Recovering & Growing From My Abortion Experience
by Joelle Majeau
Despite being more than five years ago, I remember the day I found out I was pregnant with cosmic clarity. It was a glorious afternoon in late July, and I had the day off before commencing my work week the following morning. I was lying on my bed with my floor-length windows wide open to let the breeze and sunshine in. I lit a joint and walked around my suite bare footed, feeling a sort of idyllic calm, which was a rare occurrence in my life at this time.
Looking back, I wonder if I was given this moment of all-encompassing peace in preparation for the long and painful journey I had ahead of me.
I waltzed into my bathroom to pee when I stopped and assessed myself in the mirror. Without any prompt, a thought crossed my mind that I was supposed to get my period a few days – maybe even a week? – ago. “Huh, that’s odd,” I thought to myself.
I reached under my shirt and squeezed my right boob, then the left. Sore boobs was an early pregnancy symptom I was aware of at the time; it was the only indication I had ever seen depicted in a movie or TV show. My chest was heavy and sore in a way I’d never felt before, and I was confused about how I didn’t notice this until now. Obviously, pregnancy was out of the question, but I had a couple of tests under the sink and decided to take one anyway. When the test came back negative, I giggled and rolled my eyes, putting the misunderstanding behind me.
Not exactly sure why, I walked back to my bedroom and placed the used test on my bedside table, instead of in the trash.
At some point later in the night, I remembered the test and went to dispose of it. As I picked it up and glanced down for final confirmation, to my complete shock, there were now two pink lines in the result window. I stared at it in disbelief, blinking rapidly. I must have looked at the test too soon after taking it, so I hadn’t seen a positive result develop. Considering it was now hours later, I went and took the only other test I had at home. When it too came back positive, I quietly whispered to myself, “Oh, fuck.”
With my partner away for several days without any cell service, I decided to call upon my trusted friend Aly. I purchased $100 worth of pregnancy tests, like a Knocked Up remake I had never agreed to be a part of, and we went to her apartment to figure this out together. With strong mixed drinks in hand, I received several more positive test results.
At the very beginning of our relationship, my partner and I had agreed on an abortion in the instance of an unplanned pregnancy. We were in our early twenties, and I was a full-time student. What I couldn’t have prepared for, prior to becoming pregnant, is that I wouldn’t end up wanting an abortion. I felt immediately protective over this possibility of life growing inside me.
The same thoughts recycled themselves through my psyche over the next few days, while I waited for my partner to return from his trip. You agreed to terminate an unplanned pregnancy. He trusted you to make the right decision. You are going to ruin his life if you make him become a father now. Your parents will want you to get an abortion; they want you to finish school. No one will understand or support you.
Interestingly enough, none of my thoughts were about how I was feeling or how this would affect my life. I was consumed with how my pregnancy would impact those around me, and the responsibility I had to make the right decision for their sake. To be fair, a lot of my self-talk about keeping the pregnancy was revealed as truth when I finally got to tell my partner and, later on, my parents. My partner did want me to terminate the pregnancy, and so did my parents.
Everyone was loving and did their best to support me, but in the end, they maintained their stances.
The decision to get an abortion, regardless of my own feelings, was not a clear-cut realization. Instead, it was more like a slow ebbing away of any confidence or agency I felt. As time went on, I felt too guilty to make a decision I knew would be difficult for others.
A couple of weeks after finding out I was pregnant, I made an appointment for a medical abortion (which uses a combination of Mifepristone and Misoprostol to terminate the pregnancy). The first pill was provided to me by a clinician who was nearing the end of her own pregnancy, one that she had clearly chosen to keep. I felt sick to my stomach. I was to take the second medication the next evening at home, which leads to a process where the pregnancy is released from the body.
I watched videos and read blogs about people’s experiences of having a medical abortion, but all of it failed to prepare me for the short and long-term effects of my decision. I knew everyone’s experience was bound to differ, but I thought I could at least try and be a bit prepared. I expected pain and blood, but I did not expect ten hours of excruciating pain and for the Advil, T3s and Percocet to do absolutely nothing but make me shake and throw up. I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to die from the pain and blood loss, and I didn’t expect to be so afraid.
At some point during the process, I told my partner that I might need to go to the hospital because something must be wrong. Eventually, the pain started to die down, and I fell asleep. I didn’t leave my bed for several days. Part of me felt like I was given this horrible experience as punishment for my actions.
The following months were incredibly difficult. I became very depressed directly following the abortion and didn’t start to feel better for about six months. I hated myself for not listening to and valuing my own feelings about this decision. I resented my partner for not being open to keeping the baby. I was angry, and still am, about pro-choice activism that pushes rhetoric like “It’s just a clump of cells!” while I felt this unending loss and grief in my own life.
I knew this baby’s due date, and to this day, I know how old my child would be, had they been born. There have been years where I thought about it every single day. There were months when I wanted to kill myself. It’s been a trying journey of understanding, forgiveness, empathy and love for myself, my partner, my family and my friends.
Now that it has been just over five years since my abortion, I can recognize all the life lessons I learned through my experience. I am now in a place where I’ve accepted my abortion, despite the heartbreak it has caused me. Having a child in the circumstances I was in at the time would have been very difficult, and I don’t think I would be where I am now if I had made a different decision.
Abortion regret and trauma are real, it is not entirely uncommon, and these experiences should be honoured within the pro-choice movement.
I am still pro-choice, and I am still with my partner. At the time of my pregnancy, I wasn’t even sure I wanted children, particularly biological ones. I am now very excited to become a mother one day and hopefully be pregnant several more times. I completed my Bachelor’s degree, and I now have a job that provides maternity leave and subsidized daycare. Most importantly, I’ve learned to trust and honour myself enough to make decisions on things that impact my life so intimately.
I’ve realized, over the years, that you cannot base your life on what is convenient and comfortable for other people. If I applied that thinking to my life wholeheartedly, I wouldn’t do anything at all. Over time, I would become such a small version of myself, and eventually, there wouldn’t be anything left.
So, if you are going through or processing a difficult abortion experience, I am with you. Please reach out to whatever support you can, whether it be family and friends or professional help. Please love and trust yourself enough that you allow yourself the agency to live your life. You are going to be okay.
Joelle Majeau is a Cree-Métis woman living and loving in Vancouver. With a B.A. in Indigenous Studies, she is currently working as a coordinator for Indigenous students at Simon Fraser University. Outside of her work, Joelle is passionate about writing, community, and being out on the land.