Everything seemed to fit. It had been three years since the birth of our first child and we had already settled in South Africa for a year, with all the mess of changing continents, work and life more or less resolved. It was a good time to try to expand the family and, in just a couple of months, the hairline of the predictor gave us the good news. How exciting!
Time passed and he was already sixteen weeks old. On the day of the consultation I lay down on the gurney, relaxed, but a curt phrase from the doctor brought me out of my reverie abruptly. “In the ultrasound I see something that should not be here … it seems serious.” How? With my pants still half buttoned, I wandered until I fell stunned onto the office chair. I begged him to explain what was happening. What did he mean “is serious”?
Thus began weeks of uncertainty, of infinite waiting, of tests and more medical tests to find the diagnosis of what was happening. The days passed impassively before my eyes while I locked myself in my bubble, hermetic, clinging only to my computer from which I compulsively typed to find scientific studies from India, the United Kingdom, wherever they were. He needed to know, to find solutions. All the studies repeated, like in copy paste, that our baby’s lung problems had a 20% chance of being resolved, it was a matter of time. Would we get through the crack? Could my son live? And if it did, under what conditions would it survive?
On one of those identical afternoons, while stroking my bulging belly, I decided that my boy needed a name. It is not a fetus, it is not just the desire to be a mother… it is my child and it exists! I started looking for names that meant warrior, because we were going to need a lot of strength. Marcial, Alaric … Hmm, I’m not convinced. I finally found a name for my son. It would be our secret. My warrior…
From one day to the next we decided to return to Spain, enlightened by a fortuitous thought that struck like lightning. Giving birth in South Africa would ruin our family if unfortunately the baby needed to be admitted to the ICU. Social Security appeared to us for what it is, a blessing. Otherwise, the results did not improve with the change of country: the fluid that surrounded the baby’s lungs was still there.
After waiting in that room crammed with various guts, the doctor explained a tune that I knew well enough. “If you want to have an abortion, you have the right, but you will have to do it now, because you are in week 22, and that is the legal limit. You can also continue with the pregnancy. If the baby’s situation continues to be serious, you can request that the This case is evaluated by an ethics committee that would decide if you can have an abortion, with no term limit. But the decision will depend on what the committee decides. ” My mind was not responding to me. I asked to call my husband. I had planted myself in that hospital after catching the first plane that took off from South Africa almost on the fly and he would arrive with our son in a week. Too late.
How to decide on the life of my son, who was already kicking in the belly? How to go ahead and leave the decision in the hands of an ethical committee that I do not know at all? We walked scared through a black and uncertain tunnel without glimpsing the exit. We only had a couple of days to make the decision: to continue, or not.
The family tucked us in as best they could. My husband and I, connected only by telephone waves, ended up verbalizing the words that refused to come out, that clogged the throat, accepting a decision that hurt to the guts. If we are doing the right thing, why does it hurt so much?
I went back to the hospital. Twenty-four hours in advance I had to take a pill that would trigger the outcome. I reached out my arm to grasp, trembling, a glass of water that the nurse offered me, when, suddenly, a lump rose in my throat and I burst into a violent, uncontrolled cry. The nurse looked at me uncomfortably. But you didn’t want to do this?
And the day arrived. Many people call it intervention, but it is childbirth. I no longer knew how to get on that gurney, and the sheets seemed to stick to my body with sweat. Beside me, my mother implored me with her eyes to be patient, to calm me down, but the contractions were tightening and I had no humor left to bear them. Come on, push, squeeze hard that is coming.
Finally, the meeting. My child came out of my womb, from the shelter that had taken him in and had kept us together for months. So small. So still. My legs were shaking from the effort. The midwives and nurses were busy tidying up the room around me, cleaning up the memories of that failed delivery. “Do you want to pick him up?” I let the sad weight of my body fall on an orange chair, to where they brought me my son wrapped in a white towel. I was alone with him in the room. He was my son. He did not live, but he was my son and I loved him more than anything. The only time I could hold him, cradle him in my lap. Cruelty of life, it was also our farewell.
Coming back to life was not easy. Receiving my husband at the airport and feeling suffocated as our son’s arms surrounded me after the race from the arrivals area was the only thing that brought me back to reality. Later they were arriving small unavoidable walls that there was no choice but to climb. The glances towards the gut, more or less flat; back to work. What do I explain? Why do I refuse to tell you the truth?
The days, the afternoons, the nights with the thought trapped in that hospital. One day, with my feet buried in the sand on the beach and my eyes lost in the little mirrors that the sun cast on the sea, I took a notebook out of my backpack and began to write. It was an impulse, a necessity. The writing lasted for months, and it helped me to close the wound, to reconcile myself with my feelings, to illuminate the story of my warrior.
Make no mistake. Although painful, this is not a death story. It is a life story, that of my little one, which was short, but it was. It is also the story of thousands of women who go through similar situations every year, and in most cases they walk in silence. Because the grief after abortion is not legitimized in society. You have decided it yourself. “You have done your best.” “Don’t worry, you’ll get pregnant again.” Phrases pronounced with good intention, but that hurt. That’s what it seemed to come down to.
That misunderstanding and silence must end. My grain of sand has been to write a short novel, A warrior’s name, with which I hope you get excited. Because we only understand what we know, and we only really know what shakes us.