MINE TO CARRY
An Irishwoman's Passage Through Forbidden Pregnancy
by Christine Mulvey
"Little did I know that within a year of returning from my travels, I would betray and be betrayed by all of the people I loved most dearly, the people to whom I thought I belonged, the people without whom, back then, I thought I could not survive."
Cris, (twenty-two) is a sensual, spiritually hungry and deeply conflicted Irishwoman who has just been called home by her impatient fiancée, Marc. It is early 1981. She has been travelling alone overland to and around India. Though deeply connected to her family, she has tasted the world and she wants to continue to partake of the feast. No part of her wants to leave.
Plagued by self-doubt and a need for approval, both of which have led her to hide her true self from others, Cris is also angry at what she sees as the cost of belonging. More than anything she wants a life of freedom, authenticity and depth, but she has no idea what that might look like, or how to get there. She doesn't know yet what it is she's going to do, but she does know she wants it to make a difference, and she's pretty sure that Ireland is too small, and marriage too restrictive, for the fire that blazes in her soul.
Upon her return to Ireland, Cris is faced with a set of circumstances that take her on a journey of wrenching transformation. Deserted by her fiancée, she finds herself pregnant in a country where unwed pregnancy is taboo, and is launched thereby into out and out war with herself, her family and her culture. Banishing herself to England to hide the pregnancy, she takes a job as a nanny to the daughters (Lindsey and Breda) of a mismatched Irish couple (Maire and Jim). There, in a country hostile to Ireland and surrounded by people who are certain about what she should do, Cris faces her situation.
Expecting initially to wait out her time, she finds herself increasingly pulled in opposing directions by her own deepest instincts and desires. Drawing on her experiences in India, on the one friend who seems to have her best interests at heart, (Lance, an older man with whom she travelled in India) and on her own internal fire, she faces what her impossible choice. Should she put her baby, or her own life, first?
It is a choice that mirrors a deeper conflict that has haunted and defined her entire life, a conflict she can no longer ignore or postpone. How is she to reconcile two very different, but equally important, parts of herself: her need to be true to herself and her need to belong; her need to do the "right" thing and to follow her soul, her need to experience everything life can offer and her need to feel whole? The search for an answer uncovers memories, dreams and truths about herself as a woman, none of which she had access to before.
Eventually, Cris decides to keep her baby. Her decision, however, is quickly sabotaged by a culture determined to hide what it deems to be sin. Cris is separated from her child and sent back to Ireland, where the grief of her unexpected loss, and the isolation into which she is plunged as a result, proves to be the ultimate testing ground. Despite this final and cruel turn of events, Cris finds inside herself the resources to move forward. Though it will be decades before she finds a way back to her child, she does find a way to a new and empowered relationship to herself, her life and her place in the world.