It was her decision to abort the child. Her own. No one asked her to. No one advised her to.
Her husband wanted her to abort. He knew the pregnancy was dangerous. He knew he loved her too much to risk losing her. And yet, when she had told him her decision, there was…something. Surprise, a mild shock, or was it disgust? Did he want her to beg and cry to keep the child? Did he want to be that voice of reason in the midst of unreasonable maternal instinct? Did he want to prove that he loved her but he considered the fact that she loved herself to be unwomanly?
She saw these emotions passing through his face, but the final one was relief. She was relieved herself to find that emotion on his face. Relieved to know that despite all, he loved her.
The doctor came in then. He nodded when they told him, his eyes all the while on her husband. He was the one who must have convinced her, of course. He waited politely for her to shed a few tears, which she did. But the doctor looked on quizzically. She was in physical and emotional pain, no doubt. But she seemed composed when she signed the papers. No hysteria, no drama, no refusal, no changing the mind at the last moment. Perhaps she was in denial; this was all a bad dream.
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She felt every movement, everything that was being done to her. For all her years to come, she would be able to remember exactly what was done to tear her baby apart from her. Her husband said all the right things, did all the right things, and still, she felt he wanted to detach himself from it all. His comforting her felt slightly cold, his demeanour slightly icy.
The following few months were painful; the words and the sympathy felt forced. She wondered whether he blamed her for losing the child. She wondered if their families thought so too. His mother resolutely accepted when they told her, but she kept waiting for her daughter-in-law to break, to reproach him for making her do this.
“Maybe it’s all for the best. She isn’t…well, it’s difficult for women nowadays to appreciate the love for a child…” her mother-in-law broke off when she saw her standing at the doorway. She had been stricken by the words. Was she really not loving enough to be a mother? Did people imagine it was easy for her to let go of her child?
If she had wanted to risk her own life for the child, would that have made her a good mother? Wasn’t “sacrifice” the accepted standard for the society for being a good mother? Wanting to live, wanting to try again for a child, wanting a healthy pregnancy, wanting to be able to see her child alive and happy; this was perhaps, too selfish.
“I want to try again,” she told her husband one day. “We should see a doctor about the complications.”
He agreed, if only to make her happy.
“Do you think I’ll be a good mother?”, she asked him, five months into her pregnancy.
He nodded, smiling slightly, before turning away.
He didn’t ask whether she thought he would be a good father. Neither did his parents, who were very supportive of him when he wanted her to terminate the first pregnancy.
The girl was born healthy and on time. The family rejoiced. She was the perfect baby.
“Do you think I am a good mother?” she asked again when Tanya was a feisty seven-year-old.
He hugged her impulsively and tightly. She caught the words I’m sorry… breathed into her ear.
She grieved again, after all these years; this time, only for her lost child.