“Is it good or bad news?”
“That depends how you look at it.”
I am pregnant.
I’m on the phone to my friend. She has been to the Well Woman clinic on my behalf. Travelled in there on the 46A with a sample of my pee, on a mission to find out, for once and for all whether the nausea I’ve been getting for the past few weeks is just a wild coincidence. She sighs into the phone. She has been through this herself. She is one of the defiant ones. I know her still, she was born a mother, she would never, not for one second, have considered adoption.
I’m in work. People are all around me and pretty soon someone is going to come looking for something and then they’ll wonder why there is no colour in my face and why I cannot move, let alone speak. I can’t remember if I said anything to my friend, or if I even thanked her (thank you babe) but I couldn’t stay standing behind a reception desk.
“How the fuck could you let this happen?” I asked the blotchy face with the horror-story eyes looking back at me in the bathroom mirror. A model walked in just then, checked her makeup for the photo shoot that was taking place in the studio. I’m tall but her hips came up to my shoulders. Grotty? Moi? With the spotty tear stained blotch infested skin? A colleague came in. One of the video editors. She had probably spent the past three days in a darkened groundhog day room, so it was well into her chatter when she noticed I had been crying. I couldn’t tell her why. I liked her but we weren’t close. I couldn’t let her be the first person to know. It hadn’t even sunk in with me yet. I feel sorry now for it, thinking back to the genuine concern in her face. I know she wouldn’t have said anything and it would have been welcome support in a workplace full of men. (Not just any men; cameramen and editors for those of you in the know about this species of male.) This was my first job and I was still intimidated by them. Women were massively outnumbered. Out of about thirty of us, there were three women and I was the youngest by far. They could be rude and loud and boisterous and I never knew if they were serious or joking. I had no brothers and I went to an all girl school. Obviously I knew guys or I wouldn’t have been standing there in the predicament I was in, but I wasn’t cool about it. I’d had a boyfriend for a couple of years and that sort of turned me into a middle aged married woman before I snapped at age eighteen. Aye, and there’s the rub; the old elastic band syndrome. I had been minded for too long and now I was free. Wild and free and pregnant.
Shock and horror and terror and a sense of dread that was suffocating me.
Twelve years after this moment I was involved in a car crash on the M50. My four month old baby Aisling and I were thrown into the middle of four lanes of traffic. As my car spun and spun out of control, I remember saying aloud “I don’t know what’s happening! I don’t know what’s happening!” If aliens had suddenly landed on the road in front of me I could not have been more confused. There are not many times in your life when you are rendered so utterly helpless. This was one. Finding out at nineteen that I was pregnant, was another.
Incidentally, we survived. An articulated truck had rammed us from behind, we spun and it rammed us again from the side – the side Aisling was on. No injuries; not even a scratch. While I had been crying out to the Universe, Aisling had been laughing. In fact, I think there was more danger coming from the driver of the truck offering my four month old a custard cream as we gave our details to the police. I apologise now for being the cause of one of the many hold ups on the M50 as our vehicles were moved from the centre of the road and a Garda tried to help me stop crying. I cried for a week, basically every time I looked at Aisling. But we got past it, and I supposed, once I got past the shock, that I would get past the problems that would now arise for a girl with an unplanned pregnancy.
I didn’t consider abortion. But that is, hand on heart, because it didn’t occur to me. You must understand, not only was it not available and not legal but it was a big black dirty word that only the very brave uttered. I can’t remember if it was suggested to me eventually, but if it was, I was already past the place of choice and day dreaming about being a cool mom. One that would calmly sit down beside her toddler and light up a smoke until the tantrum passed. One that would look damn hot, throwing her head back and laughing while the beautiful child on her hip delighted passers by. I considered nothing other than these fantasies until adoption was suggested five months later.
Nothing would happen straight away and no one would force me to do anything I didn’t want to do. There would be a period of time, about six weeks, where I could make up my mind. It seemed fair to consider the baby’s life and my back was not against the wall. My tendency towards emotional reaction was lessening somewhat – could it be that I was growing up? I weighed and considered things now. I agreed I would give it a chance. Six weeks was a long time and the baby wouldn’t even be born for another four months. I didn’t have to decide now. But one day I would. And the closer that day loomed towards me, the more I slowed down, all the better for listening to myself. I was not interested in the church, but I was intrigued to know what God thought about it. When you have a decision this important to make and you have been gifted time to think about it, you listen; to everyone, to myself, to my head and to my heart. To the radio and in books; would there be some strange coincidences in my life now that would clear any obscurity? I really wanted to hear God, if God chose to speak. The remainder of my pregnancy and the time my baby spent with the angel who was his foster mother was a transitional time with a capitol T. I had never been so honest with myself.