I’m just a 75 year old male, born into a working-class family in the north of England during the first good summer after the end of World War II.
I was fumbled into this world in the bedroom of a slum terrace house where my elder brothers had also been born. According to family folklore, at the very moment when, in silence, I first felt the dank, sooty air on my face, my mam screamed and the bedroom window, loosened during bombings in the war, fell into the yard below. (That is, according to family folklore. I have no memory of it so can’t vouch for its reality.)
Some might consider that a ‘grand entrance’ but no, it was more a portent of what my life was to be and of the contradictory extremes of emotion that would compose my character. As do most of us, at various times and by a variety of others I have had my character assessed and delineated with a certainty that would stand no contradiction. Of itself, being commonplace, that is not significant. What is, perhaps, different is the extent of the polarity with which various others choose to characterise me. Stoic is most frequently applied at one end of the critique, whilst emotional, irritable, critical & even dogmatic are hurled from the other.
My father, born not long after Victoria’s death, was very much of a Victorian era character, a self-educated man with a reasonable intellect and a love of music, ballet and literature, uncommon interests amongst his working-class contemporaries. My mother was a dozen years younger than my father and from another town and more ‘gentile’ class than that of my father. They had met while she was nursing at the local hospital. Unfortunately for her, although deciding before being wed that she did not want to marry, she felt that she had to go through with the marriage because to withdraw from an engagement was not ‘the done thing’.
Mam’s marrying meant that she had to leave nursing for married women were not allowed to work in that occupation.
My father then found a new house for his mother — always his first love — and my mother began her married life in his mother’s old house, complete with all his mother’s old furnishings. Also and significantly, she was living in another town and to a substantial degree, out of touch with her own family and friends. Instead, she was subject to the advice (interference) of my father’s 9 sisters. She was effectively isolated.
What followed was the birth of two children during World War II. Two boys. My father wanted a girl. Air raids, bombing, shortages, rationing, an industrial area, rail hub and major port. Away from her own family and only hostile relatives of my father for support … the wrong word, I think.
I, of course, new nothing of that for I wasn’t yet around. Now, I feel sadness alongside admiration, both for my mother and what I know must have been many other women in not dissimilar circumstances, raising children with few resources beyond their own determination, courage and fortitude. Probably also fighting off thoughts of what might have been: a lost career, happiness, understanding, like-minded people, relatives, friends, independence and respect for their own worth.
Of course, I don’t know what caused the 5 plus years wihout another child. I only know that I was a major disappointment to my father for not being a girl. My mother did her best to love me, I think, but was tired, demoralised, worn and drained. The atmosphere and situation within the house in which I grew was strained, difficult, bizarre even, in so many ways — too many to describe here.
So, why do I relate even this much of my background, in fact even perhaps too much for some? It is because I’ve always felt that it would have been better for all involved, myself included, had I never been born.
The last my mother needed was another child, let alone one of the ‘wrong’ sex. For my father, I was just another mouth to feed and a nuisance to have around. For my brothers I was little more — too young to be a contemporary and yet a competitor for scarce resources, time, attention, what capacity was left for love on the part of our parents.
I don’t presume to speak for what my mother actually felt or wished. However, in my view, she ought to have had an abortion — though coming from where she did and in those circumstances and that era, it was probably far from an option, despite no effective contraception being available.
Having already had two children, perhaps an abortion would not have freed her. Obviously, I can’t know. I think though, that it may have made a huge difference and allowed her a subsequent ‘life’. I have that thought because of what I witnessed during my childhood and discussions I had with her. I firmly believe that she stayed in that relationship predominantly because of her sense of responsibility and obligation to care for me. Had that not been the case, it would have been only a few years before my elder brothers were at an age where she could safely move on, with or without them but without them suffering neglect or devastating hurt.
Instead, she stayed. She stayed just that little bit too long. As I entered high school, my sister was born. At last, my father had his daughter. At last, I could be overlooked entirely, rather than only partly. Forever, my mother was tied.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, my sister was a delight and loved by both mother and father and her brothers. Where she was there was a light. When she was present, my father’s mood always lightened and drama was avoided. She even gave my mother a new focus for her life for my sister was a dancer and my mother nurtured that love and talent and gave herself to it with all she had. So, my sister could be said to have been a saving grace.
I am not religious. I don’t believe in fate. So the notion that some would have that then this was meant to be has no validity for me. Yes, mam had some good times and took a delight in my sister’s dancing achievements. I still believe that such was second prize.
My life has been the disaster portended by that collapsing window. Had I been aborted, I would not have had to endure what I have. — Oh yes, I know, many, many human beings have experienced much more misfortune, confusion, illness, sadness or other negatives than I. However, experience is all relative and I understand my worthlessness.
My mother, I am certain, had her own life taken away through my birth and her resolve to be a ‘good’ mother and a ‘loyal’ wife and fulfill what she perceived to be her obligations.
In other words, neither of us benefitted from my being born. Quite the contrary is the truth. Yet there are those, not least the conservative members of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, who have the temerity and arrogance to believe that they have the right to dictate to a woman what is best for her, for society, for a ‘life’.
They are wrong. They are fools. They are misguided. They ought not to be in a position to dictate for that is what they do when they deprive women of the right to decide what happens to their own bodies. Indeed, their decision is, ironically, a kind of rape. Perhaps, even worse than rape itself.
If this piece resonates with you at all, please stand with women and do all that you can to support their freedom to abort if they feel that is what is right for them. No-one else should be making that decision for them.
I also recommend the following reading: https://aliensideboob.substack.com/p/controlling-women?r=2muq6&s=r&utm_campaign=post&utm_medium=web