What happens if you find yourself pregnant – before you’re ready? How do you deal with it, emotionally and physically? Three women open up about how they handled an unwanted pregnancy.
Jane*, now 29, had an abortion when she was 20 years old.
"I was pregnant at 20. The father was my then-boyfriend, and we had been dating for about 6 months. He assured me we’d go through this together, but the next thing I knew, he had left for another country. He completely disappeared on me.
I knew right from the start that I didn’t want to keep the baby. I had just started working and I wasn’t ready to put my career on hold.
I couldn’t tell my mum about it, so I hid the pregnancy from her. I was so scared of being labelled a slut that I didn’t even dare to tell my friends.
I went to a polyclinic first for a consultation, and then I had to go through mandated counselling. I was told that I could keep the baby, and put it up for adoption later. But that’s not what I wanted. I was then referred to a public hospital, so I could use Medisave to cover the cost.
That’s where they did an ultrasound and let me listen to the heartbeat of the fetus. This was such a bad experience for me, because I felt guilt-tripped. I was told by the staff that I was lucky to be able to conceive, and that there are women out there [who want to have children but are] dealing with fertility issues. It made me feel like I was throwing a baby away. Again, I was told that adoption was an option. I broke down so badly after.
I found out about my pregnancy three weeks in, but by the time of the abortion appointment, I was more than two months pregnant.
I was admitted for two nights. To hide it from my family, I told them I was on a work trip. The doctor inserted a pill into my vagina, and I started having cramps and diarrhoea.
On the second night, I began having painful contractions. I called for the nurse, who drew the curtains around my bed and told me to push.
The baby came out and I saw its fingers. I didn’t know if it was necessary, but they told me it was a girl.
Hearing that further aggravated my trauma. The doctor even asked if I wanted to keep the remains of the baby for burial or cremation.
I went back to work three days later. I had to act ‘normal’ around my family, which was difficult because I was dealing with pregnancy symptoms. My boobs were leaking, and I had to hide that from them.
I continued on with my life, but I carried this guilt for the longest time. I’m a mum now, but I sometimes still think about the baby I’ve aborted. I can never get over it.
Today, I tell myself not to think about the what-ifs. My only regret is that I could have prevented it from happening in the first place.”
“I was so scared of being labelled a slut that I didn’t even dare to tell my friends.”
Alicia*, 26, had an abortion when she was 15.
"I had missed my period for two months, so I figured something was not right because I had unprotected sex with my then-boyfriend.
We were so scared. And we knew that we were not keeping it – how could we, we were still in school. We asked some of our friends for help, but because we were all so young, nobody knew what to do. In the end, we had to tell our parents.
My parents are very conservative. I remember my mum’s reaction when I broke the news to her. I saw her face fell, and I knew then that she had completely lost all trust in me. She accompanied me for the procedure at a private clinic and paid for it. We didn’t speak for the longest time afterwards. Till today, we still have not talked about what had happened.
Looking at the ultrasound was very surreal. I was two months along at that point. The baby was small, but I could see it wriggling.
Before the abortion, I had to go through a counselling session at a public hospital. I assume because I was a minor, I was asked if a condom was used, and if I was raped. The entire session was just a lesson on how babies are conceived and what birth control is. It would have been better if I had some form of emotional support too.
The actual procedure itself was over quite quickly. I did a 12-hour fast, and had to take a pill on the morning of the abortion. I actually went to school as per usual, and then headed to the clinic in the afternoon. I went into the operating theatre, which looked like a dentist clinic, got put in stirrups, and the next thing I know, I was knocked out by the anaesthetic.
I don’t regret the abortion. Nor do I feel guilty about having to terminate a life. I didn’t think about the baby at all throughout the entire thing. Instead, I was angry at myself for allowing this to happen. It was such a dumb mistake. It’s like… I knew better. I know what protection is, and I should have used it. But I was young, I was dumb, and I made a mistake. I was angry at myself for disappointing my parents, making my friends worry, and putting myself through something that could have been prevented.
“I know what protection is, and I should have used it. But I was young, I was dumb, and I made a mistake.”
Sabrina, early 30s, had two abortions in her early 20s.
"The guy I was dating at that time was a mess, and he was in no position to be a father then. We weren’t even in a relationship, so there was no way I was going to keep the baby. He did help me with the cost, because I couldn’t let my parents know. I think they would have disowned me if they knew.
It only hit me that I was actually terminating a life when we did the ultrasound.
The baby was just a tiny dot on the screen. But I knew I wasn’t ready to be a mother, much less a single mother. Financially, emotionally, I just wasn’t ready.
Along the way, from the consultation to the mandatory counselling session right up to the day of the procedure itself, the people at the hospital kept asking if I was sure about this. It was frustrating, because I had already made up my mind.
I actually don’t remember a thing from the abortion. I was put under anaesthesia, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the recovery ward.
After the abortion, I stayed at my friend’s place because I didn’t want my parents to find out.
I bled a lot after. I had to change my pad every hour. And it’s nothing like menstrual blood – it was a lot of fresh, red, blood.
Two months later, I actually went through early pregnancy symptoms, like nausea and fatigue. I was even lactating. It was very scary. I started writing letters to the baby I aborted, just to help me process what I had went through.
Eight months later, I got pregnant again. It was with the same guy, whom I was then in a proper relationship with. This time round, we actually discussed our options. In the end, we decided to go for the abortion because I was graduating from university and already had job offers coming in. I was starting a new chapter in my life and wasn’t ready to settle down, especially not with my then- boyfriend. And I didn’t want a kid to be the reason why we stayed together. I didn’t want to deal with a divorce later, and having to fight for custody.
My experience with abortion was very lonely. There was no one to talk to, to help me process what was happening.
A few friends that I spoke to didn’t react to the news well. They were like “What? Again?” I felt judged, and slut-shamed. In hindsight, it would have been more helpful to talk to someone who had gone through an abortion before.
The first few years were hard to deal with, but I am OK now. I’m able to talk about my experience now without any overwhelming emotions. I actually love kids, and I do want to have kids eventually. But the circumstances weren’t right then – it was the wrong time, with the wrong guy.
Sometimes, these thoughts pop up in my head. Thoughts like, “Wow, if I had continued the pregnancy, I’d have a 10-year-old kid by now.” There’s a bit of regret, but I know it’s something I can look forward to next time, with the right person.
“I actually love kids, and I do want to have kids eventually.”
How can you help a friend who’s going through an abortion?
+ Let her know you’re there if she needs to talk
+ Give her space if she’s not ready to talk about it
+ Encourage her to see a therapist if need be
+ Offer to let her stay over at your place to recuperate if it’s appropriate
+ Accompany her to the hospital or clinic
+ Send her home after the procedure
Need help or support? Here are some resources
AWARE Women’s Helpline
1800 777 5555
(for pregnant women under 21) 8111 3535
Buttons Project Singapore
(a support group for women who have been through an abortion) www.buttonsproject.org.sg 9661 5995
Illustrations Darren Ezekiel