Emma Maidment is passionate about sharing ways to live an authentic and connected life. As a yoga teacher, writer, presenter, founder of Mindful Mornings and Ritual Retreats she runs retreats, workshops, events and speaks on health and wellbeing around Australia and the world. You can follow her adventures on Instagram or connect via emmamaidment.com
With all of the political noise surrounding the topic of abortion, it’s easy to forget the human behind the policy. I had an abortion and I am not ashamed to admit it. The decision to terminate my pregnancy wasn’t one that was entered into lightly. It was deeply emotional, spiritual and rational. A choice I know will stay with me throughout my life. I didn’t want to bring a child into a world where it wasn’t deeply wanted, where the relationship I was in at the time couldn’t welcome a child, where I couldn’t offer that child the secure life that I would want to, and where I wasn’t in a place to give it everything it deserved. For me, the experience was a wake up call to shake up certain aspects of my life. It taught me the power of choice and how to choose from a place of love and not fear. The abortion experience itself was horrible, painful and deeply emotional, but I wouldn’t take it back. I made a conscious, informed choice to shape my life, my then partner’s life, and the unborn foetus’ life for the better. I put my needs first and my future first, so that when the day comes that I choose to have children, my nest will be ready and I will be welcoming them with loving arms. It saddens me that 1 in 5 women will have an abortion in their lifetime and most of them will be illegal, unsafe and wrought with shame and guilt. The more I share my story (recently I shared the whole story on a podcast with Jez Carne) the more I realise that it’s such a touchy subject.
The information I found online before I chose to go through with my termination, I feel, didn’t adequately prepare me for the physical, mental, emotional (you name it!) ordeal that I went through. I choose to opt for the medical abortion which is a non-surgical procedure that requires taking tablets, as I thought I would feel more ‘in control’ of the situation being awake and present during the process. What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of blood, pain and emotional turmoil. Because of all the taboo and shame around the topic, no one is really talking about what it is like to go through the actual procedure. Outside of some impersonal medical FAQ, I couldn’t find what I needed on a human level from the information I found online. I feel I wasn’t properly prepared for what I went through, so I’d like to share with you from my personal experience tips on how to support yourself or someone you know going through an abortion.
What to expect when you’re not expecting to be expecting:
You are going against your natural biology so be aware
When you fall pregnant you are honouring what your body is biologically designed to do: procreate. So when you make the logical and informed choice to terminate that pregnancy be aware that your body will want to do the opposite. From the moment I fell pregnant my body changed, I suddenly only wanted to eat croissants and cheese toasties, two things I had never had in my diet (I know, who doesn’t like croissants?!). Emotionally I changed too. I became very irrational, withdrawn, and scattered. I couldn’t make basic decisions for myself (like what I was going to have for dinner or what to wear that day) because I felt so overwhelmed. I wanted someone to swoop in and make all the decisions for me, but ultimately I realised that this was something I needed to get clear on myself, which meant I had to get control of my emotional state and seek clarity. This I feel is extremely important to be aware of and to make yourself and the people around you aware of. Your hormones are going through a HUGE change and your body is kicking into one of its most natural biological functions. It’s normal for you to not feel like yourself. Which is why it’s so important to do the things that connect you into your highest self, and only seek counsel from people whose opinions you truly trust are coming from a place of love and not fear. Remember, this is your body, your choice and ultimately which every way you choose to go you are the one bearing the brunt of the decision.
Everyone will be different
There’s no cookie-cutter experience for anything in life, and the same is true for an abortion. It is a deeply personal journey and even though I have been open and shared my experience with the internet, there is still no real and true way to explain what I went through completely. And what you or someone you know has experienced may be very similar or may be completely different. There is no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to experience an abortion.
You may feel caught between two worlds
Similar to going against your body’s natural biology, you may feel caught between two worlds. There is literally a life-changing decision on the table and the clock is ticking. The necessity to decide within a certain timeframe puts pressure on a decision that you may feel like needs an infinite amount of time to weigh up. Then there is the literal two-roads-diverge-in-a-yellow-wood process happening in your mind. Life with baby, life without baby. And if you choose one, you cannot choose the other. Robert Frost references aside, this feeling of pressure Vs wanting to slow down, and one life path Vs the other was a veritable tug of war in my brain. So finding ways for me to reflect, go inward, and eventually choose what was right for me was paramount to me holding onto my sanity throughout this process and ultimately finding clarity in my decision.
