“I ABORTED MY DOWN SYNDROME BABY”
TARA, 31, A PUBLIC SERVICE OFFICER, DECIDED TO END HER PREGNANCY AT 14 WEEKS. HER FAMILY THINKS SHE HAD A MISCARRIAGE.
“When I fell pregnant last year, I was ambivalent at first. I’d only been with my boyfriend, Alex, for a year, yet the more we talked about it, the less frightened we became. As Alex said, ‘We were going to do this anyway, we’re just doing it a bit sooner than planned.’ I knew my parents would be delighted; Mum loves babies. Alex and I found her excitement infectious, and we both cried at the 12-week scan. Suddenly, it felt real.
Our joy was short-lived, though. We were told that there was a risk of Down syndrome, and I had to undergo screening. Suddenly, there was a shadow over us. Brutal as it sounds, Alex and I knew we didn’t want a baby with ‘Downs’. We had another test, but had to wait two weeks for the results. I didn’t tell anyone – I knew what Mum, a strict catholic, would say. We went through the motions of showing the scan images and beaming with delight, all the while trying to hide our anxiety.
The test results came back positive: our baby had ‘Downs’. It felt like the world had caved in. I remember the nurse holding my hand while Alex and I cried our eyes out. We spent a whole night talking through what to do.
The next day, we called the consultant and arranged a termination. I pretty much cried for three days solid. I had to keep telling myself that we’d had the test for a reason, and we weren’t ready to take on a child with a disability.
After the operation, we confided in some close friends, who were amazing. Alex’s family were wonderful, too, but I just wasn’t able to tell mine. Now, whenever we catch-up, I feel guilty. They think we’ve suffered a tremendous loss, and we have, but not in the way they think. I still get upset when I see babies, and Mum will give me a hug and say, ‘You didn’t deserve this.’ It makes me feel worse, because some part of me thinks, ‘But I did choose this.’
Now there’s a space between us, but only I’m aware of it. My way of coping is to say that I can’t talk about it. Of course, Mum thinks I’m in denial. I know it will get better in time – Alex and I are already talking about trying for another baby – but this will always be there, a shadow we can’t erase.”
“I DON’T KNOW WHO MY SON’S FATHER IS”
JULIE, 37, A GRAPHIC DESIGNER, HAS TWO SONS, AGED SIX AND TWO, BUT SHE DOESN’T KNOW IF HER HUSBAND IS THE FATHER OF HER YOUNGEST.
With their dark hair and blue eyes, both my boys are the spitting image of their father, Rob. People tell me that a lot, but every time I hear it, I feel a pang of guilt. Because the truth is, when it comes to Kit, my youngest, I can’t say for sure Rob is his dad.
He was my childhood sweetheart, we met at 15 and were married by 26. In my late 20s, we started trying for children, and were delighted when Jack came along soon after my 30th birthday. But then our problems began. I battled postnatal depression, and Rob and I bickered in a way we never had before. Despite reservations, we tried for a second child.
I assumed I’d fall pregnant easily. But a year went by and nothing happened. Then another year. It felt as if life had been reduced to a timetable of ovulation tests.
That’s where Joel came in. He was a website designer and had a space at the studio where I rented a desk. He was sexy and we enjoyed a flirty chemistry, which was a lovely antidote to everything else. I never dreamt anything would come of it – I just enjoyed feeling like a desirable woman.
Then when Rob was away on a buck’s weekend, Joel and I ended up in bed after a boozy night out after work. I knew it was insane, but it was extremely liberating.
The next day, while I was feeling discombobulated, I was also strangely guilt free. I thought it was a one-off , but two months later, we ended up in bed again. Three weeks after that, my pregnancy test showed what Rob and I had been hoping for: I was pregnant. Yet I’m honestly not sure he is the father.
To say I was in turmoil doesn’t begin to sum it up. I considered ending the pregnancy but it felt like tempting fate – what if this was my only chance? I spent the pregnancy in a state of anxiety, relying on the fact that Joel and Rob did not look dissimilar.
When Kit came along, I knew I’d done the right thing: it was instant love. I don’t see Joel anymore – I gave up my office before I started to show. I guess what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
And so, for now, it is strangely fine. I do wonder if that will change, but I’ve become adept at shutting off the part of my brain that asks hard questions. But it has shocked me how easily this deception has come to me. I just hope it won’t return to haunt me.”
"I KEPT MUM’S AFFAIR A SECRET FROM MY DAD”
ALICE, 29, A MOTHER, WAS 17 WHEN HER MOTHER CONFIDED TO HER THAT SHE HAD STARTED AN AFFAIR WITH A COLLEAGUE.
“Recently, I was watching a TV drama about the relationship between a father and daughter. The dad said something about how they could always rely on each other. My stomach lurched, as it does whenever I think of my dad. Our relationship has never been the same since he discovered my mum’s a air.
Mum and I were always close. I have two brothers, and as the only girl I had a special bond with her. We confided in each other about everything – she was the first person I told when I lost my virginity, while she would tell me about her frustrations with her marriage. Maybe it was inappropriate, but we had no secrets.
When she grew close to a work colleague, it wasn’t her girlfriends she confided in about it, but me.
The relationship between them wasn’t sexual at first, but when he suggested they take a day o together, it was obvious that he wanted it to move on. I think I was 17 at the time, and I remember Mum asking, “What do you think?” I guess she was looking for my permission, and I gave it. Teenagers can be very judgemental, but I thought what my dad didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him. I also felt that Mum was a good person who deserved some excitement. I trusted her to be careful, and all I knew was that she got together with this man every few months or so. Dad never suspected. In some ways, the a air helped the marriage – knowing she had this other thing seemed to help Mum deal with her frustrations at home.
After about four years, Mum’s lover dumped her for someone else. She was blindsided. By then I was 21 and living away from home, and she had lost her most immediate confidant. The tension mounted at home. During one explosive row it all came out – the affair, but also the fact that I had known about it.
Dad was devastated. He felt betrayed by both of us, but in some ways it was our relationship that suffered most. There was a hole where the trust had been. They managed to work things out, but as I lived far away from home, Dad and I never really did.
It made me angry with Mum. I felt as if she had salvaged her own relationship with Dad at the expense of mine. It affected my brothers, too: they were furious. It felt like there was a split in the family.
It took years for Dad and I to get back on track, the easy familiarity we once shared just disappeared. It’s only really healed since I got married two years ago and had a son of my own. We’re all fine now, but part of me resents Mum for dragging me into it. I wish she’d confided in one of her friends instead.”
This article originally appeared in the July issue of marie claire.