The doctor explains that since I’m not past 14 weeks, they will use vacuum aspiration. The procedure uses gentle suction to remove the pregnancy and takes 5-10 minutes from start to finish. Afterwards, I’ll need to rest for an hour or so.
He won’t put me to sleep but will inject a numbing medication at the neck of my womb. He will then open my cervix using thin rods called dilators and insert a tube into the uterus. A handheld suction machine will then empty out all the contents. It’s quick, clean but not painless. I will feel cramping, similar to period pains, during the procedure. The obvious problem is that I’m well over 14 weeks at this point.
“I’m curious. What do you do with women over 14 weeks?” I ask.
“Well for one, we’d have to put you to sleep using a general anaesthetic,” the doctor says. “The pregnancy would be removed using narrow forceps passed through the neck of the womb.”
He goes on to say it’s painless, taking about 20 minutes with a recovery period of about 2 hours. If the pregnancy is over 23 weeks, they administer an injection into the foetus to stop the heartbeat before the abortion takes place.
A small needle is placed through your tummy into the fluid surrounding the pregnancy or into the foetal heart, where a medicine to stop the foetal heartbeat is injected. If injected into the fluid, it can take several hours for the heartbeat and foetal movements to stop.
This is beginning to sound like something out of a horror movie. I look at the prude’s wife and she looks equally squeamish. Nice to know she has a heart beneath that cold demeanour.
“But you don’t have to worry about any of that since you’re under 14 weeks,” the doctor says. “Any other questions?”
“What are the risks?” I ask, stalling for time.
“Infection, unpredictable bleeding and injury to your cervix,” he says. “Sometimes death.”
“Death?” the prude’s wife and I ask in unison.
“The chances of that are very slim. 1 in 100,000,” he says.
Those odds don’t sound that great to me. But I need to snap out of it. This is a fully equipped hospital. It’s not like Victorian times, when abortions involved being hacked with a set of tools that looked like ideal instruments for torture. Or the Egyptians, who would put crocodile dung up their private parts. Or the Greeks, who made tea with a poisonous mint called pennyroyal. Just five grammes of that stuff are toxic as hell. So dangerous, in fact, that it commonly killed the mother as well.
“I’d like to proceed,” I say to the doctor.
I’m not going to tell him I’m over 14 weeks. Even if I speak to him alone and tell him the truth, he won’t put me to sleep after the food I’ve had, not to mention wine. I’d have to come back the next day, thereby arousing suspicion with the prude’s wife. I’ll have to take the risk. He spoke of cramp-like pains. How bad can it be?