We didn’t see each other for a long time after that. After a month or two, I heard that he’d started dating one of my friends. I was hurt. Not because I wanted him for myself, but because he seemed to be carrying on with his life as if nothing had happened. As if he didn’t have a child coming into the world, one who would need his love and care and protection. As if the tiny baby I already loved so fiercely didn’t exist. I was also hurt because I seemed to be the last to know. Everybody else had known for ages and had hidden it from me, maybe to keep me from getting upset. I felt very alone when I found out, as if I’d been left behind while everyone else moved on, relieved that I wasn’t their problem anymore.
David dating his new girlfriend really threw me. It came at a time that I’d just begun to find my feet again. As the second trimester approached, my body and my mind began to return to normal and I was becoming less unpredictably emotional. I was now looking to the future and I could see it wouldn’t be so bad. But faced with a new emotional upheaval, I lost myself for a little while, there. The strain of not fitting in with anybody anymore overtook me. I might have been depressed, actually. I’d be fine at home, but as soon as I walked onto the school grounds, I’d turn morose, bitchy or tearful. Sometimes all at once.
I remember having a photo taken on the night of the Grade Nine dance. I must have been about twelve weeks then. We were all dressed up, the girls in beautiful dresses and the boys in suits. It was a big night for most of us, and I’d been looking forward to it for a long time. But it was terrible. The difference between me and them had never been clearer. I wandered around alone most of the time, biting the head off anyone who dared speak to me. I shouldn’t have gone at all. I should have stayed at home and repacked my baby clothes instead. That always made me feel better.
When I saw the photo later, I was shocked. All the others looked so happy, so full of enthusiasm and promise. I just looked miserable, like a girl who had nothing good in her life, one who couldn’t see anything good in the future, either.
I didn’t want to be that person. After the dance, I tried hard to be positive at school. I tried not to take offence at people’s unthinking, insensitive comments. I tried to tell myself it was almost over – just a couple of months, then I’d be free. I’d be able to leave all that behind and get on with my real life.
I first felt my baby kick as I wrote my final Science exam. I sat in the exam room trying to remember the difference between a pipette and a burette, when I felt a funny little butterfly-twinge kind of flutter in my stomach. I dropped my pencil.
Could it be? Nah – surely not. Is that how it’s supposed to feel? I don’t know… but that felt strange. I sat still for ages, hoping it would come again, and just as I’d decided it was my gristly Cornish pasty coming back to haunt me, I felt it again.
This time, there was no mistaking it. My little baby was kicking. He was kicking!
The happiness I felt – well, you can’t really describe it. Feeling that kick meant so many things. It meant he was healthy and on schedule. It meant this was all real. And I think he was telling me to hold on. He wanted me to know this horrible school ordeal was almost over, and then we’d be together.
I couldn’t concentrate properly on the exam after that, but I did okay. I now had a little angel looking out for me. My job was to look after him, and that meant not giving in to despondency or loneliness.
I was ready.
The end of that school year was one of the happiest days of my life. I walked out of the gates on the last day and never looked back, not even once. I didn’t see much of my friends over summer, but that was okay. I was just happy to be home with my family, preparing my study routine, finding my way around my new life and making a place in the world for my baby. I suspect I may have been all glowy. Fat, but glowy. Unable to get up out of armchairs on my own, but quite radiant.
I spent hours packing and rearranging baby clothes, trying to imagine the person who’d soon be wearing them. I couldn’t picture what he would look like and my image of him changed every day. Sometimes I thought he was a girl, sometimes I was convinced he was a boy, sometimes with blonde hair, sometimes brown. I dreamed of him too, but I could never see his face properly. The only thing I was sure of was that his eyes would be blue. And they were. If it was a boy, his name would be Ethan. If it was a girl, it would be Britney. Yes, yes, may the God of Ridiculous, Skanky Names strike me down where I stand. Ethan is acceptable, but dear Lord, I confess there will never be any excuse for Britney. In my defence, Britney Spears had not yet been invented – at least there’s that.
Most of my baby things were second-hand, given to me by friends of aunts and aunts of friends, some of whom I’d never even met. I was surprised by how many people were willing to help, I suspect because they felt sorry for me. That bugged me, because I certainly didn’t feel I needed to be pitied. However, since beggars cannot be choosers, if there was free stuff in it for me, I’d make the effort to look a little tragic. A single, silent tear, a bravely quivering lip, a well-timed shoulder-heaving sigh here and there… People like that sort of thing. It’s expected. Just joking!