My abortion story: How I carelessly fell pregnant 9 months after my HIV positive diagnosis
As I have mentioned before, I was diagnosed HIV positive August of 2013. It was a random test at work, during a wellness day event, that led to this discovery. I was obviously shocked because my then boyfriend had been the only person I ever slept with. I remember the day I had decided that I would finally give up my virginity. We had been in a long-distance relationship. I was part of an international programme based in Germany. He was in South Africa. When we started our relationship, I had made it clear that I would wait until marriage. But the more we talked, the more I realized I was falling in love with him every day. He made promises to me. One of those promises was to marry me. Now that he had made his intentions clear, I didn’t think there was a need to wait any longer.
I had an opportunity to come back home, to South Africa, for a few weeks to see family. I planned that I spend a few weeks with him first, and then spent the rest of the time with my family. When I told him the news of my short visit, that’s when the discussion about HIV tests came up. It was a light conversation. You have to understand that I was in love. I also trusted this person with my whole life. I casually told him we needed to have an HIV test. So, I planned to see a doctor while I was in Germany. I knew I wouldn’t have time when I was in South Africa. While I did that, he also promised that he would go to his doctor as well. But while he said that, he casually made a remark about how his doctor will make fun of him because he’s so diligent with his check-ups. It would be this comment that gave me the impression that I had nothing to worry about. This guy was clean. All was well.
When I received my HIV tests, I immediately sent it to him. I guess it might have been excitement that I didn’t ask for his results, because he indirectly told me he goes for his check ups all the time. Once again, I had nothing to worry about.
Fast forward, to the day I discovered I had tested positive, I kept asking him, “What happened?”. I wanted to understand how I could have tested positive for HIV? Although I was in denial, I knew if I was positive, he was also HIV positive. I must have probed him for hours, for weeks. He still maintained he didn’t know what happened. He never cheated on me while I was away. He was faithful. I continued to probe but I soon realized that he was not going to tell me the truth. So, I eventually stopped.
My thinking was that, we were already in this mess – we now needed a way forward. I couldn’t confide in anyone. I couldn’t tell my family or friends. He was the only person I had, whether I liked it or not. If I broke up with him, what would become of me? I knew I didn’t have anyone but him. Actually, if we both committed to make our relationship, I believed all would work out in the end. I believed ours would be a love story that stood the test of time. Through thick and thin, we stayed strong. Whatever curve life threw us, we survived it. We would overcome. I believed it would work.
It took a sudden turn when things went from bad to worse. You know when it’s said, all that you do in the dark, shall come out in the light? That’s exactly what happened. If I wasn’t dealing with his excessive drinking, I was dealing with rude girlfriends. It would be that roller coaster ride for months to come. Despite that, I stayed. I stayed because, “what was I going to do?”. I didn’t feel like I had a choice. If I left, where was I going to do? What were the chances I would find someone else? And even if I did, what do I tell them? How do I disclose to them? I wasn’t willing to take that chance. I decided to stay.
I did whatever it took to make the relationship, including having unprotected sex with him. When he insisted on us not using a condom, despite what the doctor said about re-infecting each other, I went ahead and had unprotected sex. This happened several times. At the time, I was off contraceptives. I stopped for two reason. One, I was back home from Germany. I didn’t want to risk my mom seeing my pills and questioning them. Two, I stopped because the doctor had said we should use a condom all the time. So, I didn’t see a point of the pills anymore. But every time we had unprotected sex; I immediately took “morning after” pills. For this reason, I thought I was safe.
It wasn’t until I missed my period at end of the May 2014, that I thought something must be wrong. But I was also in denial. I thought maybe I was a little late, although that has never happened before. And then I missed my period for the second month at the end of June. I decided I should go and get checked out. Where I worked, we had an in-house clinic. I got along with one of the nurses. I went to her for a consultation. She made me take a pregnancy test. That test came out positive. I still didn’t believe that I was pregnant. She advised that I go see a gynae. I made an appointment the following day. That’s it was confirmed that I was 6-8 weeks pregnant, after the gynae scanned me.
The doctor asked me what I wanted to do. I immediately told him I wanted to terminate. He asked me to think about for a few days, but I wasn’t having none of it. Eventually, after several back and forth conversations, we settled on a date. A week after my appointment. I deliberately think he wanted me to think about the decision. But I knew I wouldn’t change my mind.
A pregnancy made everything real. I could deal with being HIV positive. I could deal with it on my own, hidden from everyone else. But being pregnant was different. A child would be evidence of everything I had been trying to hide. I couldn’t handle that.
I don’t remember the details of the abortion because the doctors used drugs to knock me out. I was unconscious throughout the whole surgery. The next time I would wake up was in a ward with other patients. I was advised to wait a few hours for the drugs to get out of my system, before I could go home. I had made the decision not to tell my then boyfriend because I didn’t want the added pressure from him.
Terminating a pregnancy is something I don’t tell lightly. No matter how hard I tried to justify it, point is, I would have to live with the fact that I killed a baby. There was a baby in stomach, with a heartbeat, and I killed it. Over the years, I’ve always had the guilt when I observe children born more or less the same time my child would have been born. I think about a lot of things. I think about the kind of mother I would have been. I think about how things would have turned out. I think about what milestone we would be celebrating now. I often think about whether they would have turned out like me. Would have they taken after my personality?
Three years, my brother had a daughter. It’s been interesting watching her grow as well. It doesn’t make things easy that she looks so much like me. I often joke about how my sister in law was my surrogate and that she birthed my child. She’s so much like me in every way. Her strong will. How she wants to do things her own way, no matter how hard you try to convince her otherwise. She has a dimple on the exact same place I have mine. She’s the centre of attention and she’s not apologetic about it. I can’t help but look at her and see my child. Looking at her sometimes is painful because it evokes so many emotions inside of me.
But at the same time, I’ve learnt to forgive myself. I’ve learnt to accept what I cannot change. No matter how much I want to go back and possibly change my decision, I could not. Every day, I find inspiration to forgive myself.