Breaking at the Cracks

For the next week I was a mixture of enraged and inconsolable. I wouldn’t listen when Henry told me it would all be over soon, I snapped at my flatmates when they tried to make me feel better, and I was still struggling to keep pretty much anything down. The morning sickness was not relenting, and neither was my raging cold.

Every day leading up to my appointment at the TOPAR clinic I sunk a little deeper into, what I think now was probably mild depression. I stayed in my room most days, I pretty much stopped going to my University classes, telling my tutors I was ill and was going to hospital. I lay in my bed crying at how cruel life had been to me, wondering if this was happening because I was a bad person, if I was being punished for the way I had toyed with Henry and Jack. I knew the answer was yes. I was stuck in a pit of shame, guilt, and heartbreak. I felt totally alone despite Henry and my friend’s constant attempts to comfort me and keep me company.

Jack remained on the sidelines. He would reply if I messaged him, but they lacked the same attentiveness that they were filled with a month ago. Each time I reminded him of our situation and how ill I was, once again, he would simply say, “I hope you feel better soon.” I asked him if he would accompany me to my appointment at the TOPAR clinic, telling him how nervous I was about it and how he ought to be there. His answer was a quick no, his excuse being that he would probably be at work and it was too late to try and get it off. It was only a few days notice, but I had expected him to be a little more sorry, or to have taken initiative to get it off work so he could be there for me. I thought Jack would be more caring, would ask if I was ok, or if I needed anything, was there anything he could do? The only time I ever got this from him was when I specifically pointed out that he wasn’t already doing it.

I was growing weary of his nonchalance about the whole pregnancy. How could a man in his mid-twenties not understand his responsibility in this situation? And how could he simply ignore them because we had called it quits and he’d found someone new who was willing to date him? I wasn’t asking for a boyfriend, I was asking for the friend he had promised to remain, I was asking him to act like the father of this child and take his share of the responsibility of our actions. I may have asked, but I did not receive.

Henry on the other hand, couldn’t stop giving. He was constantly asking what I needed, trying to perk me up with jokes, funny stories, anything he could to help the situation. He brought me every remedy for morning sickness and nausea he could think of, and when they didn’t work, he’d rack his brain to find something else.

Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

After Jack left, the next few days were filled with me trying to act like everything was fine. At work, at University, at home. I was emotionally and mentally exhausted, and tired of putting on a happy face. Then I started to feel nauseous.

One morning, during a two-hour lecture, I began to feel horrendously ill. During the break between the first and second hour, I told my lecturer I wasn’t feeling well and headed home. But I couldn’t make it home. I had to stop off at a University building and run to the toilet, where, the second I locked the door behind me, I spun round and vomited into the glaringly white toilet bowl. I let myself sink down onto the bathroom floor as I wiped my face, blew my now running nose and dried my tearing eyes.

I walked home fast. Desperate to get into a hot bath, close my eyes, and forget the incident. I was quickly catching the cold that was infecting most of my classmates and I didn’t need to be throwing up on top of that. By the time I made it home my head was spinning. I went to the bathroom and began running a roasting hot bath. As I waited for the tub to fill, I started looking up morning sickness. Everywhere I looked, I was told: “Morning sickness usually begins during the sixth or seventh week of pregnancy.” I was six weeks pregnant. Perfect.

I eased my way into the hot water, hoping it would ease my stomach and my nausea. It didn’t. I had barely even started washing my hair when I began to feel the stomach acid rising in my throat. I leapt out of the bath in time to once again stick my head into the toilet bowl.

I messaged Jack, hoping this physical reaction to the pregnancy would trigger some sympathy and responsibility within him. After waiting almost an hour for a response, he told me a long winded story about his day and ended the message with “and I hope you feel better.” Not exactly what I had been expecting.

The rest of the week that Jack was gone I spent most of between bed and the bathroom. I was struggling to keep most food and liquids down, including Lemsips to ease my aching throat and the raging cold that was now fully developed. I had never felt more dreadful. When he could, Henry visited and took care of me, bringing me whatever food I could actually stomach, and different teas that he had read were meant to help ease morning sickness. None of it worked, but I was grateful to have him there looking after me. I desperately wanted to tell my mum, but I was also terrified of what she would think of me once she knew. I spoke to her a couple of times that week, and each time she asked me if something was wrong, as though she could sense the unhappiness and worry in my voice, something I was striving desperately to conceal. I managed to keep the secret till my parents went away on holiday, and I wasn’t likely to hear from them for the next two weeks. It was ideal.

