I was twenty years old when I found out I was pregnant. Rather naively when I first found out, I didn’t feel particularly apprehensive but mostly excited. I was very much in love with my baby’s father and thought he would feel just as excited as I did. In fact, even if he hadn’t been interested in sticking around, I would still have been excited probably because I had no idea how hard being a mom can be.
However, when I told my baby’s father, I could immediately tell that he wasn’t happy about it but did arrange to meet with me to discuss it further.
When we met, it was the first time he told me about a hereditary disease that run through his family called Huntington’s Disease. I’d never heard of this disease before but he informed me that it was such a horrible disease that he didn’t intend on having children because it caused so much suffering. His grandfather had had this disease and his uncle, but his father had died of cancer before he was tested to see if he had it.
However, if his father had it, there was a 50% chance that he would have it and if he had it, there was a 50% chance that my baby would have it.
This was a massive blow as as much as I already felt an enormous amount of love for my baby, I didn’t want them to have a life of suffering.
The only information I had at the time was one book I borrowed from the library which had one chapter on the disease. When I first read about it, I became aware that while the disease is pretty bad, has been dubbed ‘the cruelest disease known to man’ and slowly takes away your ability to walk, talk, eat and affects you emotionally, physically and cognitively before ultimately killing you however it doesn’t usually start until you’re in your 30s or 40s and because of this I thought about my child having a nice life at least until they were around 35 but also the problem of the disease hitting once you’ve just settled down and found your way in life.
But while I was debating about what to do, my friend booked an appointment for me to have a termination. I think she meant well and did this as she knew I would find it difficult. It wasn’t long before my appointment that I came across a paragraph in the book that explained that the emotional effects such as depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation begin even before the motor symptoms, during the point of diagnosis when you’re in your 30s or 40s. I also read that some people are so affected that they kill themselves before the age of 15. This led me to think that my child would suffer from the psychiatric issues at a fairly young age until they would then start to deteriorate and eventually lose their independence and effectively become trapped in their own body once they had started to settle down in life.
I also had managed to convince myself that the baby’s father had the disease as he was depressed and had angry outbursts which is one of the symptoms and with it also being quite predominant in his family. My confusion and fear being a leading emotion for me at the time, I think I convinced myself that my baby would have this disease.
So, in the end, I let my baby’s father drive me to the clinic and I had the termination. I remember having to get dressed in a blue gown and looking at myself in the mirror, thinking ‘what am I doing?’ But I told myself I had to do this. I told myself this was the right thing to do.
The day after the baby’s father broke up with me. I’ve seen his Facebook page since and he is well and healthy and married with two children. So it seems he either lied to me or has tested negative. But now I know, even if he was positive and did have Huntington’s Disease, it is not a reason to have a termination. It looks like a really difficult disease to live through, but people manage and they remain positive and do manage to enjoy the life they have before the disease takes over. Also, who am I to decide whether or not someone else’s life is worth living? Of course, I am also now very aware that while there was a chance that my baby would have the disease, there was equally a chance that they wouldn’t.
Every day I question how I came to such a decision and all I can think is that I was led by fear, was confused and just couldn’t think straight. Not a day goes by that I don’t regret my decision and wish I had made a different one. If I’m perfectly honest, the pain is so immense that life is unbearable and not worth living. However, I do have a beautiful daughter and she is why I continue to live.
I can’t change my mistake, but I can at least encourage other women not to make the same mistake that I did. This is such a huge choice with enormous consequences and no amount of apologies or atonements will ever be able to make up for the burden you carry when you have a termination.
I’d also like to say please don’t let anyone else persuade you. It is your body, as pro-choice people often state, but they forget that for a lot of women abortion is just another form of women’s choices being taken, abused or manipulated by family members, friends or partners.
A baby is a gift and I think if every woman listened to her heart and not anyone else, she will almost always choose life. I don't want others to suffer like me and that is why I am silent no more.