’t have a child, isn’t it?
“That could have been your baby,” a ski jacket-wearing arsehole hissed at me, as I got into my taxi (side note: don’t get a taxi home from an abortion). If I hadn’t have had the “Start Bleeding From My Vagina Timer” counting down in my head, I would have stopped and said, all sassily, “Yeah? It could have been someone else’s baby, mate, but he’s ‘freaked out’ by the whole thing, it’s ‘too much pressure’ for him, so he’s at home watching Family Guy and eating cereal out of a mug. Would you like his address?” but I didn’t, because of the bleeding thing. And also because no one thinks that quickly in real life, do they? I just started to cry as I struggled to slide open the taxi door - yeah, they sent a people carrier to a fucking abortion clinic.
It took me a long time to stop feeling guilty about the fact that I didn’t feel guilty about having an abortion. I mean, I’m not saying that I felt great, I didn’t skip out the following day and buy me some post-abortion shoes but I did buy myself a box of Festive Fancies (they’re Fondant Fancies, but white, because that’s the colour of snow), so people might hate me for that. I felt disappointed and stupid and embarrassed about it all, but ultimately I felt right.
I know that for some women the decision to have an abortion is difficult, for some it’s heartbreaking and for some it’s simply not an option. I know that some women do feel guilty, that they find the experience traumatic and an abortion is something that they struggle to come to terms with for years to come. Sharing how I felt during my abortion is not me saying “Hey girls, relax, it’s no biggie”.
I didn’t come out of the clinic wearing my ‘Oh, what am I like?’ face.
I’m not really one for dishing out advice, especially not about this. I’m not saying that you should feel good about having an abortion and I’m not saying that you should feel bad about it, either. There’s no ‘should’. There is a ‘shouldn’t’, though; certain emotions shouldn’t be viewed as the correct response to an abortion. No woman is ever going to come out of an abortion fist pumping, but it would be nice if she was able to come out and feel okay about feeling okay. There’s no correct response to having an abortion. You’ll feel how you feel if it happens, and whatever that feeling is (there’ll probably be more than one feeling, FYI) then it’s fine.
Please don’t be scared of it.