I had the procedure in 1961 as an adult with 2 small children under 2. I was in a bad marriage, my husband was away often, was financially unreliable and an alcoholic. We had to move 2 times because of unpaid rent. I left twice, the second time thankfully I worked with lawyers who encouraged me to get a separation agreement. I had to work to provide for the kids and keep our home.
I was very scared to lose my kids for being an unwed mother. There was so much shame and judgement for women, and the laws backed it up. I felt like my children could be taken from me so easily. I had to work to provide for them. Financial support was not possible from my ex. Since I couldn’t prove there was violence or abuse a divorce was very hard to get.
After the separation I fell in love, it was considered an affair because I hadn’t yet been able to get a divorce. That is when I got pregnant. There was very little birth control and I was apparently extremely fertile. It is the worst feeling when you find out you’re pregnant and all you can think is “there is no way I can have a child right now”, there is so much guilt because we are made to feel guilty for choosing not to be pregnant.
I was constantly worried their father would fight for custody, not because he wanted them—they would end up living with his mother—but because he knew it was the best way to hurt me or control me. Being pregnant without being divorced brought judgement on my whole family.
I told a girlfriend I was pregnant; she had terminated a pregnancy previously and gave me the name and information of the person who performed the abortion for her. She made the introductions, drove me there, and stayed with me. It was the scariest day in my life.
It was in a kitchen! There was a nurse, or someone the abortion provider called a nurse, I was asked to get onto the kitchen table and they used a coat-hanger, an actual coat-hanger. I wasn’t in a state of mind at the time to question anything. I remember something about exposing my uterus to air.
I did what I had to do at the time. I can’t say it was wrong. I could not risk my children’s future and I knew I did not want to be pregnant at this time.
After the appointment I was told very strongly to leave and never contact them again. They said “if you have issues, contact your physician”. My children were staying with someone I trusted overnight and I stayed at my friend’s. In the morning she rushed me out, she wanted me to leave right away. It made me feel like I was an imposition, or she wanted the whole thing over with. The whole thing was terribly uncomfortable. We never spoke of it again.
The next day I was bleeding terribly, and the bleeding wouldn’t stop, after a while I contacted my doctor to ask for advice and to find out if this was normal. He told me if I was bleeding so much I must have done something and that he would not see me, I would need to go to emergency. He told me this in a tone that suggested he wanted no part in this issue. Was that because it was considered illegal or he objected personally? I didn’t go to emergency, I was too afraid. What I had done was considered a crime even though I was absolutely sure it was in my best interest and the best interest of the two children I already had.
My boyfriend was out of the country on business. Taking my children to childcare and going to work while losing so much blood was incredibly difficult. As I am recalling this story the terrifying feelings associated with this period of time come flooding back to me.
After 3 weeks of heavy bleeding, fever, and fear the bleeding stopped. Thankfully I had the support of my boyfriend, whom I eventually married and had two more children with, he adopted the two children from my previous marriage and we made a home with the children that we chose to raise. It took some time to get my ex to agree to the adoption, he never visited the children nor gave any financial support but at almost every turn it felt like the law was on his side.
The medical system and the legal system were threatening. Social services could have passed judgement on me for my pregnancy or terminating the pregnancy. It was an unsafe time and the systems all failed to protect my health or well-being. When it was over I preferred not to think about it much and it was rarely discussed.
Everyone I was scared to tell is now deceased, and I am old enough now that I know I made the right choice in a very difficult time to do what was best for myself and my family.