Please Note: This is Ep. 19

Please click here for Ep. 18

(As everything I write is true, names have been changed to protect identities.)

19

I’ve Got Something to Tell You 

No matter what the consequences, I just couldn’t bring myself to take that step. After all the days Maanav and I had taken to think about it, despite the advice of the professionals and counsellors I had discussed it with, I decided that abortion just wasn’t an option for me. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I’d ended a life — the life of a child that had chosen to come to us. I had to be courageous now for my unborn daughter or son. Their life was the most important thing for me, more important than my reputation; whatever the backlash might be from family and society, even if the families disowned me, I would handle it.

And although I was just a teen, I was in a loving, secure relationship with an elder, responsible man whom I loved and who loved me. We’d already been given the instruction and blessing to move ahead to the next stage in our relationship by the sadhvis in India; we just happened to unintentionally go a couple of steps further than any of us expected so soon.

All that was left now was for us to tell our parents.

February 2nd happened to be my parents’ wedding anniversary. We didn’t plan it that way, but it ended up being the day Maanav and I came to the final decision that we were going ahead with the pregnancy. To be honest, he left the actual decision up to me. He took me to the family planning clinic to get counselling and abortion advice, and he didn’t make any plans for the arrival of a child, but he didn’t try to force me either way either.

As shocked as my mother was, she was very calm and comforted me. She knew how much I’d just been through with being so ill all the time and the hospital stay and everything. Her reaction completely took me by surprise; she was immediately a pillar of strength and support. She hugged me and told me it was okay, that we’d figure it out together. Her main concern was for my health. “But let me tell your father myself,” she said.

That evening, she took my father out for an anniversary dinner at their favourite restaurant, and to his surprise, she ordered a bottle of wine. It’s not something she’d ever do as she wasn’t a fan of him drinking, but it had to be done that day. He must’ve thought it was his lucky day. Maanav and I were together at my parents’ house, waiting on tenterhooks for all hell to break loose.

The telephone rang. It was my mother’s voice, “Your father wants to speak to you.”

I took a breath and braced myself. All the years of fights and arguments flashed before me. How was this man, who never got on with me, who had a completely different mindset to mine, ever going to accept something like this? Was this the last time I’d ever talk to my parents? I held Maanav’s hand tightly.

“I’m going to be a Nana… ” said a quiet, emotional voice down the phone.

Holy Moly, I didn’t expect that! My parents came home from the restaurant, and it was a celebratory evening. Dad was tipsy, thanks to Mum, but very happy.

I do realise that if Maanav hadn’t been who he was, with his family background, and had we not already been together for over a year with the blessing of both families to marry one day, it’s very likely their reaction could have been something else entirely.

I sometimes wonder what their reaction might have been if the father had turned out not to be from a respected, affluent, Indian family. What if he were a school kid, the same age as me, or not an Indian boy at all? What if he were an English boy or of a religion that was foreign to them, or someone with any kind of background they disapproved of? Would I have even told them at all? I don’t know. 

Perhaps a hushed abortion would have been more likely? Or would I have been strong enough to deal with all the whispers about me and bring up the baby on government aid, or at the father’s house, without my family’s support? I don’t know. Perhaps I could have gone through the pregnancy behind closed doors and given the baby up for adoption, then returned to college and picked up my life again where I had left off?… I really don’t know.

I do know, however, how immensely grateful I am for the unfailing support my parents gave me from the moment I told them. No matter how strained our relationship had been, they really stepped up.

Now it was Maanav’s turn to tell his parents. As that evening had already passed, he said he’d do it the next day. The next day passed, and he couldn’t pluck up the courage. The day after that (which was now the 4th), he still couldn’t face them but finally managed to tell one of his sisters.

That evening as Maanav and his family all sat for dinner together, I waited at home by the phone. Surely he’ll tell them tonight. His sister later told me that he couldn’t do it. He announced at dinner that he had something to say, but no matter how much Maanav tried, he just couldn’t get the words out. His sister got so flustered by his fumbling that she swiftly delivered the news for him, breaking the tension with, “Oh, Maanav and Hiral are having a baby!”

And that was that. Finally, the cat was out of the bag that a bun was in the oven.

The telephone rang.

“I think you’d better come over.” Maanav’s father spoke to mine on the phone.

As we pulled up into the driveway, the crunching of the gravel under the tyres seemed louder than usual. My heart was thumping, and I felt sicker in my stomach than ever. How was I, such a low-life, to face his upstanding, virtuous sisters and parents?

Maanav’s father opened the front door and stepped back for the three of us to enter the landing. I couldn’t even look at him. As I passed him, I bowed my head, wholly mortified, looking at the floor; I felt shame burning through me from head to toe. It clearly showed on my face because he gently said, “It’s okay, it’s okay.”

After we’d settled in the informal living room, I don’t remember exactly how the conversation started. I remember that Maanav’s father spoke first and said something like, “Well, Valentine’s Day is on the 14th, in ten days’ time. It’ll be romantic.”

My head was spinning, I’d expected to come here to have a serious talk and be in trouble, but it was the complete opposite! All of a sudden, I was listening to excited chatter about venue choices, invitations, guests, flowers, the menu, and the outfits. It took some time for it to sink in; wait, does this mean we’re getting married? In ten days?! There was no serious discussion about whether to keep the baby or not, no talk of options, it was as if anything else wasn’t even an option. Maanav’s parents never berated us, and they never made me feel ashamed. In fact, they were over the moon! Both parents hugged and congratulated each other. In just under eight months, they were all going to welcome their first grandchild into the world, their faces beamed with joy and love.

At the end of the night, as we made our way to the front door, the parents still talking about wedding details, Maanav’s mother quietly slipped upstairs and returned with a little jewellery box. Inside were a pair of silver anklets. It was her gesture of making the engagement official. I accepted them and touched her feet.

As we said our goodbyes, it was agreed by everyone that the next time I’d see Maanav would be under the wedding canopy, on Valentine’s day, in precisely ten days’ time.

Please click here to continue to Ep.20