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July 08, 2024

Her Choice, Her Voice

By Amrita Valan

I came back from the doctor's chamber wondering exultant. I was to be mommy again! My baby boy was barely eight months old.

I broke the news with great joy to my parents which I made an effort to suppress, because I wanted to sound adult. That I had weighed the pros and cons.

To my surprise both my parents stared at the baby in my arms with concern.

Then dad smiled and said "That's wonderful news!"

Something was missing. Warmth?

The next morning as I was on my way back home, (I had spent that night with my parents),

Dad picked up my boy, and said with fierce determination "Mamoni, (Jewel Mother), you must make the sacrifice, for the sake of this brilliant boy!"

Cold as steel, I said slowly, "I never want to hear this from you again Baba (Father). Don't think I'm going ahead just because my husband is Roman Catholic. I'm 35, this is an unexpected gift, a miracle baby to complete my family. As for our brilliant boy, someday he will thank me for a sibling to share his life with. Don't think for one moment that I didn't discuss and weigh all the pros and cons with my doctor.”

“Given my age and my wish for at least two kids,” I continued, “Doc had advised it wouldn't be wise to terminate my pregnancy. It is a huge commitment and I am prepared to put in the effort, the hours. She warned me, that it will be slave labour during the initial years because of the barely fourteen months difference between the two, but it will all eventually work out. That soon they'll be company for each other and give me breathing space.”

Baba looked ashamed then, and my heart rapidly melted, so I softened my voice, "Don't worry! Your brilliant grandson is my first baby. I will not forget him for the newcomer."

After that we both kissed the little one who gurgled and cooed...my mind unable to root out the tiny seed of doubt planted inadvertently by my daddy. Whose decisions and opinions carry great weightage and impact for me.

Flash forward to the following year:

I am playing with my two tiny sons in the park. I have managed to scrounge together enough money to keep an young woman not as a baby sitter per se but more a playmate for my older boy in case he feels neglected, as I do have to put in a lot of time into my eight or nine months old infant.

I explained to Bobby (the sitter), that I wanted to bathe, cook and feed both my boys. I just wanted her to put in a few hours daily to play with my nearly two-year-old, just in case I was too tired and couldn't make the time.

Fortunately with rigorously planned bedtimes and schedules, most days I was able to romp around the park and have fun, riding swings and slides with my babies.

Neighbours leaned over to coo and praised me for how healthy and happy they looked.

Till one day came that inevitable hurtful remark. Fondling my elder boy, a stately matron looked at me, reproachfully, then turning to my son, "Mommy robbed you of your childhood, no, beta (son)?" She cooed to my big boy, who giggled. People use their sweetest tones to disguise the stings and barbs they hurl at you. Not bothering to care a jot about your efforts or the time you spend to resolve a difficult situation. Just judgement, with no warning.

Another time I got harassed when my toddlers turned on each other. When I dared vent aloud to a trusted friend, said friend suddenly turned on me with a vicious gleam in her eyes, "Who told you to have two kids back to back? Now handle it!"

Of course I did. These are inevitable slings and pot-shots taken without full understanding.

I wouldn't even bother to explain my personal problems, reasons and the age factor for making my decision.

My choice is mine. I haven't got to voice it.

Just like the mother who has three servants, one of them, a live-in baby sitter, but still opts to abort her second baby to prioritise her first one. She too shouldn't have to explain.

I knew her reasons. She was my friend. She was a very young mother in her early twenties and worked full time in a high pressure job. Her husband also was in a similar job.

But that's not the reason I supported her when she dropped into my flat looking shaky and moist eyed.

Her normally poised air of composure missing, she blurted out that she had had an abortion that very evening.

I remember my shock, and then afraid of my own eyes, speaking too much, I pulled her close to me and hugged her tight.

And she cried then. Out loud, hurt to her core, but completely crystal clear about the need for deciding what she had to do. That was her usual balanced self, talking. Someone in possession of her faculties, rational and objective, a wise tender compassionate mother who only wanted the best for the boy she had chosen to bring to this world. Not a neurotic hysterical woman.

I was reminded of the same certainty which I had had, a decade earlier, which had led me in an opposite direction.

A woman is a mother who knows what is best for her baby. Born or Unborn. She knows her mind. Her choices are hers alone to make.

Because believe me, they are about the most difficult, most honest decisions they are about to make in life. Ones that bring them face to face with their innermost selves, call it soul. And if later on, they think it's a mistake, then that's what they will live with all their lives too.

And even if, they feel no guilt, and for my friend I personally felt there shouldn't be an iota of it, even then... A sadness remains that no friend can ever wipe.

Do we really need to heap coal fire on their heads?

Forget coal fire... let's not even go there. We need not even sit on judgement of them, even on an individual case by case basis. For it would be from the outside looking in...a pure luxury of speculation.

No one knows a mother's heart, or how it breaks over this choice they have had to make.

Article © Amrita Valan. All rights reserved.
Published on 2023-07-24
Image(s) are public domain.
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