During my pregnancy I saw at least eight different healthcare professionals over dozens of appointments, mostly relating to my mental health and the dramatic downward spiral that becoming unexpectedly pregnant had caused it to take.
Every healthcare professional I saw had his or her own method of trying to convince me that once my baby was born, my life would take on new meaning and all the difficulties of pregnancy would pale into insignificance. Some of them simply told me that everything would be fine, while others tried to help me arrive at that conclusion myself by giving me evidence of my own abilities to cope with being a parent.
For the most part, I can’t remember a lot of what was said to me, having mentally filed the conversations (and my pregnancy as a whole) away under ‘Things I’d Rather Forget.’ However, there’s one specific appointment that stands out for me, where the doctor told me a story about another patient that her father (also a doctor) had seen when she was a child. This doctor began the story by telling me to ‘make what I would’ of it but to try and remember her words on the days that were the most difficult.
The patient (like me) had found herself unexpectedly pregnant and had found this new and unplanned direction that her life had taken very difficult to deal with. Initially she had been unsure as to whether she even wanted to continue with the pregnancy (again, like me) but did decide against having a termination.
Even though she had made the decision to keep the baby, it didn’t make being pregnant any easier for her, and she continued to struggle, wondering if she’d made the right decision. The doctor continued to support her and her husband throughout the pregnancy and, once the baby was born, would see this now family of three out and about in the village where they and the doctor lived.
One day the doctor and his daughter (my doctor) went on a trip to the beach and happened to see the family walking along the sand. The mother and father were each holding a hand of the now-toddler and swinging him between them while the little boy laughed and smiled. The doctor didn’t approach the family or try and attract their attention, instead watching them with a smile on his face. He told his daughter how the mother had struggled and how she had been unable to see anything positive about being pregnant, but that despite all the difficulties and misgivings, they were now a beautiful, happy family.
I listened to this story and did my best to force my slow, tired brain to actually process what the doctor was trying to tell me, but the only coherent thought I could dredge up was that being a parent was never going to make me happy. I couldn’t see how a baby would make me smile or laugh, and I truly believed that everyone would look back at my pregnancy and wonder how on earth they thought that everything would work out for us.
The Northern One and I had made the decision to continue with the pregnancy, but in all honesty, that was mostly because I didn’t think I could go through with having a termination as opposed to actually wanting to be pregnant. I couldn’t see how I would cope with being a parent, and my visions of the future were filled with screaming babies, endless sleep deprivation and continually having to make sacrifices that I wasn’t ready to make.
I hadn’t really thought about the story that doctor told me until a few days ago when the Northern One and I took Squidge to the park to play on the swings. It was grey and drizzling, but I watched my wonderful little boy as he shrieked and giggled, tipping his head back and kicking his chubby little legs as the swing went higher and higher. The breeze blew through his hair, turning his little cheeks pink, and he looked like the happiest little boy in the whole world.
As I watched him, I realized something.
I was happy.
When the doctor told me that story I thought it was contrived, sentimental and quite possibly made up for the purposes of trying to convince me that I could be a mum. Now when I think about it, instead of three fictional strangers walking along the beach, I see the Northern One and me each holding one of Squidge’s hands and look of glee on his little face as he jumps and swings between us, splashing in the water and kicking up the sand.
Part of me wishes the doctor could see what I am finally able to, but then if I think about it, she probably already could.