Two Sides Of The Same Story

Regret.

That is the only word for it. No, that is the dominating word for it. Subconsciously, my hand stroked my stomach as it did a hundred times every day and I wondered if there was a baby growing inside it this month. I couldn't help it. We haven't been trying that long even. I know couples who had tried for years before they finally managed to have a child. I can't imagine what sort of torment that would have put them under. Having made the decision to try and get pregnant, I find myself constantly, impatiently, waiting for it to happen.

Six months have passed.

Still no child.

And all I can wonder is if I have done something wrong. If it's the result of what happened years ago, even though it was all reputable and I was assured there would be no lasting ill-effects. I think it's natural to have doubts.

I had been sixteen and in no state to raise a child on my own. My then-boyfriend, Chris, and I had split up. I had never told him about it. I'd been scared, but I'd really thought we could get together, make a go of it, me, him, and the babe.

It was my mother who persuaded me not to tell him, that the decision was mine. She told me that it was my body, ultimately my responsibility, and that he could walk out at any time. She convinced me that it would be better if he didn't know.

It had been a really hard secret to keep. There were days when I was burning to tell him, to have him look at me with this, admittedly at first stunned expression, but then with a warm, soft, happy look. I had fantasies that he would take me away and we would live together, get a place of our own and he would support us. I imagined doing those La Mars classes, like you see on TV, with him there, holding my hand, learning all he needed to know.

My Mum convinced me it would not work.

I often wonder what the babe would have been like. I had to give him a name, so I chose Sal. Sally if it had been a girl and Salvatore if it had been a boy. They were both names I liked. They had no link to my family, or Chris's, and I wonder if that was because I had known, although it had never been directly said, but I had believed that if I had chosen to keep the child, we would have been on our own. Or perhaps, that was another of my fantasies. A wishful thinking, escapism type fantasy. The sort of thing you have as a child, where TV makes everything seem possible.

In my fantasies, he was a boy. I don't know why. Perhaps that was what he was and my body somehow knew that. I don't know if the Doctor knew, but I never asked, and he never offered the information. I have often wished I'd found out. I regret that I'd never asked.

Perhaps it would have been a mistake. Perhaps naming him had been a mistake.

I thought about him every due date anniversary. I also think about him on the anniversary of the day I'd had my pregnancy terminated.

Regret.

It's the only emotion I can muster on that day.

It destroyed me.

I couldn't seem to mourn Sal, or perhaps I did and I feel as though I've never stopped. In the days up to the event, I had spoken with Mum about it, her persuading me it was the right thing to do, and me knowing I was living in this fake fantasy world where Chris, who was already seeing Sarah, by the way, would make sure it worked out for us. Part of me knew it couldn't work with Chris, but I had hoped. Most of all, I just wish he'd known. That he'd found out somehow and I had been unable to deny it. That he'd wanted the baby to live.

Mum was perfectly sensible. She reminded me of all the things I had to live for in my life - college, University, boyfriends, jobs, life. She told me how much harder it would all be with a child. She convinced me.

So, I had it done.

I went to the clinic one day, came out the same day and had a week or so off PE afterwards. It was done.

I had woken up, and the baby was gone.

I'd felt empty. Hollow.

I had no idea that I could really miss a baby I'd never felt, never held. He'd never even got old enough to kick me.

I missed him so much.

I cried for a long time after that.

Mum tried to comfort me with reassurances that I'd done the right thing, but I didn't need to be reminded that it had been the "right" thing. I needed her to shut up and let me wallow in what I'd lost, let me consider that perhaps it hadn't been the right thing to do, let me allow myself to feel this incredible emptiness. You can't feel loss for losing something when it's right. You feel loss when you've lost something you shouldn't have, and I needed to allow myself to FEEL that.

I needed to know what I'd lost.

In the end, it wasn't just the baby that was gone.

I lost my Mum as well.

I just couldn't look at her anymore. She had been so instrumental in convincing me that she was right, in persuading me to kill Sal. I just couldn't forgive her for it.

It was entirely unfair of me, I know. In truth, even then, with what meager maturity I had, I knew she had been right. I knew it wasn't her fault. I just couldn't accept any of the blame myself.

As insane as it was, I loved him.

