Written and Photographed By Billy Hani
I just had my first abortion a month ago and I feel grief for losing my child while simultaneously feeling guilty for ‘murdering’ them.
Hi, my name is Chepchumba* and I am a 24-year-old married mother of one living in Eldoret, Kenya.
I missed my periods for one month and decided to test for pregnancy. The dreaded results showed that I was pregnant, whew! Yes, I know about having unprotected sex and one of the consequences is pregnancy. But see, I am a married woman and my husband is my only sexual partner. Plus, I think a lot of married people have sex without condoms.
I was not ready to have another child just yet. First, I have a small child who is under two years of age. Secondly, I do not have a stable income, and neither does my husband. I mostly do what we call ‘kibarua’ here in Kenya. It is slang for menial jobs. My work ranges from cleaning people’s houses and their laundry, farming, casual work in hotels and such like jobs. Having a child right now would not be easy on our family and so I talked to my husband and we both agreed to terminate it.
I went to a nearby clinic and asked the pharmacist for abortion pills. He asked why I needed to get an abortion and I explained my situation to him. He also asked if my husband had agreed to it, and I said yes. While I am not sure if he would have given me the pills if I had said no about my husband agreeing, I feel like most of these service providers are out for money, so probably he would have still sold me the pills.
I was given four pills with instructions to insert one in my vagina, swallow another and keep two under my tongue until they completely melt out. There was no counseling beforehand to prepare me for what I would experience in the next three days. The bleeding started after six hours of taking the medication, on a Friday afternoon, up to Monday when the process was complete.
After the abortion, I experienced intense stomach ache and I went to a clinic where I lied that I had experienced a miscarriage for them to treat me.
I feel quite affected by the abortion. It feels like losing a child. I am considering talking to a therapist about it when I am ready. Overall, I think there should be pre- and post-abortion counseling to make the process better. I do not know my husband’s mental state but we have not talked about it, and we probably never will.
I am grateful that I was able to access an abortion, despite all the politics surrounding safe access to abortions. I think it is wrong to deny people abortions. Those denying abortions are often not aware of the circumstances surrounding the abortion, whether physical, emotional, mental, financial or spiritual. They do not know the thought process that leads one to settle for an abortion.
I, in the same breath, think that having abortions are wrong. To me it feels like murder and I feel like I murdered my child. However, I know why I needed it and I believe it was the best decision.
For now, due to lack of post-abortion care, I have to take care of myself. I ensure that I eat well and that I maintain hygiene at all times. My sex life? Well, I am not having sex yet as I heal, but I will get to it soon. I do not feel that it has affected my sex life but I cannot tell the impact it has had on my husband’s.
It hurts to have lost a child I did not give a chance to live, but I had to choose to take a life, to give a better life.
Chepchumba*– not her real name