Tuesday 23 April 2019

Going abroad for an abortion nearly killed me. We have to vote Yes

I am not a campaigner, just a young woman from rural Ireland who had no other choice, writes Laura*

(stock photo)
(stock photo)

I am 25 and live in rural Leinster with my mum. I love my boyfriend. I never expected to be a 'campaigner'. I'm not. I work as a care assistant.

When I realised I was pregnant last year, I was devastated. I had taken the morning-after pill, but it obviously hadn't worked. Looking at that test, 1-2 weeks pregnant, my boyfriend was silent in shock. We gave ourselves the next two weeks to figure out what to do.

We thought about keeping the baby, about adoption, about abortion. We made a list of pros and cons for each, but the reality was we had no money and we still lived with our parents. If we were going to have a baby, we would want to give it a better life than the one we had now, or even the one we'd each had growing up - which in both our cases had been pretty great. But that's what you want for your child.

In the end, we felt the best option was to end the pregnancy. It was a road we hadn't wanted to go down, a road we did not take easily. I started looking into terminations, and researching everything online. There was the option of abortion pills, but I didn't want to do that - I wanted to do everything legally, with a medical professional. Also, living at home pretty much excluded that.

My flight was at 6am, and I had to be at the clinic in Manchester by 7.45am. The nurses at the clinic were so understanding; I'd been worried that they were going to judge me for being another Irish girl coming over. There were four other women in the clinic I'd seen on the flight from Dublin, all ages. The nurse who treated me was very caring, he told me they usually see six or seven Irish women every day. He administered the first dose of pills. The second wasn't due for another six hours, so he gave me a list of things to do in Manchester, to help distract me and pass the time. We tried to make the day as normal as we could, and looked around the shops.

What was I thinking?

When I got back to the clinic, the nurse saw me again, and he gave me the next dose, which would take effect more quickly. He gave tips as to how to look after myself on the journey home.

The taxi driver broke red lights to get me to the airport, he could see I was in agony - the pain had started and I was very uncomfortable. There were two other Irish girls in the taxi, just like me. At the airport, I walked around the terminal, the pain was intense, and I did everything I could to try and ease it; I glared at a businessman until he gave up his seat so I could curl up in a ball. I prayed I wouldn't pass the pregnancy on the flight.

I didn't get in my door until after midnight. I'd been out of my house for over 20 hours. I ran straight to the bathroom; the bleeding had started. I got a hot water bottle, went to bed, and hoped it would be over soon.

Four weeks later I was still bleeding and in great pain, and I was very worried. I was too afraid to go to a hospital because I was afraid they'd treat me as if I'd done something wrong. I knew I had to see a doctor, or go to a hospital, but I just couldn't afford it, and I needed to be in work to get paid.

For those weeks, I got up, took pain killers and told myself to "toughen up, buttercup'". I told myself to keep my mouth shut, deal with it, and get on with things. My boyfriend was frantic with worry.

Another day came, and I worked another 12-hour shift, bleeding heavily and passing clots. I drove myself to hospital in Dublin, I couldn't go locally in case someone I knew saw me.

I told the doctors I'd had a miscarriage. I was too afraid to tell them I'd had an abortion, I worried I'd be treated differently. They put me on a drip, and I waited to see the gynaecologist.

When she arrived, they took my boyfriend out of the bay to ask me if he'd forced me into taking abortion pills, if I was being abused. They knew I hadn't had a miscarriage from my symptoms. But I was so scared, I just kept lying, even though I was starting to trip up over my story.

The gynaecologist asked why had I left it so long to come in? She told me I'd have to go to the Coombe for specialist care, but I begged her not to send me there. I have family working there who didn't know anything.

They did another blood test and it showed I was heading towards sepsis. I was rushed to the Coombe, and another consultant saw me. She told me I was lucky that I had come in when I did, that if I'd left it another few days, I would not have made it. A nurse told me that another week, and I'd have been the next Savita.

I was finally given the treatment I needed, put on another drip, and given even more antibiotics. Five weeks after I travelled to the UK, the Coombe gave me a D&C. I'd lost so much blood, I only narrowly avoided a transfusion. I survived.

If abortion was legal in this country, those five weeks and the threat to my life would not have happened. Everything after the point at which I went to my GP would have been different. I could have taken the pills at home, gone for a follow-up appointment with a familiar doctor, and been treated for side-effects quickly. I wouldn't have felt like I'd done something wrong, I wouldn't have had to worry about facing medical professionals with different opinions. I wouldn't have been scared alone in my bathroom. My boyfriend would not have felt so helpless. Maybe I could have told my mother. I hope to, one day.

Abortion is a reality women in Ireland face daily. It is not safe to force us to travel, and it is not safe that we can not easily and openly access medical after-care. It is time that we repealed the Eighth Amendment and legislate for the healthcare women need in this country. Please vote Yes on May 25.

*Full name with Editor

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