“I’m not saying I want to have a baby. I just wanted to dream about it for a minute.”
I find deep connectivity and warmth in the synchronicity that life presents. The ever present reminders that tug at one’s shoulder and trigger a warm reassuring hum of reinforcement and reminder that while we may often feel alone and isolated our pain, if we were perhaps to choose a more universal consciousness, we’d realise that whether it be in the mundane or extraordinary, the excruciating or powerlessness or exuberant exultation, we all bare witness to the same experiences.
I began to desperately ache for Sunday evenings shortly after HBO’s Euphoria debuted. It isn’t the perfect show and the final episode left some desire to the imagination about the aptitude of a rap artists’ fitness to produce a series, the opening quote of this piece is one of the many poignant themes explored which consequently precipitated a call to prose. The show touches on a wide variety of issues extremely prevalent in the human experience, yet for some reason still procure shock and perhaps for some, shame upon witnessing them from a televised medium. Seeing bare cocks on screen, underage sexual proclivities and cam girl work isn’t common in any other modality besides pornography. How far does censorship have to span so as to maintain these feelings of shock and shame?
Cassie utters this opening line upon telling McKay she is pregnant with his baby. He’s in college on a basketball scholarship. She’s the daughter of an alcoholic single mom. Having a child at that moment in her life simply isn’t an option. As the audience, we are privy to being taken along with her to the procedure. We watch and wince as her face scrunches up in pain. We witness the pain in her eyes as she clutches her full then empty womb. This is important and I’m implored to pose the question: why can we only speak of born but not unborn babies?
~ Circa February 2019 ~
I walked up the Strand after a reconciliatory dinner with N at the Savoy, realising only after a few minutes that it was the street that housed the restaurant attached to Me at Melia, the hotel upon which I’d met S and his funny sidekick B nineteen months earlier after my first London photoshoot. N was the one who pointed it out, scoffing that he’d had the most pretentious meal there one evening with a bunch of uni mates.
I remembered that day quite prominently because I’d been five weeks pregnant. Despite feeling frumpy and exhausted, I’d committed to the shoot with a deposit and location secured so I had to go. My back ached from all the arches and ‘curve pushes’ my photographer kept repeating me to flaunt. When you’re housing another human all of a sudden you don’t get a say on certain bodily functions. My pelvic floor went awol as did my ability to fast for fourteen hours at a time. I wearily waddled into the lobby with my little suitcase full of outfits and took shelter on the complimentary seating area that ritzy hotels so graciously provide. I was pausing-on-the-side-walk-in-order-to-take-deep-breaths-into-my-diaphragm tired. I couldn’t relax. I felt so conspicous, as if everyone could tell I was not so secretly pregnant.
It was much too early to have popped so instead I just looked as though I fell into the brick category of the anti feminist body shape chart assigned to females; the one classification every woman secretly hopes isn’t her reality. My brick shaped body was good for nothing at that moment besides perhaps being nestled into the missing space of a brick wall so as to forever rest in peace, swollen feet and all. S was on time and I was grateful. I hadn’t eaten all day as per usual plus photo shoot duh, so he offered to take me to dinner at the bougie night club-eque restaurant.
Fast forward a year and a half, in an uncanny display of deja vu, I somehow managed to be gracing the same street, flaunting the same dress and possibly staring down the barrel of the same state of womb affairs. What a bizarre coincidence to have all these memories flooding back at a time such as this. The only difference was that this time, instead of anxiously counting down to my termination appointment, with every passing day, I desperately hoped that my period would not come. I mean, a late period wasn’t exactly a rare occurrence during my tumultuous nine month relationship with M; I took the morning after pill more times than I cared to admit whilst we were ‘together. ’ We were careful but I was so paranoid about having to deal with a pregnancy alone again, particularly after he’d implored me to “not get pregnant,” as though the sole responsibility of conception lay on my shoulders, in my hands, between my very legs.
