real life

'Everyone kept congratulating me.' I fell pregnant in a pandemic, with a baby I didn't want to keep.

The author of this story is known to Mamamia but has chosen to remain anonymous for privacy reasons. The feature image used is a stock photo.

Do a quick Google search and you’ll soon realise that accessing an abortion provider in Tasmania is incredibly difficult. Now imagine you were trying to access this service in the midst of a pandemic. At 30 years of age, this is exactly what happened to me.

I had recently started a new job, which I loved and I had also recently bought my first home with my partner. My weekends were filled with renovating, long distance running, catching up with friends and family and hanging out with my partner and my dog. I was incredibly happy.

It was around March, when this changed and when I stopped feeling like myself. It began when I was at the hairdressers and incredibly intense wave of nausea hit me. 

Watch: Explaining abortion to Uncle Barnaby. Post continues below.


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The nausea was so extreme that I began to sweat profusely. By the time I got home, I felt so unwell that I retreated to the couch for the rest of the day. As someone who runs sixty kilometres a week, this was very unlike me.

The debilitating nausea and fatigue came and went, over the next few weeks. I spent weekends and evenings after work resting on the couch, often with my head next to a bucket.

This may sound naïve but it didn’t occur to me for a number of weeks that I might be pregnant. 

I was on birth control and had been since I was 16, it just wasn’t possible. My periods had always been irregular, sometimes not rematerialising for 40 or more days, so I didn’t notice when my period was particularly late. It was actually April by the time I realised that I should take a pregnancy test.

My partner and I both paced in our kitchen, anxiously waiting for the result. This was what we both wanted someday but not now. Minutes later, the word ‘YES’, in bold, appeared on the stick. Yes, I was pregnant. I crouched down and the floor and cried, I was shattered.

In the following week, I tried to reframe my thinking regarding my pregnancy. I looked online for cute baby clothes and nursery furniture. I stalked the Instagram pages of friends who had recently become mums. I searched for chirpy, happy stories of motherhood online but despite all of this, I just felt gutted.

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That week, I made a phone appointment with my GP to talk about my options. You see in Tasmania, you can’t just walk into an abortion clinic. In fact, you can’t even look up or contact one of these places. 

In Tasmania, the names and locations of abortion clinics are kept secret. So, instead you have to roll the dice and hope that your GP is supportive of your decision to get an abortion and that they will refer you to an appropriate service. 

Alternatively, you can make an appointment with a centre like Family Planning. However, as I found out services such as this are drastically overrun and you might not be able to get an appointment for several weeks and after that, who knows how long it’ll be until you get into an abortion provider.

I made a phone appointment with my GP (remember only a few short weeks ago Tasmania was also in lockdown, so a phone appointment was my only option). 

Maybe it would’ve helped if my middle-aged, male, GP could’ve seen my face, if he could’ve read my body language. 

Maybe it would’ve helped if he considered that I’d only recently been to him to get a repeat script for my birth control. 

Instead all he heard was the first thing that I said, which was, “I’ve just found out that I’m pregnant”. This led to an instant string of congratulations from my GP. He told me how lucky my partner and I were that it had been so easy for us.

This made my stomach churn with guilt, a sensation that I’d recently become familiar with. I’d had friends that had struggled with infertility and they would kill to be in this position. I was now 31, I had a wonderful partner, a great job and a home. I should want this. I was lucky.

As I have done many times in my life, I pretended to happy when I wasn’t. I put on a bright and bubbly voice and said things like, "Yes, it’s so exciting! We can’t believe it either". I ended the phone call with a cheery, "Thanks so much. Yeah, we’re so excited, too!" I spent the next hour crying into my pillow.

Listen to Mamamia Out Loud, Mamamia’s podcast with what women are talking about this week. Post continues below.

At this point, I had almost resigned myself to the fact that I would have to have this child. This child that I didn’t want, not now.

I knew that Tasmania didn’t have a dedicated abortion provider and I knew that given the restrictions, I wouldn’t be able fly interstate to get an abortion (as many Tasmanian women are often forced to do). 

What I didn’t know was that organisations such as Marie Stopes have services which enable people experiencing unwanted pregnancies to access medical abortions over the phone. 

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I came across this service late one night while undertaking a frantic internet search, trying to find a way out.

The next morning, I got up early before work and rang the centre. The lady that I spoke to was very kind but also extremely honest. 

