The toughest choice
I believe that children are the greatest gift, and I cherish my own. However, I also believe that parenting isn’t easy and it should be taken seriously in order to bring up our children to be contributing members of society.
So, when I fell pregnant in my early 20s, I wasn’t in a position to get married nor give up the work I loved to be able to bring up a child properly.
I also thought that my parents – who were traditional, conservative members of the Orthodox community – would force me to have the child and give up my life as I knew it. I couldn’t imagine becoming a ‘child mother’. I really wasn’t much more than a child, I thought.
I was irresponsible, I drank and drove regularly. I partied up a storm, sometimes even going off to work straight from the party. I made silly errors of judgement and took chances I shouldn’t have taken.
The only thing I was responsible about was my work as a young lawyer, which I loved. It was the career I dreamed of.
My partner was about to embark on his studies abroad, and was in no position to turn it down. I couldn’t stop him because there was no way our relationship would sustain him having to give up his studies and become a dad in his early 20s.
We both had our lives ahead of us and so much growing up to do before we could become parents. I was also unsure whether he was the man I wanted to spend my life with.
However, at the time, you couldn’t get a legal abortion in South Africa, and it was a criminal offence to enable abortion – even before the pregnancy was three months gone.
Women did not have rights over their own bodies, nor the right to decide whether they were able to be a parent – never mind a good one.
I know I was old enough to be a mother, but I wasn’t ready to take on this enormous responsibility. It was something I knew I wanted to do, but not then. I thought endlessly about it, considering every scenario, and was clear I would not be good for any child at the time.
I started asking around for people who could help me to get an abortion. I first went to a clinic in Alex, where I couldn’t go in the front door. It stank, and I had this desperate feeling that if I went in, I was unlikely to come out in one piece.
I then went to a doctors’ rooms in Bedfordview and gave a code word to get to speak to the doctor. He humiliated me by telling me what a bad girl I was, and that I deserved what I got. He then turned me away.
Another doctor went as far as giving me an internal examination and confirmed – like I needed confirmation – that I was pregnant.
He then told me that he could only do an abortion for me in a few weeks’ time. I didn’t have a few weeks. I knew I had to do it well before I was 11 weeks pregnant.
Finally, I contacted a friend in England and asked her if she could help me. Within half an hour, she had booked the procedure for me at the Marie Stopes Clinic in London. She, too, was a lawyer.
Now I had to find the money to get to England.
The only other people who knew about it were my best friend and my sister, who was encouraging me to tell my mother.
But first, I told my boss, who needed to know why I wasn’t going to be at work for 10 days. I also needed to take a loan against my salary to get me to England. He was a wonderful man and not only did he support me, he paid for my plane ticket. He told me that I shouldn’t stress about paying him back, but that I could do so when I had the money to spare.
The night before I left, I finally worked up the courage to tell my mother and we both cried buckets. She was fairly conservative, but so sorry for the situation I had found myself in. She agreed it was an extraordinarily tough decision.
She also said that I was doing what I needed to do, and stood by me 100%. She said she couldn’t tell my father because it would break his heart. She did suggest that I have the child and move in with them, but I knew I couldn’t do that.
I hadn’t slept from the day I found out I was pregnant until I got on the plane to England.
When I got there, it was like another world in its attitude to abortion. I was treated as an adult woman who had a right to make decisions about my body and my life.
I did speak to a therapist at Marie Stopes to help me deal with the hormonal and psychological impact this was going to have on me. She felt it necessary to discuss and be clear that I was 100% sure about what I was doing. I was.
It was a sad day, and it took me a long time to get past the trauma and loss. I still wonder if I would have had a little girl or boy.
It wasn’t easy, but I know that I made the right decision. I also know that had I been forced to have a baby, I wouldn’t have been the kind of parent I would have wanted for my child.
Now, as the mom of three, I know exactly how tough it is to be a parent. I adore my children and want to make sure they have everything they need in this world to be the best they can be. I love them with all that I am.
It isn’t easy always to know the right thing to do as a parent. There’s no rule book, but I get by because I had my children when I was ready and as prepared as I was ever going to be to be a mom.