Tuesday, 4 September 2007

A is for Abortion

Once again, I may have to crave the indulgence of my reader if this account sounds in any way flippant or lighthearted but I have ever been one to face up to my fear by laughing at the funny side of things and dealing with what happened on this particular day turned out to be no exception.

I cried silently a lot on Sunday night, lying beside my Husband with hot tears rolling down my cheeks, trying not to sob aloud. I am quite practised in this art but, eventually, the emotion racking my body convulsively became too much and I had to go downstairs and let rip until I started to feel better. When I did, finally, go back to bed, it was so hard to sleep, I was sure I could feel the baby moving inside me when I lay on my belly even at this early stage and the nausea was very trying.

I'm afraid I crumbled completely on Monday morning, not just because of the enormity of what I had to do, but because of the sudden absence of Ruf, who had been out with the boys the night before after a particularly successful football result. It transpired that he had left his phone behind when he went out and so couldn't contact me. He does this on a frequent basis because he's a forgetful numpty but, naturally, I had visions of him dead in a ditch somewhere, in addition to the fact that I felt completely abandoned when there was no contact from him and no response to my frantic texts. As is always the case, the sense of isolation and general self-pity made me well up far more effectively than anything else ever could have. I had to text Angela and tell her not to be nice to me under any circumstances as the floodgates would undoubtedly open. So we spent the next 20 minutes discussing Ruf and the various reasons for his sudden silence before dissing his uselessness, which helped a great deal because it allowed my emotionamometer to move from pathetically weepy to angry in several giant leaps. Anger is always a good emotion to fortify you when you have to face up to something unpleasant.

I probably have not mentioned this before but Angela is not one of life's natural compasses. On numerous occasions, despite clear and detailed instructions, she has managed to locate my house only via an unexpected detour of about 20 miles - each time in a different direction. This day was almost no exception where it looked as if I might be about to be treated to a tour of the highlights of Birds of a Feather country but, fortunately, she spotted the road we needed as we drove past it and was able to turn around fairly promptly. Since I am the heroine of this piece and a little delicate, we will, of course, conveniently gloss over the fact that, on this occasion, I was supposed to be in charge of directing her from the detailed instructions that she had laboriously written out...

On arrival at the Clinic, the receptionist told me that, even though I was busting for the loo, I would have to hold on because I had to have a full bladder for the scan. 45 MINUTES LATER, I was ushered, walking in a very peculiar fashion, from the crowded waiting room into the scan room. Fortunately, I have a very strong bladder, together with amazing will power...

However, during this waiting time, my errant lover telephoned. I have never been so pleased to hear his voice and he quickly managed to work his way back into my affections, as well as restoring my good humour. Looking around the room was the most bizarre experience. Women of all ages, colours, shapes and sizes. Ruf wanted to know if I was the oldest one there, a question for which I will assuredly punch him on Friday evening. Those of us who were there for a surgical procedure had been advised to wear big pants, not thongs, as sanitary towels would be required afterwards. It is alarming how many people believe it is fashionable to have big pants not just peeping out from the waistband, but fully exposed by the huge-waisted jeans that they wear. Countess Cake looks aghast at this hideous fashion faux pas from the ivory tower of her big tshirt and jogging bottoms. People were moving in and out relatively quickly but some were there to have the tablet termination and some for the other procedure so some came and went quicker than others.

Back in the surgery, I hopped up onto the couch and asked if my baby was still alive. The nurse pressed the scan tool against my belly, only to almost drop it as the being within lurched in a frantic fashion. 'Did you feel that?' she asked. 'I think that should tell you that it is very much alive.'I guess it's because I am so skinny that the effects of the movement of a baby of 9 weeks gestation can still be felt. I asked if I could see him so she turned the screen around. The scanning machine was quite old so nowhere near as clear as some of the ones today but it was enough that I could see him moving around frenetically. It was impossible not to smile. I asked her if she thought it was a little odd to be asking to see something for which my future plans were not very optimistic. She was quick to assure me that everyone deals with this situation in their own way. That was one of the overriding impressions of the whole day, the way the staff were so non-judgemental, cheerful and supportive in such difficult circumstances.

This nurse told me that, at 9 weeks, the tablet termination was not really an option so it would have to be surgical. She suggested that I be sedated, rather than have a general anaesthetic. I reminded her that I was supposed to be having the procedure without any anaesthetic at all. She looked at me and said 'At 9 weeks that is going to be very uncomfortable'. She then asked if I had had anything to eat and of course I had because it had specifically told me to on my letter confirming my non-anaesthetised choice. Basically, this meant that there was no choice anyway so I just tried to fight off the fear and get on with it. She told me that a nurse would be holding my hand the whole time and that there would be distractions. I suggested naked male dancers would work for me and she said she'd see what she could do. At least I was now able to empty my bladder.

