The termination of pregnancy is a divisive subject, guaranteed to start heated discussions in families and workplaces all around the world.
Because of this, many women are reluctant to discuss their decision to terminate a pregnancy.
So when Jane* opened up to me and told me her story, I asked if I could share it. I was certain that many women were going through the same emotions and challenges, and that by hearing her story, these women might feel less alone or judged.
This is Jane’s story.
[* not her real name]
When Jane found out that she was pregnant for the third time, she was in her late thirties, and in a contented relationship with her partner of nine years. She already had two young children, whom she adored, and was fortunate to be able to work part time and spend two days a week at home with her youngest.
The family could afford small, simple holidays and although not wealthy, they were financially comfortable. The words “You’re pregnant” were the last ones she expected to hear.
The words hit her with force. She had a medical condition that had affected her hormones and essentially her doctor had told she was unable to have more children.
The shock of the news took a few days to wear off. The feeling that it was something she just couldn’t cope with, however, didn’t go away.
Discussions and Decisions
Breaking the news to her husband was one of the most difficult conversations she’d ever had. She cried, and he just sat with his mouth agape.
During the ensuing days, they discussed the way they were both feeling, and the pros and cons of adding to their family.
During the discussions, morning sickness seized Jane but it wasn’t accompanied by the feeling of joy at impending new life that she had felt in previous pregnancies.
They shared their concerns about money, and the practical things like car seats and cots and bedrooms and child care. Another concern was the toll that another pregnancy, birth and newborn would take on Jane’s mental and physical health and wellbeing, which had already suffered significantly with the arrival of their two children.
They debated the possibility of adoption, and although Jane felt that giving the gift of a child to another family would be a beautiful and meaningful thing to do, neither of them could reconcile themselves to the implications of this decision, or how they would explain it to their children. Heartbreakingly, they decided that adoption was not the answer for them.
When they finally agreed on termination, Jane felt relief. She had never expected to feel that way, but neither had she ever expected to be in this position. She phoned a clinic and made the arrangements.
Waiting and Wondering
As she waited for her appointment, Jane wondered about other women who find themselves in this position. Who are they? Are they simply teenagers and young women who’ve had one night stands or made poor choices? Or were there others, like her, who had legitimately not believed that pregnancy was a possibility for them, due to contraception use or medical conditions? Were there women who had children that they adored, and who felt guilty at not being able to give that love to another child?
The morning of the appointment arrived. After making sure their children were safely in care, Jane and her husband headed for the clinic. Jane walked in, feeling like a naughty schoolgirl being called to the principal’s office, and was surprised to see other women there, with their partners – women who looked just like her.
Jane says she wondered, at the time, whether she would look back and regret the decision. She wondered if she would look wistfully at new babies or pregnant women and think that maybe she should have just had the baby.
But, several months after the termination, Jane says she has no regrets.
Not about the procedure anyway. She knows that she and her husband made the right decision for their family. What she does regret is that they found themselves in a situation where they had to make that decision.
Although she was relying on medical advice, Jane wishes she had sought a second opinion, or further advice regarding her fertility.
Are There Others Out There?
Here’s the tricky thing. Statistics on termination are still very difficult to come by. And we can’t be certain of their accuracy, given the stigma that surrounds the procedure and the subsequent secrecy around it.
One statistic suggests that between a quarter and a third of women in Australia will have a termination at some point in their life.
A report from the Department of Health in the UK indicated that terminations were on the rise among married women and those over 30. While we can’t access data to confirm or refute it, the same thing could be occurring here in Australia.
We have to wonder whether the increased pressures on young families (cost of living, child care issues for example) might lead women to make the decision to terminate a pregnancy.
Perhaps, as you are reading this, you are facing a similar tough decision. Perhaps you are expecting a child and can’t imagine having to make a decision like this.
You might be pro-life and feel that there are no reasons or ‘excuses’ for terminating a pregnancy.
Whoever you are, and for whatever reason you are reading this, remember:
1. We are all human. We sometimes make errors of judgement
2. No method of contraception is 100% effective. In fact, The World Health Organization estimates that even if all contraceptive users used contraception perfectly in every sexual encounter, there would still be six million unintended pregnancies every year
3. We all need to make choices – based on the information we have, the life that we lead and the beliefs that we hold.
Thank you to Jane for sharing her story.