Excerpt from Chapter 4: Separation
There are women who claim to know the moment of conception. I know the moment my baby was conceived. It was September and we were still lying in bed after having made love. I was feeling lazy, and happy, and not thinking about anything in particular when I suddenly felt a warm current of energy travel through my body and into my womb. And without knowing how I knew, I had the conviction that I was pregnant. It was an amazing, blissful moment, and for the space of a heartbeat, I felt the most profound sense of inner peace, harmony, and contentment course through me. And then it hit me. Oh, shit! And with the thought came a rush of reality, quickly followed by shock at what this meant. There was no way I could do this. It didn’t fit my life. I had to make it go away. And so I convinced myself that if I didn’t acknowledge what had just happened, then my baby didn’t, couldn’t possibly, exist.
Even the lack of a period didn’t make the knowledge of my pregnancy real for me. It was so far beyond my comprehension of reality that I couldn’t consciously admit it. I know it sounds weird, but that’s exactly how it was… on one level I knew that I was pregnant, and yet my brain just couldn’t seem to accept the truth. I found it so hard to think about it with any clarity that it was easier to push both the knowledge and the future away and focus solely on the moment.
Looking back, I can feel compassion for that younger me. To be pregnant at sixteen, in a family steeped in Catholic ethics and tightly defined military attitudes of right and wrong must have been overwhelming. I thought I was so smart, so mature and independent, but in truth, I was just a know-nothing kid who was so far out of her depth that the only safety lay in complete and utter denial.
I pretty much sleep-walked through those early days—present enough to move through daily interactions without rousing suspicion, and mindful of the need to adapt my routine when required to accommodate the effects that pregnancy was having on my body, but not grounded enough to acknowledge that the clock was ticking and I couldn’t hide my condition forever.
When I started being sick in the morning, I learned to time my runs to the bathroom. It was a tricky business, especially at school where most of the bathrooms were locked during class time in an effort to keep truancy and smoking to a minimum. Somehow, I always “just” made it. And then there were the leaky breasts, which came as a huge surprise. The first time it happened, I was in art class working with clay when I suddenly noticed two wet patches on the front of my dress. I ran to the sink and splashed water down the front of my dress to hide it. That worked great, it just made me look sloppy… until my dress dried, leaving two perfect crusty circles right where my breasts were. After that, I started stuffing toilet paper in the bathing suit top I’d taken to wearing when my normal bra got too tight for me. I also found an oversized bulky sweater in a dirty shade of white to camouflage my growing belly. I wore this sweater every day, even when the weather was intolerably hot and muggy.
While it was difficult to hide all the physical changes in me, it was the emotional part that I found the hardest to deal with. I cried a lot, and not just when I was alone. I cried watching commercials on TV, especially ones that showed images of little sweet babies getting licked by puppies. Ugh! I’d walk away, tears rolling down my cheeks while my brother Nick laughed at me. My experience of being pregnant could not be shared and celebrated with family and friends. Nobody knew. Not even Craig.
There was one occasion very early on when I tried to tell Craig. I don’t know what I had been thinking, but I just blurted it out one day when were sitting under a tree out in the courtyard at school—not that I was pregnant, but that I might be pregnant. I don’t know whether it just hadn’t registered or whether it sounded too vague for him to take seriously, but Craig didn’t say anything, he just acted like I hadn’t even spoken. There was a long silence while my mind churned in utter chaos, hoping desperately that he would do something or say something that would make it all better. But he didn’t. I knew then that Craig wouldn’t be able to deal with what was happening; that it was up to me to work it all out on my own. I don’t recall what happened next. I think I just followed his lead and carried on as if the moment hadn’t happened. But inside, I could feel myself shrinking, withdrawing.
Then, one day, a couple of weeks before Christmas when we were at the beach together, I finally told him I didn’t want to see him anymore. I’d convinced myself by then that the best thing to do would be to break it off, and not tell him why. Being a father while still in his sophomore year at school could ruin Craig’s life, and I didn’t want to be responsible for that. He had such wonderful dreams and plans for his future. I remember how confused he seemed, when I wouldn’t give him a good reason for breaking up. We had been a couple for almost six months and had never had as much as an argument.
“Why?” He kept asking. I had no answer for him. Mystified and upset, he babbled on about how much he was going to miss seeing my dog and my bratty little brother, which was surprising as we hadn’t spent a great deal of time around my family. I was too miserable, confused, and conflicted to handle it well or to help either of us. I felt as though my personality had fractured into several pieces. Part of me felt deeply ashamed, convinced that the blame for this awful situation was all mine. Another part of me wanted to protect Craig, to keep him safe from what I believed was my ugly reality. And then there was the angry, resentful part that kept railing If he loved me, he would know, he would have been able to read between the lines. He has no idea how lucky he is that I’m taking it all on by myself! When I couldn’t cope with it any longer, I just got up and walked away, leaving Craig alone in his misery and confusion, as I was alone in mine.
It was over. Done. Finished. I was now all by myself in this… save for one little person, whose existence I still couldn’t fully come to terms with.