Finally, 90 minutes after I had arrived, I was called up to the waiting area for theatre. There were already three girls there and I was told that they were breaking for lunch so I would be out in about another 90 minutes. Poor Ange! She was still sat out in the car. But she was brilliant as always, taking it in her stride and seeming to be able to sort out the logistical difficulties that I was causing in her own life without batting an eyelid.

The waiting was the worst thing. Knowing that it was going to be very uncomfortable did not really help. Sitting in that room as more and more women came in. Each one appeared in the doorway with that same look on her face as she surveyed the number of women in the queue before her. Each one desperately looking anywhere other than make eye contact with anyone else. I was of course one of the older ones. Most seemed to be in their 20s and a couple even younger.

It was as if the delay was giving me the opportunity to reassess my position. Giving me one last chance to waiver and change my mind. Take myself and my baby away from this nightmare and place ourselves in the hands of Destiny to see what would happen. But, all the time, the ghastly spectre of reality hung in the air. The picture of what might be - alone in a Benefits bedsit, with no Ruf, no Husband and no children, trying to care for a disabled child. I just couldn't take that chance.

Finally I got called in to a little room where they talked to me about future contraception, what was going to happen and apologise for the delay. I was taken off to the toilet and told to wee and equip my pants with a sanitary towel. About 30 minutes later they called my name and took me down to the theatre area. Dressed in a big tshirt with a surgical wrap around my waist, wearing my socks and holding my knickers scrunched up in my hand, I entered the place where it was all going to happen.

I put my pants under the pillow as instructed. They helped me up onto the table and put my ankles into a sort of stirrup type contraption holding my legs wide apart. Doused me with a local anaesthetic and inserted a speculum. So far so good. A rod of some kind was inserted and then a sort of tube up the centre of it right inside my uterus. No worse, and in some ways easier than a smear.

The nurse holding my hand started chatting to me and, as things started to happen at the business end, I announced that now would be the time for the naked male dancers that I'd been promised. The anaesthetist, bless him, volunteered to start stripping off but the nurses were afraid for my sanity if he completed the process.

This is the point at which the panting breathing that I had learned 16 years previously when I attended all those National Childbirth Trust classes about how to knit spaghetti and give birth without pain relief suddenly came into play. I had never used the exercises at the time, having had two caesareans and bemoaned the fact vociferously to all who would listen. Still, it just goes to prove what they say that a skill learned is never wasted.

I could feel this incredible 'drawing' sensation inside my lower belly. Pant pant pant, just about copeable. Keep talking, keep answering their questions. Don't think about it. Pant pant pant. A short gap. Pant pant pant. Don't think about it. Keep talking. Pant pant pant. A few seconds respite.

The pant pant pant became a f- f- f- f- pant pant pant. The short break. F-f-f-f-f-fuck pant pant pant.

And then the last two were the most excruciating pain you can ever imagine where the f-f-f became fuck fuck fuck at the top of my voice followed by a shit shit shit as I tried to breathe through it. They were all so kind and tried to calm me, before he went in for the final one. No amount of pregnancy breathing and martial arts training could ever have prepared me to deal with the torture of having the last remnants ripped and sucked away from me. Like period pain, someone had said. My Arse!!! Someone had inserted a seering white hod rod of torment and was tearing out my soul. It felt as if my insides were being wrenched out and I'm afraid I screamed just as loudly at his removal as I can remember doing at his conception. I am trying very hard not to imagine what effect this cataclysmic ejection had on my baby. And, in retrospect, I'm so glad I didn't have anaesthesia. How, at some point in the future, could I look my baby in the eye knowing that I had had the luxury of sedation to protect me from the agony of his demise.

And then it was over and I was apologising profusely for my disgusting language as they laughed saying they'd heard far worse. The curious part of me wanted so much to look into the receptacle to see the remnants of my dead child but something inside held me back. Perhaps one memory too far.

My shaking legs were gently removed from the stirrups and they let me recover a bit, put me back into my knickers, before helping me off the bed and into another waiting area where they put me on a sort of reclining chair with my legs in the air. The effect of having gravity taken off my battered innards was bliss like you cannot imagine.

In the same room was the girl who had been operated on prior to me. She had been sedated and was lying woosily in her chair drinking tea. She would not be allowed to drive for 48 hours - which is the main reason I selected to not be anaesthetised, the fact that tomorrow I have to go to work and ferry my kids around since everyone is going back to school.

They gave me water and paracetamol and, later tea and biscuits before talking to me about my aftercare and the things that I am and am not allowed to do. But one good thing was that, almost immediately, I noticed that my previously ever-present nausea had disappeared.

No strenuous physical exercise and no sex - even oral - for two weeks. I have, of course, told Ruf that I believe this may include the giving of oral :) But, trust me, if I ever feel like I could possibly want to have sex ever again after this, I will be using a contraceptive. I intend to visit my doctor to find out about getting my tubes tied. Apparently there is a spike of massively increased fertility at both the beginning and at the end of your reproductive cycle and I want you all to be aware of this so you don't make the same mistake I did, thinking that you are too old to fall pregnant. Don't believe it and please, please learn from my mistake and subsequent painful lesson.

