When I was 19, I was engaged to a man I had known for less time than it took the kettle to boil. We lived together in a tiny flat that backed against the train line and had a courtyard just big enough for the pair of metal seats we picked out of hard rubbish and sat on with our knees touching.
I had a job I liked, working in an industry I thought would take years to crack. Every day I kissed my 20-year-old fiancee goodbye and hopped on the train with a newspaper and half a rockmelon and then changed to the bus that went to the beach. At lunch times I sat in the sun and thought things about where I was going in my life.
One day I went to the supermarket on my way home because I could not go another minute without Tim Tams. And as I walked around, I noticed women with huge bellies. Hundreds of them. Maybe six. But it seemed like hundreds. Everyone in the store seemed pregnant. I realised I was two weeks late. I put a test in my basket.
Two lines came up and I hadn’t read the packet but somehow I knew that what it meant anyway. I told my sweet blonde man and he didn’t speak for three hours. When I checked in on him, he stared at the television, which was off, and didn’t blink.
“It will be okay,” I said, but I didn’t know for sure.
The next day I called my mum and told her I was pregnant. She started crying.
“Are you going to fix it?” she said.
“No,” I said. “Definitely not.” I put my hand on my newly discovered baby and hung up on her. She didn’t call me back. For three months.
I went to the GP I had been going to for my teenagehood and told him I had done a couple of pregnancy tests and I was pretty sure I was growing a human. “Oh dear,” he said, and pulled out the form for a referral to the clinic.
“No thank you,” I said, and found a new GP.
Being pregnant made me worried and sad and I had a lot of appointments. “I have to go to the doctor again,” I told my boss, and after four weeks she called me into her office and told me I was no longer required.
“But I’m pregnant,” I said.
“Oh, that’s a shame,” she said. “Are you going to keep it?”
“Obviously,” I said.
My very small baby was born in May, and I had no job, no money, no house and no idea. But I had a daughter, and I knew we were a team.
When I was 26, I had a new boyfriend, an ex-husband, a job I hated and money in the bank. I dragged my feet to work every morning without kissing anyone goodbye, driving my car with the windows up and yelling at other commuters with my middle finger. I sat at a desk in a government building and listened to the jerk next to me say things like, “She has great tits; we should hire her.” Every day I looked for an excuse to leave.
When I got home, my boyfriend would sometimes come around, if he wasn’t too angry or tired or happy or busy or sad. We would sit at opposite ends of the couch and watch television until it was time for him to leave and then I would sleep in a big bed on my own and it was so draughty.
One day the same two lines came up and he said, “Are you going to fix it?” And I had nothing to lose, but I crumbled and said, “Yes.” and I knew we weren’t a team.