Once I heard about a girl who on leaving prison, decided the best way to turn her life around was to find a man and have a child. It became a running joke with my friend. Then I had a baby and turned my life around.
By the time I swiped on the match that changed my life, I had been on and off Tinder for several years. While looking for potential mates I ended up with some genuine friendships. I had some lovely dates and some not-so-lovely dates.
This guy seemed normal enough. He was younger than me, a tradie, into classic cars and loved that I did retro pin-up. The conversation was interesting enough. Weeks of messaging led to drinks, above average sex and the agreement that we’d do it again.
Then things got weird. Plans were cancelled, changed or discarded without explanation. I was often left hanging and unsatisfied. A quick check on Facebook confirmed my suspicions. Tinderboy had a girlfriend. No wonder he would only communicate on Snapchat. Feeling disgusted I ended it.
Listen: If you’ve ever been on the dating scene, you’ve probably been stashed. Jessie Stephens explains the trend, on Mamamia Out Loud. (Post continues.)
Shortly after, I got the news that Mum had been diagnosed with cancer. I was devastated. Three years before Dad had died, also from cancer.
At 33 life was not what I had hoped for. Completely lost, I reached out to Tinderboy. He asked if I minded if he had a girlfriend. As far as I was concerned that was his issue to work out. In my mind, it was every man for themselves. I just wanted a distraction from the emotional pain I felt. Two months later I was pregnant.
I took the test one afternoon after work. It was hard to concentrate, I kept rereading the instructions certain I made a mistake. I was 33, single and pregnant to a guy who had a girlfriend. This was not how it was supposed to happen. I was so numb, there wasn’t sadness, joy or any other emotions. Just the knowledge that I had to do something. I sent a message to my friends, a photo of the positive test. I called my doctor friend to ask advice. Sitting on the floor I began weighing up my options.
Even though it takes two to tango this was a decision, I needed to make on my own. I was on the Pill and knew the failure statistics, not once thinking I would be one of the ones that fell outside the norm. I was in shock.
It took three days for me to tell Tinderboy via Snapchat. That’s what our ‘relationship’ had been reduced to. I captioned the positive pregnancy test with "let me know when you can talk". The messages flooded my phone.
"We can’t do this."
"We need to terminate."
"Are you sure?"
All I wanted was to meet up to talk. I didn’t feel comfortable discussing such a huge matter over a social media app. He kept pushing the "we", tried to tell me what "we" should do. I didn’t see a "we", I saw two independent adults who had consented to sex but not to parenthood. Disregarding my request to meet up, Tinderboy continued to relentlessly push for a termination. I already felt alone in the situation, his unwillingness to regard my feelings reinforced the isolation.
The previous year I had given up on the idea of being a mum. Abortion didn’t feel like something I could do. Especially since I had always wanted to be a mother. The next conversation I initiated was asking whether he wanted to be involved. Either be on the birth certificate or disappear. Sadly but not surprisingly he disappeared. I didn’t chase him. Tinderboy had consented to having sex with me, not to being a parent. Just because I had decided to become a mother, I wasn’t forcing fatherhood on him.
I gave birth in July 2017 to a beautiful girl. I chose a name that means ‘light’.
When I told a friend’s mother that I was pregnant, her response was that it was wonderful because it meant that I now had a future. As old-fashioned as that is, it’s also very true for me. Some people find purpose in life without children. For me, before I had my girl I was clutching at straws. Afterwards, I finally graduated uni. I enrolled in my masters. I’m budgeting, meal planning and abstaining from alcohol.
I no longer believe that it’s every man for themselves. We’re all in this together. My aim is to be kinder, an all-round better human with the hope that the world will be a better place for my girl.
As for the girl at the start, she had a baby. She’s on the straight and narrow with her new partner and their rowdy little toddler. Nothing transforms your life like having a child.
This post originally appeared on Catrina's blog Haus of Treen. You can read the original post here. Catrina also shared her story on SBS's Insight episode on unplanned pregnancies, which can be viewed on SBS On Demand.