"When we decided to terminate the pregnancy, his family cut off from us"
This mother of one found out the hard way that her own health was second citizen to her family’s desire for a male child
My upbringing wasn’t very traditional, but being a girl carries certain expectations – study well, get a good job, marry and have children. But my parents didn’t pressure me into marriage or kids at any set age. I fell in love right out of college and four years later, we got married. We wanted to wait before starting a family to give ourselves time to settle into our jobs, new home and lives together. When I got pregnant, everyone was so happy, especially because we were the first in our generation to have children.
My first pregnancy was tough from the beginning. I had terrible nausea that lasted all day. I always felt dizzy and had blinding headaches. I had to step away from work because I couldn’t get through a day without my blood pressure spiking. I’m lucky to be a co-owner of a small fashion boutique and not part of a corporate setup where I’d have to fight for maternity leave, or quit. My business partner stepped up and took over my responsibilities.
I developed a pregnancy complication called pre-eclampsia. My doctor put me on bed rest, and I had to monitor my blood pressure throughout the day. My husband and I were worried about the health of our baby and my well-being.
Well into my third trimester, I was rushed to the hospital with chest pain. I had blood clots in one lung. It was taking a toll on my health and the baby’s too. I had to have an emergency C-section.
Everything after that was a blur of doctors and nurses rushing around me, working hard to save our lives. I have little memory of my time in the hospital. I just remember the pain and being scared.
My baby was born prematurely and had to be kept in the NICU for a few weeks. I was still recovering and had caught a bad throat infection too, which meant I couldn’t visit my child. It was awful.
I think I had mentally buried much of that experience’s trauma because having a newborn completely overtakes your life and keeps you distracted. In retrospect, I realise that I went through postpartum anxiety. I spent many nights awake just near my child, worried that something would happen to her while I was asleep. But knowing my daughter was healthy and growing well gave me peace.
We weren’t planning on having another child. I was working again, so happy to be back, and business was picking up. That all came crashing down when we found out I was pregnant again.
I was terrified and feared for my life. It had been six years since my first pregnancy. I barely survived childbirth, and was in and out of doctor’s clinics and the hospital for almost two months after that.
I spoke to three gynaecologists and unloaded all my apprehensions. After some testing, they also came to the conclusion that it would be very risky. I had developed health problems since having my first child. Terminating the pregnancy was not an easy decision to make. I see the current craziness in the US and want to grab some of these people by the shoulders, shake them, and say that this is not something people take lightly. No one is getting pregnant and getting abortions for the fun of it.
I saw the hesitation in my husband when I told him my decision, but he said he’d stand by me. My parents passed away a year after my marriage, and the little family I have left weren’t happy, but they supported me.
But my in-laws were definitely not on board. They knew how difficult the pregnancy and delivery were (my parents-in-law lived with us), but they were more focused on getting a male grandchild. They’d say, “You have a new life growing inside you now, everything will be okay as long as you are careful.” But what about my life? Does that not hold value?
The more they spoke about it, I could see my husband getting swayed. Eventually, even he started to say, “It’ll be okay, let’s just wait and see. We’ll be extra careful.” But I’d done everything right the first time around, and look what happened.
We took a weekend break away from the family, just the two of us, and stayed at a hotel to talk things through. He finally understood my concerns. He’d seen me in the worst state. We agreed that terminating the pregnancy would be the best choice for us. Still, a few days later when I went in for the procedure, I didn’t inform him. I was worried he’d change his mind again.
When I told him that it was done, he was angry at first, saying he’d have come with me, we would have done this together. But after listening to me, he understood and eventually, we became a team. But when we shared it with his family, things fell apart.
They were shocked and angry that we had gone through with the abortion without consulting them first. They felt that we had disrespected them and made a decision that went against their beliefs. They moved in with my brother-in-law and cut off from us.
We didn’t see each other or talk for almost a year. It was a terribly isolating and lonely time, especially for my husband. I started to doubt whether I’d made the right decision after seeing how it tore apart the family.
It was close to my daughter’s birthday when my mother-in-law reached out to us with the intention of reconciling. My father-in-law still believed we had done something unforgiveable, but she started to visit us. We slowly repaired our relationship. On one hand she said she, being a woman, understood our choice, and that it couldn’t have been easy. That ultimately, it was my choice to make. It took her time to mentally break through her religious and rigid upbringing.
Looking back on everything, I don’t have any regrets and neither does my husband, even though it caused a lot of pain and heartache. While the law is on our side and we have access to abortions, I wish there was more understanding and empathy for women opting for them. They are still often made to feel like they’re doing something wrong by prioritising their wellbeing. Even if there was no risk to health or past trauma, why should my decision to terminate the pregnancy be questioned?
I have a happy daughter and a husband who (eventually) came around, and that’s all we need. My health matters too. I will never understand people willing to risk the life of a woman for a clump of cells in her belly.