Being Women

Unplanned Pregnancy, A New Bride’s Dilemma And A Doctor’s Fight for a Patient’s Choice

The story of how a doctor encounters a young bride, who is pressured to keep an unwanted pregnancy. The doctor holds onto hope that women will someday fight for their own choices.

A typical busy day…

Summers have knocked early, and you start loving being in the sweat, heat, and humidity, or, guess, you start loving this because you don’t have options. So when you have a pile of pending paperwork and an endless line of patients, you can just console yourself by thinking, ‘Keep working; this is going to be over soon.’

Just a regular day at the clinic. Names are called, the patient enters, is checked, diagnosed, and given medicines, and it goes on and on. So when I called out for Laxmi, I wasn’t surprised to see a coy, veiled young woman entering. She wore jewellery in gold, had kohled eyes, and a red bindi bigger than any circle I have seen. She was decked up, and I thought, ‘Isn’t she suffocating?’

The arrival of Laxmi

By this time, the attendant, who introduced herself as the mother-in-law, had narrated the story. But I wanted to hear Laxmi’s voice. I gestured for the attendant to leave us alone for a while, as I wanted to examine her. Legally, I am not allowed to do that, but sometimes you need to trick people to know both sides of the coin.

Drawn by author

“So, Laxmi, tell me?”

She didn’t utter a word, and those 45 seconds were killing my time. I couldn’t afford to be late. The line outside needs to be finished. “See Laxmi, in another few seconds, somebody will enter, and then don’t regret that I didn’t give you time and space to talk to me alone.”

A difficult situation

Laxmi kept looking at my feet and uttered, “My mother-in-law wants me to keep the baby, but my husband doesn’t want a baby now. It’s just been a month since our wedding. Sometimes, in sparks of anger, he asks me, ‘How can I be pregnant so soon?'”

I wasn’t interested in this; I have heard it already.

I responded spontaneously, “What do you want?”

She looked confused and stared at me. What does it matter what she wants? Probably no one ever asked her for an opinion or her choice.

She spoke sarcastically, “I am not you.”

“Laxmi, you don’t have to be me to make your decisions.”

A doctor’s dilemma

I know it’s easier for me to judge her; I don’t even know anything about the kind of environment she is in.

All this while, I realised her veil didn’t slip an inch, whether it was secured by a pin or stuck to her head, burdened by responsibilities and the baggage of a new bride. She was adorned with riches, yet she was incomplete. Her silence unfolded a million stories and years of suppression. She was wearing red, but colourless by soul.

I refuse to write medicines for her unless she understands what consent is. Or maybe she would never have consented for herself. Should I fight for her, or should she stand up for herself? Just then, the door slammed open, and she was not surprised to see her husband standing. He looked as if to ask. ‘Why is it taking so long? I have left my work.’ As if the doctor is here for time pass.

An uncomfortable discussion

I tried initiating a conversation on contraceptives and the ill effects of unplanned pregnancy, and suddenly the room was filled with so much repulsion and anxiety that I had difficulty breathing. I choked as if I was talking dirty. I felt dirty.

Hope is all that I have

She left; the prescription had that pill, or rather, a pile of pills, but for me, it remained blank. She doesn’t deserve this; although she has been surpassed and submerged, I know that someday she will understand things, and someday she will come back to me.

Hope is what binds us. There is hope when every woman under the veil gets a command over their body.

Dr. Nirza Saikia

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