By my sixteenth birthday, I was chic, witty and convivial, the envy of most girls I knew. I excelled at school, played soccer for the club and was a volunteer at an NGO. If someone would have told me back then that I’d be pregnant in two months’ time, I’d have laughed it away. Yet, I did. Get pregnant, that is.
My world came crashing down as I realized my mistake and panicked. I’d heard of teenage pregnancies, but hey, who was so foolish? Well, looks like I was. I had no confidant as my boyfriend deserted me. My parents had immense faith in my sense of responsibility, and that did not do anything to encourage me to tell them about the mess I was in. Alone, left to fend for myself, I went through horrible mood swings. There were days I contemplated suicide, fearful of my tough life ahead. On other days, maternal feelings enveloped me as I felt unconditional love for the nameless human form growing within me- unknown, yet so well-known.
My first word, when I had learned of my pregnancy,was, “abortion” -practical, and discreet. I decided I would not let my child see the light of the day. Everyone made mistakes, and this was one of mine. But Fate had different plans. I was well acquainted with the dangers involved, if an abortion was conducted in an unhygienic manner. The safer places demanded money that I definitely could not afford. And so, I had to cross out abortion from my list of possible solutions. Now, the only solution left was giving my baby up for adoption.
Suppressing all my motherly love, I walked into an adoption agency one bright February morning, all alone. I told the woman at the counter my story, and she gave me a comforting smile as she assured me that my baby would be in safe hands. She gave me a list of couples who had applied for adoption, and asked me who I’d choose as the parents of my child. “Me, of course”, I almost said, but then that was just my heart talking. My head told me that my pregnancy was MY fault, and my child shouldn’t be made to pay for it. It deserved a loving family, a good education, and a secure future- things I was far from being able to provide it with. Inside of me, though, I still hoped I would not find a suitable couple, so that I could keep my baby for myself.
Of late, things had stopped going my way. And it happened again. I found a suitable couple, and zeroed in on them. Over the next two months, I got to know them well, and there was not one moment I regretted my decision. They’d give my child immense love. They would be perfect parents. I lied to my parents, told them I was going on a vacation, as I spent the last three months of my term with them, in their house- the place my child would call home.
One morning I wondered, what if my child was born deformed? What if it was impaired in some way? Would they take it as it was? Or would I have to creep into some orphanage and drop my innocent baby there? Possibilities of rejection by the chosen couple bombarded me, ate away at my mind till the morning my daughter was born.
One look at her cherubic face, looking up at me, was enough for me to almost back off, to want to bury her in my coat and run away to some place where no one would see us. She was perfect in every way. As I held her in my arms, she gave me a smile so beautiful, I cried. Were those happy tears? Sad ones? I still don’t know. Two days later, my daughter’s new parents officially adopted her, as I came back home after my ‘vacation’. Nothing was amiss at home, I was still the model young woman in my community. Things moved on, and even though I missed my daughter, I did not try to reconnect with her new family. I did not want my dark past to eclipse her beautifully sunny life.
It’s my wedding day today. And it’s also my daughter’s twelfth birthday. With every passing day in the past twelve years, I’ve learnt a new lesson- lessons not taught in school or in Sunday school. Those were lessons that one learns every time they stumble and fall on life’s pathway. I do not know what they’ve named my daughter. But I do know that today, when she reaches out for her mamma, it’s not me whom she’s calling. Her life is unrelated to mine, yet deeply intertwined. I do not know if one day her family will tell her about me, if she’ll ever know the mamma that bore her. Yet hope does not die within this breast. Her reentry in my life will cause another storm in my life, but I will fight fiercely next time, spurred by the thought of that first smile of hers...