I managed to get through high school, and most of university without having to confront difficult decisions about unplanned pregnancy. I had one or two too-close-for-comfort moments, but through a combination of responsibility and luck, it wasn’t until last year that I had to really think about unplanned pregnancy, abortion, adoption and parenthood in any real way. Prior to that, it was a straightforward, yet abstract notion.
Sure, I had considered what I might do if faced with an unplanned pregnancy at various stages since I had become sexually active, but it was always very hypothetical. None of my close friends had ever really had to have those contemplations either, that we talked about.
So I moved in with my boyfriend who I’d been with for more than a year. We were very much in love and had started to dance around the topics of children and planning into the future and all of the things that simultaneously horrified and excited me.
I was taking the contraceptive pill and we had stopped using condoms. I missed some pills after we returned from a holiday, so, concerned, I went to my doctor; she did a pregnancy test which was negative, and reassured me saying that there was probably nothing to worry about due to the time of my cycle that I’d missed the pills. Around 5 days later, I got what I assumed was a period, and was of course very relieved. However, it turns out that wasn’t actually a period… Around 3 weeks later, I found out that I was in fact, pregnant.
Obviously, this was a huge shock. And, what to do? For a few days, my boyfriend and I fantasised about keeping the baby, parenting… I stopped drinking alcohol, limited caffeine, didn’t eat reheated food or eggs and soft cheese, started taking pregnancy vitamins. It felt amazing. But, we were so young, he was between jobs with no employment in sight, I had no parental leave accrued at my job, we had next to no savings, I still hadn’t finished uni, childcare is so incredibly expensive, the list goes on and on and on. We want children, at some point. But to have a child at that point seemed negligent.
It broke my heart, for about two weeks, doing endless circles of decision-making lists, conversations. Talking with my boyfriend, and mum and sister, — both trained midwives — about this horrible decision I was trying to come to.
I saw a pregnancy counsellor. That was when I realised that I had already made a decision. Most of what I did there was come to a point where it was ok to make that decision. It made going to the clinic much easier than it would have been. It let me thank my surgeon when I was still half-drugged with anaesthetic. It meant I sat in the recovery lounge with other women and was melancholy instead of devastated like some others.
Talking with the counsellor also made me aware that I had internalised all of these anti-choice messages. She didn’t tell me that’s what was going on, but I was sitting there making all these comments… That I was a bad person for thinking about a termination. That, because I was of an age where I could care for a baby, then I should have it. I had to keep it. But on the other hand, did I think it was murder? No.
I had to have an ultrasound to confirm how many weeks pregnant I was before my doctor would refer me for a termination, so, I looked and saw the heart beat of that tiny little alien, as I liked to call him. That 7 weeks old collection of cells had already grown itself beating heart tissue. And at that moment, I looked and saw something that needed me to live, and that would need me to live far beyond the 40 or so weeks it would have to live in my uterus.
In many ways, it was a horrible decision to have to make, but I am so glad that I made it. Not only do I not regret it, I have become more politically motivated and engaged because of it. It has transformed my view of the world and of women. Considering not only your life, but the life of an unborn dependent, and coming to a responsible decision, is a difficult but amazing process. Each of us comes to a different decision in different ways, and for some it is hard and for others it is clear, but all of us take the decision seriously. I used to be very ambivalent about choice, and reproductive rights. As a woman living in Australia, with abortion either pseudo-legal or legal, there never seemed to be anything to have strong opinions about. My own experience, and the research and activism I’ve done since, tells me that there is much to be passionate and outspoken about, both at home and abroad. It has allowed me to connect reproductive rights to the centre of the feminist project – freedom and equality.