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At age 16, just before taking her GCSEs, Helen found out she was pregnant and decided she wanted to have an abortion. Read her experience of what happened, and why that choice remains the right one 15 years later.
I was sat in a cubicle of a supermarket toilet with two friends waiting for me on the other side.
“What does it say?” “It’s positive.” “Are you sure?” “Yes.”
I’d just taken a pregnancy test. The first one I’d ever taken. I raced to the pharmacy to buy another one. The pharmacist looked concerned, she recognised me from before, but she didn’t say anything.
I went home and did it again. Positive. I’m pregnant.
The next day I visited my GP*, who asked me what had happened, how I felt, what I wanted to do. “I don’t know! It went in, it came out. He didn’t finish. How can this have happened? You can’t tell my parents. What can I do? I can’t have a baby. I’m not ready to have a baby. I have exams coming up.”
I left the surgery and went straight to my Aunt Kay. I knew she wouldn’t judge me, I knew she wouldn’t turn me away and, most importantly, I knew she wouldn’t tell anyone else. We talked. She helped me think through my options and what would happen next. “I can’t and won’t make you tell anyone. I know your parents and I know that, right now, them knowing isn’t helpful. But you should talk to Greg.”**
I was so nervous. We’d only been together 3 months. Neither of us would have even said we’d had sex – that little slip in and out didn’t count.***
“I need to tell you something and it’s important, but I don’t want you to freak out… I’m pregnant.”
“What? How? We didn’t even… how?” He was shocked and confused but didn’t run away. We spoke about the situation. He asked if I would have an abortion. I told him that’s what I wanted, and asked if he was ok with it. He was. He wasn’t ready to have a baby any more than I was.
With the help of Aunt Kay, via my GP, everything was arranged. I would need to make two visits to the centre. One to go for a scan and tests, then another for the surgical procedure. I did have the option of the pills, but that would have meant three visits and the centre was over 30 miles away.****
At the first visit, seeing the scan image made it all feel very real very suddenly. I questioned the choice I was making, and ran through all the scenarios in my head. Would it be so bad? I don’t have any clear future plans, maybe this is what’s meant to happen? Other girls my age have had kids and they seem to be doing fine. Why would I be any different?
No. I’m not ready. He’s not ready. Maybe I will be in the future, but not right now.
The morning of the second visit, the day it would happen, I was stood outside the station in my school uniform waiting for Aunt Kay to pick me up. As far as my parents knew, I’d gone to school. As far as school knew, I was ill. We drove the 30 miles to the clinic. I felt scared, nervous, guilty and, to be honest, a bit sick.
I got ready for the procedure. The nurse asked me if I wanted to insert the tablets to soften my cervix myself. I didn’t even know what my cervix was, so I asked if she could do it for me.
Then I went through to anaesthesia. I can still remember so clearly the corner of the room, where the white ceiling met the pale blue wall, disappearing.
When I woke up, I had a sense that something had happened but was a bit confused and disorientated, which is normal after anaesthesia. I wanted to get up and get out, but had to stay for a couple of hours to make sure I was ok.
Before I was discharged, I was seen by another nurse who forcefully handed me a packet of pills so it “won’t happen again”. Until then, all the professionals I’d seen had been very calm and non-judgemental, but this person made me feel like I’d done something wrong and deliberately got myself into this situation. I hadn’t.
We left, parked up near the sea and got chips. I was so hungry by that point having fasted all day for the anaesthesia.
It was then I realised that it was all over. No regret, just relief. I could carry on with my life.
That was 15 years ago. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I had decided to go ahead with the pregnancy – would I be a cool, Lorelai Gilmore-type mum now? Would Greg and I have stayed together?
I wonder, but I never regret the choice I made and I feel so fortunate that I had that choice.
Choosing to have an abortion allowed me to do my A Levels, go to university and start my career.
It means I can do what I do now – working to ensure that all young people receive high quality relationships and sex education and access to safe, non-judgemental healthcare, including abortions.
It wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t taken lightly. But it was, for me, the right decision.
*If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you don’t have to visit your GP first if you are pregnant and would like an abortion. You can go to a Brook clinic who will refer you to an abortion provider, or you can go straight to an abortion provider like BPAS or Marie Stopes.
**Names have been changed.
***You can get pregnant from having vaginal sex without contraception, even if it’s only brief and if the man doesn’t ejaculate. You can find more information and advice on our page, Am I Pregnant?
****This was 15 years ago – it is now possible to take the second pill at home if you are having an early medical abortion, and scans and tests as well as the first pill will usually all be provided on the same day. You can find more information on our page on abortion.
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