Originally published on Scoop Empire October 8, 2014
Nadia and Mariam are two average Arab girls one is Muslim and the other is Christian (which is which is irrelevant). Both women are young students, also working in the professional world and very much in love with their culture. But what sets these two apart from the rest is that they both made a life changing decision of getting an abortion. Naturally with any taboo topic the Arab society is quick to speculate, assume, and judge. I offer you the other side of the story that others are afraid to hear, and share.
1. Where were you as an individual in life before you found out you were pregnant? How would you describe your relationship with the guy before you found out?
Nadia: To put it simply, I was young and had no idea where my life was going. My goals were still not set and the path was unclear. At the time, life was not easy as I was still trying figure myself out, still growing as an individual. I was in a serious relationship with someone who I thought I loved, but like I said I was young and didn’t even know how to love myself at the time, let alone love another.
Mariam: As an individual I was experiencing kind of a rough time in the weeks of finding out I was pregnant. I had quit my job, my relationship with the man who I was pregnant from was falling apart before me. I was not emotionally stable and did not have any real outlets to be able to channel my anger and sorrow into at the time. Once I found out I was pregnant, it only added more pressure and what felt like literal weight to my already existing burdens.
2. What prompted the decision to get an abortion as opposed to keeping the child? Was it the first choice that came to your mind?
Nadia: Right when I found out, the decision was immediate. I didn’t have to think twice. I wasn’t ready. Period. It was hard enough supporting myself, let alone a child. I knew that my family would not accept it and deep down, I think I knew the father of my child wasn’t the right one for me to spend the rest of my life with. Even if we didn’t stay together, we would have been bound for life. I was too young to be bound. There was so much I had not experienced and I knew that if I didn’t make this decision, I might never get the chance.
Mariam: My initial reaction was not to have an abortion, actually. Exactly one year before this, I had been pregnant before by the same man. However, at that time I was alone and had just found out I was being cheated on throughout the relationship, so my first thought was to have an abortion rather than bring an innocent child into an unfortunate situation. However, this time round was more of a spiritual experience because I started reflecting on how could this have happened again when I thought I had taken all necessary precautions, how did I end up even allowing myself to go through this again with a man who hurt me so deeply exactly a year prior.
Although I was not happy in my life I started to convince myself that this baby was the answer. There I was a twenty-three-year-old woman thinking I could tackle bringing a baby into a world that would’ve rejected him or her. That is when I realized I had to get the abortion. People who don’t grow up in strict homes, like Middle Eastern homes, have the privilege to make these kinds of decisions whereas we as Arab women don’t. We need to realize that for us we lead a different path in life when it comes to marriage and having children out of wedlock. We simply can’t do it if we want that child to live an emotionally healthy life.
3. What was your partner’s reaction to the pregnancy and your choice to have the abortion?
Nadia: He was supportive of my decision because he knew it was the best decision for the both of us. We were both not emotionally and financially stable enough to bring a child into this world. As time went on, his feelings started to change and the idea of keeping the baby became more and more favorable to him. I, however, knew better and stuck with my decision and never looked back.
Mariam: He was not my boyfriend at the time, but a man who I loved deeply for over five years and he loved me too. However, we cannot expect people to handle situations according to how we picture them in our minds. He tried to make light of the situation while explaining that when the time is right it will happen, but if it were to happen now this child would not have a fair chance.
One thing that he ‘d done though that I appreciated was ask me what I wanted to do, he gave me a choice. During the process of the abortion, however, I was on my own. I had a couple friends who came to the appointment with me and who watched after me during the process of the abortion. Since I was early in my pregnancy I took the pill, which was a painful experience. However, he was not there physically or emotionally, leaving me alone again.
4. Was there any support from friends/family or were you alone?
Nadia: My family was not present in the situation because I knew that they wouldn’t support me. They would be judgmental and criticize no matter what decision I made, so I decided to keep them out of it. My close friends were there for me through it all, from driving me to doctor visits to waiting with me at the welfare office to sign up for the insurance that would help cover the costs of the procedure. I was blessed to have people by my side that might not have understood what I was going through, but stuck by me anyway.
Mariam: All of my friends supported the idea of an abortion, not one of them suggested or even questioned me keeping it, which I understood. They were all hurt by the man I was with and how he had been inconsistent with me in recent weeks and could not imagine me having a baby with him.
5. How did it feel knowing you were going to lose a child and miss this opportunity to be a mother?
Nadia: I have no regrets. Being a mother is a milestone I’ve always looked forward to, but I wanted to do it right the first time. I knew I wasn’t capable of being the best mother I could be at the time and that my child would have to struggle through life with me and that wasn’t fair to either of us. When I become a mother, I want to be prepared in every possible aspect; mentally, emotionally and financially. I knew it wasn’t my time to bring a child into this world and that someday (hopefully) when I am ready, I would have my chance. It was overwhelming; I was trying to start my life as an adult and this was not the best start. I was scared, but sure of myself at the same time.
