Break the Taboo Malta
Story 23 – 30.06.2019
This story, which took place abroad, is from a woman who now resides in Malta.
“I support what you are doing, 100%.
I would like to share my own story.
This took place more than 20 years ago, when I was barely 20 years old. I had been in a relationship with my boyfriend for just over a year. At first, we'd always used condoms, but we got lazy and kept getting away with it. Being young and bulletproof, neither of us was thinking of the consequences.
I started to feel nauseated by foods I normally liked and my period was late. I did a home pregnancy test and was shocked and scared when it gave a positive result. When I told my boyfriend, he told me that he wasn't prepared to be a young father and that I surely didn't really want to have a kid yet. I hadn't really thought about it and could have been swayed in either direction. I did know that I wanted to be with him, and it didn't seem likely that he'd stay if I kept the pregnancy.
I was working for the military at the time, so I went to the base doctor to see what my options were. They referred me to a local family planning centre, where I had an ultrasound done and the technician was very enthusiastic about showing me the blurry peanut shape that was my 'baby'. It was more of a curiosity to me than anything else. They faxed the results back to the base. Unfortunately, patient confidentiality wasn't a priority, so gossip quickly spread around the team where my boyfriend and I worked. Colleagues were pulling him aside and asking him what he was going to do and how he felt. He denied everything and made sure I did the same. Nobody ever confronted me about it. I complained to the base medical centre about the breach of confidentiality, but they said if I made a fuss it would be more public than if I stayed quiet. I confirmed that I wanted an abortion. I was working with paint stripping chemicals that can cause birth defects, so I had plenty of reasons to terminate the pregnancy, and once I'd decided to go ahead with it, I didn't feel any guilt about the decision, but I was ashamed, because I knew that it was something that society disapproved of.
The military arranged my flights and my visit to the clinic. There I had to fill in paperwork, answer some questions, take a pill to start the process, and then there was the surgical bit. A nurse held my hand and everyone in the clinic was very kind and non-judgmental. In recovery, I chatted to another woman who already had 5 kids and her boyfriend had just got her pregnant then dumped her. She said she was keeping the fetus and was planning to leave it in his letterbox. I don't know if she followed through on her plan as we didn't stay in touch.
I flew back home that evening, and aside from bleeding for a couple of weeks, everything went back to normal, although after that, I got a lot more responsible about birth control. My biggest fear was that I would feel the guilt of a murderer, or regret for the child that I had lost. Neither of those things happened. I never saw the embryo as a baby. It never felt like a life inside me, it was just something that was making me sick and had the potential to ruin my life. Every so often, I figure out how old the child would be if I'd had it, and every time I am relieved that I didn't.
I ended up marrying the boyfriend and we never had kids as we preferred to travel and enjoy a life of freedom as a couple. My decision when I was 20 could have gone either way. If I'd had a child, I would have been a solo mother, relying on benefits as I couldn't have kept my job. I didn't have much of an education and I don't believe I would have been a good parent as I didn't have the best example from my own parents.
Until recently, I kept my abortion a secret from everyone, my family, my friends, my in-laws. I did see it as a taboo. In the last couple of years, I separated from my husband, and this has freed me to tell my story and now I share it with anyone who might be interested, because it shouldn't be an act of desperation and shame. I firmly believe that every woman should have the right to decide what her body will go through and how she will live her life. It's ridiculous that in this era, women are still fighting this battle for bodily autonomy.
I know my story isn't a sympathetic one. I wasn't raped, there was no incest, I was just a careless young adult who ended up using abortion as birth control. But this makes me ask the question: if I was too irresponsible to take care of contraception, on what grounds should I be trusted with a vulnerable infant?
I hope that sharing this helps other people realise that an abortion isn't a guilty burden you carry forever. It's a medical process, over swiftly, that lets you move on with the life you want.”