Baby Boys and Expletives
Minnie Driver finds life doesn’t follow any roadmap
Academy-award nominated actress Minnie Driver shares the ups and downs of her life through entertaining and poignant tales in her book managing expectations, ranging from her first solo sung on the local news from a windy tree at her English boarding school to the death of her beloved mother during COVID-19, with candid stories of acting failures and successes in between. In this excerpt, Driver describes her son Henry’s birth—a surprise from start to finish. Henry is the happy result of a brief relationship with writer Timothy J. Lea when they were working together on the TV series the riches. Driver has raised her son as a single parent since his birth in 2008. And through it all, Driver explores the beauty of managing her way through the unexpected and painful to find joy.
“I think you’re pregnant,” my
sister, Kate, said.
“I think you are.”
“But I’ve got a difficult uterus, remember that horrible old doctor comparing it to having a U-bend in a toilet and said I’d never get pregnant.”
“F**k that guy. Let’s get a pregnancy test.”
Even through the profound fear of what this might mean, a keen wonder was also present as I peed on the two sticks. I then sat on the edge of the bath and waved the sticks like Polaroids. My mind was now blank, it was clear, it was unmoving; my whole life, past and present, had come to a gliding halt as one of two potential futures prepared to join the caravan. I looked down at the sticks, and the two sets of parallel lines that told me I wasn’t alone in the bathroom. I stood up and looked at my face in the mirror, and I smiled. That was the very first acknowledgment
of my baby, an instant human reaction to joy, our first salutation.
One day at an ultrasound the doctor said:
“So, do you want to know if it’s a girl or a boy?”
“Okay.” He paused and kept ultrasounding, clicking on the computer keyboard, taking measurements.
“Well, she is really big and beautiful,” he said, smiling.
“I…I didn’t want to know the sex,” I spluttered.
“Oh, goodness, did I let that slip? Oh I am so sorry.” Apologies were not enough to stop me bursting into tears. I didn’t want some guy ripping off the baby from having its first introduction; it wasn’t his news to tell. I was upset enough that the doctor wrote in large red letters on my file:
“DO NOT MENTION GENDER”—AS if not repeating that I was having a girl would help me unhear the fact. Consequently I couldn’t help holding only the idea that I was having a girl, but it was never mentioned again by anyone.
I had loosely been calling my daughter “Bel.” I liked the brevity of the name and the clear syllable it sounded out. I imagined her small and freckled with a shock of dark hair, wrists with folds of sweet chub, and one blue eye, one brown eye, like my father. I imagined quietly encouraging her to feel safe on whatever ground she stood and teaching her that shifts in terrain had no bearing on how she could choose to feel. She was this tiny, fluid warrior who smiled and cried with her whole heart, then shook it off like an Etch A Sketch and began anew.
I labored for a night and a day and another night, longing to meet her. On the first night, my sister came into my bedroom, which was filled with candles and the stereo sound of soothing monks om-ing, and she said,