~ Circa July 2017 ~
I had been blissfully unaware as to why my period had been absent two years prior, despite the fact I’d slept almost fourteen hours straight on an impromptu trip back to Melbourne. Shortly after I moved to London I’d needed to return to Oz for work related purposes. I blamed jet lag as per the reason I couldn’t keep my eyes open during the day. I wasn’t one of those women who’d show up to the ER with complaints of stomach cramps only to be told she was five centimetres dilated; I’m incredibly in touch with my physical body. Plus I’d done a test back in London before I’d departed for Melbourne and it had parked it’s car in the towing zone. I was relieved, I was fine, I had nothing to worry about. My lingering concern began to tug at my arm after day 38, 39 and eventually day 43 passed so I made the executive decision to retest as covertly as possible in the offshoot corner bathroom I had grown up in. In a moment of combined dismay and stomach sinkage, a very faint second blue line showed up. Fuck.
I rang the Marie Stopes from the car park at Doncaster Shopping Town to organise a preliminary termination appointment in Ealing. I told Bae, the littlest sister in amongst the four of us.
All she said with a downcast expression was, “oh Narn. Really?”
I flew back to the U.K. after ten days in Melbourne. I don’t remember feeling heavy or sad, only exhausting and anxious about the two week wait I’d have to endure. I knew what was coming; I’d accompanied a friend to her procedure but knowing I’d have to deal with it alone wore on me. Sure it was hard but I couldn’t have this baby.
Bae and Terri drove me to the airport. It was so hard saying goodbye to both her and Basie. Terri was so good about it. I distinctly remember her saying, “it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon,” in her ever cheerful Irish accent. It would be nineteen months before I returned home again. The great irony was that the next time I returned home. I might have been pregnant, again. But I wasn’t. My period came six days late upon arrival, ironically whilst I was in Bruges with N. I was somewhat relieved but also a tiny bit disappointed. I’d wanted London to work so badly. I’d wanted to find someone to spend my life with, establish a home and a presence there. I did everything I could to make that town work for me. But no matter how hard I tried, the old Dame managed to chew me up and spit me out, leaving me writhing in pain on my make shift futon fold out couch on multiple occasions.
I told my wonderful friend J about the unfortunate predicament I found myself in down the phone upon having returned to London. She asked me if I’d consider keeping it. No one had asked me that yet. No one had really given that as an option. No one had asked me whether that was a consideration, as silly as that sounds. She always knew exactly what to say. How to reassure and validate in the most non judgmental and supportive manner. I couldn’t have this child. Could I?
In perfect preface, I’d just made the move from Melbourne to the U.K. It had been a desperate survival tactic in amongst a tornado of events which brought to light details that went on to change the dynamic of the relationship with my parents forever. I was still dealing with the aftermath of the desecration of those two very precious life rafts which would continue to needle through and cause peppered fractures in my mental health for a long while to come. My emotional support system had become conditional. I guess in a way it always had been but now there was no shade to hide beneath it now. This, all on top of picking up and settling in an entirely new country of which I only possessed permanent residency for two years. Legally speaking I was actually violating the terms of my visa by being pregnant. As if those conditions weren’t already harsh enough, my business was being newly established in the U.K. and work was entirely sporadic and irregular. I was living off of my savings in a studio flat smaller than most respectable hotel rooms.
It had been the third round of sex in Edinburgh with a jovial Scottish man who looked like Marcus Mumford. It was wet and miserable in the middle of summer and somehow I’d managed to have a very damaged lass from Dundee latch herself onto me. She was in an abusive relationship with a rogue drug smuggling military man who was posted in Dubai and was subsequently banned from coming back into the U.K. We’d had a series of phone conversations about Dubai because she’d wanted to go and visit him there. She drank a lot and all of this painful information gradually came spilling out of her. She had a flat in Fife and often traveled to Marbella, where I was interested in traveling so it seemed pertinent and even fun to plan and meet in Edin for joint business ventures. It became apparent shortly after convalescing that she was entirely chaotic and somewhat unhinged so after a day out together running all about town and riding the Ferris wheel, I’d had enough. Instead of going to meet her at a club that evening I jumped on Bumble and started chatting with J instead. Little did I know that this decison would end in a baby mama situation.
