Life After Abortion

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Life After Abortion (Memoir, Book Award 2023)
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Logline or Premise
In this unflinching book, Miller Knight casts off the secrecy around her own abortion, honestly reflecting on her choice as a confused and naive woman in her twenties and how the repercussions have shaped her into a cynical and complicated woman in her forties.
First 10 Pages

The Choice

Abortion is a slippery thing for your inner self to think about. You can find out that you’re pregnant and know with every cell of your body that you can’t have a baby but it doesn’t mean it’s an easy decision to have an abortion.

Even if it is an easy decision, it doesn’t mean it will be an easy experience.

And even if it is an easy experience, it doesn’t mean it will be an easy thing to process emotionally, and to live with, and to move on from.

My abortion got harder as it went along. The decision to have one didn’t even feel like a decision. It was a given. But the process of having one was difficult; things happened I couldn’t have predicted or prepared for, and I was challenged physically and mentally throughout. The hardest part, by far, has been processing it afterwards.

It started with me catching up to what my changing body was going through and from there I was left behind by my mind.

Even though I was supported and loved, I also felt alone. With abortion, you are ultimately always on your own.

After it happened and the immediate crisis had been avoided, there were times— even years later—that someone would express an opinion about the topic that made me feel sad or angry, but I couldn’t share what was upsetting me. In those moments I was answering to myself.

Now, my abortion is only a part of my past like anything else that has happened to me, but truly believing that is still surprisingly difficult. I felt guilty and was pretty sure I was a bad person. It took a lot of energy from me and was hard to move away from. My inner voice was the last one to stop judging me.

Whenever I thought enough time had passed and enough experience had been gained that I could feel good about myself again, my own mind would unexpectedly raise the question of whether I should actually feel happy?

It might never be completely sure, and it will always find a way to leak that doubt into my body and muddle everything up.


There Is Such A Thing As Male Intuition

In a pub one night having Christmas drinks with my friends I thought I noticed a guy looking over at me admiringly. The friend who was standing in front of me left to go to the bar and I saw the guy look over again and then say to his mate, ‘that’s a shame.’

That guy knew I was pregnant before I did.


The Appointment

‘You’ve put here pregnancies one, children none.’

Why are doctor’s offices always a lot shabbier than you’d think? Like they’ve tried to steer away from being clinical and towards cosy, but they’ve ended up with something in the middle; a sort of student dorm look. You’d rather they had gone fully sterile.

The middle-aged woman reading the form I’ve just filled in clears her throat. I’ve deliberately let the silence between us last a little longer than is comfortable. I don’t know how much longer she can keep a single eyebrow arched.

Am I avoiding her question? Probably. But it wasn’t really a question and I’ve done more than my fair share of answering to medical professionals who don’t seem to notice or care if they’re making me feel small.

I’m here today for a breast check-up and am presently failing to appreciate the relevance of reproductive choices I made in a time before smartphones.

It was in 2006, in front of a different but similar woman in a different but similar room, that I started the journey to becoming pregnancies one, children none.


‘Name? Address? Date of birth?’ the nurse asked.

Automatic answers fell out of my mouth until this woman asked me, with that same raised eyebrow, if I could give her two good reasons for wanting an abortion.

I took a deep breath and steeled myself to give the speech I’d been practising ever since the Sunday before, when I’d been sitting, terrified, on the edge of my bed.


For months I’d been down.

After finishing university aged twenty-two, I’d been offered a job as a bar manager at a pub chain where I’d previously worked part-time while studying. It was my dream job and I was thrilled, moving from Sheffield to Peterborough and quickly learning how to get along with southerners (pro-tip: don’t put gravy on their chips). I lived in a flat above the pub and it was my first real full-time job where I was earning enough to live comfortably. Everything seemed perfect.

Just a few months later, though, it was announced that the owner of the pub chain had serious financial problems and some of the pubs were closing down.

And so I was made redundant in my early twenties, something I had previously thought was reserved for people in their fifties and sixties. I was forced to move back in with my parents and find a “real” job, which to me meant something at least loosely related to my journalism degree. I got hired as a production assistant at a small company making dull corporate DVDs for local councils and schools. It was miserable.

The only people I knew who were still living in the small Lancashire mining town where I’d grown up were some of the people I had been to school with. They were the ones who clearly hadn’t felt the same burning desire as I had to get the hell away from there as fast as we possibly could. Sure, I’d only gotten as far as Peterborough, but even that had been far enough away to notice that, by the time I came back, I didn’t really gel with them anymore.

I was spending most of my spare time in a state of boredom, comfort-eating meat and potato pies that seem to be the unique selling point of any small northern town worth its salt. I used to be able to eat two of these every day and somehow still remain skinny, but I guess I wasn’t sixteen anymore. Weight gain, apparently, was just another annoying difference between being a teenager and being a “real adult”.

Puzzlingly (both to me and to my Dad) I wasn’t paying any rent but I was also always broke. And tired. It had got to the point that I would often get home from work and go to sleep almost immediately. I’d even lost interest in what I pitifully considered the social highlight of my week; going to the pub quiz with my dad and his friends every Wednesday. Every time one of his mates put a pint in front of me, it felt overwhelmingly big and made my nose wrinkle. (I don’t think they were bothered when I stopped going anyway, as I wasn’t much use to their team with the increasing brain fog I’d been developing the last few months.)

I’d been to see the family GP about my lethargy. I explained that I was tired, almost always tired, that I was having headaches, that my stomach was upset and that I had gained weight. He’d told me I was depressed and that I should spend more time outdoors. Depressed? I’d never thought of depression as having physical symptoms before but there certainly seemed to be more than enough things to be depressed about. Before this surprising diagnosis I had arrived at the conclusion that my ‘depression’ was just what being an adult was: dreary, boring relentlessness and the low-level hum of niggling bodily pains.

But the remedy was to spend more time outdoors? Being confronted by the grey streets and claustrophobic houses that surrounded me? Surely that could only make things worse, I thought.

I resented existence.


That Sunday in December was a cold, bright day. As I got dressed, weighing up whether ‘Christmas shopping’ qualified as spending more time outdoors, I looked in the mirror. God I looked tired. My face was puffy and grey. In fact, my whole body felt and looked swollen. And this outfit in particular that I’d chosen seemed to be drawing attention to a low, round swell near my stomach. I hadn’t noticed it before, but it looked as if I was...

I couldn’t even say the word to myself because it would be far too horrifying if true, but an unsettling thought slowly began to arrange itself in my mind.

Could I be pregnant?