He stands before me, fist raised. My mother places herself between him and my swollen belly, her arms held out in a gesture of protection, warding off the attack.. Strangely, she wears a smile on her face, as if impressed with her own defiance.
You are evil, shameless, and the child you carry is a cancer that must be cut out, he snarls. You will not have this baby. I’ve arranged it all through a good friend, it can be done on Monday. He’s discreet, no-one need ever know. We will not be shamed by you and that momsa.
I fold my hands over my belly, feeling her stir inside me. He’d have to cut off my hands before I’d give her up. I protect my child, and my mother protects me. She is voiceless, but something in her face makes my father drop his fist. His face swells with rage.
Some days later, my friend, a medical student, suggests I should have an abortion. She tells me that she means well, is thinking of my future. You’re too young, she says, this will ruin your life, and you’ll be just another unwed mother pushing a pram. It’s safe to have the procedure now, my cousin went to this doctor in Marrickville, and I’ve got the address. I’ll go with you, if you want. And then you’ll be free, and you can choose when to have a child.
No, I say calmly, and with certainty. I will keep this baby.
Later I find out that this so-called friend had an abortion the previous year, and regretted it so deeply she had a breakdown.
I lie on the table. The doctor’s face, masked and hatted, looms over me.
Are you ready? the anaesthetist says.
Wait, I say. I don’t know, I’m not sure, I can’t go through with it. It’s all a mistake.
There’s a pause, scalpel lifted, syringe suspended. The doctor looks irritated. He moves his mask to speak. What does the father think? He doesn’t want it, I tell the young medico. And I already have three children to support, by myself. Do you care for the father? I do. Then – if you still want the relationship – you’d be best to think of what your boyfriend wants. I’m confused. The pre-med is kicking in.
I surrender. I lie back down as my heart breaks.
She lies with me, sleeping sweetly. I trace the lovely curve of her cheek with my finger, very gently. I drink her in, her lovely mouth still now, her skin the colour of ivory. I inhale her scent, an indefinable mix of earth and sea. Her breathing is quick; my heart wants to beat to its rhythm. I wonder if she’s dreaming, as her translucent eyelids give a tiny twitch, and her lips open slightly.
As I watch each small movement, listen to each breath, my finger still resting softly on the satiny smoothness of her skin, I feel a love greater than any I’ve ever known. It floods my soul with wonder, with gratitude. Can this beautiful creature really be mine? She has the same dark hair and white skin of my own mother, who left this world so suddenly. It’s as if my lost mother is returned to me.
Now she wakes and her deep blue eyes stare into mine. I reach out to her as her mouth opens with a little cry. I pull her to me, and she nuzzles at my breast, her tiny mouth searching blindly. I help her find my nipple, put it into her mouth. As she sucks I gentle her head, stroking its dark feathery down. The milk begins to flow and my love for this tiny new being swells to bursting. She is my miracle, my gift, my new baby daughter.
© Dina Davis