I Allowed My Baby to be Murdered
In February 1981 I was raped.
For all the anguish and the lifelong emotional sentence that the victim serves, by far the most traumatic outcome of this violation of my body, was discovering that I was carrying my rapist’s child.
Continuing with the pregnancy was not a viable option and I did not, therefore, consider any other alternative than a termination.
How could I possibly give birth to a child under those circumstances? How would I ever be able to tell my child that he or she had been conceived not through love, but through a violent act that was an imprisonable offence? How could I admit to my child that they were the by-product of rape? Would I ever be able to look at my child without thinking of that fateful night, when I had stupidly accepted a lift home from a guy whom I’d only met in a nightclub a couple of hours previously? How would my child feel knowing that he or she had inherited the genes of a sexual deviant?
I never reported the rape and I certainly never told my parents. I blamed myself for being so trusting and I did not wish to endure the third-degree police interrogation that I assumed was routine, having read some horror stories about similar incidents in the past.
When my pregnancy was confirmed by my doctor, I felt my world cave in around me. How did I break the news to my parents, with whom I was living at the time? I couldn’t admit that I had been raped, yet because they knew I didn’t have a regular boyfriend, I didn’t want them to think that I slept around. I couldn’t ignore the situation because as far as a decision about the baby was concerned, time was not on my side.
After agonising over the dilemma for a day, I told my mother that I was pregnant, without giving any details as to who the father was or why it happened. Naturally, like any strict mother who feels that she has given her children a relatively stable upbringing, she was extremely angry and wanted to know the details. I simply told her that it had been a case of failed contraception.
“Of course, you’ll have to have an abortion”, she said curtly, not even considering that this was my body, my choice and that maybe I wanted to keep my baby. However, in one way I was relieved that she wasn’t part of the anti-abortionist lobby and that she would back the decision that, deep down, I knew I’d already made.
By the time I was admitted to hospital at eight weeks’ gestation, I was feeling extremely ill. I felt as though the 24-hour sickness was another punishment for my stupidity and each time I vomited, I convinced myself that my body was telling me that the pregnancy was not meant to be. When I eventually did go on to have a family of my own, I realised that the sickness was, in fact, the sign of a stable pregnancy. However, at the time of the termination, I was looking for any reason to condone my barbaric actions.
In terminating the pregnancy I felt that I was being unselfish. I was doing this, not for myself, but for the sanity of my parents and my unborn child. I was young, immature and could not offer a child the emotional or financial security that every new human life requires.
My selfish side, on the other hand, wanted to keep the baby, to have the unequalled pleasure of rearing my own flesh and blood. To nurture, to love and be loved in return. But what would I say to my child when he or she eventually began asking questions about his or her father? What psychological scars would it leave? My child didn’t deserve that.
On the day of the operation, I was admitted to a ward for women with various gynaecological problems. The room I was in contained six beds, only two of which were already occupied. One woman looked as though she was in her early fifties and the other was about 20 years younger. After exchanging cursory greetings with the two women and hoping that neither of them would ask me the reason for my stay, the younger one came and sat on the end of my bed.
“What are you in for?” she enquired, smiling.
I faltered for a second or two. Did I tell her the truth or did I lie and say that I was in for a D&C? What was the point in bending the truth? After all, a thin cotton curtain pulled around a bed as a partition hardly acts as a sound barrier and conversations between doctor and patient are still clearly audible.
“I’m having a termination.” I replied, guardedly.
The woman’s expression changed, but wishing to divulge the real reasons, I found myself volunteering excuses such as failed contraception, not being ready for a child, still living with my parents and so on.
“What are you having done?” I continued, quickly, before she had time to respond to my pathetic justification.
“I’ve got fibroids”, she said. “I have a 13 year old son, but I’d like another child and it will be difficult for me to conceive unless the fibroids are removed. However, I’ve been told that if I do have them removed, there’s a high possibility that I’ll be infertile.” Her faltering voice betrayed her outward composure and I could sense that she was deeply distressed.
At that point I desperately wished that this whole horrible scenario were just a bad dream. To sympathise with this poor woman would have seemed so hypocritical. How could she ever believe that my empathy for her predicament was genuine? There was I, having conceived with ease, about to consent to having my baby ripped mercilessly from my healthy womb.
