Trigger Warning: this article features discussion of abuse and abortion
I met my first serious boyfriend, Andrew*, just before my 20th birthday. Four months later we were engaged, about to move in together, and I was pregnant. I was also terrified. I had gone from single and living with my Mum, and being a standard late teenager to preparing to be someone’s live in partner, fiancé, and a mother. I also had a history of depression, and to say I was overwhelmed would be a huge understatement. My Mum wasn’t supportive of my relationship, and Andrew wasn’t supportive of my mental health problems. In fact, Andrew wasn’t supportive at all, but at the time I couldn’t see that.
When I told him I might be pregnant, he told me he had slept with someone else. Whilst speaking to the Doctor about a pregnancy test, they suggested I have an STD test, and I found that Andrew had also given me Chlamydia. When I told Andrew that I could either carry on with the pregnancy and not take the antibiotics, or take them but they would damage the baby, he said the decision was totally mine.
It was my body right?
“He refused to speak to me for days after. I’d never felt lonelier.”
I had nobody I felt I could talk to. My friends didn’t like him, my family weren’t supportive, and I could feel depression rearing its head higher on an almost hourly basis. So, despite the fact that I’ve wanted children for as long as I can remember (four in fact), I decided to have an abortion. At just 20, with a just above minimum wage job, and in a relationship less than a year, what did I have to offer a baby? How would I cope emotionally, never mind financially? Andrew didn’t agree. He assured me that nobody can ever afford a baby but you just have to take the plunge some time. I reminded him that he’d said it was my decision. He wasn’t happy, however he came with me to the hospital on the day. In the waiting room we were laughing and chatting, and I was confident that I’d made the right decision. As I left him in the waiting room to go for my procedure, I looked back at him and he mouthed ‘I love you’.
A few hours later, I was in another waiting room. Dressed, having a cup of tea, and waiting for them to do a final check before discharging me. There were about half a dozen of us, of varying ages, chatting with a nurse. Andrew popped his head round the door, and I was laughing at a joke the nurse had just cracked, he asked when we could leave, and from his tone I knew something was wrong. When I asked what said he was “f*cking p*ssed off” and stormed out. The others rushed to comfort me, to tell me that he was being unfair and that it was a shame he wasn’t nicer. I assured them it was my fault and that he’d wanted to keep the baby, but they looked unconvinced. In the taxi on the way home, he threw the aftercare leaflets he’d been given out of the window, asked if I was happy with myself, and asked how I could sit in that room laughing like nothing had happened?
He refused to speak to me for days after, I’d never felt lonelier.
“I only heard the term ‘gaslighting’ years later, but I realise now that’s what he was doing.”
Fast forward about a year. We were married, living in our own house, and I was a shadow of my former self. I had always been outgoing, bubbly, fun but now I was quiet and withdrawn. I had no relationship to speak of with my Mum, no friends outside work, no hobbies or interests. I wasn’t allowed to socialise with Andrew and his friends, and he didn’t like me chatting with his family. If his Mum called to say hi, I was supposed to pass the phone straight to him; if his friends were coming round I wasn’t supposed to speak to them past a hello, and ideally not stay in the room with them. I wasn’t allowed to go to work nights out (which were frequent working in sales), or to question where he went, who with, or what time he was home. I’d had almost no input into the wedding, including who I was allowed to invite. I’m certain he’d had at least three affairs by then, although I had no concrete proof. If I mentioned my suspicions to him, he told me it was my paranoia, that I couldn’t rely on my mind, that maybe I ought to go to the Doctor for some tablets.
I only heard the term ‘gaslightling’ years later but I realise now that’s what he was doing.
Despite being on the pill, I found myself pregnant again. And this time I had no idea how to feel. On the one hand, I still desperately wanted children. On the other hand, in my heart of hearts I knew that this was not a healthy relationship. Was it fair to bring a child into this? What if Andrew treated them like he treated me? Despite my misgivings, I told Andrew. He was so pleased, and even though I was only about six weeks, he insisted we call his Mum and grandparents to tell them. A few days later, I came down with the worst cold I’ve ever had. I could barely move, but he insisted I go to work. I dragged myself to the train station, but then had to go to the toilets to be sick. A very kind woman gave me some water and tissues, and helped me to a taxi to go home. Andrew was furious when I told him, and asked how I could be a decent mother when I couldn’t even go to work with a cold? He told me I wasn’t fit to be anyone’s mother, and refused to speak to me. He wouldn’t even bring me a glass of water upstairs after I had been sick again; I had to scoop water from the bathroom tap into my mouth.
A few days later, and back at work, I went to the toilet and found blood in my underwear. Just spots, but enough to make me call the Doctor and ask for an immediate appointment. I was sent to the local hospital first thing the next morning for an examination, and Andrew came with me. Sitting in yet another waiting room, I realised that no matter what, I wasn’t having this baby either. There was of course the chance that I was having a miscarriage, and I wondered if it was due to the cold I’d had and all the vomiting. However, if that didn’t happen, there was no way I could allow him to treat any child of mine this way. Hundreds of scenarios ran through my head all at once; a child getting a bad score on a test, missing a goal in football, not being able to ride a bike. This faceless child being made to feel subhuman because of him.
I might not have been strong enough to leave, but nobody was doing that to my baby.
“I would rather have no children than inflict Andrew as a father on them.”
After being examined, where it turned out that it was ‘normal’ spotting and nothing to worry about, I went to speak to my Mum. It was one of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had, but she was amazing. She came with me to the Doctor, where I explained the situation. It was all arranged before I told Andrew what I was doing. I have no idea how he reacted, I genuinely think I’ve blocked it out. Suffice to say that that was the beginning of the end of our relationship.
Those terminations were in 2001 and 2002, so I would, in theory, now have a 14 year old, and a 13 year old. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about those children, what they’d be like, their interests. Just the fact that I’d have two teenagers when I forget I’m an adult most of the time anyway. As an almost 36 year old, with my biological clock ticking ever louder, and no partner or children, I’m sad that I may never become a mother.
However, I would far rather have no children than inflict Andrew as a father on them.
*name has been changed.