Writing by Freya Bennett // photograph by Karolina Jackowska
I bought a pregnancy test from a busy city store with quiet resignation. I already knew I was pregnant. Having an extremely regular cycle and an iffy contraceptive moment told me everything I needed to know about why my period was ten days late.
I took the test in my tiny bathroom in the old Footscray share house I was living in. I sat on the edge of the lemon yellow bath as I held the test and watched the two lines appear. The instructions had told me to wait two minutes but my positive result showed up immediately as the pee crept it’s way up the stick.
I called my mum first as I’d been talking to her daily about my absent period, she was the one who had urged me to get a test and stop living in denial. I called my boyfriend next, he also knew it was a likely but was much more optimistic/delusional and was hoping it wasn’t true. I arranged to meet him in the city on his lunch break to chat about it. I felt calm and tired.
Although I knew abortion was the only decision for me at this time, I let myself entertain the thought of keeping the baby. I imagined being a young mum and it being me and my baby against the world. I had always wanted kids but this pregnancy didn’t call me to consider anything but abortion and for that I am grateful.
I met my boyfriend in the city. He was quiet and supportive and you could tell he felt really overwhelmed by the situation. I couldn’t help but mention all the options with one being keeping the baby – his face went quite pale but he said of course it was up to me.
I called the abortion clinic that day and they told me they only had availability on the weekend or in two weeks time. I didn’t want to wait any longer, dragging this out was not something I was keen to do and so I booked for the coming weekend. They told me that during the week it was covered by medicare but on the weekend it would be $500. They apologised genuinely and said they were working on making weekend abortions covered too. I didn’t have $500 and my boyfriend was in his final year of study so I asked mum to help out. I was very fortunate that I had someone to help with the funds and I know a lot of women don’t. This is why it’s important for abortions to be fully covered.
The day of my abortion came and we drove the 25 minutes to the clinic. I was told I would need a doctors referral as it still wasn’t technically ‘legal’ in Victoria at the time to have one without a referral (thankfully now in Victoria abortions are able to be requested by the pregnant person up to 24 weeks). Luckily for us, the clinic had a doctor present to make the referral so this time was just factored into my appointment.
We parked the car on a back street in front of a row of very grand, gothic townhouses – my boyfriend’s beat up old Camry didn’t quite belong. As we approached the clinic on foot, a group of anti-choice protesters ambushed us and told me it was not too late to change my mind. A burly security guard swooped in to grab us and told us the protesters were the scum of the earth as he all but pushed them out of the way. I was brought to tears by this gruff man who was not only there to escort women safely into the clinic but was obviously passionate enough about it that he angrily and loudly cursed at the protesters.
Inside everything was calm as we took our seats to wait. I looked around at the other women and wondered what their stories were. I felt connected and safe – it felt sacred.
When we were called in to see the doctor he explained that he would be doing an ultrasound to check when my last period was – I really appreciated this very obvious language choice as he omitted mentioning how far along my pregnancy was or how many weeks the “baby” was. This seems so simple but so kind. He said my last period was “6 weeks ago” and he had the screen facing him. With no sound on.
By law, I was also required to talk to a counsellor who was also on site and so that was my next appointment. She kindly explained the procedure to me and told me that I was so early on that my pregnancy wasn’t even considered viable yet. Her language was also very carefully considered and we only spoke for about five minutes.
I was taken to another waiting area to wait my turn for the D & C and my boyfriend was taken to the guest area where he would pick me up afterwards. I sat with two other women, one had a baby with her who was about six months old. She played with her baby right up until she had to go in and her husband took the baby to wait.
When it was finally my turn I was taken into the room where the procedure was done and they helped me up onto the table. This was where I got a bit nervous but they explained it would only take 15 minutes and that it was a very simple and safe procedure. I fell asleep and woke up in what felt like absolutely no time but I was now lying on one of eight comfy hospital beds. I was drowsy and calm and a nurse came over to let me know everything went well. I was to stay for another 30 minutes to make sure I felt okay and then I could go. They gave me a cup of tea and I relished the sleepy feeling of relief.
When I walked out to my boyfriend he said I looked like myself again – I hadn’t thought I had lost myself but I did suddenly feel more myself. The discharge nurse told us she would take us out the back way as the anti-choice rally had gotten a lot bigger and she didn’t want to subject us to that. She was also visibly angry and told us there was a special place in hell for people like that. In November 2015, Victoria became the second state to pass legislation to limit protests outside abortion clinics and 150 metre buffer zones are now enforced.
We drove home and picked up yum cha on the way. I slept on and off all afternoon and we watched movies and ate in bed. I felt relieved, grateful and me again.