“Haven’t you thought about adoption?” she asked. “There are hundreds of childless couples out there who would give anything to have a newborn baby.”
This was turning into a nightmare, yet far from thinking that I didn’t deserve this interrogation, I believed that I was worthy of every ounce of pain that came my way. I did deserve this treatment. It was justified punishment for what I was about to do.
Any further excuse that I gave seemed pathetic. Eventually, the conversation terminated and the woman returned to her bed and lay down with her back turned towards me. Shortly after that, I could see her body shake and jolt intermittently as she wept silently.
A nurse came and sat on the woman’s bed and attempted to comfort her, after which she shot me a venomous glance and strutted out of the ward.
I knew then that I was the cause of this woman’s anguish.
I had never felt so wretched in my entire life.
The majority of the nursing staff who attended to me during my stay were extremely frosty and brutal. It was not just their approach in general because I observed their amicable bedside manner with other patients. There was only one nurse who treated me in a professional and unbiased way and she also confided that some of the nurses on the ward were anti abortion. It totally destroyed my faith in a profession that was supposed to remain detached from their personal prejudices when dealing with patients.
On the afternoon of the day I was admitted, the termination was performed. Just like in a bad dream where you open your mouth to scream, but no sound comes out, so I felt as I was being wheeled into the operating theatre.
When I regained consciousness following the operation, the brutal reality of this murder struck me with full force. Still drowsy from the anaesthetic but fully aware of immorality and ruthlessness of it all, I began sobbing uncontrollably.
My baby was dead.
“I hope you’re not expecting sympathy”, were the first words spoken to me by a stony-faced nurse whom I can only assume was a member of the anti-abortionist lobby.
A surge of nausea overwhelmed me, yet when I informed the nurse that I was going to be sick, she snapped, “Don’t be silly. You haven’t had anything to eat, so you can’t be sick.”
As she finished her font-of-all-knowledge statement, I raised my drowsy, throbbing head from the pillow, leaned over the side of the bed and promptly threw up on the floor.
“Oh, for God’ sake!” she shouted, “I bet you did that on purpose. There’s always one bloody awkward one, isn’t there?”
Why shouldn’t she be angry with me? I deserved to be punished. And yet I knew that my punishment would be the guilt and shame that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.
One part of me wanted to block out the pain, to resume my life and to erase the memory of this awful chapter in my life. However, another part of me wanted to suffer, wanted to be punished for the crime I had committed, for taking a precious life and for inflicting pain upon my unborn child. My sadistic curiosity meant that I had read enough to know that, even at eight weeks gestation, an embryo could feel pain.
I also believed that part of my punishment would mean never being able to bear any more children and so, just three months following the termination, I became pregnant again. This time it was planned and although, prior to conception, my boyfriend said that he wanted to be a father, his attitude changed once the pregnancy test was confirmed.
My boyfriend deserted me and my mother tried to blackmail me emotionally by telling me that I would have to move into a home for unwed mothers, should I choose to keep the child.
However, the whole focus of my life was on nurturing the life that was growing inside of me. Although I felt lonely and unloved, I bonded with my unborn child and vowed that he would never feel unwanted or worthless, as I had.
When my son was born in 1982, I gazed at his beautiful, pure face and thought about the baby that I had lost. Only a year previously, I had consented to end the life of a baby who could have been just like my son – perfect, healthy and innocent. Far from helping me to cope, having a baby only exacerbated my grief and intensified my guilt.
I still find it unbearable listening to debates on pregnancy termination and reading horrifying facts about the techniques used to perform abortions. Even now, I lock myself away in the bathroom and sob for hours when a comment, programme or article triggers the memories of that awful day in March 1981, when my baby was ruthlessly torn from its supposedly secure haven and discarded in a hospital incinerator.
I now have four wonderful children, two boys and two girls, my youngest daughter having been born in November 1999, yet the pain of that termination is still as fresh as it was nineteen years ago.
I never stop thinking about the baby that could have been, the baby that was, but who never saw daylight and whom I never saw. I will always wonder whether my first child was a boy or a girl, what he or she would have looked like, what he or she would be doing now, what joy my child would have brought to me and vice versa.
I will never be able to justify what I did, irrespective of the circumstances surrounding the unplanned pregnancy.
What I will have to live with for the rest of my life is the fact that I allowed my baby to be murdered.