I’m in a healthy, happy relationship. I absolutely adore my partner, and he worships the ground I walk on. We’re getting married next year.
I have a wonderful, bright, curious and talented son, from a previous erroneous relationship, and myself and his step-dad strive daily to give him a happy and fulfilled life.
If I found myself pregnant, I’d probably abort.
It’s not an uncommon assumption that abortion is for younger women, or women who weren’t careful, or women who aren’t in serious relationships, or women who are irresponsible. I’ve heard it described as ‘selfish’, ‘slacker’s contraception’, or ‘evil’.
When imagining the ‘typical abortion candidate’ (pfuh), it’s often a picture of a 17 year old girl, who’s been with her feller a month and the condom split one night. Or she forgot her pill. Or they were drunk and forgot about protection at all. Or he pulled out right before he came, because they were under-educated and thought that was an effective barrier method. Ya-dah ya-dah.
Not so many people picture the busy, reasonably responsible mother of another child or children, working hard at her career, a homeowner, a pet lover… not many people picture somebody who adores the child she has. Because, surely, someone who likes kids, who’s got a kid, wouldn’t choose to not have more… right?
When I fell pregnant with my son, I was happy. I wasn’t in the right relationship in any way, and even getting to that stage had been a trial because I knew it wasn’t right, but somehow in my head I thought motherhood was the next step on the road of destiny for me. I put it down to my own naivete that I figured a baby would fix things. I’d done the same with marriage a few years earlier, after all. Young-headed, thoughtless and naive.
However, I enjoyed pregnancy. I felt healthy and strong, and I loved the feeling of my child kicking and growing inside me. I have to be honest and say that I didn’t really think of my little boy as the product of ‘2 people’ - he was mine, because I carried him, and felt him, and knew him. I had a couple of scares where I bled or didn’t feel any kicks or whatever, but otherwise I’d say it was an alright 9 months. Being pregnant allowed me to ignore how I didn’t really fancy or love or even really like my partner at the time, and hadn’t done for… like… ever (another long story, for another time). It was a distraction.
Anyway, along he came. A difficult birth, involving a long, pain-relief-free labour (yes, I will take my medal thank you very much), and then suddenly, there he was, in my arms, on my chest, and… I didn’t feel a thing. That intimate, secret love the two of us had nurtured while he grew inside me… it dissipated, and I was left with a confused, empty, exhausted feeling. A heavy feeling. ‘The baby blues’.
The baby blues are pretty common, and I ascribed my inability to stop crying, my feelings of intense anxiety and insecurity, my suddenly suicidal thoughts to this well-documented, ‘up-to-two-week’ period of hormonal motion following the birth of a child. Lots of women experience it. It fixes itself.
What was actually happening was I was sinking - sinking horrendously quickly - into the depths of post-natal anxiety and depression.
The next 18 months of my life were a slow, colourless blur. My ex-husband was horrendously unhelpful, and I’m pretty confident that even now he’d admit he married himself to work, often working 12 hour days at the office, throwing some dinner down him, and then working at home until bedtime and never taking a turn on the night-shift with the baby. My son was riddled with intense colic and never slept for more than 2 hours at a time (in fact, 2 hours was a good stretch in those early days). I was absolutely convinced my child would be better off without me; that I wasn’t designed to be a mother; that I’d made a mistake. I think I loved him at the time, but I can’t honestly be sure.
I can clearly remember driving along one day with my son screaming in the back of the car, the cold air blowers on my face to keep me awake, trying to figure out the best way I could crash the car so I’d die instantly and he’d survive without a scratch on him, and my mum could take him on, and he’d have the happy life I couldn’t give him. I guess that is a weird, twisted kind of love, but it also shows what a low point I’d hit mentally and physically. My son was just 5 weeks old.
I moved back in with my mum, and together we scraped through those early days of my son’s life. To prevent my ex-husband from being disturbed (he had to go to work, after all… sleep was the working man’s right) mum and I double-teamed it on the downstairs couch with the baby asleep in a rocker beside us - for months. We took it in turns to get up and feed/play with my son. My mum, at over 60 years of age, was astonishing - full of wisdom that came so naturally to her. She’d raised three children, and was the eldest of 9 siblings. The world of babies wasn’t new and scary to her, like it was to me. But even just served to make me feel more insecure about my own abilities. What did she have that I didn’t, as a woman, and a mother? Why didn’t it come naturally to me?
