You could be forgiven for thinking I’m describing a backstreet abortion happening in the 1940’s but sadly that’s not the case. This is Kirsty’s story and it happened last year when DIY abortions became legal in the UK and from what we are hearing it’s not uncommon.
Kirsty could be your work colleague, your sister, your daughter, your friend. An attractive woman in her 30’s with a good job and caring family. It was April 2020 when Kirsty found out she was pregnant and her reaction was that she ‘was happy, shocked, but happy.’ Her relationship with her boyfriend was one which she now recognises was manipulative and controlling. ‘I knew how he felt about children.’ Kirsty told us, which might explain why it took a week for her to tell her boyfriend that she was pregnant with his child.
Kirsty then waited weeks hoping that her boyfriend might change his mind but he repeatedly listed ‘all the reasons why I shouldn’t keep my baby. Various threats, borderline blackmails to eventually where I came to the decision that I had to get rid of my baby’.
Kirsty had no face-to-face consultation at all with either a doctor, nurse or any kind of counsellor. Instead ‘It was a very brief (telephone) conversation. More of a case of where they were going to send the medication.’ She states there was no mention of risks and no offer of a scan to check dates. One of Kirsty’s biggest concerns was that when she was younger she’d had a medical abortion but it hadn’t gone to plan and she’d ended up in hospital, naturally she was anxious that this shouldn’t happen again. For this reason particularly, Kirsty was keen to come to the abortion centre, but they said ‘No, it has to be done this way at home’.
Kirsty was living with her parents at the time of the abortion but they had no idea of what their daughter was going through as she had kept her pregnancy a secret. Kirsty was already just over the 10 week legal limit for DIY abortions when she received the pills yet she didn’t take them immediately. ‘I did look at the box for a couple of days thinking I couldn’t do this’ she said ‘but I couldn’t speak to anybody. There was nobody I could phone.’
Eventually Kirsty felt there was no choice but to start the process so she took the tablets. She couldn’t take any painkillers as the ones that had come in the post were ones which made her ill so she continued without them. She drifted off into some kind of sleep amidst her painful cramps but it was when she woke up that the nightmare began. She lifted up her blankets to see if anything had happened and it’s hard to imagine the hellish, bloody scene that met her eyes. Kirsty waited hours for her parents to leave the house then dragged herself to the bathroom, ‘I remember washing the blood of my baby down the shower’ she told us.
Two weeks later Kirsty took a pregnancy test as directed, which had been sent in the package along with the abortion pills. To her surprise it was positive. Secretly hoping the abortion procedure hadn’t worked and impatient for a scan Kirsty phoned the abortion provider. She was upset to be told that she still couldn’t come in but that another pregnancy test would be sent out to try again in a week. This too gave a positive result and at long last Kirsty was offered an actual appointment.
When Kirsty arrived at the centre her temperature was taken and it was higher than normal. Bearing in mind the abortion centre were already supposed to be checking the anomaly of why a woman who just had an abortion had a positive pregnancy test and that this woman had previously had an abortion complication one might think that a high temperature would raise concerns as to whether Kirsty could have an infection from retained foetal parts but instead she was sent home and told to come back in another week. Eventually when she anxiously returned a week later, Kirsty’s scan showed that the abortion had worked.
Fighting back tears Kirsty told us how she’d wished someone had been more compassionate during the initial brief phone call she had. She describes how her voice was shaking at the time ‘Anybody could have told, not that I was unsure, but that I didn’t want to do it.’
Kirsty then explained the reason behind some of her regrets, she said it’s ‘Not just because of the heartache but because it’s dawned on me it was a dangerous procedure. I was left bleeding really heavily for months. To the extent I couldn’t even take a walk without the risk of making a mess of myself.’
Thankfully when Kirsty’s mum finally found out about her daughter’s experience she encouraged her to get help which led Kirsty to Rachel’s Vineyard, an organisation to help women and men who are suffering after the trauma of an abortion. Kirsty is grateful that she found this help as she was at the point where she ‘no longer wanted to wake up any more.’
Kirsty spoke critically of home abortions saying how people talk about the procedure happening in the ‘comfort of your own home. Without travelling to a clinic or hospital’ but in reality her experience is that the memory of the loss of her child is now in her home forever and ‘it’s no longer the safe, happy place it once was’. During the abortion Kirsty looked down and saw the blood on her bedroom floor. ‘To this day I’ve still got a stain on the carpet’ she said, ‘Which is all I’ve got left of my baby now.’
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