Navigating life as a woman in the world today is interesting. From Nigeria to Timbuktu, it’ll amaze you how similar all our experiences are. Every Wednesday, women the world over will share their experiences on everything from sex to politics right here. This is Zikoko’s What She Said.
Last year I had an interview with a woman who had had four abortions and regretted none of them. For International Women’s Day, we decided to reshare all of the interviews from last year. A couple of days after this interview went live I got an email from the woman in this interview. The title of her email was simple ‘I had an abortion, I regretted it’. Reading a woman speak so flippantly about abortions according to her had triggered some painful memories and she just had to share.
What about that interview made you reach out?
She made it seem so easy. Like you can just be popping in and out of clinics to get abortions after getting pregnant with no emotional or physical consequences. I never talk about this but I don’t want young women out there thinking it’s ok to get abortions whenever they feel like. You have to be more responsible.
How old are you?
I’m 35 in June, but don’t tell anyone that, my football age is 32. Lol.
Yes, I use 32 at work. It might not seem like much of a difference but it makes my life a lot easier. Story for another day.
Is it safe to assume that you are pro-life (against abortions)?
Yes. Yes, I am. I think the only time a woman should have an abortion is if the pregnancy is a risk to her or the baby’s life. There might be one or two more exceptions, but I can’t think of any of them now. Bottom line is that you shouldn’t abort a child just because you don’t want it or raising it would be too hard. These are consequences you should have considered at the point you were being reckless.
But pregnancies don’t always result from recklessness.
I know that but I just don’t think you should be having sex if you think you are not responsible enough or not ready to raise a child. I know what you are going to say next. What about rape victims? That’s a tricky one, I’ll be the first to admit. But if you just think to yourself this thing in me is half me, half of my blood and DNA, then deciding to keep it shouldn’t be hard.
Well, that’s debatable but that’s not what I was going to ask next. I was going to ask about your story, where does it start?
It starts with marrying too young. I got married at 22, that age doesn’t scream child bride but looking back I think I was one of the most naive 22-year-olds you would ever meet. If I could go back I’d change a lot of things but my marriage isn’t exactly one of them. I love my husband, but the timing of it could have been 5 or 6 years later.
Were you sexually active before you got married?
No, I wasn’t. I waited. It’s not like I didn’t date. I dated, I fooled around with some NFA (no future ambition) boys for a bit but by the time my husband came around I knew he was the one.
Why did you wait?
Different factors. I’ll admit that a big factor for me was religion. But I also knew the boys I was seeing casually were not for me and there was no reason for me to give myself up to them when they weren’t going to be my final bus stop. I met my husband when I started NYSC and by the end of it we were engaged to be married. I just knew he was the one God had earmarked for me. With him, I could have had sex before we made it official because I knew from the beginning he was going to be my husband. But he never asked. I think he too wanted to wait.
I’m more curious than ever now, how did your abortion happen?
After my husband and I got married we decided to wait to have kids. Both our careers were priorities for us. I had gotten retained at the place I did my NYSC — one of the top financial firms in the country and I had something to prove. I wanted to rise through the ranks as quickly as I could. I was always the first one in and last one out. Same with my husband. By the time I turned 26, I was two levels higher than anyone else I entered with. That was when I got pregnant.
What was your initial reaction?
My initial reaction was joy. A baby is one of the greatest gifts a woman could ever receive. Right below the gift of life. Then I went into panic mode. At that point I was pulling all-nighters at the office and handling the most demanding clients. The only time my husband and I really saw was on Sundays and even then he’d get called into work sometimes. The timing couldn’t have been worse. My first mistake was calling my older sister instead of calling my husband.
Why is that?
Because if I had called him first I won’t have gone through with it. I called my sister in a state of panic. I told her I wasn’t ready and this wasn’t how I’d planned it. See I’ve had a plan for my life since I was nineteen and I’ve followed it religiously. In that plan, I was supposed to marry at 27/28 to give myself time to grow my career. That’s why I say even though I knew my husband was the one for me right off the bat, I should have waited. If I had, I’d never had had an abortion.
