Two new borns were abandoned by the parents, soon after the mother gave birth in an Islamabad hospital yesterday. The mother had reportedly mentioned again and again to the hospital staff while giving birth, that she could not afford to bring up her babies.
An image of two beautiful smiling baby boys with eyes shut tight, flooded my computer screen and brought a sad smile to my lips.
Pakistan is a country where new borns have been found left inside rubbish bins, or on the doorsteps of Edhi Homes.
While my heart despairs for the tiny life that has just arrived on this earth, with such a formidable future ahead. Kya Qismat lay kay aaya hai yeh bacha iss duniya mein? My thoughts turn to the parents, especially the mother of a child who has had to forsake motherhood for any number of majbooriyan, and/or social taboos.
The women in this country have much to battle against – Rape, sexual harassment in the house and at workplaces, abusive husbands, abusive in-laws, controlling relationships, … the list is endless.
To top it all, the one relationship which they hold on to, that is primarily a woman’s role in our society, a retreat from all the messiness in other relationships, where she can turn to for hope, and happiness is that of a mother. And this too, is taken away from them at times.
Why Some Women Abandon Their New Borns
This is why, to say that a woman would ‘abandon’ her new born, is not only unfair but lays credence to the multiple biases and taboos in our society. Women do not ‘abandon’ their new borns. Women are MADE to give up their new borns due to circumstances beyond their control. Hear me out.
1) Rape and Pregnancy
When a girl becomes pregnant due to rape, her family is forced to hide the pregnancy in fear of social repercussions. Not only does the rape victim have to suffer the mental, emotional and physical trauma of rape, but after nine months of bearing a child, she has to ‘abandon’ it in mysterious circumstances and never speak of it again.
That, plus the stigma from neighbors and jaanne waaley, and the thought that she must never set eyes on her baby again, (who is often left at a kachray ka dher), and the guilt of ‘abandoning’ her baby, might as well lead her to commit suicide.
As in the case of this mother, poverty has far-reaching effects on the mental and emotional trauma of those it afflicts. Parents are not only struggling to feed the family they have (and themselves), but also prepare for the medical, schooling, food and shelter expenses for the new borns.
With birth control not a widespread option amongst the lower middle classes, and men, primarily, not really aware or in compliance with the idea – subsequent children’s expenses are a primary reason that parents consider adoption, or ‘abandoning’ their child.
My mind can’t stop thinking of the mother who carried her twins for nine months, torturing herself with the unanswered questions of how to cope with the rising expenses, and how to give up two perfectly beautiful children. How did she even tend to her own health during the nine months, with a lack of funds at her disposal, and what is she doing at present? I fear for the physical health of this new, unknown mother.
And I fear for her mental health too. How she must have planned to deliver her babies at the hospital, to keep them safe, and quietly sneak away so they can be given up for adoption. What of the physical health and mental state of a woman who has to ‘abandon’ her children – two beautiful new borns right after bringing them into this world.
Why cannot our society and legal system help parents find happy solutions for their children? Why must we always judge a woman who acts out of desperation, in a society whose laws WE have made? Are we responsible for the women who die in childbirth in cage-sized, unhygienic, makeshift delivery rooms because they are too scared to deliver a baby in a hospital, to register the parents’ / or the father’s name? Are we responsible for the child who is relegated to the garbage dump because we judge who is respectable enough to become a mother?
We have a lot to answer as a society. But if we seek solutions, we will find them.
Our adoption processes should be so strong and so confidential that parents are able to contact agencies before delivery and ask for their help in adoption.
Our charities and mother and baby help centers should be so well funded that we can offer poor parents some assistance in bringing up their children. If we can set up schools for the underprivileged, and in far flung areas, can we not set up charities that help parents with limited means?
Are we so caught up in our #Metoo movements, in the next trending hashtag on Twitter that we fail to throw light and resolve any single issue because it loses importance when it slips down the twitter trend list?
If we march for Kashmir, let’s march for the thousands of women, the mothers who do not deserve our judgment but our empathy. Their voices cannot be heard because they are asked to stay quiet and forget, and to erase a human being from their memory.
And lastly, it was reported that the two baby boys have been handed over for adoption to two different families. Is it not possible for the siblings to stay in one family? That they are aware that they have a brother, and a birth mother also? This right is being denied to them at birth. Can our systems and hospital records be reliable enough for a child to meet his birth family after he turns 18?
Adoption can be a transparent process, and free from social taboos. We don’t have to start a hashtag or a march for it. We just have to understand that a mother does not ‘abandon’ her child. She gives it up, because she is scared of what society will say, or, she cannot afford to keep him/her and give her child a satisfactory upbringing with limited resources. Because she wants a better future for her new borns. She is not abandoning her baby, she is probably indulging in the most selfless act a human being can, she is giving up her child so he/she can live a better life without her.
However, the real question still remains. Are we prepared to let her do it?