How to support yourself or someone you love
Create your own meaning
Ritual is such a powerful tool for me personally. Whether it be a full moon ritual or the way I start my day. Rituals help me to feel connected and grounded. I chose to work with a pagan ritual during the process. I took some of the blood from the abortion and planted it in a pot plant with a seedling to grow into a flower, a symbol of new life. I also invited some close friends over for an evening of chanting where we chanted mantras to the Divine Mother calling for strength and nurturing. Even if rituals are not a part of your life, finding some way to connect with what you are experiencing and creating meaning throughout and after the abortion process really helped me so I invite you to try a ritual during this time.
My acupuncturist was an incredible support before, during and after the abortion process. I spoke recently with Dr Abbie Cloherty of Zhong Centre who is very experienced in helping women with their hormones (abortions are no different) about why TCM is so effective in helping women through this process. Dr Abbie shared that, “TCM is able to bring the ‘Shen’ which is the personality/person aspect back into alignment with the body or a person’s purpose. It’s a gentle way of lowering stress hormones so that the relational and emotional processes can take place in a safe environment within the person, while limiting the stress response on an ongoing basis. Acupuncture is perfect to dial down the volume of a hectic hormone blow out, such as an abortion, and safe-guarding and protecting the uterus and healing processes to help fertility later in life when the conception is conscious.” At the time, acupuncture helped to re-balance my hormones and relieve some of the physical pain.
Process in real time
If you’re anything like me, you’ll cry a lot, feel super emotional, want to eat weird things and then not want to eat at all. It’s a tumultuous time of re-balancing hormones and your body going through a grieving process. Remember, biologically your body wanted to keep the fetus so no matter how strong your intellect is and how resolved you feel about your decision, your body will still mourn in it’s own way. Allow the process to unfold. Hibernate, rest, binge watch Netflix, do what you need to do to allow your body to grieve, process and recover. Burying this deep down in the ‘deal with it later’ box is never a good or healthy way to process emotions. Allow yourself to feel what you feel and ask for help from a friend or qualified professional if you don’t feel like you can process alone.
It’s really easy to become a battler, shut everyone out and try to go it alone. I’m here to say the opposite! And if you don’t have a support network you can turn to, call one of the support hotlines, they exist for a reason. Your friends might not know what to do or say so just ask them to sit with you. Watch a movie together, cry in their arms, have a cuddle or just sit. It’s really important that you aren’t feeling alone during this time, surround yourself with as many loving people as possible. Sometimes just having someone check in on you is enough to help you feel connected and not isolated in your decision.
Self-care yourself silly!
Take every tip from every self-care article you’ve ever read and triple the dose. Do all the things that make you feel nurtured, cared for and relaxed. Your hormones are going crazy so be kind to them. Rushing back into work may be a bit challenging, even if you just give yourself a few days to do all the things that you know you need to do to look after yourself will be better than none!
It ain’t over when you think it’s over
In my experience, this is something that continues to come up for me and likely will for the rest of my life. There’s no sense of regret, but regardless there are still thoughts and processing going on. Everyone who decides to go ahead with abortion does it for very different reasons and thus the processing time will be different. As with any huge experience in life, there is no right and wrong way to process it, and it will likely come in stages and layers as you move throughout your life. I know for me, it’s something I acknowledge, take ownership of but am super kind to myself if I feel triggered or it ‘comes up’ and I encourage you to be gentle with yourself, too. I truly hope in sharing this deeply personal experience it helps you, or someone you know going through something similar to feel less alone and more supported. Take the politics out of it and remember it’s a medical procedure that saves women’s lives and empowers the future for communities. See the human, acknowledge just how important it is to parent consciously and give all people sovereignty over their body. Putting yourself and your needs first isn’t a crime. This article is not intended to cause a political debate, but rather to shed light onto a topic forced into darkness with the hope that it helps at least one woman to feel supported through the process.