Abortion Journals: I traveled the world not knowing I was pregnant
Welcome to Abortion Journals, where we are exploring a deeper conversation around abortion. We’re giving real people an anonymous platform to share their stories about having their abortion, and delving into all the layers of this complex experience.
Relationship Status: Single
When I was 27, I traveled around the world for a year and a half. There was one day while I was in Vietnam that I woke up and was vomiting all day. I had eaten some questionable meat the day before and just assumed it was from that. As the days passed, I got randomly nauseous and would vomit. I had slept with a guy I met while traveling a few weeks earlier but we used a condom and I have PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome). I was told by a doctor I went to a few years prior that it would be difficult to get pregnant when I wanted to. I took a pregnancy test just to be sure I wasn’t pregnant. I could tell where there was supposed to be a second line but there really wasn’t any color. My friend I was traveling with confirmed that it looked negative to her. A few people staying in my hostel also said, “Yeah, that looks negative.”
With PCOS, I’ve never had a regular period. I’ve gone over a year without getting my period before, so it wasn’t alarming to me when I didn’t get it. After taking the pregnancy test, I thought to myself, “Well I guess I’m not pregnant. That’s a relief.” I called my dad who is a doctor and he said that I must have just had some parasite from the food. I continued to get nauseous and vomit but I just attributed it to the parasite, and I got used to the occasional onset of nausea. I figured if it was still continuing when I left Southeast Asia, I would go to a doctor.
About two months later, the nausea had stopped and I was in New Zealand. I got in a car with a friend, and immediately had to get out to vomit. I called my dad again and he said, “Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” To which I responded, “I really don’t know how I could be, but I’ll take another test.” I went to the pharmacy and bought another test. At the time the second line seemed faint to me, but I probably also didn’t want to believe that I was in fact pregnant. I tried to make an appointment at a doctor’s office in New Zealand, but I couldn’t get in for a week. They told me to just buy a different brand at the pharmacy. The second test had a very clear +.
Now that I knew I was pregnant, I knew I needed to find out more information so I knew what my options were. I knew that I was not in a space in my life where I wanted to have a baby. I was 27, single, and planning to travel around the world for another year at the time.
I went to get the ultrasound and found out that I was 14 weeks pregnant - already in my second trimester. When I followed up with the family planning clinic, the woman said to me, “Wow you are really pregnant. Unfortunately, if you don’t want to have the baby, it’s going to be difficult for you to terminate the pregnancy here in New Zealand.” At that time in New Zealand, after the first trimester, I would have needed to go to a doctor and a psychiatrist to confirm that I or the baby would be at risk if I went through with the pregnancy.
I started researching abortion laws around the world. I was planning to go to Australia after New Zealand and learned that in Australia the laws around abortion differ by state. In the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, you can terminate a pregnancy up to 16 weeks. That was the latest of any of the states. When I would get to Australia the following week, I would be at 15 weeks.
I decided to go to Melbourne for the procedure. Since I was so far along, it was a two day procedure. I booked my appointment at the clinic in Melbourne and a hotel around the corner. I was traveling with a friend and we had spent the week going to pharmacies, doctors appointments, researching laws around the world around abortion and figuring out the logistics of next steps. We had a few days left in New Zealand before our flight to Australia on Tuesday morning, and we decided to enjoy our last weekend there in a small coastal town on the south island called Kaikoura.
We stayed in a cute hostel right on the beach. We went whale watching and had scheduled to go swimming with dolphins in the middle of the ocean on Monday morning. Our flight was Tuesday at 6am. On Sunday night (into Monday morning), just after midnight, we woke up to our tin cabin shaking. Paintings were falling off the walls, and we could hear dishes breaking in the kitchen. I learned later that the Kaikoura earthquake was a 7.8 magnitude and is described as the “most complex earthquake ever studied.” We were in the closest town to the epicenter, about 37mi (60km) away. After the shaking settled, the owner of our hostel ran in to see if everyone was okay, and then said, “Everyone needs to get out. There’s a tsunami on the way.” We got in a car with some other people from our hostel and went up the hill near the hospital. The earth had opened up. The roads all around the perimeter of the town were cracked open and bridges had collapsed on the main highway that ran down the south island. Up on the hill, rumors were that no one was getting out of Kaikoura for at least two weeks.
I didn’t have two weeks. My appointment was supposed to be in two days. I called the clinic in Australia and explained the situation. They told me that as long as I gave them 24 hours notice, they could get me in. That being said, at the moment I was already heading into my 15th week. I had to get there by the following Wednesday or they legally couldn’t help me. I had one week of cushion time.
On Monday morning, I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The minister of civil defense was helicoptered into Kaikoura. He was making an announcement that evacuations would be starting the next day. The roads to a local private airport weren’t affected by the earthquake and they could start evacuation on 20 seater military planes which is the maximum capacity the small airport could handle. There were 2,000 tourists in the town of Kaikoura at the time. He said to register at the crisis center and that if you had any medical needs to come talk to him or someone on his staff. I went up to him and explained that I needed to be in Australia in two days to have surgery. He asked what kind of surgery, and I didn’t really want to share as there were about 30 people crowded around me to try to talk to him. He sent a woman from his staff to come talk to me. I explained to her the situation and said that I really just needed to get to Australia ASAP. She talked to him and he asked if I could be back at the hospital in an hour with all of my stuff. There was a medical helicopter that had come to take the only patient that was in the Kaikoura hospital to the larger city of Christchurch. My friend and I were put on the medical helicopter with the patient and were the first two people evacuated after the earthquake.
We made our originally scheduled 6am flight on Tuesday morning. I went to the clinic on Wednesday for the first step of the procedure. It was very uncomfortable and I had really bad cramping. I struck up a conversation with the woman at the front desk of the hotel and she could tell I was in pain from the first step of the procedure. She shared with me her own story of terminating a pregnancy and we talked for hours. She told me about her own emotional roller coaster, and how no one in her life quite understood what she was going through. She affirmed that however I was feeling was okay and that it was an extremely emotional journey no matter how at peace I was with the decision. She told me she watched a disney movie and cried all day right after her procedure. It was comforting to talk to someone who had gone through a similar experience even though hours earlier she was a complete stranger. She was by far the most helpful person I talked to in the days while I was having the procedure and immediately after.
I was traveling with a friend at the time, and she didn’t know how to talk to me about it. She was also processing her own feelings around the situation. Prior to me becoming pregnant, my friend had considered herself pro-life. She said she realized that if she were to get pregnant, she didn’t think she could terminate a pregnancy, but she also understood why that was the right choice for me and my life.
The second day of the procedure, I had full anesthesia. When I woke up, I was no longer pregnant. It was surreal. I walked to a nearby park and cried for hours. It was the first time I cried since I found out I was pregnant a few weeks earlier.
I knew it was the right decision for me at the time. I cried to my dad and said, “But what if that was my chance? I’ve been told it’ll be hard for me to get pregnant.” He responded and said, “You did what was right for you at this time in your life. And now you know that you can get pregnant.”
Six years later, I still think sometimes, “Woah, I could have a six year old right now and my life would be very different.” It was especially hard for me when the first of my friends started having children, but six years later I still know that I made the right choice for me and my life.