The night before Jack was due back from his parents’, I asked if he wanted to come over the following evening and catch up. He turned up looking calm, and acting more or less as if nothing had happened. We put a film on and I tried to cuddle up next to him on the sofa, but he was reluctant. Rude. I was still in my PJ’s and I apologised to him for my appearance, which might have been putting him off, but I had spent most of the day feeling ill and occasionally being sick. After two films, a minimal amount of hugging and a lot of small talk, Jack left. I was confused and hurt. He hadn’t asked me how I was doing, if I had needed anything, or if he should come with me to the TOPAR clinic appointment, which was looming closer. I was also hurt by the fact that he had barely touched me all night. He had stiffly put his arm around me when I leaned into him and didn’t even give me a hug when he left. What was going on? I sent him a text telling him I was confused, and asking where exactly we were, were we friends, or something more? His reply explained that he thought we were better off friends, that he thought I was amazing but us being more than that never seemed to work out. I figured this was pretty true, and tried to be OK with it on top of everything else. That was fine until the next day.

Jack and I were chatting away online, back to our usual, relaxed and easy conversation I had always loved. He wasn’t bringing up the pregnancy or his responsibility for it, but he was back to normal. I casually asked if he had any plans that evening, to which he responded, “I do actually, I’m meeting Tessa.”

WHAT?! I was fuming. The day after he just told me we should be friends, he was meeting her?! Had he completely forgotten that I was pregnant? And despite the part of me that wished it was Henry’s, I knew deep down, this was Jack’s, and I was filled with rage at Jack’s denial and incompetence. I was furious, and pointed out his perfect timing deciding to call things off with me. He told me, “I’ve been talking to Tessa ever since I decided to stop wasting my time on you.” Now that stung. I was at this point, an emotional, hormonal, increasingly sick woman, and getting sick of pretending none of this was getting to me. I felt betrayed. I asked him if he felt this way, why on earth he slept with me just over a week ago, and how he could do that while making dates with another woman. His response, and at this point possibly the worst thing Jack had ever said to me was, “I was drunk and you were there.”

I had thought that, despite our problems, when Jack and I fell into bed together again, it was because it meant something to both of us and because we both wanted to try and make something more out of it. Apparently, I hadn’t communicated this to dear Jack, and he saw our last sexual encounter as a drunken mistake, not a sign that things were looking up. I asked him how he could do this to me with all that I was going through, that I thought we were both going through. I can’t remember his exact words but they hurt. To be honest, all I remember is that everything he said to me that day, and for the following days was cruel, hurtful and unnecessary, but the individual words escape me. I had been completely dumped for another girl by the father of a child that was beginning to grow inside of me. To say I was pissed off does not even begin to cover how I felt.

Definitely Unexpected

The next day, I asked Jack to come over, and that I had something important to tell him. He arrived looking cheery but wary of what it was I had to tell him, though he clearly had no idea what it was. He sat down on the end of my bed and said “Well…shoot!”

I started down at my feet, worried I wouldn’t get what I needed to say out. I looked up at Jack’s face. His lovely face that somehow always managed to make me smile. “I’m pregnant.” The words just fell out of my mouth, as though I had no control over them. I saw his innocent, jovial face change into a look of horror and dismay. “What?! How?!” he exclaimed. I laughed a little, to myself, wondering the same thing. I simply shrugged nonchalantly in response and said, “They think I’m about 5 weeks…”

Jack put one of his hands up to his forehead and ran his long fingers through his hair. He looked as though I had just told him someone had died. I waited for him to act. To ask questions, to hug me, to say anything, but he just sat there in stunned silence, unable to form words. I curled up on the bed, surprised by his reaction, taken aback by his solemn silence. Eventually he lay down next to me and put his arm around me, kissing the top of my head. It wasn’t an act of love, or comfort, it was an empty gesture, like a pat on the back or a shake of the hand. It was his way of saying ‘I don’t know what else to do.’

I couldn’t help but think about how this moment is normally such a happy one. A woman sharing the wonderful news with her overjoyed boyfriend. How lucky I was to be pregnant when there were so many women out there who couldn’t conceive. I felt so guilty for feeling so miserable about it, but I had never been a baby person and I have no intention of having children any time soon, and the timing couldn’t have been worse.  I was in my final year of University, with a 3,000 word essay and a 12,000 word dissertation to complete, and a love triangle I was in dire need of escaping.

