Since I was a child, I've always assumed the role of a loving and protective older sibling to anyone who was younger than me. Whether I was actually any good at it was debatable, but the point I’m trying to make is I’ve always loved kids. I felt a strong obligation to protect them, to care and shield them from the big bad world. The thought of having one of my own had always been a delight to me.
I was in my mid-twenties with a career that was just about to take off when I found out that I was pregnant. Despite the overwhelming fear of everything that would ensue, I couldn’t help but crack a smile when my first two pregnancy tests came out positive. However, the joy was short lived.
To rule out false positive, I made an appointment to a gynecologist on a slow working day. I mustered all the courage I had and was prepared for any prejudice that might come from doctors and nurses at the sight of a single woman coming in for a pregnancy test. What I hadn’t prepared for was my reaction to seeing the fetus that was growing inside of me.
It was surreal to feel a crippling feeling of love and fear hitting you at once. I remember looking at the screen and whispering hello to it. But as I felt maternal love growing within me, my maternal instinct swiftly took over. Whatever my decision would be, my life would never be the same.
I contacted the father on my way back to the office. He had been an on-and-off boyfriend of seven years. We were college sweethearts. He was my first of many things. And being together for so long, I knew what to expect. We’ve had conversations before in case of an “accident”. And I wasn’t wrong. He proposed abortion almost immediately.
Like I said, it wasn't a surprise. But what I didn’t expect was how hurtful his unwillingness for offering an alternative would be. He said that, as a person who was still struggling to get his degree and who had no working experience, he had nothing to offer. He also pointed out that we hadn’t been happy in the past few years.
As angry as I was at him for choosing this moment to finally address that issue, I couldn’t help but agree. Our unwillingness to accept the deteriorating relationship and let go had turned us bitter and in denial. We no longer loved each other and having the child wouldn’t change anything.
However, he told his parents, who in turn pledged their support if I decided to have their grandchild. They urged me to tell my parents, but at the time I would rather die than dropping the bomb on them.
I was brought up in a strongly conservative and traditional upbringing. Not particularly religious, just staunchly traditional. Nama baik (the good name) means everything to my family. I feared of being disowned, or, even worse, that they would urge me to keep the child and force me to marry. And after what my partner told me, I knew he'd refuse upfront. How could I be able to give birth to a child whose father didn’t want him/her and whose grandparents would possibly look down on him/her?
But even if he had accepted (which he wouldn’t, I asked) and if we’d gotten married, it would be impossible to conceal a “marriage by accident” in this society. People will always end up finding out. If people wanted to call me names, fine, I’d own up to it. But knowing that my child would be subjected to anak haram (a child conceived outside of marriage, a bastard) taunts, I would never forgive myself. I know that despite my best efforts to raise him or her to become a moral and respectable individual, any of the child’s shortcomings of would be unfairly related to her or his being an anak haram.
In the end I felt that the cons of having the child outweighed any hint of pros. I was going to get an abortion and continued to hide it from my family. My partner offered to have it done abroad and to finance everything, but it’s a plan that would arouse suspicion. I had to do it here in Jakarta.
My job provided me access to illegal abortions cases in the city and contacts of those who went through it successfully. More than five people referred me to a known clinic in Raden Saleh. I knew that my “research” had to be cut short due to the time. It took about two and a half weeks before I was confident enough with my findings.
During those two weeks, I found myself talking a lot to my would-be child. Crying. Apologizing. Praying. A week before the procedure, I treated us to a taste my favorite dishes, and “made” him/her listen to my favorite albums. And there wasn’t a day when I didn’t tell my baby how much he or she was loved, and that this decision was made out of love.
Finally, the day came. The procedure took about an hour. I was initially given local anesthesia, but maybe last minute hesitation made me put up quite a resistance on the operating table. They gave me a strong dose and before I knew it, I woke up on a bed.
There was no pain in the beginning. They just gave me a lot of pills: floxigra 500, bledstop, omegavit, a blue pill that had ME1 engraved in it and one shady looking red and grey capsule that was said to be "anti kanker". I took everything apart from the latter.
In less than 24 hours I felt a shivering feverish sensation, excruciating abdominal pain and weakness. I started convulsing and was later hospitalized. A fatal infection, caused by unsterile procedure, almost cost me my life.
In the end, of course my family found out. What I didn’t expect was the unwavering support, love and strength they showed me through out my recovery period. It shamed me to have ever doubted their love.
I'm still recovering. But in spite of everything that’s happened I don't regret my decision. People will tell you that abortion is a sin. That it's selfish. That it’s the easy way out. Maybe it is a sin. But the bigger sin for me is to raise a child without mental and financial preparation. I wanted that child. I loved it. But wouldn't it be selfish to raise one in a hostile and unwanted environment?
No, I don't regret it. There are just some things that I wish I knew before my abortion though.
I wish I'd known that even a loyal and loving partner doesn’t make a responsible one, that your family will never stop loving you, that in spite of gathering information from people who’ve gone through the same thing, every person is subject to a different reaction, mentally and physically. Some people heal faster, while others would struggle more.
Most importantly, I wish I’d known how painful it would be, to hold other people’s babies in your arms and thinking about what could have been.
Rara Laras is a curious & determined individual with an usual sense of humor. Hoping to make a difference without being too patronizing.