We’d organised to catch up very spontaneously after his shift finished at work. He was a self deprecating chef with a irresistible smile. It had been drinks then back to his lofty flat that he shared with two friends. He was just lovely. In every sense of the word. He spoke of his recent Asia travels and how much it changed his perspective on life. He talked about his struggle with depression and purpose and direction. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t bear to be the source of more pain. It was one sad thing I could protect him from. From an entirely selfish perspective I also didn’t want another voice or opinion in my head. So I didn’t. I look back on that night and I wouldn’t have changed anything except perhaps using a condom during our final romp. But shit happens and life gets messy, particularly when you’re in the throws of passion. He’d had to leave early the next morning and had told me to stay for as long as I liked, even imploring to invite myself into the kitchen for toast, jam and coffee. It was a lovely evening and a tender, inextricably beautiful exchange. We created something together and it was all in the name of gentleness and deep care for a complete stranger. It didn’t feel harsh to be carrying his child for that short time. It was unfortunate and very untimely but every time I think of him, all I remember is how truly embraced and cared for in a time that was precarious on so levels in my life.
I took the train to Ealing to attend my preliminary termination appointment. I was early, the clinic was dated. There were girls with their mum’s, women with their partners, ladies with interpreters. The doctor was cold and quite removed. She pricked my finger to do an HIV test and then had me climb onto the exam table for an internal ultrasound to confirm how many weeks I was. A very early five weeks. It was quick and the screen was already facing away. That was something I remembered from having accompanied a friend to her pre termination ultrasound. I didn’t want her to see the screen. That would have made it so much worse and it was entirely unnecessary. Afterwards I consulted with a nurse who talked me through the procedure and I left with date and time to return. I had three weeks to wait.
By week eight my stomach was doing this strange nauseous twist every morning after which I would one hundred percent hurl. I had no energy, even walking on the treadmill was laborious. Certain smells were unbearable, and as a result, I couldn’t return to Luigi’s Delicatessen for almost a year because the smell of the ravioli made me feel sick to my stomach. I remember going on a date and ordering this strange pasta nest with truffles. The smell alone was enough to turn me off truffles for life.
It was hot toward the end of that summer in London and I enjoyed walking around my new neighbourhood late into the evenings. C was around but I think she felt awkward about it all. She never offered to come to my appointment with me. Work was scarce no matter how hard I tried to drum up business. She’d throw me a referral here and there, which was helpful but it always felt like she keeping her cards very close to her chest. I guess she was in survival mode too.
I met H two days earlier pre termination, at seven weeks respectively. I often wonder if that’s why I became so attached to him. I saw our relationship as a metaphor for my abortion. It was a relationship that was never meant to be, that had been killed before it had any chance to live in real time. Some things aren’t meant to be though. This entire experience would then be the catalyst for loneliness and pain and attaching myself to very unhealthy men.
“You make really bad decisions when you’re desperately alone.” ~ Ryan, 13 Reasons Why
I did the best I could to manage the hormonal shifts that the hGh brought. The tender breasts, the discomfort, the shortness of breath. I knew I was making the right decision but I nursed my belly with tears rolling down my cheeks as I lay on my futon at night while I was still with child. It was a strange feeling. I hated feeling so weak. So incapacitated. It felt as though an alien had taken over my body. This hadn’t been part of the plan. Two months in relative terms is a short while but god this had been hard. I think I always knew that I would be in the position of having to terminate a pregnancy at some stage in my life. But you can never really prepare for something until it actually plays out in real time.
