Support through tough times
October 3, 2006 11:07 AM   Subscribe

Supporting my girlfriend in her decision to have an abortion -- what do I need to do?

I'm going to drive her to clinic, pay for anything that needs to be paid for, etc. Of course, I still love her through all of this. The circumstances are so extrenuous that we cannot possibly keep the child. Any personal anecdotes would be helpful. Thanks.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Listen to her - she might want to talk about it even months later. Just be around and available for her.
posted by agregoli at 11:29 AM on October 3, 2006

Offer to be there for her as much as you can, but don't be offended if she wants alone time. If there is time and she doesn't have one, try to make arrangements to have a peaceful place to recuperate for a day or two (your place? A hotel?). There's nothing like going through a physical and often emotional trauma while having to go back to work right away.
posted by sian at 11:33 AM on October 3, 2006

My wife had an abortion a year or so after we got together. The worst part were the protesters. Not that they made me feel bad, just that no one likes to be told that they're a baby killer. That and I had to fight the urge to run them all over.

I sat in the waiting room, she was gone for maybe 20 minutes. Afterwards we got lunch, she slept for an hour and we went to a movie.

That's was it. For us it was liking going to the dentist.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 11:38 AM on October 3, 2006

It took me a day or two to physically recover from my abortion. I needed bed rest, some crying time, some raging time and a lot of listening and hand holding. Just knowing that someone was there helped tremendously.

Also, and YMMV, of course, I was starving about 6 hours later, (for steak, which is weird for me) and my boyfriend won a big gold star for quietly going out to a local steakhouse, bringing me back a huge meal and serving it to me in bed. Treat your girlfriend as if she has a bad flu: be kind, be available, be ready to do her bidding. And understand that she's going to be grieving for a while, even if she doesn't show it.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:52 AM on October 3, 2006

+1 for bringing her some food for right afterwards. I accompanied my roommate in college and had juice and cookies waiting for her which helped her get some energy back after the procedure. Then we made fun of the protesters for a while. Don't know if this would work for your girlfriend, but the humor seemed to make my friend feel a little better.
posted by rmless at 12:07 PM on October 3, 2006

Had to sit down and have a cup of coffee and a box of Kleenex with somebody who'd had one and never really dealt with it -- I guess she trusted me. This was a good long while after, more than a year.
posted by pax digita at 12:13 PM on October 3, 2006

Take care of her when she's sick - it will be rough physically, from what i've heard. Be there for her emotionally, but don't keep asking her about it. Watch movies, do things to try and take her mind off of things.

I'm sorry for what you're going through, and I hope this thread stays respectful. Happy to see that it has thus far.
posted by twiggy at 12:23 PM on October 3, 2006

Remember to give her a chance to grieve, and yourself a chance too. Especially if you've thought of a future with children together. If she's sentimental like me, she may remember the due date for a long time. So keep in mind that there may be some depression or regret when that date comes around.
posted by saffry at 12:40 PM on October 3, 2006

Stories from people who have had abortions tell me that the experience is a varied one, and how it affects women is varied, too.

The best thing you can do is pay attention to your girl and what she wants. One minute, she may need to grieve (so be strong for her); another, she may need to push it all aside and do something fun (so be fun for her).

It's possible that she won't want to have sex for a while afterward -- not only is the abortion a physically traumatic thing, but it's also an emotionally traumatic thing. You shouldn't feel personally rejected for her lack of interest. More importantly, you should convey to her that it's okay if she needs to take her time to get back to that level of intimacy.
posted by parilous at 12:41 PM on October 3, 2006

Some people have a tough time physically. Some, like my wife, have cramps equal to a normal period and that's all. Some people have no problems at all. It's not a guaranteed difficult physical experience.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:42 PM on October 3, 2006

It's not that rough, physically. Maybe a little crampy. I have no doubt it's different for other girls.

I think it's best to take your cues from her. Some girls don't grieve at all, and would be annoyed by the handling with kid gloves and oversolicitousness, and other chicks might really need that. I'd just ask her.
posted by mckenney at 12:43 PM on October 3, 2006

What mckenney said. I've known women for who the experience was as emotionally difficult as taking the dog for a walk.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 12:47 PM on October 3, 2006

Mygothlaundry nails it with the "extreme flu" thing. Also, depending on the stage of the pregnancy, there may or may not be random hormonal mood swings. For some women, it's a very simple, non emotional medical procedure. For some women, it's a sad thing. How you treat your girlfriend really depends on how she feels, which none of us can predict.

Don't be surprised if she reacts angrily to you, or says hateful things that she may not mean. Most of the time, it's a hormonal thing, sometimes it's a psychological thing...and sometimes women are angry that they've had one, and their partners are the easiest/closest to blame. (Not that I'm saying she feels that way...I'm just trying to give you a bunch of possible scenarios, so you don't get blindsided.)

Be supportive of any decision she makes. If she changes her mind, the clinic waiting room is no place to have a discussion about it. You will only seem like a bully. I've done a lot of walking people through the protesters, and have talked with hundreds or more women, and sometimes people change their mind. Or they may just change an appointment. But the staff of the clinic will not perform the procedure if it looks like someone is being coerced. If she needs to walk away to rethink things after having seen the clinic, let her do that. Go to lunch, discuss things, whatever...but remember, you have input, but you cannot make this decision.

For some women, this is a really huge thing. For some women, it is not. Let her define the course of action after the procedure. If she wants to go home, take her home. If she wants to do dinner and a show, then by all means, bring on the steak and chacha.

