A Cry in the Womb by Shirley Jobson

A Cry in the Womb by Shirley Jobson

PART 1 – ‘It’

I can hear my mother crying again. That’s all she ever seems to do! At night, she wakes up screaming, startling me out of my peaceful snooze. Often, during the day, I hear her speaking to someone who has a very soft voice, one which I have been hearing very frequently. But my mother doesn’t ever seem to calm down.

Her voice breaks as I hear her repeat over and over, “I don’t want it! How can I keep it? It will only remind me of that day!” I don’t understand what she is saying. But every time she mentions ‘that day’, she cries. Why is she so sad?

As I float around in the comfort of her womb, I decide that I don’t want to leave it. It’s cosy in here, it feels safe. My mother’s fear and despair reach me in waves, and I don’t like how that makes me feel. If that is what it means to live in the outside world, then I don’t want to be out there.

That’s it—I won’t leave! I’ll stay in here where it’s safe!


The therapist doesn’t understand me. If she did, why would she keep telling me that I should consider keeping this…this…thing growing inside me? I cannot even bring myself to refer to ‘it’ by the proper word. I don’t even want to think about ‘it’.

Every time I do, I remember that horrible day. Each time I close my eyes, I see his leering face, looming over me. I feel the excruciating pain over and over again. I experience the numbness that had crept through me, the loss of time and space that had engulfed me, as I stared over his shoulder and willed myself to be anywhere but there.

The therapist keeps telling me that what I want to do will not help me—that it won’t take my pain away, but that it will in fact increase it tenfold. But she doesn’t know anything. What she is suggesting is unthinkable. How can I keep ‘it’? I’m still young, my life is just starting. There’s no room in there for anyone else, especially one who would be a constant reminder of that day. And what if ‘it’ looked like him? I shudder with revulsion.

The therapist also tells me that there are many willing couples who want a baby, no matter the circumstances of its conception. But that would mean that I would have to go through long months of body changes and discomfort, then pass through the pain of hours of labour, and finally give birth to ‘it’. From what I know, none of this is a walk in the park. Women giving birth are never portrayed as calm, collected, and full of smiles—quite the opposite in fact!

Why should I have to go through all that, when none of all that happened is my fault?

No, I have made up my mind. This is the only solution. This will make it all go away, and then I can get back to my life. Then I can begin to forget. Besides, ‘it’ is not even human yet. That’s what everyone says. So ‘it’ won’t feel anything—right?

Yes, I am positive this is the right decision, no matter what anyone else says. I’m the one going through this after all. It’s my body, it’s my right! And for the first time in weeks, as I pick up the phone and make the call, I feel that I am finally regaining control over my life.


PART 2 – Would it hurt?

I suck my little thumb as I doze on and off. My mother seems much happier these days. I’ve stopped hearing the other woman’s soft voice, so maybe she was the one making my mother cry. Well, whatever the reason, I’m glad my mother is feeling better. Last time, I even felt her give a little laugh. It made her belly shake a bit, and it gave me a good feeling.

Maybe it’s not so bad out there after all. But I still feel so much safer in here. I can hear the beat of her heart. I can feel her movements, hear her voice as she speaks. Why would I want to leave?


I look around the waiting room nervously. Ever since I made up my mind to do this, I have felt so much better. And yet, deep inside, I am scared too. What will they do to me? Would it hurt? And will it really make all my pain go away?

Stop that, I chide myself mentally. You know you’re doing the right thing; stop thinking like that. I look at my mother sitting next to me, staring into space. Even she had agreed that this may well be the only solution to my predicament.

And yet, I know that she still feels a measure of doubt. It’s understandable. This procedure carries its own risks after all. But I’d rather go through with it, than have to endure another day with ‘it’ inside me. It’s been there too long already!

And then, before I know it, my name is being called, and I am ushered into one of the inner rooms. This is it, I think to myself, there’s no going back now. Soon, it will all be over. Then, I will be free again. What will that feel like? I wonder…


PART 3 – This will be over soon!

