by CAITLIN RITTER
Reality for me came in the form of a bulk-billing doctor smearing gel on my belly and then hearing a healthy little heart pump-pump-pumping away in there – a sound which to me was my death-bell.
I was offered no words of comfort as I lay there with silent tears rolling down my cheeks. I was offered no words of wisdom as that doctor told me I was measuring at 28 weeks. There was only a stern admonition that I would have to proceed with the pregnancy.
A moment that would have been joyous for so many couples, yet all I could feel was horror. What had I done to deserve to have this thing, this parasite inside of me, one that would eventually leave my body but would always be the anchor tied to my feet?
“It isn’t fair!”
It’s the catch-cry of a three-year-old but here I was, almost 21 and it was all I could do to stop crying long enough to go about basic tasks. It was the overwhelming unfairness of it all that really got me. I had been using protection, I had tried to do the right thing. And now I was stuck in a life I wouldn’t have chosen for myself or a child in a million years. With what felt like next to nothing at my disposal, I was in no position to be a mother.
I couldn’t even begin to describe the week I found out, I think I was in total shut down at that point. All I knew at the time was that there was no way I was keeping this baby – let someone who really wants and deserves a child take it.
More intimidating than the thought of actually having a baby was the mechanics of organising everything first. There was no way I was going back to that doctor – I didn’t need his judgement, I was judging myself enough for the both of us. With the help of my amazing family, I got the ball rolling – appointments were made at Family Planning Queensland, who were wonderful in every way, from ordinary things like checking the baby’s health to the best of their ability, right through to offering nothing but information when I said I wanted to put the baby up for adoption. They also helped me cope with the guilt I was carrying. For the past 28 weeks I had been living life as a 20-year-old, hitting up clubs, boys and many a vodka mixer.
I went for a dating, health and well-being scan at what we thought to be around 30 weeks. It was made clear that at this late stage allowances had to be made for genetics and outside influences (like the alcohol and being on the pill for the first 7 months of pregnancy) and the scan could be out by as much as a few weeks. They put me back to about 28 weeks and said that as far as they could tell I had a perfectly healthy little person getting ready to wiggle their way out of me.
I’d been doing a lot of thinking, along with the support of my wonderful sister, who made me realise that a gaining a child only equalled the loss of my dreams and friends if I let it, and I made possibly the most difficult decision of my life so far – to keep this baby, and everything that entailed.
About three months later, three months that seemed to go so slowly but not quite slowly enough for me to get my ever-growing ‘to do’ list completed, I found myself in hospital holding a perfect little boy and not regretting my decision for a second.
Now four weeks into my new role as ‘mummy’ (and still calling myself ‘Aunty Cait’) I find myself reeling a little from the complete and abrupt change in my life. I’m facing challenges I never pictured facing alone and struggling to balance uni work with baby-time (a screaming red face always seems to win over the distant sense of impending failure – and sometimes bub cries as well).
I’m learning a lot at the moment. I’ve learned that it is possible to survive without sleep, but that it’s by no means desirable. I’ve learned that running over strangers in the city with my pram is a good way to vent the frustrations of a hard day. I’ve learned that almost everything is able to be done one-handed, and if it’s not, it’s probably not a crucial task.
I’ve also learned that you always have to be ready for action, because you never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball, or a baby.
*To clarify how I hadn’t realised I was pregnant (that’s always the first thing people ask), I’d been skipping periods with the pill, hadn’t had any sickness and didn’t start showing until I was 32 weeks along.
Caitlin Ritter is a Journalism student at QUT in Brisbane.