How can I Help Someone Heal After an Abortion...
January 14, 2010 1:14 PM   Subscribe

How Can I Help Someone Heal After an Abortion...?

I've already stocked up on Kleenex, lavendar pillows/oils/candles, new bathrobe, movies, junk food, and will be by her side 24/7 the entire weekend. As a male (we're dating - but it's not my baby- long story)-- what can I do to ease her pain during this emotionally and physically traumatic time?
posted by iam2bz2p to Human Relations (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That sounds pretty good, so far. I'd actually also bring a book to read. She might spend a good part of the weekend sleeping.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:15 PM on January 14, 2010

I had a a somewhat similar situation as yours... I'm male, very good friend of hers and still am, previous sexual partner but baby was not mine... I sent her flowers to cheer her up and just made it clear that I was there for her in any way she needed me, whether it was to talk or to sit in silence.

Don't force anything. Let her decide how she wants to handle it. As in, you don't need to be all "oh let's talk about it" or "you must be really sad" etc... just be there and follow her lead.
posted by modernnomad at 1:17 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Unless you already have reason to believe she will be, don't assume she's going to be emotionally distraught. Lots of women have them and just go about their business as usual. Tends to depend on how early in the pregnancy it's done, though.

If you do have reason to believe it will be emotionally trying, then you've made a very good start. If it's early along, she probably won't have much in the way of physical effects after a few hours, so just staying busy doing things so that she isn't dwelling on it might be a good idea. As in, don't sit around the house, get out and do things.
posted by fairywench at 1:25 PM on January 14, 2010 [8 favorites]

Don't be judgmental. And don't be shocked if she isn't emotionally traumatized. Abortion is not emotionally traumatizing for all women.

But your list sounds pretty good.
posted by min at 1:26 PM on January 14, 2010 [11 favorites]

Drop any expectations about what the weekend will be like. Within my circle of friends and in my experience, making the decision is traumatic but once it's done, everything gets much better very quickly. (IE, I cried loads before but not at all after.) Other people obviously have very different, even opposite experiences and your friend's could be anywhere in between.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:28 PM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]

Just make it clear that you're there if she needs anything. Simple as that.

You sound like a wonderful, well-meaning partner to have around.
posted by bookgirl18 at 1:30 PM on January 14, 2010

Understand that she might want to be alone.
posted by box at 1:38 PM on January 14, 2010

seconding box -- don't be upset if she'd just rather be by herself for a bit.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2010

Not really enough information given...

For example, my abortion wasn't physically or emotionally traumatic and I was able to resume my normal life within a few hours. Mine was done very early (about 8 weeks) and under general anaesthetic. In fact, I was ecstatic once the grogginess wore off - no idea if that was from the relief of it all being over or an after-effect of the drugs but I felt great... ofcourse if pampering, movies and junk food had been on offer, I'm might have played it up a bit for the sympathy ;)

What she'll need depends on so many factors (eg. how she feels about the abortion, the method being used, how late in the pregnancy it is etc). Just be there for her and give her space if that's what she wants, don't be offended if she just wants to crawl into bed and sleep for a few days.
posted by missmagenta at 1:46 PM on January 14, 2010

I haven't had an abortion, but just from a sore-girlparts-from-procedure perspective, I so appreciated it when my boyfriend read to me after I had an IUD put in. It took the focus off of my pain and my slight embarrassment factor at having to bring this up with my newish relationship, and it wasn't important enough that I had to force myself to pay attention. (TV was too much.) He moved to another part of the room when I slept, and when I woke up he asked me what I needed instead of hovering or automatically smothering me. Knowing that someone was there to care for me made me feel much better.

Basically, he was doing all of the things that you've said you're going to do. Good on ya.
posted by Madamina at 1:55 PM on January 14, 2010

Definitely don't assume anything about what she'll want. Unless she has requested Kleenex and candles, don't pull them out unless/until she actually needs them. In fact, don't be upset or surprised if she doesn't want to hang out with you 24/7 all weekend. Let her direct things, and wait for her to decide what she needs.
posted by decathecting at 1:58 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Box and MC are right, she might want time alone. When you tell her that you've got her back make a point to say that you won't be offended if she needs time to herself as well.

Also, having been in a similar situation, I'd suggest getting a book or something for yourself as well. Have something to occupy yourself with if she wants you around but not your focused attention.

She's lucky to have your good intentions in her life. I wish you both luck.
posted by Gainesvillain at 2:01 PM on January 14, 2010

Everything you're suggesting sounds good.

From my own perspective, it was a minor surgical procedure (which was uncomfortable) but not a Major Life Trauma, so I didn't need moral support--just ice cream and sleep.

Other people do experience lots of psychological and spiritual challenges in deciding to terminate a pregnancy, so being there for her if that's what she needs is awfully kind.
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:11 PM on January 14, 2010

If there's any prescriptions that have been called in or a recommendation for an OTC pain killer, pick it up for her. If you're the one taking her home after the procedure (sounds like you might be?), make sure she has anything she needs, get her comfortable, and then get the meds.

From a physical standpoint, it might also help for you to know what limitations she may have or what to look out for as a sign of a problem in the unlikely event she may need to go back in. An abortion is a surgical procedure and someone should be aware of signs of post-operative complications. She may not be in the state to do it. Then again, she may. It's a matter of how she views the abortion and even, possibly, what she views it as.
posted by zizzle at 2:41 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My one other suggestion --- if doesn't feel like answering the phone but there are other people in her life who know what is going on, either answer her phone for her, turn it off, or call people she wants to be called on her behalf.
posted by zizzle at 2:42 PM on January 14, 2010

This is the woman from a previous question?

