There are few winners in the game of accidental pregnancy. According to Marie Stopes International, as many as half of pregnancies in Australia are unplanned. Of these, around twenty per cent end in miscarriage.
And like anything, they’re just numbers until you’re staring right at them. Our first reaction to the positive test was to burst into laughter. Maybe it was shock, or maybe we were just jerks like that. And then the crying started. Victoria Falls poured forth from my face.
The relationship was green, to say the least. I was fresh out of a marriage and had two tiny children to love and protect. He was fresh out of his mother’s womb. We lived in different worlds. Worlds where I had children and he didn’t. Ever.
At first, we talked like adults. We both knew what the options were and we flopped them all onto the table and moved them around a bit, humming and hawing. The years I had spent purporting my right to choose shouted in my ear, but I had, against all rationality, already attached myself firmly to a bunch of cells.
“I don’t want to have an abortion,” I said. “I don’t want to have a child,” he said. We stared at each other for a few minutes before trying again: “I don’t want to have an abortion.” “I don’t want to have a child.”
I found the process increasingly frustrating and tried using a louder voice: “I don’t want to have an abortion.”
“I don’t want to have a child.”
I wondered if changing the emphasis could change his response: “I don’t want to have an abortion.”
“I don’t want to have a child.”
For weeks afterward, we spent our time glaring at each other. I said things like, “I made you this lasagne,” but what I meant was, “I hope you fall in a sinkhole, you masochist.” He said things like, “Do you want to see a movie?” but what he meant was, “If you force fatherhood upon me I will call up the very fires of hell to inflict oceans of pain upon you.”
Sometimes I invited him over just so he could see how good I was at frowning. Often he wouldn’t glance up from his laptop.
It was a stalemate of truly epic proportions. Every time we spoke it was with an acrid tongue. Every day I came up with compelling new reasons not to abort the pregnancy. Every night I cried until I was too exhausted to stay awake another moment. Every morning waves of nausea reminded me to fight the good fight.
In late October we sat in his garden, in a brief moment of civility. “What do you want for your birthday?” he asked. I started to say ‘a baby’, but I saw the dark circles under his eyes and stopped. The life had drained from his body. We were both exhausted. I couldn’t remember if I’d been to work. Did we even eat anymore? What day was it?
“A holiday,” I said instead.
It was unseasonably cold at Phillip Island. He had booked a gorgeous apartment overlooking the water, and when the rain started to come in under our balcony we breathed its freshness until the colour came back into our faces. We drove out to The Nobbies and ten thousand seagulls dive bombed us in the cool afternoon. We stood at the edge of the world and wrapped ourselves around each other. Eventually, we laughed.
In the cover of darkness he slipped out for a walk, but came back with treasure.
“I told the kitchen you were pregnant and couldn’t go on without this chocolate mousse.”
That night he slept with his hand resting on my belly.
I felt the cramping start in the car as we drove home. “I need a toilet break,” I said, and found an angry red artwork in my undies.
It doesn’t mean anything. People bleed all the time.
Two days later, the pain started. “I think we should go to the hospital.” My uterus twisted and burned.
The ultrasound tech was very nice. She smiled and made light conversation as she went about her business. She took measurements and pointed at blurry white noise. But nothing on the screen moved or flickered. He knew; he took my hand and squeezed it until my fingernails popped right off. The room began to feel very small.
“I’m sorry,” she said, and I couldn’t hear her through the wave of tears but I saw her mouth moving: “your baby has died.” I felt his body shaking, a sort of hysterical laughter at the cruelest kind of joke.
After that, there was nothing to fight for. We barely looked at each other. He told me I cried in my sleep. I told him I had a dead baby in me, so it was probably fair enough.
A week later I miscarried in a friend’s bathroom. It was over. I didn’t have an abortion, and he didn’t have a child. We had both won.