She was forty years old. She didn't want or need another child. She already had six with two different fathers and this one she was not sure who the father was. She was having an affair with a man she had known for years. They had been friends long before they had been lovers. She loved him and thought .maybe this might make him leave his wife for her. She was ready to leave her second husband.
He too was horrified - that's all he needed, another child. Like her he had a few, with different mothers.
'I will abort it,' she had said in a threatening tone she knew he wouldn't like. 'You cannot,' he replied, 'it is a life, you cannot do that.'
'Then let us live together. We will rear it together,' she said.
She watched him hesitate. She knew he didn't want her to do this. He was an Irish Catholic, lapsed but believing; an abortion would cut him to the heart.
'I will help you support it,' he had then said.
'Don't bother; I will abort it,' she replied, in her high pitched English accent. It was not her first to abort. She would do it again if forced to. But she wanted to be with him and she was going to play her cards to her advantage.
'It may not even be mine!' He had retorted.
She knew he was right, knew her husband would kill her if he found out about the affair. He already suspected it.
'I want us to have a test when it is born,' he declared.
'If it is born,' she answered softly, watching his wounded face. 'I know you don't have abortion in Ireland,' she continued sarcastically 'You export your problem over to us!'
'I'm well aware of what we do,' he answered. 'That doesn't make it right.'
'I don't want you to abort the child. I don't care who the father is.'
'Well, it is my choice,' she screamed.
'Have I no god-damned say in this,' he screamed back.
'None,' she retaliated. 'None . it is my body and I will do with it as I wish.'
He was devastated. He pleaded with her. She knew she had him exactly where she wanted him.
Later, when he called, she told him that her husband had found out about the affair and the pregnancy. He had demanded that she abort it. He had also told the children and was encouraging them to pressure her to get rid of it.
'It could be his,' he said.
'He doesn't care,' she answered. 'He doesn't want it and is taking no chances that it might be yours.'
'My God,' he said softly, as though to himself.
'Leave your wife and we will live together,' she urged. 'Your children are grown up and we can live together and .. I won't abort it . Otherwise I will.'
Eventually she convinced him. She knew he was not happy about moving in with her and her six children but he did, and things were not good. He tried to make it work. She tried to make him love her but he didn't, he couldn't, and she knew it. She had been in a lot of bad situations in her life but this had to be the worst. Her children had turned on her too. They hated him and her coming child. Bitterly she wanted it all to be over, but he stood by her as he had promised.
Then one night she started to haemorrhage. He sat with her as everything seemed to be flushed from her body. He was disappointed. He wanted the child even in the circumstances they were living under, even if the child was not his.
She didn't weep for her loss, but she was afraid she was going to lose him.
'I think I am still pregnant,' she told him a few days later.
'You are afraid I am going to leave,' he had replied, sorry for her.
'No . I think I am still pregnant - I know I am still pregnant.'
'You couldn't be .. Not with all the blood you lost. No child could survive that.'
'I am,' she had replied, knowing.
The doctor confirmed it.
Conditions didn't improve. Her husband made her life hell. They waited, frozen, for the child to come.
And then he was born. The most beautiful, blue-eyed, blond baby anyone had ever seen.
'Do you want a paternity test done?' she asked him.
'Yes,' he replied, 'but I will help you either way, as I am the one who wanted him to live.'
It turned out that he was the father, as she had known.
The relationship was no better. Her children despised him but he loved the child.
'I think there is something wrong with Rory,' she said one day.
'What do you mean?'
'I think he has Downs Syndrome.'
'What do you know about Downs Syndrome?' He had replied. 'There are no Downs Syndrome children in England. They do routine tests and your doctors convince you to abort them.'
'I didn't have the test,' she replied. 'I fell between the cracks. I have checked it out on the computer and he has all the signs.'
They brought him to the doctor.
'Not at all,' the young lady doctor had said immediately.
'I believe he has,' she replied firmly. 'Can we have the tests done?'
'Ok,' the doctor had replied, annoyed that her authority was questioned.
Two weeks later she returned wondering why they were not called for the tests. The condition was life-threatening without early diagnosis. Her doctor was not on duty but there was, instead, a new doctor on cover.
Irish, she noted, as soon as he opened his mouth.
'I think our child has Downs Syndrome. I had requested a test but we have not been called.'
He checked the file and then the baby.
'I am terribly sorry -- the request was not sent,' the doctor said, clearly shocked. Her partner sat beside her silent. The doctor turned to him and said, gently, as if speaking another language,
'I see them often. They have the power of universal love.'
She watched the sorrow on her partner's face, then acceptance. The doctor turned to her then and said, 'I will have the tests done immediately.'
'What did he mean What did he mean about universal love?' she asked as they drove away.
'He means that Rory has Downs Syndrome,' he replied.
'How does he know without a test,' she demanded?
'He knows because he is Irish and we have lots of Down Syndrome babies. We don't have tests so therefore they are not aborted. They are allowed to live. They are allowed to spread their love everywhere.'
'I have never seen one of these children,' she had replied, crying in terror. 'What do they look like?'
'I have never seen one here either,' he replied. 'He'll be fine . it's not what you think.'
They stopped for food on the way home. A stocky boy at the table across from them caught her eye, his vacant stare, his pudding-bowl haircut, his mother's weary, patient attention.
'Is that one of them,' she had asked?
'Yes.' He replied.
Their strained relationship eventually broke up. She was distraught but he would not return. He helped with the boy all he could and then she met another man.
'I didn't know what they meant by universal love,' she said, 'but I watched as my children who had never wanted him came to love him as he loved them. Watched as selfish, hormonal teenagers doted on their half brother, minded him as if he was the most precious possession they would ever have. Watched as everyone who wanted this child aborted began to love him like no other; as the child pulled a family together that had been torn apart long before he was conceived and watched as my new partner, long childless, loved him as if he was his own.'
'He would lie on my knee looking up at me as if I was the Madonna,' she continued. 'One day in a restaurant the waitress was so distracted that she could not see him smile up at her, a smile that would melt anyone's heart. I watched as he slowly put up his tiny little hand and touched her arm. She looked into his eyes and everything that was hurting her seemed to dissolve in that second, then, he did the same to a young boy in a wheelchair'
Later as we were about to leave an expensively-dressed woman came over and said to me,
'I am sorry for interrupting -- but you have a wonderful child. I've been watching him. He has a gift. You are blessed with that boy; he is a beautiful human being. He touches the heart of everyone.'
'Yes,' I replied, 'He has Downs Syndrome. He has the power of universal love . He is a special gift from God.'