- ‘My Experience’: Jackie opens up about her late-stage abortion experience
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Choosing to terminate a pregnancy is difficult in any situation. But what if you were stuck in a foreign country with no doctor to help you, no one to talk to and no way home? Jackie says she wants to talk about the emotional trauma and the physical exhaustion of a delayed abortion so that other women wrestling their demons know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
How do you say pregnancy test … in Italian?
Jackie left her boyfriend of one month at home to visit her family in Europe. Though she missed him terribly, very soon she realised she was carrying with her a very big reminder of their love.
When Jackie realised her period was more than a week late, she was in the middle of the Italian countryside.
“If you’ve never tried to find and ask for a pregnancy test in Old Italy when you’re travelling with your grandparents, let me tell you, it is not an easy job,” Jackie says.
“After much embarrassment and subterfuge, I finally got my hands on one and almost wished I hadn’t.
“I realised I was several weeks pregnant to a man I’d only started getting serious with. Add to that, I was in a country where I couldn’t speak the language and even if I could, I didn’t even know who I would speak to.”
Jackie says she was in shock and more scared than she had ever been. The only person she wanted to talk to at that moment was a million miles and several international phone cards away.
“We finally got into a small city and I found a phone to call my boyfriend,” Jackie says. “He told me he would support any decision I made – even though I could tell he was scared out of his wits.
“When I told him my circumstances, he told me he was on the next flight to Rome.”
All roads lead to Rome
It would still be a week before Jackie could get to a big city and meet her man. All the while, she said she could feel the clock ticking … and her baby growing.
“I started noticing my body changing really quickly,” she says. “It was terrifying and the worst part is I had to keep it to myself because I felt I couldn’t really talk to my grandparents. I started getting a baby bump, I was nauseous and I was super-hormonal all the time.
“It’s an incredibly hard way to travel.”
Unfortunately, the hardest was still ahead for Jackie and her boyfriend. After finally meeting in Rome, Jackie got a blood test and the doctor told her she had passed the legal stage to take the medical termination pill.
“I was devastated because I didn’t realise how far along I was,” she says. “I also realised this was going to become much more difficult than I imagined.”
Stranger in a strange land
Jackie not only started to run out of courage but also out of money. Because she hadn’t planned for medical expenses and travelling on her own, she was nearly at the end of her resources.
“Even though it was an awkward conversation, I told my grandmother my situation,” she says. “It’s incredible what you learn about your family in tough situations. She might be 80 years old but she is as modern as any woman I know.
“She helped me organise a termination when we arrived back in our home town. I was immediately relieved, but the journey was not yet over.”
Stop the world – I want to get off!
Jackie says that in foreign countries, processes and procedures can be completely different.
“And agonising,” she adds. “Never again will I take the Australian medical system for granted. In Europe, I had to attend three separate, far away and expensive appointments before I was allowed to undertake an abortion.
“This was exhausting in itself, but also took a lot of time, so by the day before my termination, I was literally on the last week I was legally allowed to terminate in that particular country.
“This wouldn’t have been such a huge problem, if all the hospital staff didn’t go on strike the same day.
“My only choice was to quickly book another ticket home and have a late-stage abortion in Australia.
“I honestly thought I couldn’t take anymore,” Jackie says. “I was exhausted, sad, confused, hormonal, angry and I hadn’t even had the abortion yet!”
Jackie rang a good friend and luckily, she had two weeks left to undertake the procedure in her home town. Her friend booked her a GP appointment for a referral and then got her to a clinic the next day after arriving.
There’s no place like home
Though it wasn’t as easy as just tapping her red shoes, Jackie was finally sitting in the clinic waiting room.
“The staff at the clinic were so lovely and professional, they put me right at ease,” she says.
“Before I knew it I was waking up and finally the nightmare was over.”
A time to heal
“My good friend and boyfriend took me home and took such good care of me, and I now realise the most important part of the whole time was the people who helped me,” Jackie says.
“You can bleed quite heavily for several days after the procedure and you need to monitor your health to ensure there is no infection, which is very rare anyway.
“I was fortunately fine and recovered very quickly.”
However, Jackie says healing emotionally has taken a little more time. She advises any women who are struggling with any emotional difficulty to talk to a loved one or professional.
“Even if you’re scared of telling someone, you may be very surprised how supportive, sensitive and helpful they can be. Just give them a chance to help.”
For women wanting to talk to a professional but don’t know where to start, your GP can refer you to someone who can guide you through the tunnel.
And Jackie says there will be light at the end of it.
For more information about abortion, including the issues surrounding abortion, surgical and pharmocological termination procedures and procedure complications, see Abortion.
|For more information about contraception, and protection against sexually transmitted infections, see Contraception|
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