Well, during my late twenties and early thirties I developed fibroids in my uterus - quite a few of them in fact. And I was told that I would not only have some difficulties with a pregnancy but also that it would probably be quite difficult for me to conceive.
So I was quite surprised to suddenly find myself pregnant at age 36. I had been involved with a man for several months at the time I got pregnant - not a 'serious' relationship, more of a friendship really. But although the pregnancy hadn't been planned there was no doubt that this man - and his family - would be supportive and help me with raising the child.
I was living in Salamanca, Spain at the time, having moved there the year before from England (and having previously moved to England a couple of years before that). I am originally from Canada.
So my boyfriend's family recommended a gynaecologist for me to see and I took them at their word that he was 'one of the best in town'. I went to see this man to confirm that I was in fact pregnant - though I was quite sure I was. When he was doing the check-up a cloud passed over his face and I asked him what was wrong. And he said - 'oh, nothing at all. It's just that you are going to have to be very careful throughout your pregnancy, get plenty of rest but don't worry, there is nothing wrong.'
And when I saw that he wouldn't look me in the eye when he said this I got the feeling he was lying to me. On the way out of his office I noticed for the first time the photo of the Pope on his wall. This also sent my 'danger radar' going.
To cut a long story somewhat shortish - it turned out this medical doctor HAD actually lied to me. I got three other medical opinions after his - they all confirmed that it was an extremely high-risk situation. That the 'best case scenario' would be that the baby - if it made it that long - would be born very premature with (because of the quantity and location of the fibroids) a very high risk of severe haemorrhaging that could result in my death. Though the most likely outcome - according to the doctors - was that I would miscarry before then, again with a risk of serious haemorrhaging.
You see, I got the other medical opinions because I really did not want to terminate my pregnancy. I wanted to be as sure as I could be that there were no other reasonable options open to me before having to make this decision.
It was the long distance phone call I placed to my old family doctor in Toronto that helped me decide. He took my call immediately even though he was with another patient at the time. He listened carefully to everything I told him and then said - 'Do you want to die like a stuck pig on the operating table??? Please don't go through with this, I beg you!' - and because I'd known him for so many years and knew I could trust him completely (though I know what he said maybe sounds harsh - but that was just his straightforward way of talking to me, which I always appreciated).
So although I had already fallen in love with the little being growing inside of me I decided to go ahead with the termination.
This took place at a very good clinic north of Salamanca. The people there were very caring and sensitive.
But when I was sent into the change room to get ready for the procedure I became suddenly hysterical. Because I so much didn't want to do this - it was tearing me apart. In the end the very kind nurse helped me get changed and walked me into the operating room. I was put into a kind of inverse dentist chair thingy, with my plastic-bagged feet in the stirrups. There was a doctor and an assistant, as well as the nurse. They gave me a mild epi-dermal.
And then I totally flipped out, crying hysterically, telling them I just couldn't do this, that I didn't want to do this! And yet I knew I had no choice. They called in another assistant. So in the end there was the doctor - doing his best to do his job properly though I wasn't making things easy for him. There was another assistant who actually was holding my body down as I was convulsed with hysterical crying and the third guy - oh god, I'll never forget him as long as I live - he was there to hold my hands, which were clenched so tight I was making my palms bleed.
He was Jamaican, he spoke to me in a soft voice, he asked me questions about Canada - trying to take my mind off what was happening. I screamed at him through my tears that I didn't fracking want to talk about fracking Canada! He then massaged my fingers open and kept massaging my fingers and then he softly sang in my ear Bob Marley's No Woman No Cry . . . and finally I gave into his caring and relaxed my body, which helped the doctor to do what he was there to do.
And then it was over. The lovely Jamaican man even walked me out to the car with his arm around my shoulder, after I'd had the required time after the procedure to ensure I was okay.
That was twelve years ago. They never told me if the foetus was male or female - and I didn't ask. But I always felt she was a girl - I had even named her before all the problems arose. She was Sarah. And I loved her sooooooo much. And I still grieve for her, I still miss her, the thought of her and what she might have been still breaks my heart at times.
Prior to all this I'd known many friends who'd had elective terminations, for various reasons. And I never thought it had anything to do with me, I just helped them out and through it. No questions asked. Though I always felt I would never be able to do this myself I never judged my friends - their choice.
So I didn't actually realise until my own experience that I am actually 'pro-life'. In the sense that without the serious health risk, I could never have done this. It just felt *so wrong* to me on so many levels (and even talking about it is so hard - I've been crying all they way through writing this.)
But you know what? This is *my* opinion. That relates to *me* and how I feel about this.
My personal pro-life opinion has nothing to do with other women's choices. I see that difference totally clearly. As in - who am I to say what other women should choose, what is right for them? I cannot. And I would never do such a thing, especially now that I have had this experience myself.
A post-op postscript - well, aside that from during the termination procedure the doctor said at one point 'this is such a mess here - there was no chance' and a subsequent check-up showed the fibroids were so massive that I ended up having a hysterectomy. So there really hadn't ever been any hope of me carrying that pregnancy to full-term.
I remain so angry at the so-called medical doctor in Salamanca - the Catholic doctor who thought his beliefs were worth more than my life - that he actually LIED to me about my condition. I've wondered since about how many women have possibly died because of him and his lies. The time he lied to me - when I knew he was lying to me - it was my first ever experience of looking pure evil in its ugly face. I'll never forget it.
And I'll hate that man for as long as I live.
And I will always love the man who sang Bob Marley to me - hell, I can't ever hear that song anymore without thinking of him.
And I will always believe that this most difficult choice is one best left to the woman - with no judgement attached to it.
And this is why I am pro-life and pro-choice.