I was in London the day I learned I was expecting my first boy fifteen years ago.
I was doing data entry at a dingy small scale factory style establishment near Croydon, walking distance from a hospital. Work was optional for me at this time, as my partner had been offered a contract working for an engineering company overseas. I was in the blissful position of being able to leave my relatively new call centre position in the finance industry and hightail it overseas for a few months.
It was a tenuous pregnancy from the start. Every month I thought I was suffering another miscarriage as my body, whilst pregnant, continued to function ‘as per normal’…
It was only at thirteen weeks that finally my system seemed to kick into the ‘Oh so we are holding onto this one’ mode.
I was a basket case, a blithering bag of nerves, and the prospect of getting away from work, stress and life in general was wonderful and exactly what I needed.
I felt so much pressure at home – people close to me didn’t quite know how to deal with our news – and I could feel eyes on us in a way I wasn’t accustomed to. Being a same sex couple who was pregnant was a game changer. It felt like people had learned to ‘tolerate’ me having a female partner. Especially one that they genuinely liked. Although we were considerate and non-demonstrative at all times, bringing a baby into our lives caused a new wave of judgement.
Why were we doing this? How would life be for this little one? We sensed the fear and uncertainty in the empty smiles and hesitant congratulations. We knew deep down that we would be ok, but we ourselves felt the weight of others’ concern. Add to this the pushes and pulls of threatened miscarriage and constant hormonal upheaval, and it was truly stifling.
I had previously lived in England for a year after ‘coming out’ when I was 20, and it was one of the most enjoyable years of my life. Presented with this golden opportunity, we snatched at it as though it was a lifeline, leaving almost immediately.
Whilst I didn’t need to be bringing in an income, I knew it would help to keep my anxious mind busy. An added bonus was that it would help to fund our weekend jaunts around the countryside. I was there only a couple of months so I needed something unskilled and easy. Data entry was available, so data entry it was.
The best thing about the British culture is that it is considered rude to question someone about their personal life. Unlike at home in Australia where our ‘She’ll be right mate’ mentality means nothing is really off limits conversationally, I never had to worry about fielding questions about my partner here. People just didn’t ask. It was bliss.
I met my partner at the hospital on my lunch hour. She was nervous, but excited, just as I was. The ‘consultant’ that we saw at the hospital who referred us for our scan had been literally speechless when we told him our baby was the product of IVF. In London in 2006 apparently it was unheard of that two women would have access to such technology. Our consultant stumbled over his questions, asking several times to make sure we had understood his question correctly – he had an Indian accent and was somewhat difficult to understand. As he left us, he was shaking his head and looking confused.
I can remember feeling very certain I knew who his lunchtime conversation was going to feature…
I hated feeling so different. Why did our interactions always have to be tricky? I fantasised about being met by the consultant with a smile, then the ensuing polite conversation including menial questions about names, genders, our accents even. It just wasn’t fair – it was always so awkward.
In the waiting room we witnessed a couple; the female was pregnant like I was but much further along. This couple had obviously received some horrendous news. They were wailing and crying with their parents at hand, in the gut-wrenching way that only grief evokes. It made me want to sob for them. A much needed reality check was cast upon me: I spent not another minute fantasising about a ‘different’ experience.
The chill of the lubricant gel on my stomach startled me and I felt my focus return as I watched the alien-like image jumping around on the screen. It had two tiny arms, two spindly little legs, and a thumping heartbeat. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The words of the sonographer penetrated like a drum, resounding in my ears.
‘It’s a little boy’.
As we walked out of that hospital, it was our turn to be speechless. For some reason, we thought we were having a girl.
We felt suddenly, desperately, ill-equipped.
This changed everything. Well-meaning relatives had pulled us aside and warned us in earnest that they didn’t feel that two girls should be raising a boy. Yet another awkward (and unwelcome) conversation.
We had waved it away as best we could at the time, certain we were welcoming a pink addition to our family. We wandered along silently, both awestruck and unable to voice the many, many terrified thoughts we were having. By the time we arrived back at my work, we had calmed ourselves. The image of the devastated couple in the hospital still fresh in our minds, we gathered ourselves and spoke.
A baby, we were having a beautiful, happy healthy baby.
And he was ours.
And that was all that mattered.