September 2011. For the past few months I’ve been living in this house, returning to my own home only to pay rent and pick up my post.
Living here is quite stressful; there are six children running around with very little in the way of discipline, guidance or boundaries. There is fighting, noise, swearing, squabbling, destruction and chaos. Having lived alone for most of my adult life, I’m finding it quite tough – but the rare moments of quiet, where one of the children is drawing with me or another reading a book with me, those are the moments I treasure. The moments that restore my sanity and patience.
One evening, I have an argument with one of the older children. I can’t even tell you what it’s about, but it really pisses me off, and I go into the bedroom to hide, lest I say something nasty to her. It ends with her laying on her bed crying, shouting “you’re not my mum! I want my mum!” to which her father replies (shouting from the next room) “yeah well, she’s not here is she – she left you.” I feel awful for her, but I know I am not the person she wants to comfort her, and I don’t want to make things worse.
The next morning on the way to work, he tells me I need to go and stay at my house for a few nights; I am clearly not able to cope with his children and he doesn’t like for me to be nasty to them so I must go to my own house for a while, and calm down. I feel terrible; worse when I later find out that he has gone home that evening and told his children that I have left because of their terrible behaviour and might never come back.
That weekend, one of them has a birthday. Birthdays are the only times the whole family goes into town together, for breakfast at a cafe or pub. We arrange that I will meet them for the birthday breakfast, and then go home with them. We pass a lovely morning with the children, first having breakfast and then going to the library, a place they’ve never been before. When we go home, we stop at the children’s grandmother’s house and the birthday boy is given some money. I take the birthday boy back into town on his own to spend his money. He doesn’t seem as chirpy and excited as you would expect for a 7 year old on his birthday; he seems miserable and I want to cheer him up.
When we get home, we find his father putting together the new bike he’s bought for the boy’s birthday. He is drunk and moody. He insists that I too should get drunk, and I am dispatched to the local shop to buy some wine. We pass a tense evening where his children try to stay out of his way. Once they are in bed, he starts to argue with me. I remember very little of the argument, except the feeling that I can’t get a word in, and he won’t just stop and listen to me. His younger daughter creeps down the stairs saying “Daddy, stop being mean to Vicky.” She’s sent back to bed, and we carry on arguing. Eventually he tells me he can’t stand my outlandish behaviour and mood swings any more, and I must leave. We are splitting up. I say okay, I will pack my things in the morning and go. This is not good enough though; I must leave right now, in the middle of the night.
By this point we are in his bedroom. I am on the edge of the bed, head in hands, trying to think straight. He is behind me, leaning on the wall and talking constantly. He won’t shut up. I’m trying to figure out how I can get all of my things out of his house and across town to my house in the middle of a Saturday night. He won’t let me think; he won’t stop telling me all the things I’ve ever done wrong. I pick up the nearest thing I can find, and throw it at him. He still won’t stop. He tells me to call a taxi, but I can’t bear the thought of a taxi driver helping me to carry my things while I cry uncontrollably. I call my mother. This is the first time in my entire adult life I have ever called upon my mother to help me in this sort of way, but I don’t know what else to do.
When I put the phone down he tells me, “you fucking cunt, calling your mum and crying down the phone to her to make me look bad!” I try to ignore him, and start to pack my things. As I begin to put take my things downstairs, I realise that the older children are awake; they have heard everything. I give each of them a hug and tell them I love them, and then leave.
The next day my mother brings me back to collect the rest of my things. He is laying in his bed, staring at the ceiling. He doesn’t acknowledge me or speak, the entire time I am there. The rest of the day is spent at home, crying uncontrollably. My sister brings me a tub of Ben & Jerry’s and looks scared. Even mid breakdown,
nobody ever saw me like this.
The next day is a Monday, and I have to go to work. I wake up with that horrible feeling you get when you’ve been crying forever: tight skin, dry eyes. My boobs hurt. My boobs never hurt. And in that moment, before I even get out of bed, I know.
I text him from work telling him I need to come and collect the rest of my things from his house that evening. I know there is still a pregnancy test there; he’s been buying them as part of his Tesco order for months, and I’ve been doing one every week or so. I catch the bus to his house, gather up the rest of my things, and sit on the edge of his bed. I ask if we can try again; I’ll try harder, I’ll be nicer to the children, I’ll get on top of the never-ending mountain of washing in the kitchen. I’ll be better. He says he’ll have to think about it. I stand up to leave, and remember the pregnancy test. I tell him I’d like to take it with me, just to make sure. He insists that I do the test right now, so I take it into the bathroom with me.
The line appears. My stomach sinks. I feel like I might fall over.
I walk back to his bedroom, as if through a tunnel. I don’t register the clothes on the floor, the children fighting on the stairs, the dog laying across the landing. I close the door behind me and say “I’m pregnant.” I show him the test.
“How do I know it’s mine?”
“I’ve barely left your house for the last few months; you know I’ve not slept with anyone else; I wouldn’t even have had time to.”
“You were pretty fat when you got here; you might have been pregnant already and trying to pin it on me.”
He gives me his bank card, instructing me to buy one of those tests that tells you how far gone you are, and to bring it to his house after work the next day.
I walk home in a daze, vaguely aware that it is dark and I am being irresponsible, walking along this poorly lit path on my own; after all, it’s not just me any more is it, I need to look after my baby. It’s the most surreal thought I think I’ve ever had.
The next day I buy the test and take it to his house. He comes into the bathroom with me and watches me pee on it. When it comes up with “3+ weeks” he accepts that the baby is his. I have no idea how my being 3+ weeks makes a difference, but it does and now it’s ok and I can be his girlfriend again – as long as I behave.
It’s a good job I’ve been taking Pregnacare and Osteocare for the last two months, isn’t it. I’m so lucky he started buying them for me. I’m such an idiot to have had a drink on Saturday night, though; I shouldn’t have done that. What a fucking idiot. Now I might have damaged the baby and it’ll be all my own fault. This thought hangs over me throughout my pregnancy.