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OPINION - Tracey Emin: It is different when you are in love

Tracey Emin has shared how she almost died after an abortion that went wrong  (Tracey Emin)
Tracey Emin has shared how she almost died after an abortion that went wrong (Tracey Emin)

When I was 26 I had an abortion that went terribly wrong, so wrong that I could have easily died. After I had the termination I was still left with a second foetus inside me.

I remember sitting in my boyfriend’s garden, it was ridiculously hot, I kept covering myself in olive oil, hoping to get browner and I guess subconsciously relieve myself from the mental and physical pain, trying to forgive myself. I felt racked with guilt.

Five days after the abortion I called up my doctor and told him how ill I felt, I’d gone yellow and kept vomiting. He said: “How do you expect to feel after having an abortion?” My doctor had refused to sign the abortion documents, I’d had to wait so long that I was almost four months pregnant.

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

My friend and I pooled all our money together and got a minicab to the hospital, by the time I arrived I could hardly stand, blood and flesh were tumbling from between my legs. I was delirious.

The nurse had a clipboard, and she was asking me questions: “Have you eaten today?”


“When was the last time you drank anything”.

“About two hours ago.”

“OK, we can do the procedure. What’s your preference, male or female?”

“Well,” I said, “It depends, I’m sexually very open, I don’t mind. I have enjoyed having sex with men and women but I’m monogamous so if I’m in a relationship then I stick to that one person. I’d never just sleep with someone just because I found them attractive, I’d need to get to know them first.”

I just rambled on and on until the nurse said: “Stop, I was asking if you want a male or female surgeon?”

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

This week I went to Margate Pride and I was so proud of Margate.

Margate must be one of the coolest, friendliest LGBTQ+ towns on the planet. About 100,000 people marched from the bandstand to the Clock Tower. The whole of Margate came out to celebrate. As I marched along the road with everyone as a friend and ally, I thought about how far I’d gone since I had that abortion, how I had jettisoned all that guilt and shame that was thrown at me by others.

To the Christian doctor who insisted that I was on this planet to procreate, you were wrong — very, very wrong.

All the time when I was pregnant the only way I could see myself as a mother was jumping off Waterloo Bridge with the baby in my arms.

When I was young I thought it was fine to fuck the world, by the time I was 15 I’d changed my mind. Love ruled, love still rules, nothing can beat that feeling. We don’t all have to be mothers, we don’t all have to live the same or be the same.

All I know is that it’s different when you’re in love.

 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)
 (Tracey Emin)
(Tracey Emin)

It’s easy to see love…

it comes crashing in like a giant tsunami a million miles high…

smashing through everything…

Intoxicating… all encompassing … holding us breathless…

Suspended in a world where times does not exist and nothing feels real…

The tiniest moment can feel immense…

the gentle pouring of a cup of tea…

the newspaper opened on the right page…

the running of a bath at the temperature you love…

a smile of reassurance when something goes terribly wrong…

All these tiny details and thousands more are details of love…

It’s what makes us who we are…

Tracey Emin, September 2020