I love birthdays and when I woke up on the morning of my 19th birthday, I thought it was the best day ever; lots of calls, messages and prayers in the normal African tradition. I decided to miss my A ‘level Physics class, after all, it was my birthday. My boyfriend came over laden with gifts, cards; the works. He planned to take me out so I was really excited. I started to get ready and we got carried away. We had been together for about 4 months and had never slept together. We did everything else but were very careful but that day (my birthday) things got out of hand. He coaxed, loved and cajoled till we were having sex. It was over very quickly and as soon as we were done the reality of what had happened hit me and I knew it, I just knew I was going to be pregnant. Exactly eleven days later I missed my period and it all began.
I waited a few more days and lo and behold my period still hadn’t come so I bought a pregnancy test kit from boots. I bought 2 actually, just in case one was wrong. I got home, peed on the stick and watched a pink line gradually surface. My heart sank. I tried again, same result. I started panicking. I called my boyfriend and told him. He asked if I was sure, I said yes. He told me to come over. I bought more pee sticks and made my way over, all the while, shaking. It was another physics day so I was happy to skip school, don’t really know why I bothered with the subject, I’d never liked it.
When I got to his place, we talked quietly in his bedroom (he lived with relatives). I peed on another stick and brought the result to him. Clear as day, I was pregnant. We couldn’t get married, still too young. He was Christian and I, Muslim and both our parents would have killed us. I remember thinking about people who had died from septic abortions but I thought “surely that won’t happen in the UK?!”
We agreed to have an abortion.
I went to my GP and told him I was pregnant and wanted to have an abortion. He was angry. He’d been my GP from birth, knew my whole family and even advised me on becoming a medical doctor and what subjects to do at A ‘level. He wasn’t happy and managed to make me think the NHS would say no. I was terrified! No one could find out. I got morning sickness and couldn’t eat anything. I thanked God my mum was out of town at the time because she would have known. Well, the letter came through and the NHS said yes.
It was morning, the day, the day had come. I was really nervous and thought I’d be sick. They didn’t let him come in with me. The procedure was explained, I filled some forms, signed and was wheeled into the theatre. I remember telling the anesthetist to make sure I wasn’t carrying twins because I’d heard a story about someone aborting one child while a second, undiscovered child lived. He smiled, nodded and asked me to count backwards from 10. I woke up a little while later and realised I was back in the ward. It was all over…or so I thought.
On the outside I was fine but inside of me, the grief was only just beginning. I couldn’t tell anyone, friend or foe. Every time I saw a pregnant woman, I wondered. Every time I saw a single mother I thought her a much better person than I for having the courage to have her child. For years after, I couldn’t have conversations about abortions, couldn’t bring myself to utter the word. It took a few years before I was able to cry and when I did, I cried for hours.
I have since become a Christian and I’m grateful that God forgives. Forgiving myself however, was the harder bit. I finally got there about 8 years after the event but, till now, I still ask myself ‘what if?’ and ‘how old?’ amongst other things. At the time it was normal to have an abortion but no one told me about the guilt afterwards. I really wish someone had schooled me right.
This is a non-fictional account of The Birthday Girl’s experience. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. That you and others would trust me with your stories is incredibly humbling. You are whole my friend; mind, body, soul and spirit.
This is the penultimate story in the series. There’s one more (fictional) to come so please stay tuned!