Writing by Jil R // illustration by Nea Valdivia
2013 was the year that fundamentally changed my life. At nine weeks pregnant, I decided to terminate and send my child back “home”.
I continued to have what I thought was my period, and so my pregnancy went initially unnoticed. It wasn’t until my body showed more obvious symptoms that I realised what was happening. I immediately purchased a pregnancy test – the result was clear, as was my shock. While my decision to terminate was instantaneous, made within milliseconds, it was surreal. I felt disconnected, as though watching myself in a movie.
A year prior, I had moved from Switzerland to South Africa. During my initial three-month vacation, I not only fell in love with the country but also, my then-boyfriend.
We were together for almost two years, but our approaches to life were too different. I lacked his emotional support and financial stability. I could not expect a happy future with him.
When we finally broke up, it was a few weeks later I realised I was pregnant. I wanted him to know that I was pregnant, so I reached out. I longed for his support and couldn’t find the courage to confide in anyone else. I was still hoping that all of this was a dream and I was in fact not pregnant.
Once I informed him about the pregnancy, he immediately told me he wanted us to start a family together. He made sure I knew that he loved the baby with all his heart.
“Love alone is enough; shelter, money and general stability in life are secondary“, he said.
“Not in a country like South Africa”, I replied.
None of his reasoning could change my mind about our relationship or my decision to end it. This choice was based on what I knew of him and my fear that he would be overwhelmed by the inevitable responsibilities of parenthood. I felt that, sooner or later, he would disappear from our lives. I wanted to spare this little soul the pain of feeling abandoned by their father, a pain I knew too well.
Since I was already nine weeks into my pregnancy, the only way to terminate was through a surgical procedure known as a D & C.
Lying in the examination room, I wanted to run, but I was paralysed. I mentally connected with my child, asked for forgiveness, and said goodbye. I felt my child’s soul disconnect from its tiny body. My mind blocked any movement; my heart was bleeding. Never in a million years would I have envisaged myself in a situation like this.
Years passed, and the pregnancy rarely crossed my mind. Instead, I enjoyed my life and continued to live a carefree existence – staying in Cape Town for a while before taking a sabbatical in the Czech Republic – my father’s home country. Eventually, after settling back in Switzerland, memories and guilt started to creep back in.
Even though I did not regret my decision, it affected me palpably. I found myself in a cycle of grieving without anyone to speak to. While shattered, I pushed myself to maintain appearances. Believing I had a hidden secret, I felt alone. The loneliness and the fear caused additional stress.
At first, I had a lot of trouble accepting what had happened, and I didn’t identify with the experience. However, once I eventually allowed myself to grieve, it was the beginning of a gradual process of growth.
After a few years, I opened up to a small handful of people. I found out that a close friend of mine had also had an abortion, and we were able to exchange stories and listen to one another, free from any judgement. For the first time since the termination, I felt I could talk to someone that could truly understand me.
During my darkest times, I contacted two outstanding mediums. Both comforted me with powerful healing words. As a result, I decided I would undertake an apprenticeship to become a medium myself. While learning to recognise and perceive the feelings of my clients, I became more closely attuned to my own.
By acknowledging my experience and allowing my feelings to be expressed freely, I could reflect on my past and the subconscious beliefs I had carried. As a result, the anger, sadness and self-loathing faded and the way I looked at things changed.
I realise now that we are shaped and expected to abide by certain societal standards. But these standards may make you feel as though everything you do is a mistake when, in reality, perfection is a construct impossible to accomplish. We are on earth to learn, to grow and to experience. There are no mistakes, and each challenging situation is an opportunity for growth. This grieving process pushed me to question certain belief patterns, both within my family and, most importantly, within myself.
I chose not to have my baby because I wanted to protect it from abandonment. When I first realised I was pregnant, I was experiencing my own feelings of abandonment and an unresolved relationship with my father. I slowly transformed negative emotions into love and gratitude, recognising now that this experience helped dissolve emotional blockages within.
Today, I feel nothing but unconditional gratitude for my experience. This journey has inspired me to start an organisation called Pro-Healing. Pro-Healing is not about influencing people’s decisions – instead, we support freedom of speech and judge no one for their beliefs. Pro-Healing provides counselling services post-abortion for those who may be dealing with confusing emotions and potentially negative thoughts.
Let’s break the taboo, create a safe space to exchange each other’s stories, and together we can be there for each other – together, we heal.