All September, we are publishing abortion stories. If you are an Irish person who had an abortion, or a person who found themselves pregnant in Ireland and in search of one, and would like to share your experience, email email@example.com. There is no editorial guideline – a line or a paragraph or a chapter. Your voice counts. Correspondence will be entered into in strictest confidence.
I believe it is very important to publish abortion stories from NI. I wrote this letter five months after the abortion and sent it to (a newspaper)- but they did not publish it. This was nine years ago. I am happy to say that my relationship recovered and we are still together.
A letter to My Fifth
It is hard to address you, since for the past five months I’ve been trying to chase you out of my mind. An eight weeks old embryo is not a person, I keep saying to myself, yet, the physical symptoms of your presence were very real. The dilemma about your fate was a torture. The crisis with my partner is still apparent. Our sex life still suffers. He feels rejected. I feel numb and I often think we were punished for something we have never done. This guilt might have been caused by the fact that your father was fighting for you. Eventually, he reluctantly accepted that it was my body that you inhabited, and ultimately it was my choice to abort you. As a consequence, our present relationship is full of pent up emotions and aggression. Our youngest child, being very sensitive, senses this undercurrent of tension and sadly, his behaviour has become aggressive and angry, too.
The core of the matter might be that I consciously switched off my heart, in order to be strong. The circumstances, a coil in the womb, my age forty-four, his age sixty-four, three other children, the youngest eight – the circumstances supported my decision, but the world I live in wanted to support you. I live in Northern Ireland, where abortion is against the law. Accordingly, my act of rejection was made extremely difficult. They could not remove the coil without risking a miscarriage, therefore they refused to do it. I was facing a fifth pregnancy at forty-four, with a coil and all the possible complications. For the first weeks I had terrible abdominal pains and slight bleedings, and it was likely to be an ectopic pregnancy. When the embryonic sac became visible inside the womb, but I still bled on and off, I was told that a miscarriage was very likely. Then after a few weeks they told me that you had all the chances to live, the placenta would protect you from the coil and even if you had some genetic disease, which was slightly more likely considering my age, I would have to go abroad to get a termination. Each time I had a scan they pointed out my “baby”, the heartbeat, the blob of life pulsating in my body. While for me it was still just a possibility. It made me so angry that they denied me the choice and with every visit I felt stronger that I had to refuse to become the victim of their despotic laws.
This parting, nevertheless, was a moral decision. For we do not know what would have happened if you lived. You might have become the savior of our doomed world, a genius, the being who brings love and compassion into our old days in whatever form; there are teachings in all life situations. For me, it seems the teaching was to assert myself and make a choice against all adversities. It seemed to be a responsible choice, but I did not think at any point that it would affect my relationship so deeply.
Yet, my emotions are still disturbed. It is an absurd feeling for a woman to be rejecting a growing life in her own body. It is unnatural, as if she was rejecting herself, her own life-force. The physical symptoms, this time, were the worst of all of my pregnancies. The unpleasant changes in the body made me aware that I was carrying life, day in day out. I had been trying to explain it to you that your coming was not timely and that I had no energy to start again, to have another baby. But you refused to hear me, you refused to leave. I decided that fast action was the safest way to proceed, before you grew too big.
In another country, the medics were lovingly supportive. I was surrounded by a certain light, the same light that surrounded me when I had a natural miscarriage ten years before. I felt intense love, yet a part of me died with you. The childbearing, procreative woman part of me is gone forever. So, after all, you brought me a message: instead of growing babies in my body, I can turn my creative impulses outward. Now I can see that you were a blessing indeed, although disguised.