A conversation

Kolya’s nanny returned back from her end-of-year holidays this week. Today she requested a Conversation. She was very afraid to tell me this.

Had I noticed that she had lost some weight? she asked.

I hadn’t.

Yes, she lost weight. During the holidays she was sick and could not eat well. She went to the doctor. The doctor says she’s pregnant.

Wow, I say, congratulations.

No, she says. This is not good.  She didn’t want more children. She’s not happy about this, she says.

But you want to keep the baby?

If it were only one month, I would get that abortion, she says. But it is too far for that, she says.It’s funny, she says, because she didn’t feel anything, any movement of a baby.

How far along is it? I ask

Five months, she says, looking like she’s asking a question.

So the baby is due in May? I say.

She is not sure, she says. Maybe not so soon. The doctor couldn’t tell boy or girl yet.

Who is the father, I ask. Does he know? Is he happy?

The father is her current boyfriend. He is very happy. It is his first child. But for her, it is her third child. She has two girls. One lives in the Eastern Cape with her ex-husband’s family. The other lives with her. She did not want more children.

You did not want more? You were using contraception?

Yes, she says. She was taking the pills.

Every day?

Yes, every day. But maybe some days she did not take them so early in the morning.

You’re brave, I say. To have unprotected sex in these times.

No! she says. We used condoms every time. Maybe one time the condom burst.

Pills and condoms? I say. Are you sure?

I don’t know how it happened, she says.

The story is not adding up, of course. The sheer piling up of improbabilities, of inconsistencies. It’s not quite holding together. I don’t say that though.

She was so worried to tell me, she says. She was worried to lose her job.

Why would you lose your job?

Some ladies don’t like their nannies to be pregnant, she says. In case they are moody. In case they can’t work properly.

I assure her that her job will be okay, though we’ll need to find someone to help with Kolya when she’s off work to have the baby. It will have to be someone trustworthy.

Yes, she says. You can’t trust anyone. You can come back to work and find you have no job, because they will take your job.

I am not talking about that kind of trustworthiness. I realise we have different things to lose.

What will you do about looking after the baby though?

The family must look after the baby, she says. My boyfriend, his family will do everything. But if it is a boy, I will do everything for that baby, she says. If it is a girl, maybe it must go to the Eastern Cape.

No, I cry, don’t say that. NO! echoes Kolya, restless and tired of our conversation. No no no no no!

I leave the conversation unsettled. How much of this story is written by fear? Fear that if she does not give her boyfriend a child, that he will leave her for someone who will. Fear that only two girls is not enough; surely a woman must produce a son.  Fear that if she does give him a child, she is saddled with an additional responsibility she did not want.  Is she truly so ignorant about conception and contraception? Or is her ignorance scripted rather by fear, fear that a white woman can surely never understand, that a white woman seeks only to blame. Fear that I may be angry about a deliberate pregnancy whereas an accidental one can surely not be her fault. I wonder about the child in her belly. If it is a girl, it will be all but abandoned to relatives in a distant rural place. If it is a boy, then her youngest daughter will be sent away to make way for his privilege. It’s a curiously political drama, archaic, horrific and yet utterly ordinary.


About Lisa

I live in South Africa with my husband and two small children, doing things, thinking about things and sometimes writing about them.
This entry was posted in pregnancy and birth, society, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A conversation

  1. Jeannine says:

    Great post Lisa. Measured and insightful. Sad, and as you say, horrific and ordinary too. It’s bizarre how suffering can sometimes be so, well, banal.

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