Day before yesterday my cook didn’t come. Her husband delivered the message that she wasn’t well. Vomiting and stomach pain, he told Amit. When she came yesterday, I asked her how she was now. “Ok,” she said. “Was it a stomach bug?” I asked (in Hindi, of course). She looked around nervously and asked if Amit (“Sir”) was home. Only when I’d reassured her that he was out of earshot did she explain. I’d expected a mundane female problem like a painful period, but it was worse than that. She said she’d missed her period. Uh-oh. So she’d gone for a urine test at the “dispensary” (I have no idea which dispensary or how reliable it is.) The test was positive.
I was already in the midst of congratulating her and wondering, internally, how many months she’d need off, when she said, “But I didn’t want the child. I asked for a medicine to get rid of it.”
“But why?” I asked in shock.
“I already have one,” she said. “How will I take care of another? And here – I don’t even know which hospital to go to. Even my husband agreed that we should get rid of it.”
I was bewildered. To me, it seems perfectly natural that if you have one child and she’s three, it’s the right time to have another. But ok, maybe finanaces being short, it made sense not to have another. And our country is already overpopulated and I didn’t want to offer any extraneous advice, so I just agreed with her. But then, wasn’t prevention the way to do it?
“I already did this once,” she said. “The other madam took me to a hospital and she picked up the cost of everything.”
I wondered if I would have done so, had I even known. In general, I prefer not to get too involved, but this sort of thing can go terribly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“The lady at the dispensary gave me five tablets. She said to have them on an empty stomach. I took three, but nothing happened. Then I ate something. Then I had the other two.” After that, she went on to describe the effect. Vomiting, diarrhea (I think) and pain as bad as labor pain. She said the baby aborted, but I don’t know how she knew that. I must confess that I didn’t enquire too closely into the matter.
After all the mess, she ate a bowl of cornflakes and milk (what?!?!?!) and went to bed. And the next day, she was back to normal.
I don’t really know what to make of all this. Obviously, having been in the position of wanting to be pregnant and never being pregnant, I always feel a little sad about people who “waste” their pregnancy this way. But that’s irrelevant. I really wouldn’t want anyone to bring a baby into the world that they didn’t want. Adoption worked for us, but that’s not the reason for women to have unwanted pregnancies. And for many people, it obviously makes sense to raise one child and do it well – especially from the financial perspective – than to have many and not be able to provide for them. But still, I was shocked by the matter-of-fact way in which she took the whole thing. I always thought that personally I could never have an abortion, because I’d already feel that the developing baby inside me was a person. Clearly, she didn’t feel anything of the sort. “It was only a month or so old,” she said.
But then, there’s the remedy itself. I wonder what on earth was in those pills. Was it legal? I doubt it. Was it safe? I doubt it. Was it effective? Apparently, but at some cost, which I don’t even know.
“How long can you get by like this?” I asked her. “Why don’t you use something?”
She said she wouldn’t mind getting operated on. Apparently they even pay you 2k for the service.
“Ok, when you decide to get that done, tell me. I’ll come along.” At least I’ll see the place, talk to the doctors, read the forms, work out if she knows what she’s getting into. I wouldn’t want her to sign away a kidney or something. You never know!
I don’t want to get involved, but – there’s a limit.