Mariam: I know women who will go their whole lives not being able to conceive and carry their own child for health or other reasons. Imagine me being blessed with that opportunity and shutting it down, I felt terrible. What my friends did not understand or realize as well was that this was a child made from love. I loved that man and he loved me and although the relationship was trivial at times, its foundation was love. I never knew if I was going to experience that again with another man and have his child and I still don’t. That is why sometimes it is better to have not experienced getting pregnant at all rather than going through it only to be haunted with these ideas and thoughts for the rest of my life.
6. Physically, how painful was the process?
Nadia: The emotional and physical pain was minimal. It took a while to receive medical insurance, and when I finally did, it was no longer possible to take the easy way out. I had to undergo surgery to remove the fetus, which sounds a lot worse than it was. They put me to sleep and a few hours later, the deed was done. I woke up and I can still remember the girl in the next room moaning in unimaginable pain as I walked out without even a cramp.
Mariam: It was an extremely painful process, taking the pill is not an easy thing to go through. The pain is unpredictable and the recovery is hard as well. It is not an easy process at all.
7. You live in America where a safe abortion is accessible (depending on where you live). Had you lived in the Middle East having an abortion would’ve been either impossible, unsafe, or lethal. What do you think of the anti-abortion laws enforced in the Middle East and their impact on Arab women such as yourself?
Nadia: I disagree 100% with the anti-abortion laws in the Middle East and anywhere else in the world. I understand how people feel that it is wrong to take a human life, but I think it is worse to bring a child into this world when you are not capable of giving them the best possible life. When you’re not ready, you’re just NOT. Plain and simple. Women in any country should be entitled to have the choice to do what they want with their body and more importantly, with their life.
Mariam: I do not agree with the idea that women in the Middle East are the ones being punished for an act that involves a man and a woman. The process mentally and physically of having an abortion takes such a heavy toll on a woman and even the recovery is hard as well. I am speaking as an Arab woman who had this done in America, so I cannot imagine it being worse and even more traumatizing in the Middle East. It is not fair and if they want to make it a deadly experience for women to have an abortion, then maybe they should consider castrating the men who impregnated them as well #SorryNOTSorry.
8. Where are you in your life journey?
Nadia: I have come a very, very long way since then. My life goals are not only clear, but also very much attainable. I know exactly who I am now and where I want to be. The path that was once so blurred is now well defined and I am sprinting to the finish line. I have had the chance to experience life, loss, love, success, failure and everything in between. Most importantly, I’ve grown and learned to love myself.
Mariam: I am still just at the beginning of my life journey. I am trying to establish myself more in the world and as quickly as I can, so I am soon able to start my own family. I also think working hard and going against odds is something that helps heal the pain. Going through an abortion leaves us women feeling guilty in some cases and no matter how many times the people around you tell you that you made the right decision, it is not going to make you feel any better as a woman. Especially when you know the action you just took, could have grown up to be everything you needed in a baby girl or boy.
However, the decision was made and it was made for a good reason, so in a way I learned to cope and trying to succeed in life helped rebuild my confidence in myself and respect for my own self.
9. Was there anything positive that came out of this experience? Looking back would you have kept the child?
Nadia: Many positive things came from the experience. It was like being given a second chance to start a new life. The situation was not easy, but I endured and I survived. There are absolutely no regrets and looking back, I would have made the exact same decision. It wasn’t my time, he wasn’t the right man, I wasn’t the best possible me and I just was not ready.
Mariam: I don’t think I could have kept the child either way. It would never have had a stable upbringing, a stable set of parents or accepting grandparents. I don’t feel so much as though my success or my accomplishments are what I would use to justify my reasoning for the abortion. I would have made it in life regardless, my concern and my ultimate reasoning behind not keeping this child is because I am a product of a broken home and I remember times that I wanted to give up and leave this world. Why would I ever consciously bring a child into that same environment?
10. What piece of advice would you offer to young Arab women who are going through the same ordeal?
Nadia: Stop and ask yourself a few questions. Am I ready? Is he really the one? Is HE ready? Can we/I support this baby financially AND emotionally? Am I going to regret this? Most importantly, am I going to be able to give this child the life I want for them? If you can’t speak to your family, find an older peer or mentor to confide in. Lastly, make sure you are 100% sure in any decision you make and remember that it is ultimately, completely your decision. Do what you feel is right.
Mariam: I would tell young Arab women not to lie to themselves and I think that is the most important thing. Do not tell yourself that you are not allowed to feel sad because you are. However, do not feel that because you are an Arab woman that you need to be ashamed. Yes, our culture is different and yes some actions are not accepted, but at the end of the day we are human. SHIT HAPPENS.
Let yourself cry for a day and be angry and hurt, but once you’re done pick yourself up and do what you feel you need to do whether that means facing your family and keeping it if you really feel you can give this baby a healthy life, or going through with an abortion. Remember that us Arab women are made differently than others in the sense that we go our whole lives needing to portray strength, so although a situation like this is hard, do not lose your sense of strength and confidence in yourself that you know what the best decision to make is and you will go through it regardless.
The truth of the matter is people in the Middle East are having pre-marital sex, getting pregnant and at a loss of what to do because abortions are unspeakable in the region. It’s about time we acknowledge the need to protect women’s rights in the Middle East and a woman’s decision to be a mother or not.