“Mum, I’m pregnant”, something in my gut suddenly dropped heavily, leaving behind a hollow, sickening feeling of unreality. The words no mother wants to hear from her fifteen year old daughter. After having four much loved boys, our daughter Bethany meant so much to us; we had so many hopes for her future, as she was a bright, funny, cheerful girl, artistic and confident “But I want to get rid of it”.
My mind came back to what she was saying. Barely able to hold onto the rage that was beginning to boil inside of me, I asked if she was sure she really was pregnant. She replied yes, and lifted up her loose fitting sweatshirt. There was no doubting, she was well into her pregnancy.
I was horrified! How could I have not seen this before? Her behaviour had not altered, she went to school, came home when she was supposed to, went to her friend’s house along the road as usual, nothing seemed out of the ordinary to me. She was always in the habit of wearing baggy clothes, so it was easy for her to hide the pregnancy.
“We’ll need to go to see the doctor”, I said, my head in my hands, “and she can make the arrangements with the clinic. I don’t suppose we will be able to keep this quiet from your headmistress; you need time off school”.
“They already know”, she said.
“What?” I asked stupidly, trying to control the churning in my stomach that was threatening to find it’s way up.
“My headmistress already knows because I was sent to her when I couldn’t do P.E., it was too uncomfortable”.
“When was that?” I asked.
“Quite a few weeks ago”, she replied “she told me to tell you”.
“And why didn’t you? “ I demanded, my voice rising with disbelief.
“I was afraid to; I didn’t know what you would say”.
“So why now?” my knuckles went white I was gripping the back of the chair so hard.
“Because she said if I didn’t tell you myself tonight, she would tomorrow”.
What was I going to do? Her dad and I had divorced some years previously, and he had remarried and was living in some distance away with his new wife and family. I knew he would leave any decisions to me.
I was at the beginning of a new relationship and there was a possibility that we were going to move abroad once Bethany was through college and settled in a job. Our tickets were booked to start looking in Europe in a few weeks.
I had misgivings about how my family would react. I knew they loved and cared about me, but I wasn’t sure if their understanding of situations outside the usual would be sufficient to deal with this scenario. I really did not know how they would react. I understood what Bethany meant when she said she was too scared to tell me, I was too scared to tell my family!
What would they think? That I had failed as a mother? That thought had crossed my mind. That Bethany was promiscuous? I knew that wasn’t true. I knew when she lost her virginity, I told her that if she thought she was responsible enough to have that kind of relationship, then she should be responsible enough about the possible outcome and see the doctor about going on the pill. I didn’t want her to be sexually active, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop her if that was what she had in mind.
I knew that Bethany felt very deeply for the young man responsible, though I wasn’t sure that he felt quite the same way, but to her at fifteen, it was very real. I don’t know if she ever did go to the doctor, or whether she continued the physical side without precautions, either way, pregnant she was and I couldn’t handle it.
We spent an uneasy evening, not meeting the others eyes, just being polite. My mind was in turmoil. “Pregnant”, it wouldn’t sink in. “Pregnant”, it’s just a word, my mind said. It had no meaning for me, as I was struggling to make sense of it. I thought it a problem, yes, but one that could be dealt with and then we could get back to the way we were.
The next day I made an appointment with our doctor and on the way to the surgery, called in at the school to talk to the headmistress. That she was not impressed was very evident in her manner, and was of the opinion that an abortion was the only answer for Bethany. She said there was no-one less ready to be a parent. Bethany, she said was far too immature and irresponsible.
These sentiments were echoed by Bethany’s social worker, who had been working with her for some months, the result of Bethany trying to deal with another unrelated situation.
So when we found ourselves in the doctors’ surgery, I felt sure that the decision I had made was the right one. After all, two professional people had advised it.
The doctor took Bethany into another room to examine her, but wouldn’t let me accompany her. She came back and said that Bethany was twenty two weeks pregnant; the legal limit for abortion was twenty four weeks. I asked her to make the necessary arrangements but she didn’t like the idea because she said, “what about the rights of the baby?”
Well I come from the time when there were no scans, no sexing the baby, you discovered you were pregnant and nine months later you had a baby. What happened inside you during that time was a complete mystery. My mind was screaming, “THERE IS NO BABY!”
I was in denial.