In later years, when Jane looked back at her pregnancy and the birth of her son, she remembered most the confusion and panic. John was a big part of that confusion. She didn’t know where he was or where she was with him. He had started blaming Jane’s family for everything – ‘antagonising’ his parents, being hostile to his mother (because Jane’s mother publicly refuted her gossip) – and Jane herself for being ‘difficult’. At their last meeting, Jane finally exploded and screamed back, realising that, no matter what she did, John didn’t want to make her part of his plans any more. He was still making noises about going to the USA. This was the situation when the baby was born. John, who still hadn’t managed to get to the USA, when the baby unmistakably resembled him, made a one-time grand contribution of seven hundred dollars, believing that this should be enough to see the child through its first year. He thought that he was being a responsible and caring father.
So when Jane told him she didn’t want him in her life, John promptly served her a summons for custody of the baby, claiming that he was being unfairly denied access to his child and saying that Jane and her family were unfit, for various reasons. Jane felt sick reading the documents. When was this all going to end? She had just gone back to school to do her exams and now she had to deal with this. Dealing with John was now just stress. It was so difficult that even her father realised he had to get involved and went with her and her mother to the lawyer. She always remembered the lawyer’s words: “Teenage father, he wasn’t ready for this, and he doesn’t understand that being a parent means thinking about the best interests of the child.”
Jane wasn’t used to that phrase, but she thought about it a lot and started researching child development. Even after John, predictably, abandoned the case when it looked as if it would be difficult, Jane kept reading. According to the books, she had already compromised her child by being an unwed teenage mother. She could make up some of this by making sure to finish her education, but she was going to have to work hard to make up for an absent and immature father. (John, in the role of handsome teenage parent, was now romancing another girl in the area.) How was life after that? Difficult…lots to learn…but there were triumphs as well, like when Jane qualified as an accountant and could start earning a good salary. Another triumph was the fact that she didn’t get pregnant again. She made regular visits to the gynaecologist, even though she wasn’t sexually active for a long time, because she couldn’t afford to be ignorant about contraception again.
The biggest triumph was keeping to her decision to stay away from John. She had to let go of the fantasy life she had thought she could have with him. She had to see him for who he was, not the rescuer she had needed him to be. And over the years she had to learn to help her son deal with John’s unpredictable and dramatic intrusions into his life. Unfortunately, John never learnt to deal with reality. Wasn’t it ironic, Jane thought, that she had a lifelong commitment, through her child, to someone who was never going to be committed to anything? Jane is a successful young professional now. She has never married and never had another child. She’s too busy still dealing with the consequences of the one big gamble she took in her life.