In a half-asleep daze, I stumbled into the bathroom, throwing up for over an hour before collapsing into a dead mass on the cold marble floor. It must have been a few hours before some heaves jolted me into consciousness – must have been a dream! As the blinding light of the sun streamed in through the windows, I saw it clearly. As I helped myself up to the sink and rinsed my mouth, I saw myself in the mirror – particularly my midsection – as if expecting to see something there.
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As I stared into the sink, my right hand jostling with the toothbrush, my left hand was rummaging through the contents of the toiletry pouch on the side shelf to find what I needed the most right now! The tests confirmed the worst. This couldn’t be happening to me! It wasn’t the discontinuation of my oral contraception that had caused me to miss my period. I was a fool to believe Anne. And now I was 18 weeks along. I wanted to shut down these thoughts and disappear into the darkness of the night. I was just 19, had begun the second semester in college and my on-again, off-again boyfriend was almost always in the embrace of a drug. And now, I had a baby inside of me!
I couldn’t deal with the mad onrush of one feeling after another that hit my insides. I needed to breathe. Perhaps, I needed to collapse again. As I walked out of the bathroom and into the warm comfort of my bed, the super-annoying hum of my fan managed to drown the frenzy of my thoughts and I was lulled back to sleep.
It was late evening when I woke up next. Hunger rats were pacing back and forth in my belly – the one that I wanted to rip out of my body and throw out. How could I have done this? I knew better. I knew better. I was careful – all the time and yet, this happened. I knew better, I knew better – I kept repeating to myself – as the hunger rats stabbed my insides with their sharp teeth! I knew the hardships that a single teenage mom and her child have to face in this harsh world. I knew them all – coz I was that child.
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My mom was only eighteen when I came along. With my birth, not only did a potentially bright career die a silent death but our lives together were ransacked with difficulties that can hardly be put into words. Don’t get me wrong – my mother has done her very best to bring me up and a splendid job at that. I can vouch she’s the best mom ever – one who has given her only child the unconditional love of two parents combined. But even so, I have known the hardships she has endured to bring me up, the dreams she has killed so I could grow up and fulfill my own, the jibes and insults she has been subjected to during those initial days, and more than anything, the love she has contained within her enormous heart, withholding it from reaching any man so it could be fully directed at me. And I wish to do her proud. Only now, I have done this. Me – the child she CHOSE to have coz she loved me even before I was a full human.
Was I ready to bring another innocent child into this world when I was, myself, a child? Was I ready to endure the same hardships that wracked my mom’s life when she chose to have me? Was I ready to kill my mom’s dreams for me if I chose to bring the life within me to life? And more importantly, was I ready to kill my own dreams?
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The frenzy of these frenetic thoughts rushing about my mind like F1 cars made me feel weak and I sank into the old wooden chair at the kitchen counter. I hardly had any energy to fix myself a meal but I knew I needed to get something inside of me. Something that’d not cause me to puke again. Had no more energy for THAT either. So, I emptied the contents of half a carton of juice into myself and ate some sandwiches I had packed for lunch the previous day.
After spending a restless night tossing and turning in bed, I knew I had to call mom. I couldn’t make this decision without her. Anne had been no help and every time she had brought up the idea of terminating pregnancy, I flinched. I knew that the very reasons she was giving me to terminate pregnancy were the ones my mom had chosen to override in CHOOSING me. She was the only one who could help me with this.
The next few moments took me every ounce of courage in every atom of my being – I picked up the phone and dialed the digits. ‘Honey,’ shouted an ecstatic mommy from the other end – my mommy. I don’t remember saying much – only that she was with me in less than an hour.
I cannot recall having a conversation with mom that was as open and frank as the one that I had that afternoon. Not only did all the silence of a broken heart, shattered dreams, failed love, and murdered desires gain a voice but I also learnt that her CHOICE to have me was steeped in the feeling she had for ME – even as I was a fetus and the feelings she had for the drunk skunk who ran out on her – on us. She went on to explain how my birth had washed away every insult, judgment, criticism or hardship that had come her way – coz I was the life she had birthed – the LIFE she had chosen, the life she loved. In that moment of motherhood, she felt strong and empowered – even as she knew she’d have to struggle to give me a comfortable life. The rest, I knew. I knew.
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As I hugged her and sobbed for hours, my decision was made. We didn’t have to vacillate between the choice to terminate pregnancy or keep the baby. Terminate pregnancy, said my heart. I know that my body had accepted the fetus as its own, and that I could make the CHOICE my mom made. But I didn’t love the drug-laden skunk who didn’t care about what he had put in me! I loved the flesh-and-blood person in front of me – my mom. She was the one who had done so much for me and was standing by my side even through this s**t. I didn’t have the heart to put her through the agony of seeing her daughter undergo the same misery of teenage pregnancy, childbirth, and parental responsibilities.
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I am not saying THAT option would not have been fulfilling – only that I didn’t think I wanted my child to be brought up in a home ridden with difficulty. I was just beginning college and my mother was already working twice as hard to support my education. Until I became capable and competent enough to give the newborn the life it deserved, I didn’t deserve a chance at ‘attempting’ parenthood. You get but one chance with one child. My mom was sure. She was strong; I wasn’t.
When we told the doctors, they asked me if it wouldn’t be better if I went along with it, and I shook my head in a vehement NO. Terminate pregnancy, my heart had said. And something in me knew it was right. As the pessaries, the dilation, the chemicals, the drugs made the process terrifying, I screamed and writhed in pain. And even as they removed the placenta, my lower body soaked in blood, I didn’t feel relieved – for my body was empty of a life. A life that was mine and yet, never mine.
Today, as I look back at that decision, my mother happily playing with her grandchildren in the living room as I type this, I know I was right. I couldn’t have asked for a better life, and couldn’t have given the child I didn’t CHOOSE this life!
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So, to all the women who grapple with this choice, at some point in their lives, I would just say follow your heart. If you feel that your life isn’t conducive to raising a healthy and happy child, don’t do it. It will be worth it. In our society, the decision to terminate pregnancy and the nitty-gritty surrounding abortion will always be a polarized discussion, fraught with the polemics of gender discrimination, inequality, patriarchal overbearing, socio-cultural scripts, and personal battles. Only it doesn’t have to be. It is your conversation with yourself. Listen to what that voice within you tells you. It knows best.
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