On the day of the procedure I took the District line tube to Ealing once more, so early and so eager to have this all taken care of. The nausea had really taken root by that stage and as I walked from the station to the clinic I had to stop and try to discretely throw up in a street corner. When those hormones swirl, there is literally nothing you can do to quell the urge to hurl. I waited for what seemed like forever, and when finally called, was taken up to an even smaller waiting area only to wait some more. A woman came in a little while after me. Her cellphone rang and she answered it, talking very loudly to a friend about the fact that five kids were enough and that this was the only choice in her distinctly East London accent. I puckered up the courage to talk to one girl I’d seen waiting downstairs. She was with her boyfriend and her mum. I asked if it was her first time and she said no.
“What’s it like?” I asked timidly.
“It’s okay, you just have cramps for a few days after but it’s not so bad.”
“Will I be alright?” I queried softly.
“You’ll be okay.” She answered.
Shortly after she was called, then soon after that, it was my turn.
I was ushered into a tiny room by a nurse to be given a surgical gown and shower cap to wear. I was asked who was picking me up and who my emergency contact was. I had C listed simply because she was the only person I knew in London.
I was quietly and unceremoniously led into the operating theatre, given an injection to ensure my antibodies didn’t attack the baby’s and before the IV was inserted, big fat tears of fear and loneliness streamed down my face. The OR staff were majority women, the assisting nurse an older woman with a kind face held my hand. The next thing I knew I was waking up with an abrupt and repetitive call of my name and being quite prominently and quickly asked to climb off the table into a wheelchair. I was groggy and didn’t have all my faculties about me yet. I moved slowly and grotesquely into the chair, almost collapsing into it as the nursing staff lurched to help me position my heavy limbs. I vividly remember being wheeled into recovery after the doctor had explained the procedure had been successful.
I wasn’t allowed to leave the recovery room until I had peed, so the nurses set me up with crackers and sweet bikkies as well as cups of tea with lots of sugar, plus a heat pack to put on my cramping stomach. They chatted idly about their weekend plans and bank shifts while I waited to feel everything that I was supposed to feel at that pivotal moment. All I could think about was how good the tea tasted. The loud East London woman was wheeled in after me and before long she was on the phone again, this time in sobs and wails. I felt for her. I think her physical pain must have been fairly severe because she asked for extra meds. Not to mention the obviously traumatic associations that come with terminating a pregnancy.
I was finally released from aftercare despite the fact I hadn’t managed to pee. I allowed myself to call an Uber even though money was tight. I felt strangely empty which was a welcomed feeling. It was over. I was so relieved. I lay on the same fold out couch post shower and nursed my now cramping belly. I didn’t feel sad or traumatised. I felt grateful for such a positive experience. It had been beautiful the way I had been cared for. I had felt less alone throughout this experience than I would feel in future romantic relationships.
I’ve thought about the following sentence a lot. About the choices parents make for their children on a daily basis. And whilst it may seem harsh and extremely unpopular opinion, my decision not to have this child was not only in my best interest, but it was also the best decision for my child too. As a mother, for those seven weeks, I made the safest, healthiest and sanest choice I could under the circumstances. Not that I need to justify it to anyone, but I was not in the emotional, financial, geographical or legal position to provide the all encompassing love I one day want to assign to another human being under my exclusive care.
I think the only part of it that felt sad was that I wasn’t able to talk about it. And seemingly when I did, it was met with shock or disdain or awkward reticence of people who didn’t quite know how to react or respond. I don’t regret my decision. I don’t feel guilty about it and I don’t wonder or feel sad about what could have been. If anything, it has reiterated the kind of man I’d like to have a baby with one day, and the kind of person I want and need to develop into to have the capacity to ensure I could be the Mum I wanted to be for my kid.
So Dear Cassie, I get you. I dreamed about it for a minute too.
*oh did you think you were so powerful? You cannot kill a spirit.*