Have you gotten over the abortion you had?

I haven’t. I possibly have moved on but have I made my peace with it? I think I have and unless I delve very deep I am never going to be able to find out for sure. One of the reasons I find it comforting to be in a country like India is that there is the availability of choice to have an abortion, without the weight of an entire religion on you. Personal beliefs aside, abortion is legal and common in India. A Lancet paper places rates of abortion at 6.4 million in 2007 for India. That, dear reader, is a pretty huge number.

For a country that has that many abortions, I honestly have never come across a place I can go to — once the abortion is done —  in order to deal with the trauma or stress the procedure puts you through. I was young when I had my abortion: a rocky new marriage and a fledgling career lay before me. I wasn’t willing to complicate that further by having to raise a child.

I remember finding out I was pregnant and instantly rejecting the idea. I hadn’t in my wildest imagining think I would be the person who had an abortion.

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I remember, after the procedure, I came to and was high on the drugs that were given to me. I felt a light-headedness, a certain happiness that I felt guilty about much later. Once the effects of the anaesthetic faded away, I remember feeling… nothing. Absolutely nothing. It took me a good few months to understand the implication of my actions. I knew I was terminating a life – whether it was actually a life or no is still in question considering the technicalities of when a heartbeat develops. I knew I was the only who felt that way in the marriage. My then partner was entirely against this decision. The fact that I was alone in this decision (with only my mother to back me) made me shut down and justify my actions, irrespective of the right or wrong of it.

Years later, I sat down to think of who that foetus might have grown to be; how that child might have changed my life. I thought spiritually,  and tried to imagine if that soul somewhere was happy, and if it would find loving parents. It was then that I decided I had to deal with the guilt of being the sole person responsible for ending the possibility of life.

Guilt

Guilt at having ended what could have possibly been a human life. No matter how much one tries to justify this with science or fate, there’s no getting away from it. The only way I have found to make peace with this is to ask forgiveness to the universe in general , or to a god, if you believe in it. And then to be kind to yourself from there on.  It happened. Forgive yourself. Move on.

Guilt at making the decision that impacts not just me, but the father as well. This is a tough one to deal with if both of you are not on board. No matter how much you talk it through, no matter how much you resolve to get over it, in your worst moments, when you’re at your worst, this will crop its ugly head and one of you will throw this accusation at each other. My only tip for that is to see a counsellor. Both the would-have-been mother and the partner need a few counselling sessions before they can make their peace with this situation. In fact, I go as far as saying every abortion appointment should come with a gynaecologist’s recommendation for a basic counselling session post procedure.

Fear

For years after that, till I had my first child in 2008, I asked myself if I would be able to have a baby. All my education and understanding of sex and science didn’t stop me from wondering if destiny was vengeful and if it would get back at me for not seeing my first pregnancy through. I lived in that fear for years till I got pregnant. When I got pregnant, I took the home pregnancy test kit six times because I couldn’t believe it. But fear crippled everything in those years, from how I approached marriage to what I would do with my body. Even when everything worked beautifully in my life, I wouldn’t let my guard down and have fun, because this fear would keep eating at me. An ugly monster that kept saying, “You’re having a good time now, you’re peaceful but are you going to have a baby? Are you going to make up for what you did?” Having another baby after an abortion is not making up for the first one. As soon as you understand that, you start to move on from that abortion.

The other fear that held me was if I had damaged my body beyond repair. If I did get pregnant, would I be able to have a healthy womb for a child to live in was a question that plagued me. Do your reading, clear these doubts with your doctor, understand your body and do your best to keep fit.

Finally, the thing that I had never done was grieve for the would-have-been baby.

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When I had my procedure, I was rebelling against my emotions (never a wise thing to do) and saying to myself, “No, this isn’t a baby yet. It doesn’t feel anything.” This was a good tactic to get me through the procedure and a few days after it. But you can’t go on negating your feelings. So, when you find the strength and the peace, it might be a good idea to sit down, properly grieve for that baby. Cry if you have to, create a ritual if that makes you feel better. Do anything that will help you process your grief and then move on in peace.

Peace

Today, I have two healthy kids that I adore and enjoy to bits. Two kids that I am grateful for with every beat of a heart and every tantrum they throw. But it took me years to let go of that little life, and I will call it that now, that planned to grow in me all those years ago. It took me years to accept my decision and to forgive myself for making a choice that, in the long run, was best for me and everyone around me.

An abortion isn’t the same for everyone. Circumstances differ, religious beliefs differ, ability differs. Depending on this combination of three things, it’s important to do the right thing by you.

After an abortion, be prepared for guilt, confusion, sadness and doubt. But also know that help is just a step away if you decide you can’t deal with it on your own.

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