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Drama Creative Nonfiction Sad

This story contains sensitive content

Content warning: pregnancy/pro choice

Perched on the edge of a public toilet seat, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. And no, it wasn’t the ridiculous messaging on the walls around me.

“Things I hate: 1. Vandalism, 2. Irony, 3. Lists.” 

Hardy har har, as if that one hasn’t been done before. 

Or, “Whoa, that’s a lot of corn!” Gross. Or my personal favourite, “I love your Crocs - Nobody.”

If only it were a silly little scrawl from someone with way too much time on their hands that had given me such a shock. But no, it wasn’t. It was the end of my life as I knew it.

My shaking hand put the test it had been holding on the cover of the toilet roll holder and grabbed the box it had come in. Fumbling around, I finally found the small crumpled instruction page that I’d discarded in the box and unraveled it. 

As I read each instruction I nodded, ‘yes, I did that, and that, and that’, almost disappointed that I hadn’t done something wrong. But there was no way around it, I had done everything right - the only thing wrong was the answer it gave me.

Pregnant.

Seeing that word in association with my life was something I’d hoped would never happen and in fact, had been told would likely never happen. I thought I was destined to be child-free and live a life of selfish bliss forever. I WANTED to be child-free and live a life of selfish bliss forever. Goddamn this test.

With my heart racing and heat rushing to my head, I pulled my phone from my back pocket and dialed the free call number on the side of the box under the words: ‘Product Queries or Complaints’. 

“Hello, CrystalView Testing Products, how may I assist you today.”

“Hi, um… I’m just calling because I used one of your pregnancy tests and I have a question,” I asked, my voice quivering, knowing I was being irrational.

“Sure!” The bright and chirpy voiced customer service assistant responded, “What’s your question?”

“Yeah uh… how often are these things faulty?”

The silence was deafening, although I could almost hear the assistant’s eyebrows form a frown as she pondered my question.

“Faulty?” She asked, clearly stumped by my question. Surely people ask this all the time, right?

“Yeah, like, broken. Wrong. False. You know, faulty.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but these tests are 97% to 99% accurate,” she responded, and the tiny room blurred as my phone fell to the cold concrete floor.

“Ma’am? Are you still there?”

I could hear her distant polite, happy little voice and for a moment I felt guilty for not responding. But then I remembered what her test had told me, and the odds of it being wrong and I slumped back on the seat, closed my eyes, and cried.

After a while, she hung up. I wondered if she’d call the police to do some sort of trace or something, but when no one else entered the public bathroom for what must have been 10 minutes, I guessed she hadn’t. Maybe she gets this kind of reaction all the time.

The backs of my knees had been pressed against the rim of the seat and I felt them starting to tingle with pins and needles so I knew it was time to move. I stood up slowly, grabbed the test and its package, picked my phone up from the floor, threw it in my bag, and left the cubicle. 

I saw my reflection in the crappy polished stainless steel ‘mirror’ installed in the bathroom. I looked like a sad clown in a warped carnival room of mirrors and laughed a little too crazily when I realised my ‘waterproof’ mascara was running. Typical.

Maybe you’re feeling sorry for me. Maybe you think I’m a teenager with an unplanned unwanted pregnancy, or the victim of a sexual assault, or that I’d cheated on my husband or something equally as miserable. Well I’m not and I didn’t, so don’t.

My husband and I have been together for 10 years. We are very much in love, we have a great relationship and he is my best friend. Our life together is stable, we have a nice home, secure jobs, and supportive family members. 

I can’t even count the number of times people have told us we’d make great parents or asked us when we’re starting a family and they’re shocked when we tell them we don’t want kids. 

They’d say “but why you’d be so much fun! It’s such a shame when people like you don’t want kids.”

It is? Not a shame for the people who get to live child-free though. We get to travel, eat when what and where we want to, watch what we want on TV, work whatever hours we need, buy fun stuff and all the rest of it. It’s not that much of a shame really.

But all these things are dead to me now. I’m doomed. Destined for a life of nappies and vomit and snotty noses and stained carpets. I’m devastated.

The tap at the basin was one of those annoying push button ones, so I slapped it with all my might and it paid me back by splashing high-powered cold water all over my shirt. Good one, tap. Pushing it gently a second time, I cupped my hands and caught the cool liquid, and lowered my face down into it, holding my breath until I couldn’t hold it anymore. I did this a couple more times and it brought me out of the surreal place I’d been in since I’d seen the test.

I felt the cool autumn air on my face as I walked out the door of the public facilities,  and I made a decision. 

I would go to my family doctor and take one of their tests. Because I figure between 1% and 3% of tests are still faulty, right? So I need to have another test to be sure, to be really really sure. Because if this was where life was taking me, I had a very real decision to make - one that was truly life or death, freedom or slavery, to be or not to be, and I would need to make it soon.

“I’m guessing congratulations isn’t what you want to hear right now?” The practice nurse said as she looked at my face after telling me the result.

I didn’t answer, I just sat there on the 1970s upholstered hardback chair and gazed at, or maybe through her. 

“Listen, hun, this may be a shock to you now, but you will come to terms with it, and we will help you through it, okay? You’re not alone.”

I knew I wasn’t alone. Peter was at home and deep down I knew he’d be there for me no matter what. But he’d never wanted kids either. In fact, when I asked him last night when I’d last had my period, I could see the worry in his eyes and he’d urged me to get a test as soon as I could.

