As a teenager, I wasn’t a very good student. I neglected my studies, my teachers, and my parents. I failed at being a good daughter as well. Instead of heeding their advice on focusing on my studies, I disrespected them instead.
Despite their warnings, I hung out at clubs and bars with friends they disapproved of and spent most of their money on clubbing, drinking, and shopping.
In school, the kids labelled me a slut. Was I a slut? Maybe. I mean, I’ve slept with guys whose names I don’t even remember anymore. And I’ve slept with guys just because I wanted sex and they were available. Back then, I thought it was fun.
THEN I GOT PREGNANT
I should have known that being careless would one day put me in a sticky situation: getting accidentally pregnant at 16.
When the gynaecologist congratulated me for being 4 months pregnant, it took me a minute to fully digest what she’d said. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it. How could I have let this happen? What are people going to say? I was not even capable enough to take care of myself, how could I bring up another human being?
The first thing I did after I left the clinic was call the father of the child. When I told him about the baby, all he said was,
“Are you sure it’s mine?”
I didn’t expect much from him as he never signed up to be a parent. But neither had I. After all, I was only 16. After knowing that I had to deal with my pregnancy on my own, I panicked. I realised I had two options – I could either give birth to the child and somehow find a way to bring him or her up alone or I could get an abortion.
When I thought about the life growing inside me, I knew there was no way I would be able to give him a life that he deserves – one with stability and a happy family, where he would be wanted and loved.
But the thought of getting an abortion was heartbreaking as well. Taking a life isn’t something that I could turn back from. Once done, it was done. I’d have to live with that decision for the rest of my life. I kept asking myself: Was I prepared for that? Could I live with myself after that?
The week that followed was torturous. I had decided that getting an abortion was the best option for me at the time. It took me a lot of strength to make the call to book an appointment for the abortion.
At that point, I had only told two people about my pregnancy – my father and my best friend. I wasn’t expecting the reaction I got from my father. I wanted him to scold me, scream at me, tell me how wrong I was for not listening to him. But he didn’t do any of those things. He didn’t say anything and just quietly paid for the abortion.
I knew that I had disappointed him. And I knew I didn’t deserve his help.
THE GUILT OF AN ABORTION
Despite telling myself repeatedly that this is the best decision for me, I couldn’t help but feel like a murderer. Knowing that I was about to take a life was the worst feeling in the world.
I kept thinking of every possible thing I should have done that could’ve prevented this day from ever coming. “I should have used protection.” “I shouldn’t have slept with that guy.” “I should’ve stayed at home that night.” But it was too late now.
On the day of the abortion, every second I laid in that bed waiting for the nurse was agonising. The last thing I remember before the anesthesia kicked in was looking down and whispering to my belly,
“I’m sorry, but I don’t have a choice.”
I woke up relieved that the procedure was over, but at the same time, I felt a wave of bottomless sadness. I still felt guilty.
That night, a child appeared in my dreams. In the dream, I saw the back of the child seated on a chair. I remember feeling terrified as I stared at the child’s head, unable to move. I woke up in tears that night. I cried myself to sleep every night and woke up crying every morning as the nightmare became a recurrent thing. The fear and crying in the middle of the night became a vicious cycle and was one of the most dreadful periods of my life.
Thankfully, the nightmares stopped a month later.
Less than a year after the nightmares stopped, I found myself looking at the pregnancy kit and muttering to myself, “not again.”
I was no longer ‘sleeping around’ with guys I barely knew and had just got into a new relationship with my then-boyfriend, Timothy*.
My heart sank as I internally reprimanded myself for being so careless again. I was angry at myself. Had I learnt nothing from the first time?
When I told Timothy about it, we both decided that we weren’t ready to be parents and we couldn’t give our child a good life, so we opted for an abortion.
To my surprise, there were no nightmares this time. But I was filled with self-doubt: Did I not feel guilty anymore? Shouldn’t I have felt guilty?
I had made so many mistakes in the past, and now I felt nothing about killing a child.
Does that make me a horrible person?
A MOTHER AT LAST
At 19, I was pregnant for the third time.
I felt incredibly lucky this time round because despite going through two abortions, it felt that ‘destiny’ had somehow given me another chance to be a mother.
Maybe it was the fear of karma, but I knew that I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself had I gone through another abortion. So this time, I decided to keep it.
Timothy was supportive of my decision to keep our child too. But as we entered my last trimester, the fights started, and it got worse. He would threaten to kill me and our child and at his worst, he would physically hit me. On hindsight, I should have ended the relationship then, but as the mother of our child, I was holding on to the hope that things would get better after the baby is born.
I was wrong.
The physical and verbal abuse didn’t stop even after I gave birth. Timothy didn’t stop hitting me and he continued to threaten to kill me and our son, Jeremy*. I held on for two months before realising that this abuse wasn’t going to stop. So I ended it. I broke up with Timothy, took Jeremy, and left for home.
I had to do right by my son. I couldn’t let him be around Jeremy any longer. I was afraid of Jeremy getting hurt because of him, and I would never be able to forgive myself if that happened.
Even though it hurts that things didn’t work out with Timothy, and being a single, young mother is hard, I never regretted giving birth to Jeremy.
A LEARNING JOURNEY
Looking back, I am not proud of my history. What I thought was ‘fun’ back then, I now realise was just part of my childishness. I wish I had been less playful and more careful in my teenage years.
Today, I am a 22-year-old single mother of a 3-year-old. And I’m happy to say that my life has changed for the better. I have a boyfriend who loves me despite everything, and a family that has learnt to forgive me for my past mistakes and accepted me despite everything.
I never saw myself becoming a single mother at 19. In fact, I never really saw myself as a mother at all because of my lack of maternal instincts. But I guess that’s what made becoming a mother all the more special for me.
Unlike in the past, I don’t just do things because I feel like doing them. Now I do what’s best for me and my son. I’m also a lot more grateful now, especially to my parents. I’ve heard of parents disowning their daughters for getting pregnant young and keeping the baby, but I’m so thankful that my parents stuck by me and supported every decision that I made. Without them, I would have been completely alone.
My past has made me who I am today. Had I given birth when I first got pregnant at 16, I probably wouldn’t be half the mother I am today. And had I not made the mistakes I have made, I could still be that naive girl who’s too playful for her own good. While I still have a lot to learn, everything I’ve been through has made me a better mother and a better person, and I’m proud of myself for that.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals.