In 1996, I was 16. Unlike some of my friends, I’m certain that I was too immature to be having sex. Too young to be in a committed relationship.
I was hoping nobody would notice that I was merely pretending to be an adult, all the while wishing I could have held on to childhood a little longer.
My parents didn’t know I was sexually active. My boyfriend and I snuck around and ‘did it’ in his rusted-out car and in secret, shameful hiding places. Places only God knew about. Yes, religion and fearing God’s ever-watchful eye had a strong hold over me, although it wasn’t enough to stop me.
I’d been trying to get the courage up to ask Mum to go on the pill, under the guise of regulating my heavy periods and mild acne. But by the time I asked – and she refused – it was too late.
When the time came to do the pregnancy test, we were at his parents’ house. I was in my school uniform – the cross on my blazer completing the picture of a fraud to all, including myself. As I stared down at the double lines, the blood drained from my face as the wind was knocked out of me. I didn’t cry.
I couldn’t believe this thing that only ever happened to girls on badly acted TV shows was happening to me.
So I pretended it wasn’t real. I stalled and smiled as the weeks flew by until I had to make an appointment and make the decision. The sonographer muted the sound of the heartbeat and didn’t show me the screen when she assessed the gestation on the ultrasound.
As I slipped under the general anaesthetic, I screamed in desperation like a child calling out for her mother. I woke in recovery and held my boyfriend’s jumper close, inhaling it like a security blanket.
The sadness afterwards was breathtaking and completely foreign to me. The secret self-loathing affected every part of my life. I wasn’t me anymore. Previously a good student, my grades plummeted. For a short time I began self-harming, but fortunately that didn’t last.
That was more than 20 years ago. And now? I am a mother. I am a feminist. I’m pro-choice. Without even flinching, I support women and their right to control their body and their own reproduction – and their right to terminate a pregnancy safely and without the sadness I felt.
So why does my heart still ache when I think of that time in my life?
It’s not about the baby I never birthed. I’m longing for the rightful ending to a beautiful childhood I denied myself.
Mostly I grieve for the girl I was. For falling into the pressure to play with adult things when I was barely done with riding my bike and scraping my knee.
I long to give that girl a hug.
Hell, while we’re talking fantasy and time travel, I’d try to convince her to stay a child until her time. To just wait a while. Unfortunately, I doubt she’d listen.
The author of this post has chosen to remain anonymous to protect her privacy, but is known to Mamamia.