Confessions of a Half-Mother: Why I Had an Abortion Even Though I Wanted to Keep the Baby

First Person

Confessions of a Half-Mother: Why I Had an Abortion Even Though I Wanted to Keep the Baby

Illustration: Akshita Monga

 

When I skipped my period, I thought of a million different things that it could be attributed to before the thought of pregnancy even crossed my mind. “It must be stress,” I thought to myself. God knows I’d had reason enough to be stressed, with my Hindu parents refusing to meet my partner’s non-Hindu family to discuss the wedding that had been in the works for almost three years now. Or the iron deficiency that had plagued me my entire life. Or maybe the PCOD I’ve been struggling with for 17 years was making a comeback.

On the days when the uncontrollable waves of dizziness and bouts of nausea made it difficult for me to get out of bed without falling into a heap, I was sure I was suffering from some aggressive strain of cancer. But it took a while before my brain landed on the most obvious answer. Partly because my partner and I were always careful. And partly because I’d spent so many years being told that my iron deficiency and PCOD would make conceiving difficult for me that I’d always imagined that if/when the day arrived when I wanted a baby, it would involve a flurry of ovulation tests, sex schedules, headstands, perhaps even a turkey baster.

When the first two home pregnancy tests came back positive, we decided that the second faint pink line winking at us from the plastic strips couldn’t be trusted. So we let a few days pass, and bought two more, and got a blood test for good measure. The pink line became darker, my hCG levels were consistent with it. There was no denying the pregnancy any more.

In the days between the two sets of test, I oscillated between panic and denial. I — we — weren’t ready for a baby. The thought of being responsible for keeping a tiny, helpless human being alive terrified me. And yet, the second I received my blood reports, all my doubts, fears, and alarm evaporated, to be replaced by a love so overpowering and intense, it shook me to my core. It was selfless and fiercely protective in a way I couldn’t imagine myself being. For the first time in three decades, I loved my body. Despite all the ugly things I had hurled at it in anger, cursing it for its inability to look the way I wanted it to, it was home to our magic.

I nodded woodenly as my gynaecologist explained the procedure for terminating a pregnancy, a fortnight later. We listened, clutching each other’s hands, as she detailed the schedule for the multiple pills I was to take, what she would insert in me, how the “product” would “separate” from my uterus, and how long before the uterus would “eject everything”. She said it with compassion and kindness. Perhaps thinking of what was about to happen as simply my body ejecting a knot of cells was supposed to make it easier, but it didn’t. I’ve forgotten many things that she said, but not those words. They still sometimes echo in my head, months later.

But the thing about grief is, you can only postpone it, not evade it altogether.

We thanked her, and left. I cried all the way home. He did too, but he did a good job of holding it together for my sake. He left to get me all the pills she had prescribed. I cried some more. When he came back with the little paper sack of pills, I wanted to throw them out, but I didn’t. We sat together in silence. I took the pills. We wept some more. And then we waited.

The next few days were excruciatingly painful, as my uterus contracted and the gestational sac detached itself from the uterus. I bled so much, I thought I was going to die. I welcomed the pain — it kept me from going out of my mind with grief.

But the thing about grief is, you can only postpone it, not evade it altogether. For many days after the abortion, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, howling to get my baby back. For weeks after, I couldn’t look at a pregnant woman without dissolving into tears. Unknown to my partner, I still spend hours looking at his childhood photographs, imagining what our baby would look like. Would she have his eyes? Or my hair? Would she share his love for physics, or my love for literature? It’s always a girl, in my imagination.

Months later, I still can’t cross the kids’ section of a store without feeling like my heart is being crushed by a cold, unyielding hand. I’ve lost track of the number of little rompers I’ve bought and given away. And the number of times I’ve bought baby soaps and powders because of how desperately I want to inhale the newborn baby scent, only to throw them away unopened because it hurts even to pretend. Every week, I track how far along my pregnancy I would have been, and at what stage of development our baby would be. I’m a mother without a child, and the knowledge is a physical ache I carry with me everywhere I go.

Simply because the society they’re so eager to please doesn’t yet know how to speak of motherhood or pregnancies outside of the context of marriage.

But my parents have no idea. I remember how ecstatic they were when my sister-in-law announced her three pregnancies. My dad promptly ordered dozens of boxes of mithais to distribute to relatives, while mum immediately got on the phone to exchange excited congratulations with my bhabhi’s mother. Her babies were life’s most precious blessings, while mine was a dirty little secret, a “product” that had to be “separated” and “ejected” from my body just so they wouldn’t have to suffer the shame of  an unwed mother for a daughter. My baby was the final price I paid in the lifelong war between living life on my terms and allowing their need to maintain a facade of moral superiority to dictate my life’s choices. Simply because the society they’re so eager to please doesn’t yet know how to speak of motherhood or pregnancies outside of the context of marriage. Some days, this knowledge makes it impossible for me not to hate them from every fibre of my being.

Someday, when I can muster the strength to tell them about this chapter of my life without ending my relationship with them, I want to tell my parents about the grandchild they never had. I don’t think there can be any closure for me until my baby’s existence — as brief as it was — is acknowledged by my people.

Comments