I’m sorry I tend to jump from story to story. Anyway, my sister tells me to calm down and come to hers. It was one of those rare Saturdays I wasn’t at work, but my husband was. When I got to her she asked me a simple question – “Do you want this child?”. I told her I did but not right now. Then I started rambling through the list of all the reasons it was a bad idea. I can’t even remember half of what I said now. I just know it was all work, work, work. Then she said she’d handle it. I didn’t even ask what she meant — she’s my older sister and she has always babied right from when we were kids. Next thing I knew, we were in a car and then at a popular women’s clinic in Surulere.
On book, they don’t do abortions but that’s only because I think it’s illegal here. Their branches in other countries are known abortion clinics. My sister told them I’ve come for a pregnancy test. They took my blood to run the test and confirmed that I was pregnant. Then my sister came right out and said it: ‘She doesn’t want it, what can we do?’ The doctor faced me and asked if that was true. I nodded, I hadn’t processed it yet.
He told me there were two options. I can’t remember the second but it was the pill I went with. He told me to wait till I was home to take it and to take two painkillers before I did to brace myself for the pain. I got home with my sister, she got a glass of water for me, I took the painkillers first then I took the pill without thinking about it. Immediately I did, I asked her to leave and I went to sleep. It was the pain that woke me up.
How bad was it?
I can’t explain it. It was so intense that I thought God was punishing me, I kept on crying and begging for forgiveness. I remember saying God, if you can still save this child, save it, I’ll love and cherish it. By the time my husband came back at night, the pain had subsided to a really bad menstrual camp but I was still bleeding heavily. I went back for a pregnancy test two weeks after to check if I was still pregnant. I wasn’t.
Did you tell your husband?
No. Till this day he has no idea. We don’t keep things from each other but I know he’ll never forgive me for this so I can’t tell him.
I get the sense you didn’t want the child so why do you regret it?
Because I let a split second selfish thought change the rest of my life. I could have made it work, a baby and my career but then I couldn’t imagine anything being more important than my career — even my marriage I’ll confess. If my husband had asked me to quit my job back then, I’d have left him. I regretted it almost immediately after. I had the worst dreams about dead babies.
Every time I saw someone’s baby or heard a baby laughing or crying, I’d start crying. It was so bad my husband asked one day if I was pregnant and I started crying even harder. If I could undo it, I would. I’ve never regretted anything more in my entire life. At some point I was so depressed I wanted to quit my job. The only thing that stopped me was thinking ‘ this job that you killed your child for, you now want to quit it’.
Then there’s my sister. I blamed her for years and it completely ruined our relationship. I know it was unfair to blame her, it’s not like she forced the pill down my throat. But me on my own I could never have come up with such a solution. As at the time I was taking the pill, the implication of what I was doing didn’t hit me. That I was actually killing my baby. It wasn’t until the pain started that I fully realised what was going on.
It was like I had been in a daze the whole day and the pain woke me up. I just thought that she should have known better. She should have made me wait a day or two, recognise that I wasn’t in the mind frame to make that kind of decision. She knew me better than even our parents but I’ve forgiven her now and I’m trying to repair our relationship.
Did you talk to her about this? What did she say?
I did. She was livid and refused to accept any of the blame. I can still remember the conversation she just kept on screaming ‘did I force you?’ and ‘are you a child?’ I understood where she was coming from, but I maintain that she should have known better.
Do you have any kids now?
No, I don’t. Given all I’ve just told you, you can imagine how much of a sore spot this is for me. We’ve been trying for two years now and no luck. The first time we went to a hospital to find out if anything was wrong, I went with my husband so I had to lie about the abortion. I went back the next day to tell the doctor the truth and I was so ashamed. At the end of the day, the doctor told me the abortion had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn’t getting pregnant and that there’s nothing wrong with either me or my husband. But I know what’s wrong, it’s not medical, God is punishing me for my mistake. It’s only when he decides to forgive me that I’ll be able to get pregnant.