I was 24 when I found out that I was pregnant – unplanned, unexpected and, at the time, completely unwanted. I wasn’t in any sort of stable relationship, had just started my first proper career job, had bought my first house (and had the associated large mortgage) and had rented out rooms to my friends who were expecting me to keep a roof over their heads – I could not have a baby.
I wasn’t even maternal – I was never the girl who you would call upon to babysit – children were okay when they were far away and well behaved but I certainly didn’t want to look after one, not even for an hour, never mind for the next 18 years or more.
The day after I took a pregnancy test, I rang an abortion clinic in London and made an appointment for a couple of days later – the earliest I could get a flight sorted. I sat in my house and cried and cried and cried. Then some sort of basic instinct took hold and I drove home to my mum. I grew up in a small community where this news would not go down well. Telling her was one of the hardest things I had to do. She encouraged me to visit a pregnancy crisis centre before I went to London and I did.
I don’t really remember what the lady in the centre talked to me about – but I came out with the beginnings of the idea that maybe I could actually have this baby. Maybe this wasn’t the ruination of my life that I anticipated it to be, but the beginning of a different life. I wasn’t brave enough at the time to think it might actually be a better life but in the end it has been.
That pregnancy was difficult – not physically – but every day was an emotional roller-coaster and I cried more than I ever thought was possible.
One of the biggest struggles I had during my pregnancy was with shame. In the rural community that I grew up in, pregnancy outside of being married was still a big talking point. I was from a ‘good Christian family’ and every time I met someone and had to tell them (or they saw) that I was pregnant – I would feel that shame again. But God really used that time to show me that, without diminishing my mistakes, they were no worse than anyone else’s – and were forgiven like everyone elses when I asked Him for forgiveness. Before then I would have always tried to put on a front of being a good girl and hiding my mistakes but there was a lot of liberty in being able to openly say that I’m not perfect but I am forgiven. And that’s still the case, anyone who can count realises that our oldest son was born before we were married so I can’t hide it – and I don’t need to – I want to celebrate the grace I have received, not forget about it.
It was difficult having a baby on my own – exhausting, challenging and, at times, over-whelming. But there were moments of grace in each day and I know that God gave me the strength for a task that seemed too big for me. I’ve since had 4 more children and I know now that every pregnancy is hard. In fact my first is the one that I look back on with the fondest memories because, once I decided to keep him, I surrendered to the fact that I couldn’t do it by myself and relied almost totally on God’s help and my friends and family to get me through.
The abortion laws being as they were in Northern Ireland at that time undoubtedly saved my son’s life. If an abortion clinic had been available to me on the day I found out I was pregnant, I would have visited it. I am so thankful it wasn’t – it breaks my heart to think of the decision I almost made.
My son is 18 now – and more wanted than he will ever know. He is a joy to be around – well, as much joy as an 18 year old boy/man can ever be! He is kind and funny and such good company. I think back to the 24 year old girl that I was, and reckon that if I had met my son back then, I would think ‘Your mum must be so proud of you’ – and she really is.