A mum has revealed how she had an abortion because her morning sickness was so bad – and she’s been racked with guilt ever since.
Toni Miles, 28, from Basingstoke, Hampshire, was rushed to hospital with extreme morning sickness hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) the day after she was discovered to be pregnant in November 2015.
Then a peer worker in a psychiatric intensive care unit, Toni spent most of the next month in a hospital bed before making the heartbreaking decision to terminate her pregnancy on December 23.
She tells Fabulous: “I didn’t feel like I had a choice. I was 23 when I got pregnant and I was no longer with the father.
“Just a few hours after taking a pregnancy test, I started getting violently ill and it only got worse from there.
“After having the abortion, I felt incredible guilt. I remember coming home and my heart sobbing saying ‘I’m sorry’.
“I felt like I let my child and myself down because my body just couldn’t handle it.
“For years I couldn’t talk about it openly, it’s still a very taboo subject.
“A lot of people will think ‘I wouldn’t do this if I was in your situation’.
“It was very difficult, I felt embarrassed because of the taboo around abortion.”
At first, Toni dismissed her illness as a side effect of the antibiotics she was taking for an ear infection.
But when it continued the next morning, she went to see her GP.
She says: “The doctor said it could be HG, so watch out for it, and prescribed me some anti-illness tablets.
After the abortion, I felt incredible guilt. I remember coming home and having my heart sobbing saying “I’m sorry”. I felt like I let my child and myself down because my body just couldn’t handle it
“I went home, got a tablet and then went to get some stuff from my new house, because I was moving that day.
“I just remember being violently sick all over. It was all over my car, I couldn’t stop it or control it.
“My mother took me to A&E on the advice of my GP, the doctor gave me a look and said ‘you need to be admitted’.
“I was admitted to hospital five times in total, only going home for a day or two. I was hospitalized and discharged until December 23, when I was dismissed.”
Toni previously believed she couldn’t get pregnant, having been diagnosed with PCOS when she was 13.
She explains: “I went to see a doctor a year or two ago, when I was in a serious relationship, and was told that it was very unlikely that I would ever have children.
“I was also a big girl, a size 30, which was a factor. After that relationship ended, I had a brief fling with another guy and was stupid and didn’t use protection.
“It was my best friend who forced me to take a pregnancy test because I thought it was not possible.
“I had very mixed feelings about it. I wasn’t in a good place financially or mentally, I had bad depression and anxiety, and the dad didn’t want anything to do with the baby.
I felt like I had no choice, I was in so much pain
“I strongly believe that a child should have two parents. Whether the father wants to be with you or not, the child needs two parents and my ex had no interest.
“My illness was the main factor in my decision to have an abortion. I could be sick up to five times an hour and I constantly felt like throwing up.
“I felt like I was dying, I was like a zombie because I was so sick and in so much pain.
“Part of me felt very insecure, because I thought I couldn’t have kids, so I was like ‘no, I can do it’. I was always like ‘what if? about this baby.
“But by mid-December, I had made up my mind. I was so ill that I just couldn’t see how I could continue my pregnancy. Doctors had even advised me to seriously consider a termination of pregnancy. “
Due to her weight, Toni went to London for a surgical abortion, when she was around 10 weeks pregnant.
Tragically, she only had three weeks of respite from the illness, before she returned as badly as before.
She says: “When my period came the disease came back. No one could tell me why, they thought maybe it was my body still adjusting to the pregnancy hormones.
“It scared me a lot. I thought ‘did they take the whole baby away?’ and ‘is there another reason why this is happening? Am I really sick?’
When the disease came back I thought “I went through all this emotional distress and pain for nothing”
“I thought to myself ‘if I’m still going through this now, why did I even have an abortion?’
“I think I will always feel regret and guilt for the dismissal, but I did what I thought was best at the time.
“I was told it would stop the disease but it didn’t work, so I felt a bit cheated too, especially because I was told I couldn’t have children.
“Part of me felt like I might as well have gone all the way because at least I would have had a baby in the end.”
Toni then faced years of misdiagnosis from her doctors, who were baffled by her condition.
As she struggled to keep food down, her weight dropped from a size 30 to a size 8 in skinny jeans, with “a half stone of loose skin”.
She says: “At first they thought I might be addicted to the anti-sickness injections I was getting at A&E, then they told me it was all in my head.
“Then they thought I had an eating disorder, so they put me through clinics before they even gave me a colonoscopy or an ultrasound. I’ve had MRIs and all now, but all that dates back to the last three years.
“At home I was doing my own research and discovered Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS), a rare condition causing repeated episodes of feeling and then vomiting.
“It wasn’t until I started taking my mom to my appointments and she showed the doctors all the research we were doing that they started taking me seriously.
“I went to three different hospitals for tests, including one private.
“I was finally diagnosed with CVS two years ago, but that doesn’t mean they actually know how to treat it.”
What is CVS?
Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a rare condition that usually begins in childhood. It causes repeated episodes of sensations and discomfort.
Someone with CVS can vomit for hours or even days at a time.
CVS can last for months, years or sometimes decades. Symptoms can be so severe that people need to be hospitalized.
The cause is not yet known, but episodes of vomiting can be triggered by:
- emotional stress
- physical stress
- foods containing chocolate, cheese, caffeine, alcohol, or MSG
- very hot or very cold weather
- travel sickness
- overeating, fasting, or eating right before bed
For more information see the NHS.
She adds, “CVS destroyed my life. I lost three jobs because of this.
“I had to quit full-time work in 2017 and switch to makeup and hairstyling, but I haven’t been able to work since last July.
“Even though the episodes are more controlled now, I still have them. You can see when I’m sick because I get a funny color and start sweating.
“I was kicked out of a shared house because the landlord thought I was on crack, because of my appearance and my behavior.
“This is the third house that I have lost because of my illness, I have been called a cheater on benefits.
“At the thinnest I looked sick, my face was skinny, I can see why people would have thought I was on drugs but I wasn’t.
“Before, I had a lot of self-confidence, I was the girl who always had her hair and makeup done.
“Now I don’t bother wearing makeup even though I feel great, there’s no point in sweating later.
“For three years I haven’t had a relationship because a lot of people can’t handle my episodes and that’s a big thing to explain.”
Luckily, Toni is now in love with Tim Carr, 34, whom she met through a mutual friend and has a son called Ziggy, one with.
She has been on medication for her illness since November 2019 and has gained weight so she is now a healthier size 16-18.
She says: “At the beginning of 2019 I had an episode of illness but it was different so I took a pregnancy test and it came back positive.
“I felt really happy, I didn’t have any of the uncertainties that I had the first time around.
“The illness was still severe during my pregnancy but it didn’t bother me as much, I knew it was coming and I had Tim’s support so I didn’t feel alone this time.
“Having another abortion never even crossed my mind. I wasn’t using any contraceptives, Ziggy wasn’t planned but he wasn’t prevented either.
“Ziggy was born on October 22, 2019. He’s a fair character, very sassy, very cheeky, he’s one of those kids who smiles at everyone.
“In a way, it was difficult to have a child, knowing that I had an abortion the last time.
“I find myself thinking ‘what would my kids have looked like, what would they have looked like with Ziggy?’
“I try not to regret it because I’m very lucky for what I have and I don’t know if I would have had Ziggy if things had been different.
“But it’s a kick in the stomach when you think ‘I went through all this emotional distress and pain for nothing’.
“I just wish cyclic vomiting was better understood, which is why I’m telling my story.”