Louise’s Story

Almost 20 years ago, when I was 25 years old, a young married woman with the start of a career, and a brand-new baby at home, I discovered my husband was being unfaithful. Shortly after I became pregnant, he had some kind of crisis and went into a rapid downward spiral during which he quit his job to focus on a career as a musician. He began parading crowds of people associated with the band through our home, held rehearsals in our basement, caused the neighbors to complained and the police to be called. There was also a lot of casual drug use going on among the band and their crowd.

This was not how I’d imagined the home in which I would raise a child, but when I tried to talk to my husband about it, he was dismissive and uncaring, and it became clearer with each late night out, and each caller who hung up on me, that he was beginning to create a new life for himself.

It was in this situation that our next pregnancy occurred. Perhaps I should blame myself for continuing an intimate relationship with my husband, in hopes of patching things over, in hopes of reaching him somehow, or in hopes of soothing, at least for a moment, my own feelings of hurt and abandonment. But by the time the pregnancy occurred, our situation had deteriorated to the point where I’d left him and moved our child a few towns away to my family. Thinking that was the sort of extreme act needed to bring him to his senses, instead, my husband did not pursue us, but he made good use of his freedom.

After three months at my family’s, it was clear my marriage wasn’t headed for reconciliation, so I had to return to work and find my own apartment, a small place at the top of a four-floor walkup. It was hard lugging a baby, the groceries, the laundry and whatever else up all those stairs, but I was relieved to finally be at peace when I got home, and it was lonely, and I was scared to be on my own, but at least my life was headed in some direction, and I was no longer anxiously waiting to see my husband’s next move.

I hadn’t been there a week when I learned about my pregnancy, which was about three months along. I’d been nursing until just about that time, so my periods were irregular and scant periods, and I was also completely stressed by the separation and anguish, so I didn’t notice my condition until later than ideal. I knew I couldn’t have another baby right then — I was as poor as could be, and just getting started in a new life on my own, with a tiny child to support. My first pregnancy had been hard; with “borderline toxemia” in the last trimester, I’d been ordered to stop work and “take it easy,” which a single mom with a one-year-old and no means of support other than her own employment could scarcely be expected to do. I had to move fast, I knew, to have the least invasive abortion possible. It was 1984.

I had no money, and my husband didn’t either. I had to make up a lie of some kind to borrow three hundred dollars from a family member, always wondering if he suspected the reason for the request. I was terribly saddened by the realization that, had life gone as I’d expected, my husband and I would have been rejoicing at this happy news, but instead, it was one more sorrowful development in what was at that time a very sad life. I was ashamed, mostly, of having succumbed those few desperate times to a continued sexual relationship with my husband, who’d proven himself so unworthy.

It was a tragic moment for me when he drove me to the clinic in our town, and then again, picked me up — a man who didn’t care about me, someone who’d once loved me, but now no longer did. The months of suffering in the end became a gift: this unhappy development made my heart freeze over and with the end of that pregnancy, I also finished once and for all with the love I’d had for this unloving man. It was a relief to be over it.

I do sometimes wonder what person this child, who after all, would have been my own child’s brother or sister, might have become, but when I reflect even briefly on the struggles I had to face and overcome between 1984 and today, I am just so everlastingly grateful I didn’t have to have that baby I couldn’t take care of, whose birth would only have complicated and exacerbated the hardship of caring for the child I already had.