My first pregnancy, after marriage, seemed like a breeze. I enjoyed looking after myself, ate iron-rich foods, walking and the attention that a pregnant woman gets by all and sundry. Suddenly the 'hostile' in-laws too started pampering me and I became indulgent! I was very happy, reading pregnancy books, making notes with my gynecologist on the various possibilities of birthing in the hospital that I had registered.
I had read the famous pregnancy Bible ‘What to Expect While Expecting’ and felt totally ready to welcome the baby. But the reality ended up being totally different. Back then, we lived in a small town in central India where my husband was posted for his work.
As the labour pains started, I was admitted to the town’s hospital, where no one was allowed in the birthing room. My gestational diabetes, feeble labour pains, coupled with the apathy of the staff in the labour room made the pre-birthing period a very difficult experience for me. I was even shamed for my 'condition' by the support staff. The nurses used cuss words while the dais lashed out expletives about the sexual act, which led to me getting pregnant! I felt strange and shuddered to think if this is how they treated married women, what would they do to pregnant unmarried women!
Finally, after spending twenty hours in labour and minimum dilation, I was rushed to operation theatre for a C-section.
My agony did not come to an end even after the baby was born. I had not recovered from the pain of undergoing surgery but soon I was asked to breastfeed my baby. I was flustered, my breasts wouldn’t bring out any colostrum! And the next 24 hours felt never ending as I exhausted with changing what seemed like hundreds of nappies! The situation did not improve much in the coming days and I was soon heading into the postpartum depression.
I was managing the baby all alone with sleepless nights, tired body and mind when my husband noticed my condition. He suggested we took a break to combat the motherhood blues. His parents volunteered to take care of the baby and we set out to the hills of Nepal.
I was using a spermicide and was under the impression that since I was still nursing the baby, I was naturally not susceptible to getting pregnant. But I was wrong. The next month I missed my periods and my worst fears came true. I was devastated to find out I was pregnant.
A blanket on uncertainty and panic gripped me and left me feeling vulnerable and ill-prepared to care for the second baby. A tsunami erupted in my mind – the memories of childbirth, the pain, the labour, the lack of sleep, the fatigue, the wailing of the baby, the immense effort at breastfeeding – and began playing havoc in my mind.
My body, my rules
I told myself, not again! I was not ready for go through the same experience again and was determined not to go ahead with the pregnancy. I knew my parents will be with me in my decision and so would be my husband, but I didn’t want to give them a chance to think for me or influence me.
I thought of my professor, who taught us ‘women and health’ and recalled her words. 'Women need to make decisions over their bodies’. So I just went ahead and booked an appointment with my doctor for an abortion the next day.
That evening I told my parents and my husband of the decision. I remember my dad reprimanding me for being callous, not in so many words, but words are hardly ever needed to sense reprimand. My dad had been a big proponent of family planning and had been awarded a silver medal for conducting highest number of vasectomies. But I hadn’t embraced what he practiced and I could sense in his voice. My mom – a great believer of 'to err is human' – was by my side as I was recovered from the general anesthesia mumbling words of relief.
Post abortion, I felt a sense of salvation. I even started enjoying my daughter much more, who had now grown a few months older. What prompted me to embrace motherhood was the recognition and reciprocation from my daughter – her small gestures, her coos and even her smile. All this made me get over the pain that had consumed me in the initial months of her birth.
I often wonder what it would have been if I had continued with my second pregnancy. With all the postpartum grief I suffered, a second pregnancy would have been devastating and further delayed my maternal connect with my firstborn.
I am glad that I chose abortion. The ability to take a decision for my body, listening to its demands, gave me the confidence that I would be able to do the best for myself and all the children I decide to have in the future. And yes, I did get pregnant again with an adorable boy and I enjoyed the experience, as he arrived to me at a time I chose – when I was ready for him mentally and physically.
Now, when I look back, I feel proud of the decision I took. It also manifests the work I do on Sexual and Reproductive Health and RIghts – the work that gives meaning to my life.
Subashini* (name changed) shared her abortion story with Love Matters for our #ChoiceOverStigma Blogathon as we mark the Global Day of Action for Safe and Legal Abortion (28 September).
This week, we will publish personal accounts from Indian women who chose abortion and claimed their reproductive rights.
Tomorrow, we hear from Asma, who chose abortion when her married boyfriend left her after finding out that she was pregnant.
Love Matters supports women's right for abortion that is safe, legal and easily accessible.
Person in the picture is a model. This article was first published on September 28, 2017.