Inspiration: The Great Wave off Kanagawa
I was 31 and broke. My phone, placed in my boyfriend’s pocket had fallen, in the rickshaw. We failed to notice. He was going away on work. It was our last night together. I came back home and bought myself a new phone and texted him, “Back on the radar.” Later when we spoke, I told him how the traffic made me want to throw up. “Get the pregnancy test.” “I am not pregnant.” I ignored it but he was insistent.
A few days later, instead of my period I had some brown discharge in my panties. I frantically Googled to make sense of the symptoms. The internet told me I could be pregnant. So I finally got the test. In the morning when I peed on the stick and waited for what seemed like forever — two red lines appeared. Shit! I was preggers. “Shucks what was I going to do? I barely had money to get a basic phone; there was no way I could afford a child. I wasn’t even sure if I had money for the abortion. Who was I going to call? My boyfriend was far away. How much would it cost? Why had I messed this up? I had enough problems, my career had barely started. I was broke. I was figuring out my relationship. I didn’t want to be mother. Was I allowed to admit that?” Probably not.
But I was 31. Was it already too late to have kids? Aren’t women supposed to want to have children? I like children. In fact, I love children. I did want children. Women are supposed to want them. There was no time to think of all that. I didn’t know who to call, what to do.
I called my boyfriend; and informed a friend.
I knew a gynaecologist, I went to school with. I decided to get her number, there was no way I could go to mine. I thought she would judge me. I called my classmate and easily so, she gave me an appointment. I remember I went alone the first time, I felt dirty, almost as if everyone knew my sordid tale. Everyone there had come with a family member or two. I felt like I had done something wrong and had to quietly get rid of it. I am fuzzy about the details but she checked me and told me I was pregnant. She then told me that I was growing old, should reconsider the abortion, and that conceiving later maybe difficult. Though I loved the man, I didn’t want a child. I wanted an abortion. She also showed the ultrasound. I saw a tiny kaaju-shaped thing in my womb. I scanned it and sent it to my boyfriend.
When the second pill (I think that was after a week) was administered I went with a friend. She and I laughed and cracked jokes. But I came home and cried non-stop. The next day I started bleeding and bleeding non-stop and I bled for days. I just couldn’t articulate how I felt but I cried like my heart would break. I didn’t know who to ask, “Do you really bleed so much?” I didn’t even Google anything. But the sight of blood would depress me to no end. Then, I didn’t think I could talk about it to anyone and yet I wanted to tell the world that I was hurting and didn’t know what to do. But could I talk? Was it shameful? Had I failed? Had I betrayed my body? Did
anyone else have an abortion? Did they talk about it? How did they feel? I felt very lonely and angry.
Soon I was back with my boyfriend. His presence made me feel less sad. The house I shared with him was on the ground floor and we would have many mousy visitors. The thought that the mice caught in mousetraps would eventually be killed would send me into a crying bout. Anything would. I would always be emotional, angry, and didn’t trust anyone. I was also mad that I had to go through it physically and mentally though it involved the two of us. I was unable to articulate or give space to my anger and grief. Less than a year later, I was on anti-depressants.
After a few years, I told my mother about it and she said she knew. It was so relieving to tell her briefly and to know that she had known and had not judged me, I wish I had told her when I had the abortion because during those months I felt like no one would understand my grief. I have never felt so grief-stricken and lonely.
I recently read in a book called ‘Chup’, “The consequences of social isolation are grim. We all know intuitively that social connections and a sense of belonging are central to being well,” which is why I am here talking about the abortion I had. Now that the abortion is behind me, I am glad I had the choice to terminate a pregnancy.
As an older woman, the number of ‘shoulds’ in my life have gone down and I know what I do with my body is my decision. I am glad I live in a country where I have the choice to legally abort. I am glad I had the privilege of having friends who supported me financially and emotionally when I decided to have an abortion.
My Abortion Story is a crowdsourced project in partnership with MybodymychoiceIndia campaign. It hopes to provide a platform for people to share their experiences with abortion in their own words. There is so much discourse around right and wrong but little about people’s experiences. Through My Abortion Story, we are hoping we can address this gap by bringing all kinds of personal narratives to life.