Being born after the Second World War meant a life of deprivation, with no father and a mother who suffered from severe depression. I formed no close friendships as a child, partly because my mother moved house frequently in an attempt to ease her discomfort. Failing to thrive at home and because I was hard of hearing, the authorities organized for me to be sent away to a boarding school run by Catholic nuns. My mother died when I was 13. I was fostered for a short time and then found my way to London where I lived with older siblings. We all supported each other but had no real focus as we tried to survive, each of us working to pay rent, buy clothes and eat.
My boyfriend was a young man who came from a family in which Mum, Dad and siblings all lived together in a comfortable house. This seemed very attractive to me. Aged 18, I became pregnant and was excited to be so; the father’s Catholic upbringing stood in our way, however. Brought up to believe that there should be no sex before marriage, he was too ashamed and frightened to tell his parents. How could I have the baby alone? Coming from the childhood I had, I was unconsciously seeking the nurture of a secure relationship and the certainty I had never experienced.
He gave me some pills that would make me miscarry and I took them. However, my sister (with whom I was living) was also pregnant at that time and I told her about my own pregnancy. She was a member of a religious group that was against abortion and she persuaded me and my boyfriend to go and see a member of her church. I went willingly, hoping that the man would persuade my boyfriend to tell his parents. But when my boyfriend told him about the pills I had taken, the religious leader also recommended I have an abortion. The baby’s fate was sealed.
I do not recall it but according to my husband, I was happy and smiling as I walked out of the clinic. I remember having sex repeatedly the night after the abortion and it hurting me; I was only a teenager so did not have much experience to go on but sex had never hurt like this. I have since read that this phenomenon is known in times of earthquake or war where people make love rapidly to bring life amid all the death. Many years later, when I was experiencing deep grief I found that having sex would make me very emotional and I would cry and cry but not be able to say why.
I was homeless as a result of the abortion: disgusted at what my boyfriend and I had done, my sister and her husband asked me to leave. Although we had in fact been close to breaking up, my boyfriend asked me to marry him, saying that that way we could live together. He was probably also feeling guilt about the abortion. I think for my part I feared that, after the abortion, I would never get another boyfriend.
After we were married we settled into a room in his parents’ house and after a year moved into a house we had bought. We worked hard. Although I was aching for a baby, and we did talk about having a baby, we did not discuss the abortion. I was furious when I learned that my husband had told his sister about it, to make her feel better about a difficult situation happening in her life. I was full of shame about the abortion.
I gave birth to my son three years later. It was a very difficult experience for me. I wanted to love him but somehow could not hold him or hug him and was constantly anxious about him. I kept thinking he was going to die and this lasted well into his teenage years when if he went missing for a time, I would go looking for him and expect to find him hanging. I realise now that this over-protectiveness had some of its roots in my own childhood trauma but also in the outcome of my first pregnancy. When he was around 16, my son told me he always knew he was not supposed to be a first-born child.
I also felt dirty, as though I had the word “Abortion” written across my forehead. I was determined to keep my abortion a secret, which meant I could not be honest with people. So I lost friends and got to the point where I did not even want friends but just wanted to be alone. For a time, I was uncomfortable around babies and yet was jealous of pregnant women. As I approached the menopause, I tried to have another baby and was sad when it did not happen. On the one occasion when I thought I might be pregnant, I was stricken with terror and once again felt I would not be able to cope.
When the grief finally started to emerge, 18 years after having the abortion, it was extremely painful. Allowing the baby to come into my heart and head, naming, seeing him, yearning to hold him and then having to let him go because he was dead. It was such a tender time and there were so few people to share this with, and so few who would say “I’m sorry your baby died”. Most would just tell me “It was for the best” or “You did what you had to do”. It was a long, painful and lonely journey into sorrow’s night.
After doing much healing work in various ways, I recovered some sense of myself. I found I was left with a rage that this is still happpening to young girls and older women and felt motivated to learn new skills to equip me in my search for truth and justice. I had to open myself to learning healthy ways of relating to other people, to enable good ways of resolving problems. I had to look for longer term solutions. I had to overcome my negativity and fears by trying new ways of doing things.
This website is part of my effort to affirm myself in a world that enables abortion but does not address any of the issues from which it arises.