On Christmas Day, during Christmas dinner, we all toasted absent friends. This of course included Diva, my youngest sister, who was spending Christmas with her father, my ex-step-father. And I remembered that ex-step-father and his partner had announced they were expecting a baby back in July. Or, they had announced it to Diva, who’d told my mother, who then phoned me up at work in a state of cheerful gossipy excitement to tell me all about it, and I had been typically infertile-step-child disgruntled about it, because, frankly, I was instantly consumed with envy, and because, very frankly, I dislike my ex-step-father and though Diva assures me he has mellowed a great deal since, he made my adolescence so almighty fucking miserable I don’t know if I could warm to him if he became the Dalai Lama.
Anyway, because, nevertheless, I am well-bought-up, and because it concerns my beloved Diva finally getting to be a big sister after being the family baby all her life, and because (and I have this in writing, despite disgruntle and envy, see above link-to-post) I wished my ex-step-father’s partner well, and I wanted the baby to be fine, I asked how they all were. Surely the baby was due any minute, if they made the announcement in July?
‘Oh,’ said my mother, ‘that’s not happening any more.’
What? Seriously? Seriously?
I think I said I was so very sorry to hear that, and that my heart went out to ex-step-father and his partner, and then I looked at my plate and tried very hard not to sob right into it, and felt miserably furious with myself for ever having been scathing about and envious of their luck, and, oh, poor Diva, no baby brother or sister for her after all.
Minx, uncertain but curious, being eight, then asked ‘did the baby die?’
And Trouble (my sister her mother), answered ‘well, it wasn’t ever really alive, so it couldn’t’ve died.’
I have a voice, I have been told, of steel and flint, when I am very angry but resolutely trying not to shout. So in my voice of steel and flint, I answered ‘that’s absolutely not for you to say. It’s up to the parents to say if they felt their baby was alive.’
Trouble said, ‘well, that’s debatable.’
‘No, it isn’t,’ I replied, steel and flint now with extra rail-road and don’t-fuck-with-me. ‘At least, not by you. You have no right to decide how people think or feel about their babies.’
And then I ate the rest of my dinner without looking anywhere at all except either at the plate or straight ahead. In case I felt the shoulder-seams of my cardigan tear as my skin flushed bright emerald green.
Trouble deals with being chastised in two ways. Either she bears a grudge and sulks for days before finally breaking out in an impassioned rendition of ‘Nobody loves me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll eat some worms (and die in agony and it’s all your fault)’. Or, she becomes unusually affectionate and good-humoured. I got the affectionate, good-humoured Trouble for the rest of the visit. I can only assume she remembered who exactly she was talking to and decided to let it go as I was clearly a tad unhinged by my own experiences. I can only hope she thought about it and realised I was, actually, right.
Diva’s tiny sibling was alive, because its parents told everyone it was there, and everyone was expecting it to join us. My even tinier, heart-and-nervous-system-free embryos that all tanked before seven weeks, were also alive (if pretty damn watery, bless them) because I knew they were there, and oh, so wanted them to stay. And that’s what matters. And it’s not debatable.