My name is Isobel. I am 62 years old. I had an abortion 40 years ago, before I was married. The foetus was 10 weeks old. It was not a decision I took lightly but taking various issues into account abortion seemed to be the best option at the time. However, I was totally unprepared for the strong feelings of loss, grief and guilt that I felt afterwards. I received no counselling, or follow-up care.
I tried to put the experience to the back of my mind and got on with life. Several years later, after marrying and having two further children I had a dream, or should I say a vision.
I was back in the hospital where I had had the abortion and was just coming round from the anaesthetic. When I opened my eyes I was blinded by a very strong white light and I was conscious of a man standing by my bed. I just knew it was Jesus. He held his cupped hands out to me. They were big, rough and calloused hands. A carpenter’s hands. Nestling in his palms was a tiny baby, about 1½ inches long - my baby. Jesus spoke to me. He said, “It’s alright Isobel. I’ve got her.” That’s how I know the baby was a girl. I gave her a name and a birthday.
That’s when the healing process started. Every year on her birthday I visit the memorial to the unborn in the churchyard of Saint John’s Roman Catholic church in Melton Mowbray and I say a prayer thanking God for my lovely family, including my first child, my precious special little girl. The one I never met.
When I accidentally became pregnant, I was 27 and alone on holiday in a foreign country. I met a man there. After a few months of dating, I decided didn't want to be in a long-term relationship with him. When I found out I was pregnant it was a complete shock, as we had used one form of contraception, which had obviously failed.
I felt overwhelmed, fearful, and anxious. My first thought was, 'What will I do?' Naturally, I decided to ring my mum first and tell her the news. She was furious and told me I had to sort it out myself. I don't blame her much, as I was supposed to be a responsible adult by now. My partner took things better; actually, he was very pleased about the fact I was pregnant. Unfortunately, I had a ticket booked to return to my home country in just over a month time, which left little time to secure our relationship.
Quite soon after finding out I was pregnant, I started to suffer from severe sickness. So much so that I couldn't eat anything without throwing up. I had heard of morning sickness, but this was far worse. I looked it up online and discovered I had Hyperemesis Gravidarum. My partner suggested I get a check-up at the nearest woman's health clinic. So, we went to get a full examination. It turned out I was 5 weeks pregnant and I got to see my baby for the first time on the ultrasound. They asked me if I planned to keep it and I answered that I wasn't sure. But, I was very sick and felt like a termination was an increasing possibility.
As the days went by, I spent most of my time trying to not think about it. As horrible as it sounds now, I just wanted to pretend it wasn't happening. I only realise now that by doing so, I wasted time not facing the most important decision I had to make in my life so far.
Eventually I went back to the clinic to enquire more about the termination procedure. I told my partner, and although he wasn't too thrilled at the thought of me going through with it, after seeing me sick with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, his opinion shifted slightly. I left with a booking to have a termination in a couple of days’ time.
As the day approached, I suddenly backed out. I felt the best option would be to get it done in my home country, where I'd feel safer and more comfortable. (The procedure was actually illegal in the country I was in).
Even though my sickness made the travel more difficult, when I was finally back home, things were better. I was away from a man that I didn't feel happy with and amazingly my symptoms had eased. I still planned to have the termination, but now I was even more hesitant than before.
My mum, on the other hand, was completely against me having the baby. She said we couldn't afford it - we live together in rented accommodation on low income wages. If I continued the pregnancy, she told me I would have to move out and become a single mother. Of course, that was the response I expected from her. But looking back now, I feel like some support from might of altered my decision.
I wish most of all that I could change the final part of my story. If I could, I wouldn't be writing this for you now. Instead, I would be a first-time mother with her newborn son or daughter.
I had the termination at 9 weeks of pregnancy.
The operation was quick and painless. However, the day after I returned from hospital, I instantly felt something was very wrong. This pain in my heart was unbearable.
The realisation fully dawned on me that I had killed my innocent baby. I felt like my world had ended. What had I done? My tears were endless in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Looking back now I just wish I had valued my baby's life and said to myself, "I can do this no matter what!"
Now I've had time to process everything and my due date has passed. I strongly feel that my baby's life was more important. Yes, it was unplanned; and yes, I would have had to suffer through sickness; but all life is a precious gift.
I hope by reading my experience other woman in similar circumstances listen to their heart and don’t let anything get in the way of the only thing that actually matters - the life of your unborn child.
Dear Jude and Paul,
I remember being pregnant with you both, but I don’t remember hearing your first words, seeing your beautiful faces or having the privilege to say you were my sons as you started your first day at school. I don’t remember the Christmas joys and the birthday laughter.
When I became pregnant with you, Jude, I just wanted to be ‘unpregnant.’ I was asked if being pregnant would affect my mental health. I answered ‘yes’ and your life ended the next week. I knew life began at conception, basic biology lessons taught me that, but I was now living in fear and could see no way out. Fear shouted louder than any whisper of hope. I was only offered one choice – that being abortion. An uninformed choice is no choice. I never knew that the end of your life would be the beginning of the decline of my mental health state. Denial would be my shadow for many years, following me around only to occasionally disappear when the lightening of anger would rear its ugly face. The first two stages of grief: anger and denial.