She thought it was probably too late for me to have a medical abortion, given that medical abortions can only occur before nine weeks gestation. 

She emailed me a form for an ultrasound but said unfortunately, given my location there was little the service could do for me if I was past the nine weeks. She did suggest that I might still be able to have surgical abortion, somewhere in Tasmania.

I had the ultrasound and I was eight weeks and four days. The sonographer congratulated me repeatedly and again, I put on my happy face and held back my tears until I got in the car.

Marie Stopes was unable to help me. They told me that by the time the medication arrived at my home, I’d be over the nine weeks. I was completely at a loss. I knew that I couldn’t go back to my GP for advice. I didn’t feel comfortable given his jubilant response, during my last appointment. 

I frantically started searching online for female GPs in my area, female GPs with appointments in the next few days. I felt that my best bet was to get a younger GP, too. Perhaps they would be more likely to be progressive in their views? 

Each time I found a GP online, with an upcoming appointment, I would then search for them on Facebook and on Google. If they appeared to be over 45, I ruled them out. 

I know that sounds horribly judgemental but by this point I was completely desperate and I knew that my fate rested in the hands of the doctor that I saw. I knew that GPs were allowed to refuse to talk to patients regarding abortions and that if they did refuse, they were only obligated to refer them on to another GP. 

It wasn’t only the prospect of being judged that terrified me but it was also that this process could be drawn out further. I knew time was against me.

I soon found a GP who I thought might help me and thank goodness, she turned out to be an absolute godsend. 

She truly couldn’t have supported me more. She quickly arranged the referral for me and offered me comprehensive support in the lead up to my specialist appointment and well-beyond.

As mentioned, Tasmania does not have a dedicated abortion provider. So, this has meant that a small number of private surgeons have graciously taken on this role. 

Two weeks later (that was the soonest that I could get in), I attended a fertility clinic. I sat in a waiting room filled with information about fertility treatments. While I sat, a number of hopeful looking women entered the clinic. I tried to avoid eye contact with these women, as yet again the intense guilt set in.

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Soon, my turn came. The appointment was quick, judgement free but also sterile, like a business transaction. My abortion was scheduled for two weeks' time. 

By this point, I really didn’t know if I could do anymore waiting. I was so incredibly anxious and I was panicked that further COVID-19 related restrictions would be put in place and I would somehow be forced to have a child that I didn’t want.

The two weeks dragged. I felt constantly sick and I could tell that my employer was wondering what the hell was up with me. I’d missed a lot of work due to a string of doctor's appointments, my ultrasound appointment and so on. 

I now had to tell my boss that I’d be missing even more work, another two days due to the procedure. I didn’t tell my boss the reason behind my absences but instead, I made up a series of strange and complicated lies. Again, the guilt set in.

The day finally came. My partner was unable to attend the appointment with me, due to the restrictions, so instead he dropped me at the doors of the giant hospital and drove away. Oh that’s right, did I tell you that in Tasmania instead of going to a small, quiet clinic, you need to go to one of the major hospitals.

I waited for five hours but that was fine, I was now prepared to wait. The suffering and anxiety was finally going to come to an end. 

While in hospital, I saw several people that I knew (Tasmania is very small and everyone knows everyone) and again, I felt that I had to tell awkward and uncomfortable lies about why I was there. That kind of becomes impossible though when your friend’s mum is your nurse.

Finally, I was taken up to theatre and the general anaesthetic was administered. Yeah, in Tasmania you can’t have simple twilight sedation and leave shortly afterwards, like other states. Instead you’re admitted to day surgery, then you’re taken to theatre and then you need to wait several hours after your procedure, until your general anaesthetic has well and truly warn off.

At seven o’clock that evening, I was finally able to go home. I was finally free. 

Most people at the hospital were very kind to me, as were most people throughout the ordeal but this experience led me to question why do we now make Tasmanian women jump through so many hoops to get an abortion? To get something that is deemed an essential health service?

It also made me think how fortunate I was to be able to access this service, even though it was complicated, awful and unnecessarily difficult. I was one of the lucky ones. I was able to pay the “low cost” surgical fee of $475. 

I was able to pay for doctors’ appointments, ultrasound fees, etc. I was able to navigate the awfully tricky and complex system but what about all those who haven’t been able to? And what about all of those who gave up? I know that I nearly did.

Feature Image: Getty.

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