My story: I was a regular church-goer, and was “against” abortion, to the point where I would actually rip down abortion information posters that I saw on campus from time to time.
Until I needed one.
Several years ago, I became pregnant, despite having had a semi-permanent birth control method in place (procedure done by doctor) – which was suppose to last 3-5 years at a time. This pregnancy was very much a crisis, as I already had children that I was struggling at that time as a newly single parent with young kids, very little resources, no real career in place and very little family support. There was no way I could support another child on my own, without becoming completely destitute and heavily reliant on government support. It would have meant things like food banks. Extreme poverty, for all of us.
The cost of having just one child in daycare is $25-30 per day, double for a second child, triple for a third. At that time I was making $10 an hour. At minimum wage, $50 a day on childcare out of your $75 dollars a day wages is not enough for even the most basic survival. Even with a childcare subsidy, you would be living in extreme poverty. You would have to live in a very cheap (and likely not pleasant) apartment, and your children would not be able to afford any activities like sports or music, unless through completely funded programs (do these even exist?). Your family diet would be atrocious. Think Mr. Noodles forever. I didn’t want to raise kids in those circumstances.
It was an impossible and very bleak situation. I was also not interested in going through another entire pregnancy and then adoption, as I had endured quite painful pregnancies already, and really did not want to do it again.
I think all the anti-abortion activists mean well in their hearts, but realistically I doubt they are going to be there to help you when you become a struggling single mother. They won’t be there to help you through labour. They are not going to pay for diapers ($15-20 a pack), or gigantic daycare bills ($500 per month per child). They are not going to buy you a load of groceries when your cupboards and bank account are bare. They are not going to pay for your kids gymnastics or hockey. They are not going to give you drives when your ancient vehicle breaks down, again. Single parenting requires so much more help than the occasional ‘good deed’ type help that might occur once a year if you’re lucky. It requires help and support day in, day out, 365 days a year. If you personally are not willing to provide huge amounts of your own time, and money, to help a single mother raise her child, then do not criticize her for not feeling supported enough to complete a pregnancy. She’s the one who has to raise the child, if she doesn’t feel that she can, it is her legal right to make that choice.
If you really want to lower abortion rates, start by working to eliminate poverty. Make daycare affordable (like Quebec has done). Raise the minimum wage. Create real sustainable jobs. Provide access to affordable education. Provide more access to training in household finance management. Help people to help themselves become financially stable.
Provide these and more social and financial supports for parents, and abortion rates would drop. Lack of money is often the reason people choose abortion. It’s not because we are bad or evil people, but it is often because we are not secure, in both financial and social support. These are prevalent problems in this province in the past decade.
I already knew how it was to parent alone, how hard, exhausting and how much of a struggle it could could be. It is physically and mentally draining on your own. I was just barely scraping by, and another baby and the time off work it would have meant would have resulted in complete financial devastation. This would not have been fair to the children I already had. They deserve a decent life too. I love babies, I’ve always loved babies, and I will always love babies. This experience is a cross I have to bare, but going back in time I would make the same choice again, in order to help take care of the babies I already had.
Abortion is not a choice women make lightly. We struggle so hard with this decision. You do not do this unless you feel you absolutely have to. This is an act of desperation, and if you have never had to make this choice, consider yourself extremely fortunate. It’s hard, it’s ugly, it never goes away, and it never will, but sometimes it really is the best choice in a persons situation. It’s legal here, and it needs to able to be accessed quickly, and quietly.
I can assure you that anyone who has had to make this choice has already been to hell, and crucifying her further with judgmental comments or criticism is one of the worst things you can possibly do to someone who is already, and will always be, suffering heavy guilt from this.
I was so desperate to not have to have a surgical abortion. I tried every herbal remedy I could find online, hoping to induce a natural miscarriage. I had found out very early about the pregnancy, a few days after my period was late, so it was still incredibly early. I went to my OBGYN to find out for sure, I cried harder in that doctors office than I may have ever cried before. Why had this happened? Why did my birth control not work? I had only had sex about 3 times in 3 years, how could this be happening?
Why, God, why?
The next step was an ultrasound at QEH. Arriving early in the morning, I was told I was there on the wrong day and that my appointment was actually the next day. I felt like this was a blocking attempt, to try and get me to reconsider. The secretary was very rude.
The next day I returned, and the ultrasound tech was professional and kind. We got it done. Many tears. I had a friend there for support, thankfully. I could now proceed to making an appointment off island.
In choosing between the Morgentaler clinic in Fredricton, ($800) and the free clinic in Halifax, I opted for Fredricton as the wait list was shorter and I could get in sooner. This mattered greatly to me, as it was agony to think about the embryo developing inside me, growing more each day. Having had babies before, I was aware of the developments by the weeks to some extent. I wanted to do it as soon as possible, to prevent the embryo from growing more and possibly being able to feel pain. I was informed eventually that they drug you quite heavily with meds that cross the placenta, so you and the embryo do not feel anything during the procedure. I remember crying through it though.