Paul, I was awake when I aborted you and I heard your life being sucked away. Paralysed by pain, I watched the abortionist count the body parts to ensure all of your remains were removed. No one told me my peace would also be taken, no one told me I’d never have the chance to be pregnant again. No one can ever convince me that I had the right to choose to end your life. Paul, it should never have been a legal right of mine to take your life. My rights should end when they impact the life of someone else, born or unborn.
I’m so saddened that for decades you were both nameless as you swirled around my heart and my memories, the dreams that I tried to bury. You were my mistakes, my darkest secrets and when I stopped long enough to feel, you became my ‘if onlys.’ If only I was given another option; if only I had realised my body does not have 4 arms and 4 legs, and therefore your body belonged to you; if only I had realised that human rights included yours; if only someone had told me that I could do this; if only I had not tried to sort this out myself; if only it was not legal; if only I had known you’d be called Jude and Paul. All the if’s being the third stage of grief: bargaining.
Jude and Paul, did you know that when your life ended, part of me did too? Did you know I tried to fill the void that you left by filling myself and emptying myself through bulimia? I would slip into a darkness that I now know was depression - the fourth stage of grief.
I would jump between these stages of grief, numbing myself with denial, as I was most comfortable when I thought I wasn’t feeling, never going to the final stage of grief: the acceptance. The acceptance is where the truth is. The acceptance is where I would be able to heal. But acceptance would mean looking at it without the lies, without the denial, without the bargaining and without ignoring my part in all of this.
It was at Rachel’s Vineyard that I was allowed to grieve; there I realised that I had been grieving the children that could have been instead of grieving the children that were. You were already part of this world; you were already alive, growing; you just needed time to be born.
It was at Rachel’s Vineyard that I heard the words that would change my life forever: ‘Rachel, it’s not that you could have been a mum, you are a mum!’ I realised for the first time that I am a mum.
I am your mum. I accept today that I took your lives through abortion. I killed you both. You know I wish I could turn back time, but I cannot. What I can do is write this letter to you and hope that future Judes' and Pauls' right to life is protected. Maybe someone reading this has had an abortion and is not aware that they are a mum and they can get support and healing too.
In 1967, before your mother was even born, our country voted and now many generations are missing. It was meant to be rare and safe, and yet, I’m sure you would agree Jude and Paul, that neither one of your abortions were safe for you. How did we get to 200,000 abortions a year?
9 million have now died through abortion in UK.
You are 2 of 9 million.
Stalin is quoted for saying ‘a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.’
You’ll never be a statistic to me. You’ll always be my two biggest regrets, my two most painful memories, my 2 boys.
Aborting you both didn’t stop me being your mum.
I just became a mum of two dead children.
I love you Jude and Paul and I will spend the rest of my life showing you this by not allowing the lie that this is a reproductive right, that you didn’t exist, and that this is the best we can do for mothers.
Love from Mum xxx
At the age of 37, I had my abortion. I used to feel that was where my story began. But after finding healing through attending ARCH (Abortion Recovery Care and Helpline) and Rachel’s Vineyard, I realised my story actually begins in my childhood – which led me to make the life changing decision to end my baby’s life.
Growing up, my father was violent towards my mother and verbally abusive to myself and my five younger siblings. Being the oldest, I took it upon myself to be the peacemaker, always putting my own needs and feelings last. This, in turn, led me to have no self-worth and no value for myself.
I had previously had 3 boys with different partners, who each left me alone while pregnant, fed into my belief that I was worthless and didn’t deserve to find someone who would love and respect me. So, I always chose toxic relationships, believing that was all I deserved. When I became pregnant for the fourth time, looking back I can see I just went into total panic mode. I believed I couldn't manage another child on my own. I thought that everyone would know how much of a terrible person I was for becoming pregnant without being in a serious relationship again. I felt that I just couldn't handle it again.
I went to my GP and I said I just couldn't do it again. No questions were asked. I was referred to the hospital two days later. I had not told anyone I was pregnant: neither my family, friends, nor the dad. I attended the first appointment at hospital. I was not questioned at all about why I was making the decision to end my baby's life or if I had any support. I remember crying the whole way through the appointment, but I was never asked if I was okay, if I had thought about my decision, or if I had told anyone. I was then sent for a scan. I remember lying on the bed and turning away, never once looking at the screen, with tears blinding me.
I was booked in to take my first tablet two days later. I left my work (I worked as a nurse), went to the hospital, took the first tablet, and then went back to work - no explanation was given to me. I returned on my own two days later and took the final tablet. Again, I was extremely upset but received no support from the nurses. I was alone the whole time. I was simply told on discharge that if I had any problems with bleeding, I should attend accident and emergency and explain I had an abortion. I had to drive myself home, pick up my other kids from school, and pretend everything was ok. At no time did I feel relief. It was just emptiness and regret.
My life then spiralled, as I could not live with the fact that I chose to end my child’s life out of fear. I was hospitalised due to severe depression and anxiety exactly a year after my abortion. I also tried to end my life.
I want other women to know that they aren’t alone. Abortion hurts the woman as much as the child. Healthcare professionals should spend time with women and ensure they are making an informed decision, not one out of panic and fear. I wish someone had taken the time to ask me to stop and think about my decision. I believe I would never have chosen abortion if I had support from healthcare staff and had turned to looked at the screen once during my scan. Because if I had seen my baby even at 8 weeks, I would have chosen life for her. I thank God every day for bringing me to ARCH and guiding me to Rachel's Vineyard, because only there did I receive true healing and the opportunity to grieve for my little girl.