In 2004 I was signed off work with PND. My youngest daughter was about 18 months old, and my oldest daughter, who had just started school, was 4. I barely left the house and was a crying wreck most of the time. But I fell pregnant. It must’ve been the only time we had made love for months and the condom broke. But I had literally only just finished my period, so I thought it’ll be ok. But it wasn’t. My cycle was clearly all over the place with my anxiety and depression, and I was pregnant.
Initially I think I actually thought about having this third daughter – it was a girl, I just knew. And imagining that I would cope, and everything would be fine. But then reality hit. Motherhood up to that point and been terrifying for me – although I would never hurt a hair on their heads I was afraid to be alone with our precious daughters because I felt inadequate as a mother and was convinced I would cause them harm in some way by not doing motherhood ‘right’. I don’t remember the details, but I know I discussed the pregnancy with my husband and with my GP and with one very close friend. The overriding realisation was that this wasn’t something I could do right now. I was barely surviving as mother to two children, let alone inviting a third into the equation. I had to be sensible and focus on keeping my health, so I could be there for my girls.
I’d not really thought about abortion from a personal perspective before. I’d always been supportive of women who had faced them, and never thought it was inherently wrong. Quite the opposite, I thought it was a very sensible course of action for many women – and at the time I was convinced that I was one of those women, and that terminating this pregnancy was for the best. But it wasn’t straightforward. Despite my GP immediately saying she felt it was the right decision, the process meant inevitable delays and time was running out for me to do it with medication rather than surgically. I ended up having to drive myself for nearly two hours to the clinic, munching on water biscuits the whole way to stave off morning sickness. My husband couldn’t get time off work, so was to join me later on the train and he would drive us home.
The whole time is a blur, I have vivid memories of them scanning me beforehand, being handed some tablets, standing in a cold toilet cubicle with them, then crying alone in a corner until my husband arrived. I remember the park outside the clinic, with kids playing in it. We got home, I was in a lot of pain, I remember a red sack falling into the toilet with blood. We sat in each other’s arms and cried. I had no idea what to expect, I bled for weeks, I had no counselling, nobody checked on me afterwards. I never talked about the experience to anyone. It’s 14 years ago and I’m still crying as I write this. I think there’s a bit of me that’s never stopped.
Recently it was baby loss awareness day. Friends who have lost babies through miscarriage changed their profile photos on Facebook and social media was full of posts of remembrance. But I killed my own baby. I can’t mourn her publicly. How shameful would that be for all those women who lost babies through no fault of their own? It doesn’t mean I don’t think about her. Nearly every day. Wondering what she would be like, she would’ve started high school now. She would’ve seen her big sister go off to university. I could have held her in my arms.
I will never forget the morning I did that pregnancy test. I had a chocolate cake in the oven for the kids to have for pudding after tea. I was feeling pleased with myself because I’d managed to do something constructive and meaningful, like a ‘proper’ mother. But the cake got left in the oven too long because of my shock, and I will never forget that smell of burnt chocolate. And today I still think of the baby I never had whenever I smell burnt chocolate.