We had wanted children together. We had had children together.

The house was quiet when I got in. It had been such a lovely night, old friends, good food, good wine. We had talked about the things we always talked about — our children, our jobs, our husbands, the ways we had know each other for 30 years now. And then I had blurted out ‘I think I’m pregnant’ over a final glass of wine that I shouldn’t have had, and there had been sudden silence.

‘Have you done a test?’ One of them asked me, my most practical friend.

‘Not yet,’ I said. ‘I’m too afraid to. I keep waiting for my period to come and it doesn’t.’

‘How on earth…?’ That was the judgmental friend.

‘I know. I thought I had it all covered, but maybe I didn’t.’

‘Ok, but you could very well not be?’ That was my optimistic friend.

‘Yes, but I just have a feeling… you know when you have a feeling…?’

More silence. They did know. We had been through this before, but decades ago when we were all young. Back then, the scares had been exciting as well as frightening. Even while we assured each other — ‘you aren’t, you’ll be fine’ — we made plans, too: ‘if you are, we’ll take turns minding the baby. You can still go to lectures and go out, we’ll all help, and you can bring the baby with you…’ Sweet, silly plans. As if a baby were a dog, or a toy. Because back then, we didn’t know what a baby was. What it did to your life and your self. Now we knew. Years of bringing up children we loved, who were finally old enough to let go of us a little, had taught us.

And so there were no excited plans.

‘Just do the test,’ my practical friend whispered as she said goodbye. ‘You need to know, fast. So you can work out what to do…’

As I was about to slip up the stairs and into bed, I saw a light in the study. James must be watching TV, or perhaps working. A man who runs his own business has to work all hours, he would say.

I thought about going in to him, sitting with him, maybe having another glass of wine that I would regret in the morning. Telling him what I hadn’t yet told him: ‘I might be…’

I hadn’t said anything, because I was afraid of what he would say. Or wouldn’t say. Of what I might say to him that could never be unsaid. This was ground that we had never tested between us.

We had decided to have a family together, and he had been terrified but excited when I got pregnant quickly, within a couple of months. Watching him with our children had made me love him more than ever. His delight in them, his patience and kindness were the very best of him.

We had wanted children together. We had had children together. We had never had to talk about any other versions of that story.

We were lucky.

But it meant I didn’t know, didn’t know at all, what he might think about what I privately called ‘my options’, even though the other word – the bigger word – ‘termination’, hovered there too.

I didn’t know, and I was terrified to find out. That kind of gap, once it opens, it doesn’t close easily.

So I said nothing. Better to wait.

I went upstairs quietly, and in to switch off the fairy lights around Stella’s bed. In their glow she was an elf child. I watched her for a moment and tried to imagine doing it all again, finding the time, the money, the energy, the love, the fear, again. And I knew I couldn’t. It wasn’t my time. Whatever my body said, whatever anyone else thought, it wasn’t my time.

‘The nights and the bottles and the feeding and changing. I did it too.’

Denis’s story

‘I used to know exactly how I felt and now I don’t?’

Bríd’s story

‘Of all the ways I ever thought I’d feel about us having a child, it was never this.’

Seán’s story

‘I can’t not trust another woman to know her own mind, her own body and her own life.’

Agnes’s story

‘I chose to do something that you didn’t have any choice about’

Jennifer’s story