After another ten minutes or so of complete silence, I tried to get some sort of reaction out of him. “So…do you have any questions?” I asked. He looked down at me, trying to formulate a thought. Finally he asked what I planned to do. I told him that I had scheduled a meeting at the TOPAR clinic, that I would get a scan and so on, then book a date for the procedure. I waited for him to ask more, to act interested, to take responsibility, anything. Nothing. More silence.

“Are you…ok with what I’m going to do?” I probed. Inside I was screaming at him, begging him to give me words of comfort, to share his fear and his guilt with me, to tell me what he was thinking, anything. He simply nodded. I’m not sure if you can really have expectations for a situation like this, but I was thoroughly disappointed. We lay in each other’s arms for about an hour, not speaking, not sharing thoughts. It wasn’t comforting or reassuring and I could sense how uncomfortable he was, every muscle in his body was tensed.

Eventually I had to start getting ready for work, which meant Jack had his escape. I walked him to the front door, looked up at him, and tried to smile. “I’m heading up to my mum’s in the Highlands tomorrow morning. I don’t get very good signal up there but um, I’ll try to keep in touch.” he said. I felt like I’d just been slapped in the face. He’ll try to keep in touch? He’ll TRY?! He kissed me briefly and then left, without a word of comfort. I knew he was going away but frankly, part of me expected him to change his plans and stay because of this news. Didn’t he feel like he should be here to support me? Did he expect to just disappear for a week, come back and it all be fixed? I was dumbfounded. I couldn’t move. I was stuck, staring at the front door through which Jack had just abandoned me.

Here Comes That Sinking Feeling

So here I am, twenty-two, pregnant, and two men to share the news with. At 8am the next morning, Sarah and I drove to the local clinic where I waited, terrified, for my name to be called. From here on out, I warn anyone with strong feelings against abortion to stop reading now, because I’m going to be completely frank about it. There is such a taboo around even the topic, and I’m hoping that my story will help others not to feel ashamed of the decisions they have made. I am not saying that I am some sort of advocate for abortion, but I know that I made the right decision for me at the time, and I apologise to anyone who is offended by what I have to share.

“So, what are you here for today, how can I help?” the nurse asked me after directing me into a small examining room. I was taken by surprise. I had written on my appointment sheet when I arrived that I thought I was pregnant. Was I actually going to have to say the words out loud?

“Well…I think I’m pregnant.” I finally muttered. She asked me for a urine sample and tested it. Like the two I had taken yesterday, this too, was positive. The nurse sat back down beside me and asked a few routine health questions before she got to the more difficult ones.

“Have you thought about your options? Would you like me to talk to you about adoption and other such plans?” she asked, although from the terrified and embarrassed look on my face, I suspect she knew that the answer was no. I told her I already knew what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be out of there, to go home, crawl into my bed and weep. To hide from the world and hope it would all somehow go away.

I feel rude continuously calling this gracious and understanding nurse ‘she’ but little details like her name completely escape me. The memory of that morning is foggy, as though my mind tried to block it out, but my conscience won’t let me forget it entirely. She talked me through the different abortion options as I faded in and out. Half listening, trying to comprehend the information she was placing upon me. She handed me leaflets about medical and surgical abortions, about long-term contraception.

“I’ll need to take some blood. I’m going to give you a full STI screening.” This woke me from my daze. I’d never had my blood taken, and the thought had always terrified me. I was lucky I’d manage to escape it for so many years and now, as terrified and disgusted with myself as I already was, I had to have blood taken.

“Can I lie down while you do it?” I begged. The nurse smiled knowingly and directed me to the examination bed. I stared unmoving at the grey ceiling of the room as she began searching for a good vein from which to drain me. I could feel my heart rate increasing and my head start to fizz, like the feeling you get just before you’re about to faint. I winced at the pain coming from my arm but refused to look down at it. What probably only lasted a few seconds felt like long, endless minutes. When it was over, I released the air from my lungs, suddenly realising I’d been holding my breath the whole time.

“I think it’s probably best if you don’t try to sit up for a few minutes, you’ve gone white as a sheet.” I remembered then that we had gotten up so early I hadn’t thought to eat any breakfast, and I was feeling the effects. I felt nauseous, and weak. The nurse left the room while I tried to regulate my breathing, desperate to leave this place and forget it. Forget the pasty green walls of the examination room, the white tissue paper that protected the bed, the petri dish on the counter that reminded me once more why I was here. I wanted to forget it all, but I knew this was just the beginning.

