Posted by Stella
It was 10 PM on a regular Wednesday night. I had just come home from work, and was spooning a bowl of oats and preparing for a meeting the next day when I got the call. “I’m pregnant”, she announced. More than a year of complete silence and one of my closest friends from college opens with this. I’m 22. She lives in a different city. Within minutes, I am in a conference call with our third friend and flight tickets have been booked for the next morning. After the call, I sit staring at my laptop, wondering what to tell my colleagues about why I am missing the meeting tomorrow. “My friend is having an abortion and I need to be with her” seems, I don’t know, not legit. I decide to go with ‘personal issues’.
Four years later, it is my turn. This time I am older. Living with my partner. I find out when I’m on the field. This time, I am old enough to be able to walk into a pharmacy and ask for a pregnancy test without raising eyebrows. People assume I am married. People assume I will keep my baby. I don’t plan to.
The doctor we went to was judgemental, and worse, incompetent.
That first time, the experience was traumatic, even for me, although I wasn’t the one going through it. The doctor we went to was judgemental, and worse, incompetent. That night my friend lay in agonising pain, bleeding through her clothes. She was supposed to have had surgical termination the next day but the pill the doctor gave her to dilate the vagina, caused the abortion.
I still remember that night. The panicked phone calls to a doctor who wouldn’t pick up. The shame that stopped us from rushing to the ER like perhaps we should have. The phone call across continents to a friend’s aunt in the US, who talked us through it. The tears running down her cheek. My futile attempt to be brave. The never-ending pain. And the blood. That is what I remember the most. Blood. All over her bathroom floor. Blood that she had neither the physical nor the mental energy to clean up. Blood that I kept scrubbing out but it felt like it would never leave. Like I was Duncan in Macbeth. All the waters of Neptune. And that smell. That horrid smell that clung to our clothes and our brains and wouldn’t let go.
This time, everything is different. I go to a doctor from the crowdsourced list of gynaecologists. She is professional, kind. Only once does she gently ask me whether I want to consider keeping the baby. I was sure. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the baby. My partner and I had been wanting a baby since we got together. But my health wouldn’t permit it. And in the balance of things, we decide my life and health are more important. This time, I have a choice. A real choice. I choose myself.
This time, I have a choice. A real choice. I choose myself.
The procedure dragged out (the medical termination wasn’t complete, so I needed vacuum suction), and was physically painful. But emotionally, it was liberating. If I think of my abortion, I don’t remember the pain. Or the blood. I remember my doctor’s reassuring voice explaining the process in detail, and telling me I could call her at any time of the day or night. I remember my partner sitting next to me, making me hot water bags and tea to help through the pain. I remember my senior at work checking in on me every week, and my colleague who took on the work that I was supposed to do. I remember feeling loved and cared for. I remember not feeling judged.
When I was 16, I had written a story about a teenage girl who gets pregnant. Her school expels her, her boyfriend abandons her, her parents are ashamed of her. It was based on a girl from my school, who was shamed, forced to quit her studies and marry the first man who agreed to. My protagonist had a sadder ending.
Also read: Watch: A 101 Video On Abortion In India
When my mother read the story, she cried, and promised me that she would love me even if I got pregnant when unmarried or had an abortion. In that moment, I realised that the girl from my school hadn’t let society down. Society had let her down.
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