Michaela’s Story

Some twenty-five years ago I was a medical physicist in a Western-staffed hospital in the Middle East. A single woman in a country where single women are expected—required—to live an outwardly celibate life. Of course I had a boyfriend, another ex-pat like myself. My mother in the UK became ill with a rare, progressive, incurable neurological disease. A widow for many years, I was her only child. The policies of the country I lived in discouraged “unnecessary” family visits, but I was fortunate in that in my professional capacity I had met the head of the secret police for the region-in fact I had treated his wife. I put my dilemma to him and my mother was granted an extended visitor’s visa so that she could live with me. I was allocated “family accommodation”-3 beds, 2 reception, 2 ½ bathrooms-and I met my mother at the airport. My accommodation was converted to comfortably house myself, my mother and a young Sri Lankan woman hired to care for my mother. We were very contented. My mother’s deterioration slowed, and the expense of hiring Kamalini was covered by my mother’s pension. I was no longer distracted from my work by worry about her condition, and she felt secure and cared for. Time continued, mother’s condition deteriorated. A friend of Kamalini, who worked as a housekeeper in a big hotel, was paid to relieve Kamalini two days a week. One day a week, my mother spent in the hospital’s neurological unit.

Then I got pregnant. A weekend away with my boyfriend, a couple of bottles of champagne, bbq-ed chicken under the palm trees-who knows what contributed to the failure of my birth control. I did not want a child. I have never wanted children. As a single woman in that particular country, I could not keep my job and give birth. If my pregnancy were to be revealed, I would be imprisoned and then deported. If I wished to continue the pregnancy, I would have to resign from my job and return to the UK in the middle of the European winter with a disoriented 70-year-old who needed, by now, virtually 24-hour heavy care. Yes, I could indeed have continued my pregnancy-but at what cost to my mother? Alone, pregnant, unemployed, it would have been a physical and financial impossibility to provide the care my mother required. I, of course, having not worked in the UK for a lengthy period, would have been ineligible for maternity benefits and unemployment pay. My mother’s pension would have been taken to pay towards her care in some anonymous institution, and what would have happened to pregnant me I do not know. The scenario was too depressing to contemplate.

The decision was easy. I took a long weekend off. I flew to the UK on Thursday, had an abortion on Friday. Spent Saturday shopping, Sunday visiting a friend, gossiping, eating, drinking, and flew back on Monday. I was back at work that evening. If I had not had my mother to think about, I would have made exactly the same decision. With my mother to consider, what other option was there? Thank goodness I was able to afford travel to my home country and have an abortion. Twenty-five years on – still no children and still no regrets. There is no need for either.