Distraught stepmother of boy with leukemia decides not to go through with abortion

Distraught stepmother of boy with leukemia decides not to go through with abortion
PHOTO: The Straits Times

A woman in Henan province decided to have an abortion in April, as she felt she couldn’t afford to have the baby — especially given the fact that her stepson was seriously ill.

But she changed her mind after a frantic last-minute call from her husband urging her to reconsider.

Wan Shaohua, 31, of Huangzhai village, Nanzhao county, said she planned to terminate her pregnancy after her stepson was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in March.

Wan, who was over four months pregnant at the time, said raising a newborn would cost lots of money, and her husband’s family was in urgent need of funds to treat her 8-year-old stepson.

Wan lives with her husband of four years, Shang Yuzhu, 33, along with his parents and the ailing boy.

Her domestic life is consumed by both concerns over the boy’s health and overwhelming financial pressure.

“My mother-in-law has trouble concentrating, and often stares blankly into space when watching TV. My father-in-law goes out to find odd jobs every day to distract himself,” Wan said.

Shang quit his job at a chemical plant and spends his days trying to borrow money, which affords him little time to tend to his sick son and elderly parents — leaving Wan to perform these duties herself.

The extended family’s sole source of income is Shang’s father, who makes less than 100 yuan (S$21) a day as a common laborer — hardly enough to take a dent out of the expected 400,000 yuan needed to treat Wan’s stepson.

“I have no choice but to borrow money from my parents, even though they had been opposed to me marrying Shang in the first place. So far they’ve provided us 20,000 yuan,” she said.

“My mother said many hurtful things, and I felt largely misunderstood. My uncle urged me to leave Shang because my stepson’s disease will take many years and much money to cure. Now that I’m pregnant, I might not have enough energy to take responsibility in that family.

“I blamed myself at the time and didn’t know what to do, so I decided on an abortion,” Wan said.

“In that way, I could put all my energy into caring for my stepson and parents-in-law. I’m still young and can have a baby later.”

In 2014, Wan’s parents urged her not to become a stepmother, especially in a village where marrying a divorced man is frowned upon, and they dissuaded her from marrying Shang — then 29 years old with a 4-year-old son.

But Wan hadn’t been worried about her relationship with her stepson.

“I knew the boy hadn’t seen his biological mother since he was just 1, so he had no memory of her. I was confident I could blend into this family and be a good stepmother,” Wan said.

To have a good relationship with her stepson, she quit her job at a supermarket and devoted herself to knowing and caring for the boy.

“I often took him out, and the two of us did interesting things like picking plants and drawing. Gradually, he enjoyed playing with me and came to trust me, so I decided to have my own kid. But reality is unforgiving,” Wan said.

Her stepson has now successfully undergone one-third of the prescribed treatment courses after the family raised 80,000 yuan by posting the family’s story on a crowdfunding platform.

Though the treatment will take two more years and the family is still struggling financially, Wan has dropped the idea of an abortion and her parents have offered to help take care of her parents-in-law.

“I believe things can work out after we put our heads together for a solution,” she said.

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