A lesbian in Italy: a story less known

My story is a little different. I think perhaps that is why I have not told anyone in the three years since my abortion. The stigma I feel is tied to my privilege.

Girls of my privileged upbringing and 'bright future' don't get abortions, because they're smart - they don't get pregnant. 

Girls of my privileged upbringing who live in an expensive neighbourhood, with double University degrees, awards and high school prefect-status littering our CVs, aren't gay. These types of girls tease other girls and spread rumours at their all-girls high school - that's the only time they ever dare utter the word Lesbian.

But I did, and I am.

After graduation, I traveled with my girlfriend for 10 days before we broke up. It was traumatic, but I continued my travels. Although my head was a mess and my heart was in shreds, I was making friends with fellow hostel-goers and the endless nights of wine and strangers were a welcome escape. 

In a fun drunken haze of a night out, I did it, I slept with a Man. He got a room in a hotel the next morning, and all that next day in a hungover lethargy he fucked me, in between my naps of exhaustion and self-disgust. I didn't think. 

I had only had sex with a man once before.

Once I realized that I was 90% gay at age 21, I never contemplated contraception. Unlike all my friends who, in relationships or not, were on the pill since the age of 17. I was university educated, but had paid very, very little attention in health class in high school. So, after a day of unprotected sex, the Man and I went to an afterhours pharmacy to get the morning after pill (ECP). I didn't think.

In my country it is easy to obtain as an over-the-counter medicine. But I was in Italy. I didn't think. 

The Italian pharmacist sent me to an Italian doctor. The male doctor shook the Man's hand. It felt like I was a bystander to their business meeting. The doctor gave me the ECP. Almost exactly 24 hours after the first time we had sex, I swallowed the ECP and thought nothing else of it. I didn't think.

Three weeks later I was staying with extended family in the UK, and just didn't feel right. I was sleeping too much, I was exhausted, I was eating like crazy, and I felt bloated. I was pregnant. 

I tried everything - I drank wine all day, every day; I ate unpasteurised cheeses I had left unrefrigerated; I made a parsley tea; I tried a homemade a pessary (would not recommend!); I would punch my stomach, chain smoke cigarettes, intentionally try to get sick, dressing cold and eating seafood. I was so desperate. I was ready to cut myself to show just how much of a danger to my mental health it was if an abortion was not granted. 

Having been unable to get an abortion before my flight home, I spent the remaining 10 days continuing my attempt at a “natural” abortion. Once home, I felt like a naughty teenager. Living in the house of my parents, making up lies for where I was going and how long I would be away. Jetlag, the excuse for my tiredness, was wearing thin after a week and a half.

At the various preliminary appointments, the staff would smile, and ask,: “is it your first?”. I had nothing to say, so I nodded. I wanted to say, it doesn’t exist, I have no partner, I am GAY, this is all so ridiculous, it’s all a complete mix up. 

14 weeks after Italy, back in my home country, the day of my surgical abortion arrived. I have never been more excited or relieved in my life!

I woke up in the recovery room feeling groggy, confused, and relieved. I got up to go to the toilet and I fainted before I could reach the bathroom. Blood had gone through my nappy-like pad and was visible to all to see through my jeans.

With my cardigan tied around my waist, I arrived home that evening and joined in with Normal Life. We watched TV, I chatted to mum as she cooked dinner, and when it reached an acceptable hour, I took myself off to bed. Mum made a comment, why was I so tired and sleeping all the time. I said I had bad period pain, and that was that.