I am angry that even R’s addiction has not drowned my love for him, and the possible love for a future child together
The time between finding out that I’m pregnant and waiting for the abortion is strange and disorienting: I’m not sure of anything. I can handle the physical changes (already my boobs are sore and heavy and I’m suffering from nausea) – but it’s my mind that’s exhausted. I play the What if? game on a loop in my head.
What if having the abortion makes me feel as sad and rotten as it did the first time, 15 years ago? What if another child would prove to be a positive move, a wonderful addition to our chaotic household of five? What if we go ahead with the pregnancy and I find myself bringing up four children alone, while R falls further into addiction?
He calls me as I’m in the park with the children.
“I’ve been thinking, a lot,” he says. I can hear drink seeping into in his speech.
“We can have this baby … I’d sort of like this baby. The others made me so happy. And I love you.”
Although I am reluctant to stay on the line because he is drunk, I do. It is the simple sentiment that love will conquer all and the “we” that suck me in, make me feel temporarily part of a team. I am so easily charmed.
“Are you there?” he says.
“Yes, I’m here.” I reply, half through gritted teeth and half through a smile.
If R simply drank, but was not an alcoholic, this would be a rather touching conversation – pissed husband calls wife to tell her to keep baby because he loves her and everything will be all right. But I have to burn the imaginary Hollywood film script, and get real. “You’re drunk, aren’t you?” I ask. I wonder if this is the first time since the “last” time, or whether he’s been hiding other transgressions from me.
“Do you really think that this hasn’t affected me? I’m finding it incredibly painful,” R says in defence, his voice turning at once from sweet to spikey.
Of course I realise, but I remind myself that he is now using the pregnancy as an excuse to drink. In the past, he has blamed work, stress, lack of money, upbringing and even my behaviour. All of these things – in his delusional mind – make him drink.
“I don’t want to talk now. I’m with the children, and you’re pissed.”
I push the buggy containing our youngest with force. I am angry that even R’s addiction has not drowned my love for him, and the possible love for a future child together. I look back on the days that I gave birth to my children as the happiest of my life.
My sister took a photograph seconds after our last child was born, an image of triumph and joy. I’m on our bedroom floor cradling our wrinkly, waxy baby and looking up at R, who is kneeling beside me, arm around my shoulders with unquestionable love in his eyes. I’ve never seen smiles so wide. I just remember R saying: “You did it my love. You did it.” We cried. Our baby couldn’t have been more wanted at that very moment. But successful marriages are not built on exceptional days. The memories of ecstatic times are important, but they also add a honeyed glow to periods that might not be so wonderful. I have to cast aside memory now, to exist in the present. I understand that if I did have another child, the added pressure would be immense. My relationship with R is on the brink of collapse, and another life would add to the strain.
On the way up the hill to home, I receive a text from R: “I’m coming back now. I left the office at lunch.”
I certainly don’t want him home, drunk. “Please stay away,” I text.
“Stop being such a heartless cow. I’m trying to be kind and you’re throwing it back in my face. This is about the baby,” R texts back.
This is hurtful and unfair. R may be drunk, but the bite from his accusation is deep. I should turn off my phone or ignore any further texts. But I don’t. I feel compelled to tell him once again to stay away. “I’m locking the door when I get home. You’re behaving like an idiot,” I text.
“Bitch,” he replies.
I switch off my phone. I’m pained by his malevolence and crude use of language. Our lack of respect for one another has come so rapidly. I replace the joyous photograph in my head – us with our newborn – with a snapshot of him at a party last year: drunk, limp and blinded by drink. How quickly my thoughts of love can change to anger, hatred and despair.
Before I go to bed, I lock the front door from the inside, certain that, despite my best efforts to keep R away, he will come tapping at some point. If he knocks for long enough I know, from previous occasions, that I’ll probably buckle and let him in.