Out of the ruins

by Frances McKay

My life was not meant to be like this. What’s happened to me? I was never meant to have a baby. Anyway babies never liked me, as soon as someone put one in my arms it cried. Me, a mother? Never! I had better things to do, like travel.

Intrepidly I set off to travel the world. Carefree I hitchhiked everywhere feeling invincible. This eventually came to a screeching halt in Africa. I could have found a better place to fall in love and become pregnant. Degree of difficulty high. Degree of stupidity high. I didn’t think I was pregnant at first, no real signs but really sick. Tropical disease maybe? Pregnancy test on the off chance. Jackpot. Well not for me, I felt it was more like the booby prize.

Now for the hard bit. What to do? Abortion or have the baby. If I have it? Keep or adoption. These were really big life changing decisions no matter which choice was made. My boyfriend was a smooth talking Irishman who advised that an abortion was the best option. That would let him off the hook, but all my upbringing railed against that. Maybe I was even punishing myself. He did say I was letting my Catholic upbringing get in the way. He then decided he wanted to travel some more.

“You know if you weren’t pregnant, we could travel together. You are ruining your life. We could have a great time,” he said.

It was not long afterwards he left and then I was alone. I weighed up a number of options but I felt my only choice at this stage was to return home as I didn’t have a lot of money to do much else. So I sat down and wrote a letter, telling my mother my predicament. It was one of the hardest things I had ever done. I knew my parents would be more than disappointed with me. They had tended to place me on the pedestal of sensibleness and now I had been totally stupid.

I came home to my parents; they were supportive in a condemning sort of way. I could not mention anything about the baby’s father without the atmosphere being electric. Any letters I received from him were met with disapproval. Initially I lived for those letters. Everyday I would go to the letter box in hope there would be a letter from him. My heart would skip a beat when I saw his handwriting.

He was not very supportive in any way and more interested in me adopting the baby out, really when I thought about it he was washing his hands of the whole situation. Gradually the letters petered out and I heard from him no more. It took me sometime to realise he would never come to see me, that it was totally finished. When that really sank in I felt more in control and wiped him from my life.

My sense of personal responsibility for my situation overcame my selfishness. It wasn’t easy. I really didn’t want to take on liability of a baby. I wasn’t really prepared for this. All my life plans were now in ruins. I just knew my baby would hate me. Cry as soon as it was put in my arms, after all that’s what all babies did with me.

I knew I needed to make the decision before the baby was born whether to put it up for adoption or keep it. There was pressure from my parents to keep the baby, but ultimately it had to be my decision. It was one of the hardest choices I had ever made. I knew once I had made up my mind I could not go back on it. I had to have it resolved so before the birth I had made the decision to keep the baby.

My baby was born, a beautiful little girl. Nobody could prepare you for the instant bond and love you can have for that little human being that you have just given birth to. It is hard to come to terms with the rejection of a lover and even harder to know they have also rejected their own flesh and blood.

It wasn’t an easy road being a single mother in the ‘70s. I was lucky I had support from many friends. My parents adored their grand daughter; in fact she replaced me on the pedestal. I didn’t get to do many the things I hoped but life can take unforeseen turns and I have had many other unexpected achievements and what seemed like a life in ruins turned out to be anything but.

 

© Frances McKay

“A gender-equal society would be one where the word ‘gender’ does not exist: where everyone can be themselves.”*

I’ve always been aware of gender conditioning and actively tried to combat any lingering prejudices or stereotypes in my own parenting, even down to encouraging dolls with my boys when they were little. It’s great to read people writing about gender issues they’re experiencing with their kids. For too long these subjects have been discouraged or silenced. I’d love to publish some more creative writing on this topic, especially if you are struggling with a child who actively tries to move away from gender normative preferences. A society where everyone can be themselves thanks Gloria for those aspirational words.

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* Gloria Steinem