The Times I Was Almost a Mother
by Amber Aspinall
Whenever an adult asked me if I wanted kids, I said I didn't know. I thought it was a ridiculous question to ask a child. But one day, after another round of abuse from the terrible team of my mother and grandmother, I wanted a baby. I realised that I had no family. My mother had always been terrible, but after my grandfather's death, my grandmother became unrecognisable. She had lost half her body weight through the stress of his illness, and with it, the happy family facade she had managed to keep up during my childhood. The cheery, cuddly nan was dead to me, and her ghost could only be seen by those on the outside.
I wanted someone who I could love who would really, truly love me back. Maybe not even a real baby. Maybe one of those animatronic dolls that you sometimes get given in school to prevent teenage pregnancy or whatever. Something that needed me. Someone.
I had a few friends, but none of them close. My home situation had only worsened as I got older and my mother feared any independence that I might try to grab hold of. Desperate for any sense of being wanted, I fell into an abusive relationship. I was raped two weeks in, though I wouldn't admit to myself for some time that that was what happened. One day whilst at college, I went to shut a window, complaining that a smell from outside was making me feel sick.
"You're not pregnant, are you?" an acquaintance joked. She was the same person who had commented on how creepy and possessive my boyfriend seemed. She was right about him.
"You're didn't say no - are you pregnant?"
The possibility kicked me in the chest. I had been feeling a little strange recently.
"I don't know." I said.
She told me about how she had become pregnant at 16 and had an abortion. I wanted to know what it was like. We talked about what I was going to do. My friends, who had been in on the conversation, wanted to take me to the college nurse, but it was too early to take a test. I can't remember how it happened, but I told my mother when I got home about my concern. I had only had my first kiss four months prior, and she knew that I preferred girls. She didn't ask for details about how it happened, and I didn't offer them. I was told I was
stupid and a plan was made to buy pregnancy tests as soon as the week was over.
The day came to go into town to make the purchase. I took an iron supplement after breakfast, asking aloud about whether it was OK to take if you were pregnant.
"Well you wouldn't be keeping it, would you, so it doesn't matter."
My mother had already made that decision for me.
I had terror ringing through me all morning. I was convinced that I was pregnant. Despite everything, I thought about "my baby". The thought of not having him or her terrified me almost as much.
In typical fashion, my mother drew out our trip before I could get the tests, insisting we first get lunch and she try on clothes. Advertisements for baby products seemed to be everywhere, looking at me and asking me if I was ready. I said how scared I was. I was told there was no point in being scared now.
I took the test the next morning, with a full bladder as instructed. With the stick in a cup of my pee, my mother crouched over it as I sat on the toilet. After the three-minute wait, she took it out.
"Not pregnant," she said, matter of fact. "Good."
My heart dropped as she took the stick out to throw it away. I thought back to the words of the girl in class, how she'd told me "talk to him, it makes it easier".
I texted him. We weren't together anymore - he had suggested an "open relationship" after I said I might be pregnant. I said that even though I had been scared to death, I was also kind of sad. He messaged back to say that it was probably just from the break up. It most definitely wasn't. I hated that fucking bastard.
There was no way I could admit to anyone else that part of me desperately hoped for a baby. I had to keep on smiling and pass on the good news to my friends.
I had gone a few years without thinking too much of babies. Then my wife's younger sister got pregnant. I was the first person to see the first scan. My wife and I knew that her sister and her boyfriend would struggle. The baby, a girl, wasn’t planned, and whilst we got on with her parents, we knew that they weren’t suddenly going to become responsible. However, they made the decision to have her, and so we hoped that they would try their best.
My sister-in-law became severely depressed not long after the baby was born, and with her boyfriend providing little help, the baby came to us when she was 3 weeks old, still tiny and utterly dependent. The first night that I held her against my chest, my head resting gently on hers, I felt that she was intrinsically part of me. I had found serenity, and it belonged in this little girl. We took to looking after her like ducks to water. By day three, in my mind – as much as I tried to fight it – with her own mother professing to not want her, she was firmly mine.
Friends and family came to see us every day that she was with us. It was a whirlwind, hectic time, but love came at the baby girl from all sides, and I helped to pour it into her as she relied on me throughout each day. When we were brought brand new, beautiful clothes for her by my wife’s family, I secretly took this as a sign that she had been accepted as being ours. It was talked about, that we might adopt her. I said over and over again, “I would take her in a heartbeat”. I didn’t know if that was even quick enough.
She was taken from us, then given back again. This went on for a while, becoming more and more painful each time. She was simultaneously all mine, and not mine at all. It has now reached a relatively stable point, and I barely see her at all. This, I can cope with. It’s when I see her and how wonderful she is, and in contrast to her wonder, how much she is neglected that hurts me. I know that I could give her the life she deserves and needs, and yet I have no say in it, even though I was responsible for her first smile, her first laugh.
Amber Aspinall is a 23-year-old Creative Writing student from Kent, England. She believes that pain and comfort should be given equal attention, never forgetting either of them.