Ange drove me all the way home and then went back to sort out her kids and getting them back to school tomorrow. Words just don't seem to be enough to thank her for hanging around for the best part of five hours and being my taxi and my support on what was a very unpleasant day.

I still have to wait to see if the operation has been totally successful. There is the chance that a tiny part may have been left behind which could lead to an infection. There is also the chance that there may have been some damage to my uterus from the operation which could cause further health problems. Four and a half hours later, I was bleeding heavily and had cramping period-type pains requiring some more paracetamol. It was not much fun. But Life has to appear as if it is normal so tea had to be cooked, lunchboxes needed to be filled, schoolbags prepared, arguments refereed.

Needless to say, I didn't sleep very much last night. I missed the presence of my baby. This morning I went back to work. It was harder than I imagined physically and the bleeding, which had eased off during the night, increased again. I think my body is still in shock and my mind is starting to feel the effects of the diminishing hormones so that my eyes are filling up at the slightest thing and my emotions are all very fragile.

And you have no idea how many pregnant women I saw this morning.


Angela-la-la said...

Honey, you thanked me much more than neccessary (I found out when I popped into Tesco on the way home, you cow!)

Your honesty in these posts is amazing and I bet there will be hundreds of 'women of a certain age' having a rethink about contraception due to your brave recounting of your experience.

Ruf - if you don't give this woman stroky cuddles and footrubs all weekend I'll, I'll... stamp on your foot next time I see you! :)

Peach said...

So honest and frankly written, I hope you don't mind, I've nominated it for post of the week...

... I hope you're feeling better very soon XXX

Gypsy said...

What a gut wrenching, raw and honest post Cake. So sorry that you had to learn such a painful lesson but thanks for sharing it. I am around the same age and was also under the impression I am too old to get pregnant so thanks for setting me straight on that one.

I hope your body recovers soon and your mind and emotional well being even sooner. Big hugs to you.

Gypsy said...

Oh and one more thing....Angela, we should all be blessed with good friends like you. I think you're amazing.

having my cake said...

peach - please, would you mind if I asked you not to. It just doesnt feel right :(

Lady in red said...

I am glad you are feeling less nauseaous. It is very courageous of you to be so honest in your telling of this episode in your life. I think its worth making sure the men of our age learn as well as us women. Too many men assume that its ok not to use condoms.
If I ever fell pregnant again it would be nothing short of a miracle but even so I still ask my lovers to use condoms not just for my sake but theirs too. Pregnancy not being the only risk.

Cake I am really sorry you had to go through such an horrific ordeal and hope things just get better for you from now on in.

Anonymous Boxer said...


What to say that hasn't been said? I'm wishing you peace. You deserve that now.

Peach said...

hey, have requested removal...


Jackie Adshead said...

You're a brave lady - with what you've physically and mentally been through, and with the way you've told us all about it here.

bittersweet me said...


sorry. i got about 7 sentances read .. can't read any more, hun, but you know that i am thinking of you


Wild Cat said...


I can symphasise with you, having been there too. I can remember the pain that you describe so much better than I ever could.


Mr. & Mrs SW said...

You bare very brave to share. Hope you can sense all the positive vibes from blogland.

n said...

hope you feel better soon. You are a brave lady who did the right thing for her family.xx

n said...

hope you feel better soon. You are a brave lady who did the right thing for her family.xx

Curvaceous Dee said...

Just ... *hugs*. You did a brave and difficult thing.

xx Dee

Born Worrier said...

All my best wishes, hugs and thoughts are with you, I hope you feel better soon.

Take care of yourself.

Vi vi vi vooom!!!!!!!! said...

Very honest and brutal account. Sorry I haven't been around to read what has been happening to you.

Hugs baby, I've been through it in the past as well.


Anonymous said...

Hugs from me as well. Not much else to say, honey. x

Dazza said...

All the very best. Such a hard thing to go through for so many reasons. You have my best thoughts and love.


Juno said...

You're very brave. You took responsibility for your actions, and you did it without complaining.

And i really appreciate the accurate and non-melodramatic account of your experience. You taught me a thing or two that I hope i never have to know -- but it's good to know in any case.

Thinking of you, Cake.

Love and hugs,
Juno x

The Man With Secrets said...

An uncomfortable post.

Cake, What I really like about you is that you never refuse to take responsibility for your actions, without beating yourself up about it. So much sadness, and you're still there, still smiling, wiser, and willing to share. An inspiration. Thank you.

Pixie said...

You are some courageous woman cake!
Now you just have to keep blogging cause you need to write and write until you write the pain away.
Love and hugs for you