An unplanned pregnancy and a missing boyfriend
'My lover gave my engagement ring money to his mother!'
My first husband, 'Bunny', I met through a friend in 1957. I was working in the Radio Education Unit at Mona and rehearsing for the pantomime Busha Bluebeard. My friend came by to watch rehearsals and I was introduced. Bunny was a civil servant, four or so years older than me. He was quiet, well spoken, tall and attractive. I thought him rather nice, and he seemed focused on me. We dated for about a year and I thought it was love because I wanted him near me all the time.
In 1958 I went off to Trinidad with the Pantomime to the West Indies Festival of Arts. He telephoned to say how much he missed me. In those days overseas call was really something. I took it to mean that love was in the air. He proposed in August. "Would you mind waiting until next year to get married and we'll get engaged at Christmas?" he said. When Christmas came, I got a beautiful gold bracelet but no engagement ring. He explained that he had given the money to his mother. I was disappointed and upset and a bit worried how Aunt G and Uncle Weddie, who were expecting the event, would react. In fact, they quarreled with me.
Bunny and I also quarreled. Making up afterwards we got somewhat carried away, and although we came to our senses quickly the horse had gone through the gate. A few weeks later I began to feel funny and the doctor confirmed that I was pregnant. When I called Bunny he surprised me. He couldn't understand how that could be. He was unprepared, as socially vulnerable as I was, and love seemed to take some backwards steps immediately. I was forced to collect myself and begin preparations for my new status and responsibilities.
The next few months were fraught with problems, not least of which was Bunny's unexplained absence. Getting to and from my job was a challenge, especially as one of the complications of the pregnancy was passing out anywhere, anytime. I was warned by my obstetrician not be alone. Truth be told, I don't know how I would have survived that period of my life without the caring and practical support of a friend and co-worker, Alma Mock Yen (she was Alma Hylton then). In addition to my mental and physical stress there was the huge issue of Aunt G and Uncle Weddie who knew nothing of my condition. I was at a complete loss how to tell them, especially why there was no husband to introduce.
At the beginning of my fifth month, my boss, Hugh Morrison, who had been extremely supportive, offered to help. He would arrange my transfer to WIBS in Grenada. There I could continue working in broadcasting and have my baby without any harmful gossip. I would be able to raise my child and make something of my life. I jumped at the chance and began preparations to travel.
A few days before my departure Bunny showed up, wanting to put things right. He said he would accompany me to my Aunt G and Uncle Weddie. After very careful consideration - despite my earlier resolve to go it alone - I accepted his offer. The meeting was traumatic. Suffice it to say a wedding was arranged, which actually took place a couple of weeks later, on May 18, 1959. Not a marriage of love as I saw it, not the one I had dreamt of earlier. It was simply to save face.
After the wedding any notion of love receded further and further away from my heart because, after honeymoon night, Bunny remained an absentee until the morning my labour pains began. I called him to let him know that the doctor had instructed me to go to the hospital right away and that I was waiting for him to transport me. I waited and waited and waited, to no avail. Finally, pain-wracked and fearful, I had to accept my landlady's offer to drive me to the hospital. The following morning, September 15, 1959 at quarter past three, when they placed my son in my arms, I felt the joy and wonder of motherhood and knew that for my son's sake I would never give up but would carry on, regardless of Bunny.
For the next several months I soldiered on, with the kind and generous support of Aunt G and Uncle Weddie and of Bunny's father, Sam, as well as a few close friends.
My job as a JBC announcer complemented my work in theatre, and being on air helped boost my self-esteem. Almost overnight I was somebody. I was being talked about, written about in the newspapers and recognised as a promising talent. Suddenly, in the wake of my new achievements, I became someone worthy of acknowledgement as the mother of Bunny's son, and his parents put pressure on him to take up his rightful position as husband and father.
To give him his due, he tried; but at this point, after all that had passed, I was indifferent. The late and lukewarm attempt to capture what never really was, and to actually live in the same space for three months or so, did not work. I didn't even want to try. I had grown accustomed to facing the music alone; so, without hesitation, we decided to go our separate ways.
Tomorrow in the Autobiography of Leonie Forbes: Hugh Shearer summons Beverley Anderson and me