Before going, I had to wait a few more weeks, as they cannot preform the surgery so early as the embryos are too small to find at that stage, and they cannot guarantee that it has worked, until you get to a few weeks later. The wait was complete mental torture. I continued trying herbal remedies, anything I could find online, working out excessively, sitting in hot tubs, anything to try and induce a natural end to this pregnancy. Following the advice from a blog post online, I actually asked the babies spirit to leave me, and return at a later date when I could better care for it. I was so hopeful this would somehow magically work. It didn’t. Nothing did. I was stuck. Trapped. Had I not been able to afford to go to Fredricton, and had transportation there, the wait would have been several weeks longer, adding to my mental trauma from this. Having been able to get a medical (pill) abortion on PEI would have been much faster and less agonizing than waiting for the appropriate week for a surgical abortion.
I cannot imagine how the Halifax clinic is managing now that Fredricton is closed. Their wait list was already long a few years ago, and they were squeezing women in on the latest a possible dates that they could still preform the surgery legally for them. This problem had likely increased tenfold with Fredricton closed down. I hear people are now going to Quebec and the USA for faster access.
Which leads me to THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT I WILL MAKE: The less clinics and access that we have, the longer women have to wait, and the larger the embryos get. People are going to have abortions no matter what. Trying to block access or delay access will not work. History has proven that women who are desperate enough to want this done will find a way. Let’s make it safe and as fast and early in the pregnancy as possible. Access to the early abortion pill on PEI would go a long way in preventing these pregnancies from needing a surgical abortion, and cause much less agony to the women involved, as they could abort much earlier, much tinier embryos, and likely save the province large sums of money too.
The day came. I went to Fredricton and had it done. It was as strange, surreal and as sad of an experience as I had imagined. There were protesters holding signs that said “Let babies live” and following me to the door saying “We can help you.” Oh really? How? Are you going to pay for daycare? Get me a better paying job? Help me in take care of children in the middle of the night? Buy us groceries? I think not.
The staff at the clinic were amazing, so kind, so compassionate. They provide both pre and post surgery counseling sessions, and every staff member was female. It’s very sad that they have closed down that clinic. I do believe if PEI were to gain access, the location would need to only be revealed to those who need it, and mobile, to be changed frequently, as I feel the inevitable protesting in this province would be devastating in a place where ‘everybody knows everybody’. Privacy would be crucial.
During my two ultrasounds and multiple exams by doctors, no one could figure out why my birth control method had failed. How. When. Why. WHY. There is a 1/1000 chance of this happening with that particular kind of birth control, and it happened to me.
I do regret that my birth control failed and a pregnancy resulted. I do regret not being married and having sex. I do not regret choosing an abortion in the situation I was in. It makes me feel guilty and sad, but I feel like I had to do it, or throw my entire family into an eternal struggle of poverty. It had to be done, for me to get my feet under me and be able to support the children I already had.
In the years since then, I very rarely have sex, or even date. The stress level is just too high. I am somewhat hopefully I may be able to enjoy a relationship again post menopause. I worry that even with multiple forms of protection, it could happen again. It could. I am apparently blessed with strong fertility, that I wish I could transfer today to a woman struggling to conceive. I understand now how both sides of fertility issues can be so traumatic. Both sides deserve help and support. Both sides should try to not condone the other.
I have attempted to return to church, but find it so hard. Many of my friends from Christian backgrounds post pro-life things online, and it makes me feel like I have sinned too much to ever be forgiven. I still pray, but admit my faith has been very much tested through this. I’ve tried another church or two as well, and can I just point out that there seems to be none (or very few) support groups in church families for single mothers. It would be great to have a small group to meet with, perhaps multi denominational, early in the evenings, or on weekends, with childcare offered during the meeting. Single parents pay $10 an hour usually to babysitters in order to be able to leave their homes without their kids. If you would like to support single parents who would like to participate in church, always have childcare available and don’t schedule groups at bedtime hours. Sitting in church I hear of many groups for couples, married people, young people, etc, but nothing I can participate in besides the sermons due to not having any childcare. It also makes people feel unwelcome when all the small groups seem to be for married people. Just something to think about if any church-goers are actually reading this.
Christian and Anti-Abortion readers: please also consider who might be sitting next to you in church, and how you might be causing people strong emotional pain with your social media posts and verbal opinions. PTSD is common among women who have been through abortion, and your posts and comments act as triggers for flashbacks and emotional recovery setbacks. You’re hurting people who are already hurting.
Overall, I would suggest that medical abortions (the early weeks abortion pills, I believe up 9 weeks) be made available on PEI. This would solve many problems, and would have worked for me and so many others. I also think proper after care and support must be available at all island hospitals and clinics. If surgical abortions have to stay off island (since none of our current politicians in power are brave enough to change this), there needs to be support in getting women to and from these appointments. I believe there may already be some sort of network in place if you contact PEI Reproductive Rights. I think they have drivers available.
If this happens to you, you are not alone. Other people have been there, and we understand. You are loved. You will be okay.
Someday. Hang on.
Let’s try and help other Island women suffer less by working together to provide faster and safer access to early abortion pills, and proper post abortion follow up care, now.