Copyright Meadhbh Dunne

Lucy Watmough – “I had an abortion”.

“In 2015,  I was not raped. There was no foetal abnormality. My life was not at risk. I was just a girl who was not ready to be a mother.

I cannot begin to explain the gut-wrenching fear that I felt in the office of my GP that day when I was told that I was in fact, in no uncertain terms, pregnant.

The thought that I could be pregnant had never occurred to me in a million years. I had only had a very brief fling with the father, which was by no means anything even close to a relationship, and it was most certainly over. As I sit in that little office I cannot comprehend what is happening – we had been careful. I was on the pill. I buy four pregnancy tests on the way home, unable to believe what I have just been told. Each little blue line that appears in the test window adds to the panic rising in my chest. I carry on with my day silently, telling only a close friend, who hugs me, again, silently.

My emotions are extremely mixed over the following two weeks, as I decide what I am going to do. I debate whether or not to tell the father, eventually deciding that it would be the best thing for both of us if he knew.

I cannot say that it is easy for me to decide, but ultimately I know that I am too young for motherhood, and nowhere near financially stable enough to provide for a child. I’m not one for gambling, and to take such a risk with another life feels irresponsible.

I decide that I want to have a surgical abortion – I want to just go in, get it over and done with and go home. The earliest appointment that I can get is in late June, and the wait is unbearable. Only three people know about the pregnancy, and carrying my secret around for weeks starts to tear me up. It’s all I think about every day; from the moment I wake up to when I eventually manage to get to sleep at night.

Abortion - Photography: Barbara Soares
Abortion – Photography: Barbara Soares

I try to act normal around friends and family, attempting to hide my morning sickness so as not to arouse suspicion. At home, surrounded by people, I have never felt more scared or alone. The father and I speak regularly during this period, both of us terrified with our Big Secret. He offers multiple times to go with me to London, but I am adamant I want to go by myself, not feeling that this is an experience I want to share. I feel guilty enough having burdened him with this situation already.

When the day of the abortion finally arrives, I tell nobody that I am going. Sitting in Dublin airport on my own, I feel as if the eyes of everyone there are upon me, judging me. I can remember shrinking into my chair as I waited at my gate, terrified that somebody would somehow know what I was going to do. The clinic I go to is in Brixton. A nurse takes me to a private consultation room, where she runs through some medical questions and performs a scan. In the waiting room there are two couples and three other women on their own. One of them is Irish, like me, which I notice as she whispers to the receptionist. It is the only noise in the room, as the rest of us sit in silence, waiting. As the nurse calls my name I dig my nails deeper into the palms of my hands, and they bleed.

The room they lead me into feels very clinical, and it smells like a dentist’s office. I have opted for conscious sedation, as I’m flying back that evening. Lying on the bed I begin to feel woozy, but I am fully aware of what’s happening to me. The procedure isn’t pleasant – despite the drugs I find it painful, and it feels extremely invasive. They dilate my cervix manually, and then mash up my insides with a speculum, before hoovering my womb out. I discover that having my womb hoovered feels exactly like you would expect it to. The nurse holds my hand the entire time, reassuring me that it’s almost over. The whole procedure takes about six minutes, although every minute feels like an hour as I wait for the doctor to remove his instruments from inside me. I close my eyes and bite my tongue the entire time, stopping myself from screaming “GET OUT”. I just want everything and everyone to get out of me, and to go home to my own bed. But I’m not at home.

When it’s over I’m taken into a recovery room, where I lie on a reclining chair as I wait for the wooziness to wear off. I’m given a cup of tea and a biscuit, which I consume as I try to ignore the raw feeling between my legs as pain settles into my uterus. There’s a lady crying in the chair next to me. I wish I was at home. I wish I was not on my own. When I’m allowed to leave, I precariously make my way to Gatwick airport on public transport. Although upset and sore, I feel relieved, and set about taking my bruised and bloodied womb back across the Irish Sea.

I find the wait at the airport is the worst part of the entire thing. I curl up in a ball as the pain medication starts to wear off. A very kind lady notices me and helps me to the bathroom. She goes to the shop and gets me some ibuprofen and a drink. I cry quietly all the way back to Dublin.

By the time I get to arrivals I’m all over the place. I’ve felt myself unravelling the longer I’m away from home. The guy involved is collecting me, and relief washes over me when I see him. It finally all feels over. He holds my hand in the taxi, and we say nothing, not knowing what to say. I squeeze his hand a little tighter over every speed bump. I stay with him for two days and he looks after me as I get back to normal. The pain subdues but lasts for longer than I expected, but my happiness to no longer be pregnant overrides everything. I await the guilt that I’ve been told by society to expect, but it never arrives. In the end, I’m thankful for the choice I made. What’s difficult is how alone my country has made me feel in it.

I didn’t talk about my abortion for two months after I had it, and it slowly started to drive me mad.  I was so afraid of people finding out, of being judged for allowing myself to get pregnant in the first place; beiing judged for not wanting my baby.  My relationships with family and friends became strained, as I dealt with something that they had no idea about.  I broke down in tears in the kitchen one day in September, and told my mother what I’d been terrified she’d find out for months.  All she did was hug me, and reassure me that she supported my decision.

The more I talk about my abortion, the lighter I feel. The stigma put upon it in Ireland made the entire situation so much more difficult than it already was, as I felt my unwanted pregnancy was something to be ashamed of. Ireland’s archaic abortion laws mean that thousands of women every year go through a similar ordeal to mine, and many live with it silently for the rest of their lives. Mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, friends. They’re our bodies, and it’s our choice”.

Lucy’s Story appeared in The Circular, 22 March 2016 – Barbara Soares