This happened almost 2 years back. I was on my way back home from work & almost reached my door when my next-door neighbour opened her door & beckoned me in. I was tired & was about to tell I’ll meet her later when I caught sight of her tensed expression. I walked in thru her door without hesitating.
Maria & I had been neighbours for around 5 yrs then. Like me, she was also working & had 2 girls. We were good neighbours though not friends as such. That day for some reason she decided to confide in me. She had just found out that she was pregnant for the 3rd time. And it was not planned.
She looked shattered. Her youngest was just going to be 2 years old. She didn’t want another child. There was no question of keeping it. The financial situation didn’t allow it. She couldn’t manage another child. She’ll have to go to India to get the job done because UAE didn’t believe in abortions. Technically it wasn’t an abortion was it because there was another 4-5 weeks to go before the heart started beating. She asked me whether I knew anybody who was coming back from India so as to ask them to bring the required medication to terminate it in the early stages itself. She just kept talking frenetically discussing various options without really expecting an answer.
I stood there feeling terribly sorry for her. I couldn’t really get angry with her or blame her at that point. I understood her viewpoint very well. They were living in a shared accommodation[where 2 or more families shared apartments because that was the only way they could afford to live in Dubai]. Unlike us, both their salaries were needed for their household to run. As it is, bringing up 2 children in Dubai was no joke. Simply put, they had no spare time, space or money for another child.
Two days later I met her at the bus-stop when I went to drop the kids. She told me in hushed tones that her husband & their respectively families were totally against the termination idea cause it went against the religious faith. And they kept telling her that it was God’s Will & it would be a BOY this time. Boy or Girl, I don’t want another one, she said fiercely.
Everyday I would find her climbing up & down the stairs for the flimsiest of reasons, she deliberately carried her children & other heavy weights, ate a lot of dates & don’t ask what else in the hope that it would terminate by itself. And I don’t think she went to the doctor even for the 1st 3-4 months. How are we going to manage she would worry always.
I tried to calm her down but I doubt whatever I said even registered in her mind. Seeing her situation for what it was, my reassurances sounded hollow even to my own ears.
She looked more wretched than ever as the months passed & her body filled out. She apathetically accepted the pregnancy & though she never told me directly I could make out that she hoped it would be a boy atleast. I was thinking inside that she should go on her knees and pray for a ‘normal’ child considering the early battering she had submitted her unborn baby to.
The nine months passed slowly. And it was another girl. A tiny little scrap, underweight, with neither her siblings’ fair complexion nor any other admirable feature to speak of. The older children were thrilled whereas the parents hiding their disappointment accepted it stoically.
And months passed. Initially I made 2-3 visits to see them, but after Maria rejoined work, we saw each other less frequently.
Then one day the kids & I went across to their flat to visit. The kids immediately went off to their corner to play leaving the mother, child & me alone. The baby now around 6-7 months old was playing in her mother’s lap. She was looking healthier & upon seeing me her face lit up with a beautiful smile transforming the face. I smiled & held out my arms. She came readily & sat placidly in my lap. Seeing my surprised & pleased expression, Maria told me with pride that the child was quiet, friendly & very accommodating. She woke up just once at night, had her feed & went back to sleep. Comparing this child & the difficult times she had with the elder two, she & I lightheartedly traded horror stories about the kids.
And suddenly she just burst out “Godddd, Nancy when I think of what all I tried to do initially, I just feel terrible. I’ve been on my knees many a time asking the Lord to forgive me.”
“You know what, we have found a 2 bedroom flat within our budget & are planning to vacate this flat in 2 months time. I actually thought things were going to get difficult after her birth but somehow for the 1st time in life, everything seems to be falling into place. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced that it was meant to be.” she said in wonder.
I handed her baby back to her & she hugged her close unconsciously. The baby looked at me & beamed. Blinking away the tears which threatened to cloud my vision, I blew her a kiss.
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