Nothing was the same after that and now, it's 15 years later and I'm desperately trying for a baby with this man I have. He's wonderful and he makes me happy. I met him at University and unexpectedly fell in love. I hadn't thought it was possible. It felt as though I could never love again after the crushing pain of losing Sal. But, I did. And I want nothing more than to have a child with him.

I don't know if I'll ever get over Sal, but maybe this new baby will help. It's a lot of expectation to put on a babe and probably I shouldn't do it. But, it's there and I can't seem to make it go away.

God, I hope I get pregnant this month.

~ ~ ~

Regret.

Why hadn't I just got it done? Why did I have to have him?

I see it in all their eyes. Everyone looks at me and thinks I knew. That I should have stopped it. Well, hadn't I known?

Even now, will I finally admit it?

Sal had been a bad seed from the moment he was born. Chris hadn't been there at the birth, but he'd shown up afterwards, took one look at the boy and left. He hadn't even held him. He acted as though he was untouchable. Part of me took affront to that, part of me wondered if there was reasoning behind it. I had always doubted myself. That was when it started. The worry. The doubt. The regret.

Mum helped me raise him in the beginning, but after a while, even she couldn't cope.

I lost her then. I think she blamed me for having him. She had been so certain that it would have been the right decision to get rid of him, but I couldn't see it. He was my flesh and blood. He was mine. I couldn't let that go.

We lived at home for a while until the council put us up in this block of flats. I remember the first day I walked up to them. Things had been so simple at home and I just felt as though this was an exciting new chapter. So, Chris had gone, but I'd coped at home, and now I was going to get to do things my way, without my Mum hovering over me, telling me how I was doing it all wrong.

I hadn't realized how much was needed. I suppose, I hadn't realized how much Mum had done for us, until I'd had to do it all myself.

So, things got missed. Who could expect anything else? How could I raise my child by myself and still have a life? Chris had abandoned me. Even my own mother had buggered off. And now it was all down to me. So, I made my life as good as I could.

You know, I saw it in all of them. I saw how the other mothers looked at me. I could see what they were thinking in their eyes. 'Too young.' 'How will she cope?'

Then, as the years went by, I saw other things in their eyes. 'What a shame.' 'I told you so.' 'It could never have worked.' Well, what did they expect?

Eventually, I saw nothing in their eyes. They just avoided us. Avoided looking at me. Sal had been twelve around that time and the neighbours had already known what he was, what he would become.

I took a deep breath and walked into the courtroom and watched the others take their chairs. Where should I sit? Part of me wanted to sit at the back, to hide away, to be there for my son, but wishing I wasn't. Part of me wanted to sit at the front, to let my son know I supported him. In my heart of hearts though I couldn't, and I would have to live in this community long after he'd been put away. And he would be put away. He had to be. It wasn't the first time he'd lashed out and hurt someone and probably wouldn't be the last.

My heart tells me he just needs some damned anger management programme or something. That he just needs some support.

I fear what my brain is telling me about him. I won't face it. He was a good boy, once. There was a time when he was good, wasn't there? It seems a long time ago.

I took my seat in the middle of the courtroom and waited for him to be brought up from the cells. I suddenly had a need for my Mum to be there, so I had someone to hold my hand, someone who could remind me of all the things I had hoped for him. She wasn't there. She hadn't been there for years.

Sal came up into the dock. Greasy hair, dirty clothes, and his expression fixed in a disrespectful smirk, but I could see the fear behind it. He knew he had done too much this time. He knew he was going away and it tore at my heart. I wanted to tell him to act contrite, to be respectful to the judge and the court. Maybe they wouldn't put him away then. Under those torn jeans, and fierce attitude, I could still see the little boy underneath.

The one I wanted to protect.

The one I had chosen to have.

My Sal.

Maybe I shouldn't have had him. Maybe life would have been better for us all if I hadn't. There is a part of me that regrets having him, if I'm honest. There is a large part of me which admittedly fantasises about how my life could have turned out without him. What a terrible thing for a mother to say.

I did still love him, but I couldn't honestly say that it was borne of anything other than duty. He was my son and always would be. A mother is never free of that burden.

With guilt, I moved to the front of the courtroom. He looked my way once. Then they took him away.

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© Jacqueline Chandler 2010
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