Big hugs to both of you.
posted by dejah420 at 12:49 PM on October 3, 2006

Help her with following any after-care instructions from her doctor too. I dealt with a patient once that ignored her post-op advice and went shopping. She passed out in the store.
posted by drstein at 1:16 PM on October 3, 2006

I'd caution against trying to help her look on the bright side or even do much reiteration of her own reasons for the abortion. You run the risk of unintentionally sounding a bit too happy that she's not having the baby, which is going to sound all wrong at the time.
posted by desuetude at 1:22 PM on October 3, 2006

It's great that you want to take care of your girlfriend. Too many women face it alone. Don't forget to take care of yourself. You may have your own emotional reactions - more intense, or more muted than hers. It's okay for you to have feelings about it, or not to have feelings about it. You should each have someone else you can talk to that is more emotionally removed from the situation - a parent, a trusted friend, a counsellor...

Take some time to discuss who else you two will tell or not tell about the pregnancy and abortion. You may have different ideas about how much of a secret to keep it. Lots of people have abortions and few people talk about it. You have to decide what you two are comfortable with.
posted by raedyn at 1:29 PM on October 3, 2006

Mod note: question is how to support the girlfriend, take metacommentary to metatalk, thank you
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:19 PM on October 3, 2006

Be there for her as you would for any personal difficulty - my experiences accompanying friends who had abortions was that it was important to have someone there with them. She may want to eat, not eat, get drunk, go for a walk or just sleep, so do your best to accomodate her and good luck to you both.
posted by Lynsey at 2:51 PM on October 3, 2006

It depends on her. I had an abortion and my boyfriend was unable to be around because of work. That was fine. It wasn't painful nor stressful. I took a taxi home, slept for a while afterwards and then fixed dinner. The following day (a Saturday) we went hiking.
Concerned looks and meals in bed would've annoyed me. Some girls react with grief, and some feel ill and crampy afterwards. Most I've talked to are like me and didn't react very strongly physically or emotionally. Just ask her how she feels and what she wants to do. (She'll probably be hungry, though.)
posted by aforambivalent at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2006

You don't have to pamper her, spoil her or pity her, but do be nice, do something she likes to do if she feels like it, follow her lead. Sitting around to talk about feelings seems like the most hideous torture afterwards to me, but everyone's different.

But don't invite people over to have a party and get loaded. It sounds obvious, but no one gave my ex that advice.
posted by Gucky at 3:18 PM on October 3, 2006

Get some raspberry leaf tea and make it for her. The tea helps even out hormones and heal the body; the act of making it for her shows tender care and thoughtfulness.

Kudos to you for striving to help her, whether it turns out to be a challenging experience or not.
posted by Riverine at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2006

Concerned looks and meals in bed would've annoyed me.

Seconded. It might not be a big deal for her. Know what I do advise, though? Staying awake in the waiting room while she's having it done. You'd think it would go without saying, but...

I was starving about 6 hours later, (for steak, which is weird for me)

Strawberry Pop Tarts, here, which I hadn't eaten for years before or since.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:48 PM on October 3, 2006

I was starving about 6 hours later, (for steak, which is weird for me)

i wanted chicken and dumplings, which i hadn't had in years.

i agree with most things said here. be there for her if she wants to talk. don't pressure her to talk. and don't assume she wants to be coddled when she gets home, either. i slept for a couple hours (after the chicken and dumplings) and then i was fine. but everyone reacts differently.
posted by kerning at 5:16 PM on October 3, 2006

Get a bunch of books, for you and for her, so if she doesn't want you around, you can sit quietly in the next room. Get some movies. Don't get great comedies - you might think lightening the mood is a wonderful idea, but the laughing will actually hurt. Blankets, perhaps a big fluffy beach towel. Tissues.

And, yeah, wait out the full six to eight week (I think) period for sex, even alternative sex. And do not let her pressure you into it earlier than that. She might think she's ready, but ... yeah, had a bad experience there.
posted by adipocere at 5:31 PM on October 3, 2006

Thirding (fourthing? fifthing?) the food.... especially if she has been sick to her stomach for the past few weeks.... but wait until after she has had a chance to sleep. Make sure she has all of the sanitary pads she needs, and a heating pad would be nice.

Coming home to some nice new sheets, or a nice fluffy comforter and a pillow (or even just have a close friend change the bed into clean bedding for you while you are at the clinic) is a happy thing.

Make sure you have a thermometer so she can check her temp in case of fever.

And remember to tell her that you still love her.
posted by haplesschild at 8:33 PM on October 3, 2006

Its funny, most of the posts here make it sound no worse that taking the dog for a walk. Before I had an abortion every woman I knew who had had one assured me it was no big deal. After - they told me that seeing me in such terrible physical and emotional pain bummed them out and reminded them that it really was ... awful.

I would take folks who suggest that is is no big deal with a grain of salt. Every woman who I know who has had an abortion since I had mine, either her or her partner has admitted to me privately that the experience was excruiating and that it took a long time to recover from the emotional effects. Also be aware that many people get pregant again to try to make up for the terrible feelings of loss and grief and in a bid to get their feeling of innoence back. Don't do that unless you really want the child - believe me, she won't want to go through the experience twice.

If I were you, I would also ask your gf to think twice about the abortion. I would say there is a reasonable likelihood she will look back on it as one of the worst mistakes of her life and if you didn't ask her to think twice and then think again, you may be in for a bunch of blame.
posted by zia at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2006

Your support is all she needs - not second guessing and "are you sure?"

You are on the right track and sound like you really love and care for her. That's the best thing you can do.
posted by agregoli at 9:39 AM on October 4, 2006

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