Through that time, I simply waited for life to be over. The suicidal thoughts passed to a degree, but I existed in a perpetual state of hurried expectation. ‘I can’t wait for him to sit up’, I’d say about my baby. ‘I can’t wait for him to walk. It’ll be easier then.’ ‘I can’t wait for him to talk’.
It makes me sad, and ashamed, to say it, but I wished away the first 18 months of my boy’s life. I gave him a good start, with the help of my mum. Once the colic passed (at about 6 months), it was a little better. Incrementally, it all improved - he did, I did, life did.
But I was miserable. I regretted everything. My marriage - on life-support before the baby came - died in a dribble. With a little of my strength back, I decided I wanted to take some of my life back - depressed, anxious, and miserable or not!
Why am I telling you this?
My son is now 4 and a half years old, and I’d never exchange him for anything. He is fun, mischievous, cheeky, intelligent, creative and loving. He’s the best. He is not a decision I regret - although I do wish that, somehow, he could have been the product my now happy relationship; not the end-result of stupidly trying to fix a dead one.
And now, as a 32 year old woman, with a relatively successful career, in a wonderful, truly loving relationship, with some semblance of ‘normality’ back to her life in the most magical way (sleep, sleep, precious sleep, how I love thee); I want my voice to be heard as a woman who loves her kid, but would abort another. My mental health significantly improved after a) my son started sleeping more (exhaustion’s a bitch) and b) I left my ex-husband and started chasing happiness. Freedom brought me time and chance to think, and truly analyse, what I wanted from life in a way I never had before. Prior to this I’d been at the whim of destiny. Now… I was taking control.
So I’m now happy. I’m confident. I don’t think I’m the greatest mum in the world but my fantastic, hilarious, outgoing son is living proof that I’m not doing too bad a job. I’m partners in crime with the absolute love of my life, who gets up in the night with me when my lad isn’t well, who doesn’t just ‘need to sleep because of work’, who has grown on a journey of step-fatherhood in the most magnificent way, and has given me someone who I truly rely on and trust - a factor that was sorely missing in my life before we met. He tells me his life didn’t start until he met me. I tell him he gave me back the life in mine.
He’s a great stepdad. We’re a great couple. We’re bloody good parents to our son.
Those dark, dark days - of horrendous, brain-crushing anxiety; of thinking my son would be better off with someone else; of wishing life, and time, away so very, very desperately because I couldn’t bear being where and when I was in the long, grey moments I existed in - those dark days are gone. Just a bleak memory, like a chilly winter’s day that bit when you stood out in it, but only leaves you a tooth’s impression now.
If I have another child… there are no guarantees that it won’t all happen again. The numbness. The constant, constant weeping and self doubt. And next time - would it last for 18 months, that utter despondency and misery? Shorter? Longer? Forever? Would I ever love my child? I was lucky that love eventually developed for my son. Is it guaranteed to come next time?
Things are, of course, very different now. I’m in a thriving relationship, not a moribund one. And my confidence with my son would of course inspire me to be more confident with another, younger child; been there, done that, cried the whole time.
But it’s just not what I want with my life. It’s not a risk I’m willing to take.
My fiance and I have discussed it a lot; he isn’t really bothered about the idea of having children, and being a step-dad is challenging, fulfilling, and rewarding for him. We both agree that - right now, at least - neither of us can truly be selfless enough to say: ‘yeah, even if we have to go through all that, we’ll do it for the sake of another child’s life’.
Call it selfishness, but we care too much about our own happiness, our son’s happiness - and, ultimately, the happiness of any future child we may conceive - to give up life as it is now. The life we have fought for, through the lowest lows.
For a long time, I simply existed. Now I’m living. We all are. A dysfunctional, chaotic, mad collection of people who have found each other and love each other and love life!
I wouldn’t risk that for the world.
We’re sexually very active, and I ensure to take the appropriate precautions - I see it as my responsibility, and three-yearly trips to the doctor for an implant are hardly a chore.
But if the time came, and I was faced with the choice - abortion would be the option I’d choose. I’m grateful for that choice.The choice to control my own life and not subject myself, my family, to a horrible, soul-destroying mental disorder. Maybe time will change my view - but right now, I can say it with 100% surety.
As a sufferer and survivor of post-natal depression and anxiety, as a woman, as a living human, and as a devoted mother.
And for happiness.