“You are not alone,” the kindly nurse repeated. “When you are ready, make an appointment to come see Annie and she will help you through the next steps of finding a midwife, and preparing your body and your home for your baby.”

“What?” I snapped. “Don’t I have options?!”

The nurse swayed back on her Hush Puppies startled by my question.

“Of course you do, love,” she said quietly and calmly. “You have options, and Annie can talk you through those as well.” 

I felt bad for jumping down her throat, but doesn’t she know that not every pregnancy is to be celebrated?

“I’m sorry,” I muttered, excusing myself and walking out of the room.

Sitting in the car after this second positive pregnancy test, I felt numb, and then the guilt set in.

What kind of person could immediately contemplate terminating their pregnancy? How could this possibly be an instinctive reaction to finding out the love of my life and I were destined to be parents? Damn, I was a piece of shit.

I cried so hard, preempting the loss of a child I hadn’t yet met and hadn’t even wanted and I was surprised at how overwhelming the feeling of sadness was. It was suffocating. For a moment I thought my heart would stop. For a second I hoped it would. 

I couldn’t deal with this alone, so I called Peter.

“I’m pregnant.”

Silence.

“Are you there? I said I’m pregnant.”

“You’re kidding right?” He said, with a slightly nervous chuckle.

“No. I’ve just had two pregnancy tests and they both say positive.”

Silence.

“I’m sorry,” I said, and the tears flowed freely. Not as stifling as they were, just part of who I was today.

“It’s not your fault,” he said gently.

“I can’t believe that after 10 years of not using birth control, we got pregnant. And those bloody doctors saying that it was so unlikely I could have kids with endometriosis.”

“Unlikely,” he said. “They never said you definitely couldn’t.”

We spoke for a few more minutes not actually even talking about the pregnancy, but just killing time talking about work, how busy we were, and how many people I saw in town that I knew. Then, we hung up and for the first time in a decade, neither of us told the other that we loved them.

The next couple of days were a blur of circled discussion, tears, mourning, and distraction. We didn’t make any decisions or even mull over scenarios. 

Peter was one in a million, a real man’s man but at the same time, a softie with a pure heart of gold and the most honest person I’d ever met. Not long after our first bit of time together in 2005, I told him that while I didn’t really believe in soul mates, if there was such a thing, he’d be mine. He didn’t answer because at the time he didn’t feel the same way, and that was fine because it was the truth. 

There have been a few hurtful truths told to me over the years by Peter. He never means to be hurtful, but can’t bring himself to tell a lie, he is too sincere.

That’s why, when he said “We can make it work if you want to,” I knew that if we decided to have the baby, he would give us all of his support.

One of the things that will always make me feel at peace, is a warm, deep bubble bath complete with candles and music and this is what I did on the night I made my decision.

I cried softly as Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins sang about happiness and wanting something new but not knowing what to do. Sinking deeper into the bath, my tears dropped silently into the peony scented bubbles.

Tentatively, I touched my stomach with one hand first, then the other. I couldn’t feel anything different, not yet, it was far too early. But I knew there was something in there and at that moment I spoke to my baby for the first time.

“You’re part of me. You’re part of us. And you are meant to be. I will love you, little one. We will love you, forever.”

Our son turned 10 years old this week and while things have changed considerably, we have held on to the things we love, while merging our child into our lives. Now my selfish traits are a blessing and continuing to do the things I love make me a happier parent.

I still have moments of wishing I had never fallen pregnant. But I did, and I’ll never regret the choice we made for our child: to be.

March 30, 2022 00:07

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4 comments

Riel Rosehill
13:11 Apr 09, 2022

Hey Layla! I see this is creative nonfiction, so I really appreciate you posting this. I loved the last sentence... literally gave me goosebumps. And let me just say I can relate so much - though thankfully I have not ecountered a positive test as of yet. But I'm just the same: not planning/wanting kids, my boyfriend doesn't either, and I am glad because with the undiagnosed edometriosis or similar... I don't think it'd be in the cards anyway. But I know if I found myself in your shoes, I wouldn't know what to do either and would be just as ...

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Layla Robinson
00:46 Apr 11, 2022

Thank you so much for your comment, Riel. It's a tricky subject, I'm glad that you could relate to the story. It's a tough place to be in when you feel that way. I was 35 when I fell pregnant. The story continues and we've got a wonderful human, we're the Three Amigos. I think the key for us was to continue living as before and making the small human fit into OUR lives, we make that work quite well. I envy your childfreeness, do something impulsive for me today! ;-)

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Zack Powell
03:31 Apr 06, 2022

This was a great read, Layla. I love how you started the story, with the humor of the bathroom graffiti, before transporting us into a more serious subject. Gave us a great, slightly sarcastic voice for the narrator right off the bat, and you carried that throughout the remainder of the piece while speaking honestly about a tough topic. I respect it. Big fan of the title of the story and how you integrated it in here, too. Very clever double meaning there. And that last sentence is gorgeous. I'm a fan. Thanks for sharing this one!

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Layla Robinson
00:47 Apr 11, 2022

Thank you so much, Zack. Glad the sarcasm came through, that and humour have saved me on many an occasion. I really appreciate your wonderful praise :-)

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