I feel like I became a single mother the moment I waddled into the hospital alone; after drinking the raspberry leaf tea equivalent of the river Ganges and eaten enough pineapple to shit out a bucket’s worth of smoothie(I had been profusely trying to bring on labour for days after some rather unsettling news). The midwives were worried that there wasn’t enough amniotic fluid in the womb. So at 37+5 weeks of pregnancy, it was time for the little boy from the scans, the one with the fat head, to come into the world.
I had a partner at this point, who was for the most part OK. We lived together, we worked together, we could compromise. Except the night before he had decided to go to a staff party, in the full knowledge that my induction was happening the next day.
Daddy to be was lying in a hungover stupor in bed, covered in club entry stamps from the night before. In a rage, I took the bus alone.
Two hours later, and stinking of alcohol, he arrived. It seemed so bizarre to me that he had prioritised a drunken get-together with his colleagues over being up early for the birth of his son. Maybe it was one last wild night before fatherhood engulfed him whole? Maybe he needed to see the inside of some gross London club a final time, dance to remixed pop songs and lay down his party shoes to rest, like an old warrior giving up his sword. After all, it was he who grew excited at the little blue lines of the pregnancy test, not I. I remember having a mini breakdown, cursing the ineffectiveness of contraception, and agonising over whether to keep it. It’s strange, almost 9 months later and our roles had reversed. I was the one hunched over One Born Every Minute with a fistful of birthday cake, while he clicked away on his phone in bed.
Let’s skip the part where half my insides get ripped out and I’m cut from arsehole to vag, squirting blood all over the theatre floor. I’m sure it looked like something out of Chainsaw Massacre.
So the boy with the fat head was born, dubbed Noah, and I fell in love. We both did, and for a while it looked like happy families. Yet something had changed in me, it was subtle, but it was there. I couldn’t get out of my head that my partner had chosen to drink over his family. I batted the thought away, like it was an irritating fly. It wasn’t important right?
‘Everyone makes mistakes’, I reasoned.
Ah, the little phrase that excuses so much. It’s a free pass on morality, the widely accepted quip that forgives all. If only I had known that these ‘mistakes’ were a blueprint for what was to come.
For Daddy’s two weeks of paternity leave he did not drink, but by week two I could see he was itching to go back to work. Granted it’s boring being stuck at home, but you wouldn’t have caught me rushing into the office to sort out employee timetables just for fun. Alas, that’s what he did.
Then the drinking began, the late nights, the clubs. He once even told me one morning that he went into a club, merely to ‘Take a shit’. I mean, if you’re gonna lie… you can at least make it a good one. £10 entry and a drink is one hell of an expensive shit.
Daddy and I went to dinner one night in an attempt to save our relationship.(I saw this online, it seems therapists say that going out for a meal and spending a fortune will ease relationship ills) and my mum babysat. It felt so good to put my makeup on after what feels like years. I hadn’t so much as sniffed a lip gloss since Noah had been born. We went to a new seafood restaurant and I had the lobster tagliatelle.
We ended up going into our work after our dinner, as it was nearby and everyone was pleased to see me. I didn’t really want to go, but Daddy insisted. We waited until closing time and of course the cocktails began. I had a mojito. By the time I had finished my mojito I was ready to go home. Bloated with tagliatelle, I didn’t really feel like dancing, plus I wanted to get back to Noah. Dad insisted on staying for ‘one more drink’.
‘One more drink’ became three more drinks and he barely paid any attention to me all night. In fact, he seemed rather intent on impressing the young barmaid that was new to the team. She had a mermaid like wave of long blonde hair that reached her pert little ass. Surely it was too obvious? Surely men only run off with hot blondes in dodgy 80’s movies? He adores me doesn’t he? I had to remind myself that I was the one out of his league.
I ended up getting the bus home alone. I snapped at my mum and went to bed. Daddy didn’t appear until 6 am, I heard him staggering in the hallway as Noah began to stir for his morning feed.
Sure enough, in dodgy 80’s movie style, I found out there was something going on. I don’t even remember being that surprised. He never confessed anything, I found out from a mutual friend, but they have been together ever since I left. I gave him one chance to start again. I found us a house and him a new job. He refused, he didn’t want to be away-translation – he didn’t want to be away from her. They drank together, that was the thing. She was tied in with his drinking and his clubbing, and he valued that above the family he claimed to want. He’s not a bad person, just a weak one. I can’t have someone as weak as that brining up my son regardless of genetics. He begged me to reconsider, he said she meant nothing, it was me he loved. It felt like he was reeling off lines from some corny daytime soap. My question is; ‘If she meant nothing, Why did you throw your family away for her? She must have been worth something.’
I wanted to rip every golden strand from her head with tweezers, I wanted to punch her in the tits so hard she would have to buy concave bras for the rest of her life. I wanted to make mincemeat of her ovaries. Boy I was MAD.
Then I stopped blaming her, she wasn’t the real culprit here. It’s not her fault she was dealt a good hand in the genetic lottery. It seemed as long as beer and pretty women existed I couldn’t trust this man to have a night out without me. I couldn’t trust him to come home, or look after his son. I couldn’t trust him to enjoy a platonic night out with friends and survive the 8am wake up like the rest of us parents do. He seemed to think he could just lie in bed with a hangover like a teenager.
I never thought I would be a single mother. I fought with the idea, I judged myself. I almost stayed with him just to avoid the label. The fight, the hassle. I didn’t think I could cope. I had to give up a nice home, A University Place and London.
Then something moved in me. I just did it, I mentally walked. I gave up the ‘ideal’ then and there. I could have forgiven him, I could have turned a blind eye to his ‘indiscretions’ and his worsening drinking. Yet somehow every part of me said it was better to be alone. I would rather face the judgement of strangers than live in that cage for the rest of my life. I shan’t shame him, go into detail of every in and out of our relationship.
Just know this: I will never regret it.