Be prepared for her not wanting you by her side 24/7. Be available, but don't hover. Get a heating pad - it'll be good if she has cramps. Gauge her emotional state and react accordingly.
posted by Ruki at 3:11 PM on January 14, 2010

Be prepared--you may need to make a "pad" run. All above sound like great ideas.
posted by 6:1 at 3:13 PM on January 14, 2010

a hot water bottle to help with cramps
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:26 PM on January 14, 2010

If this IS the woman from the other question you seemed to indicate how adamant she was about NOT having an abortion and was intent on keeping the baby. I realize you may not know this but is she making this decision in part to get you back? or as part of your mutual terms for your relationship to continue?

Because that concerns me and I would hope she has sought any counseling or assistance to help her work through this decision, as the worst thing would be for her to really regret it later.

No judgment here and I could be way way off but is she is feeling pressured into this decision in any way that would be a really bad thing and the biggest hindrance to healing, emotionally speaking.

If I am totally off base then yes to your plans and everything everyone else said in terms of what to provide and do.
posted by click at 4:00 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you're comfortable buying them, get a bunch of pads. Like maybe one box of the ginormous overnight ones and one box of regular (medium-flow). Depending on how far along she is, she may bleed quite a bit and she won't be able to use tampons or anything else internal.
posted by feathermeat at 4:19 PM on January 14, 2010

Follow her cues...but I'm nthing the advice to not expect her to be traumatized (or even upset). Many women feel relief and joy (not to mention an alleviation of morning sickness and other icky pregnancy side effects).
If you expect her to feel really upset she might feel confused or guilty for not feeling that way.
You sound like you're doing great by her though! Keep it up.
posted by whalebreath at 4:40 PM on January 14, 2010

Comfort food does not always equal junk food. Good, nutritious, complete meals can be very thoughtful and can help tremendously if she's healing.

Don't mention it, but you might consider serving foods high in iron (leafy green salad, beets, plus maybe citrus/vitamin C/acidic salad dressing to help iron absorption) since she might be iron depleted.

If a good meal can help her feel physically better, then she'll probably feel emotionally better (than otherwise) as a result.
posted by amtho at 4:53 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

A heating pad will probably be invaluable for the pain. Make sure she has one.

As others have said, don't assume that she'll be emotionally traumatized. Many women don't consider this procedure to be a big deal at all.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:17 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

As an answer to the question that was in fact asked: Nthing hot pad, and PAD pads. Also triple nthing "don't assume she'll be upset". And adding "maybe she'll think she's not upset but then will burst into tears 3 weeks later, like, in the grocery store or something".

But, like click, I'm a bit concerned about this recent question. What a hard situation. Best of luck to you both.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:41 PM on January 14, 2010

If you want to give flowers, you might want to think about giving them a live plant instead of cut flowers. Based on my experiences (admittedly limited) with women going through miscarriages (similar, but different, of course). It's a minor thing, but for most people live flowers and cut flowers are pretty similar, but not giving something that's immediately going to die might be nice.
posted by skynxnex at 6:52 PM on January 14, 2010

What about toys to entertain her child so she can lie around and not have to entertain him? Or you could offer to take him out for the day so she can have some quiet time.
posted by taff at 7:41 PM on January 14, 2010

If this is the same woman from the previous question, she still may not be traumatized afterwards. When you're pregnant, hormones pull all kinds of manipulative tricks on your brain to make you want to stay pregnant. It's no secret that a pregnant woman's emotions can be...erratic. Once the pregnancy is gone, though, the hormones stop, and she may wonder what ever possessed her to think she might have wanted to keep it.
posted by fairywench at 6:45 AM on January 15, 2010

A wheat heat pack does wonders for aching tums, as does creamy hot chocolate in a tall mug. Whenever I've come after surgery I've nestled with a heat pack and a blanket, had said hot chocolate couch-side as I watched cheesy tv shows on advertisement free DVDs. Last time I watched Hawaii 50 and Magnum PI [was going through Hawaiian phase at the time] with my man snuggled up next to me. He did a good job of 'holding' me - especially by reminding me that everything was going to be okay, and that he was there for me.

Some flowers already arranged in a vase are also nice when I come home. And I guess, as someone has already said above, you need to be aware that the physical healing and the emotional healing will occur at different rates.

Respond calmly to any emotional flare ups after her surgery. General anesthetic makes me [and statistically many other women] much more prone to tears in the day or so after surgery. And as Click and Kestrel251 have also noted from your previous qu, the history of depression and relationship upheaval might require some extra 'holding' for both of you - such as a follow up appointment with a counselor? Take care.
posted by honey-barbara at 8:04 AM on January 15, 2010

What To Expect When You're Aborting came up with an Abortion Healing Kit with some good suggestions. (That whole blog is really insightful and good in general.)

I assume that it's surgery and not RU-Whateverstreamofnumbers-- she may need something different physically if she's getting the pill thing.
posted by NoraReed at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2010

When the prescription painkiller runs out, Tylenol PM is pretty good.

She may have a limit on how much she can lift for a while. Also, reaching up high might be difficult.
posted by no, that other sockpuppet at 11:00 AM on January 15, 2010

Whoa, and painkillers, too? No wonder you're preparing for the worst. Honestly, I never even had so much as a cramp afterwards. I spent the 20 minutes lying down in their recovery room, and then I left and went about my business as usual, much relieved to have it over with. So don't get too freaked out and assume she's going to be an invalid for days.

Just act normally, and take your cue from her.
posted by fairywench at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2010

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