I wonder what my mother is doing. She is lying down in a funny position, and she is speaking to someone I’ve never heard before. She asks if it will hurt. I don’t know what she is talking about.

I stretch out my tiny fingers and watch them move. They are growing fast, and so are my toes. Does my mother know how quickly my little body is developing? I close my eyes and sigh contentedly.

But suddenly I am jolted awake. What’s happening? I feel my mother tense, and it overwhelms me. For the first time in my young life, I feel the edges of fear. I don’t like it. What is going on?


I gasp as the doctor inserts the cold metal instrument inside me. The events of ‘that day’ flash once again before my eyes as my body closes up instinctively. The doctor tells me patiently to relax, or it will hurt more.

I try to make my muscles let go, but it feels like I’m being raped all over again. I’m finding it difficult to breathe. I twist my head round in panic. The nurse takes my hand and squeezes it gently. She has kind eyes.

Calm down, I tell myself. Think of the future. This will be over in a few minutes, and then your life can go on as it was before. Just hold on a bit longer; just be strong. This will be over soon!


PART 4 – What have I done?

I jump as a long cold thing invades my haven. What’s going on? What are they doing to my mother? I try to move away from it, as far as I can. But there’s nowhere to go. It touches me again, and I jerk away in panic.

Mum, what’s happening? What’s this horrible thing? I thrash around, but there’s no escape.

Suddenly, I feel something I never felt before. The cold thing pulls at my leg, and the water around me immediately changes colour. I cannot see, but I feel like I’m being pulled apart. I open my mouth and scream soundlessly.

Mum, Mum, help me please! Make them stop! Mum…it hurts! Why…why are…they doing this…to us? Muuuummmmmm…


It is finally over. I try not to look at the red blobs floating around in the bowl next to me, but my eyes keep turning towards them. I stare in morbid fascination at what is left of ‘it’. There is so much blood. For a moment, I wonder whether ‘it’ was a boy or a girl…

I shake myself mentally. Stop thinking like that! You’re free now. ‘It’ is finally gone. You did it!

So…then…why am I feeling so empty deep inside? Why are tears forming in my eyes? Why do I feel overwhelmed by sadness?

The nurse helps me up slowly. I feel sore inside and out. What have I done?

Stop! You did the right thing. It was the only way out. You’ll be fine once the shock of it all wears off. The nurse is offering me a cup of tea. I accept gratefully. Yes, I’ll be fine once I have some tea. I will be—for sure!


PART 5 – Innocent

He or she would have been 5 years old today. The therapist asks me how that makes me feel. I don’t know what to tell her. Not a day passes that I don’t think about my baby. And every year, on this date, I wonder what it would have been like if I had let it live.

I had thought that having an abortion would solve all my problems. But the therapist had been right. It had indeed only served to add to my pain. In the aftermath, I not only had to deal with the trauma of the rape, I was also facing insurmountable feelings of guilt and heartache from the loss of my child.

My dreams have now gotten worse—if that is even possible. I have started avoiding sleep altogether. I lie wide awake every night, tears pooling onto my pillow. Faceless babies float around me as soon as I close my eyes, their tiny fingers reaching out to me futilely.

How could I ever have thought that I was doing the right thing? I realise now that my baby had been an innocent victim too, one which I had discarded so cruelly. What that man had done to me that day was unforgivable. He had abused my body and bruised my soul horrifically. I hadn’t mattered to him.

But I myself was no better than him. I could have explored other options. I should have given my baby the chance to be born, to play, to learn; to grow up into a young man or woman; to experience joy, wonder, and excitement; to fall in love, to see the world, to live! Instead, I chose to steal away its innocent life, without thinking of it as a person in its own right.

 The pain and horror from the rape have started to fade, and I am slowly picking up the pieces of that part of my life. But the agony from my abortion is as fresh as the day I had it. I made my baby pay with its life for a crime that someone else had committed.

Will I ever be able to forgive myself for what I had done? I wonder…

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