The nurse re-entered the room with a cup of water and a chocolate biscuit. I was grateful. I eased myself slowly off the bed and moved straight to the chair I had been sitting in before. As I refuelled, the nurse explained the next steps in the procedure. I would need to make an appointment at the TOPAR clinic (Termination Of Pregnancy Assessment and Referral), where they would take a scan, probably some more blood, and make an appointment for the procedure itself.

When I went home I told Henry. I was so over-whelmed by all the information that had just been dumped on me. Henry was a medical student and I knew he would help me better understand what was happening, but mainly I just couldn’t keep it from him anymore, I was desperate to tell him, to hear his voice tell me everything would be ok. He was comforting and stable and calm. He held me close to him as I cried, reassuring me that in a few weeks it would all be over and that he would be with me every step of the way.

Henry was amazing, he talked me through everything the nurse had done today, and helped me research the two types of abortion available, to help me make the right decision. He stayed with me all night, all the while knowing deep down, that this wasn’t his baby. This wasn’t his responsibility, and I had no right to ask him for help after all I had done to him. He knew all of it, and he didn’t care. I was in awe of him. He showed complete selflessness that day, and I can’t express enough how lucky I was to have someone be exactly what I needed, and without hesitation or judgement.

Welcome to 2013, It’s Gonna Suck

“I’m pregnant.”

A year ago, to the day, I said these words for the very first time. Looking back, it’s crazy how much my life has changed in a year, but I can remember so clearly the sinking feeling, the dread, the fear I felt as I uttered those words.  I stood there, the test in my shaking hands, waiting for my flatmate Sarah to say something. “Fuck. Fuckety fuck fuck.” I sat down on my bed and stared at the carpet. I felt numb. Shocked. I had never imagined the test being positive, I just took them mainly to satisfy my own paranoia. I couldn’t actually be pregnant, I don’t even like kids!

“We need to get you to the clinic.” Sarah finally said. She started going on about what I needed to do, and the sooner the better. How the hell did she know so much? “I’m glad you told me. You didn’t know this but, I’ve been here. I got pregnant a few years ago. I had an abortion.” I was surprised, but comforted I had someone with me who understood the situation. I let out a sigh of relief, then felt a pang of guilt for what she had gone through and how it comforted me, but hurt her.  Frankly, if Sarah hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have known what to do. I was extremely lucky to have her by my side, knowing what to do, and she helped me through that day in so many ways while I sat there dumb and useless. All I could think about was this moment, this moment in which I had just found out I was pregnant.

“Are you going to tell Henry…or Jack?” Sarah asked. Suddenly it hit me. I’m not even sure whose baby this would be! Henry and I had generally been pretty safe the few times we’d slept together the past couple of months. Jack however, was tricky. He kept trying to get away with not wearing a condom and, frankly, Jack and I had had a lot more sex than Henry and I. The problem was, the person that I most wanted to tell was Henry. Henry had been my confidante for the past two years. He was supportive and loving. I wanted to tell him but I knew this news would break his heart all over again. “I think Jack will be really great with this, he’ll be really supportive,” Sarah continued. I admit I thought the same thing, Jack was sweet and caring and I imagined him being thoughtful and would know just the right thing to say, maybe even make me laugh. However, Henry was the only person I had told that I was buying a pregnancy test. He knew what I was like and I had told him about it, like I used to tell him everything. He was going to ask me about it. Shit.

That afternoon I met Henry for lunch, still in shock. “Well, did you take the test?” he asked sarcastically. I just nodded in response. “Aaaaand?” he nudged me, jokingly. “And nothing,” I found myself saying. I don’t know why I didn’t tell him, it just wouldn’t come out. Maybe I didn’t quite believe it yet, either way, I wasn’t ready to say it. I spent most of the meal in silence, barely paying attention to what Henry was talking about. He walked me home and I spent the rest of the afternoon lying on the couch, staring at the TV I hadn’t even bothered to switch on.

Sarah said she had some errands to run, and when she came home she was accompanied by Kirsty and two bottles of wine. I retold Kirsty the story as Sarah handed me a glass of white wine. Irresponsible, yes, needed, definitely.

The three of us sat in our living room in silence, letting the news sink in for what felt like the hundredth time. Finally, Kirsty broke the deafening silence. “What are you going to do?”