Five-minute memoir: Natalie Lucas' parents decided to keep her on the basis of coin toss

'We said heads we keep it, tails we don’t.' I glare at my father. I want to cry

Did your mum never tell you this story?" I'm 16 and sitting at the dining table of the home I grew up in. Last week I stormed angrily out of my mum's house and across town to live with the father I've barely spoken to in four years. We have a lot of ground to make up, and this table, the microwaved rice and the defrosted curry between us are the terms of our armistice.

Tonight, my dad has drunk half a bottle of burgundy and somehow we're talking about times when my parents still spoke. I laughed a moment ago when he asked me to picture him at 29, his bald patch filled in with hair and his lip sporting a Tom Selleck moustache.

I've stopped laughing now, though. My dad has just told me he and my mum flipped a coin to decide whether to keep or abort me.

He pours himself another glass of wine.

"Maybe I shouldn't tell you."

"You have to now," I say seriously, digging my nails into my palm.

"OK then," he relents easily, warming to his anecdote, apparently oblivious to my anxiety. "Your mum and I were both working, both had careers in the city. I was doing up a house and she'd just bought her flat. We'd hang out at the weekends, meet friends at the pub once or twice a week."

I breathe through my nose and try to picture my parents young and childless; I fail.

"Your mum knocked on my door one day and I could see she was upset. She stood there on the doorstep and blurted something like: 'I'm pregnant and the doctor says I need to tell you before I can take care of it'."

My dad eyes me now, perhaps losing his nerve. I gaze back at him, arrange my mouth into a moderate smile. I already knew I was an accident and that my parents had only met a year before. I think back to my Philosophy and Ethics class's discussion about a woman's right to choose. Where, I wonder, was my mum when she found out? What was her first reaction?

"I said maybe we should talk about it," my dad continues. "So she came in and we sat down and tried to work out what to do. We couldn't, though. We talked and talked, deliberating for days. We even made a spreadsheet, trying to calculate if we could afford to have a child.

The answer was a resounding 'no'; babies are expensive. But then we looked at the spreadsheet and asked each other how, if two professionals on London salaries couldn't afford to have a child, anyone ever did? We threw out the spreadsheet and we were back to square one. We couldn't make a decision. There were as many arguments to have you as to not."

"So you flipped a coin!" I shout, unable to contain myself any longer. My anger echoes around the floorboarded house and my dad stares at me in surprise. Did he expect me to find this story funny?

"I'm sorry, sweetie, we didn't know what to do. We were talking ourselves in circles and growing more and more frustrated until one of us said, 'We might as well flip a coin'. It didn't seem absurd. We said heads we keep it, tails we don't."

I glare at my father, the word "it" reverberating in my brain. I want to cry but I don't want to do it in front of him.

"I pulled a penny from my pocket," my dad is still speaking, a smile playing at his lips again. "I asked your mum if she was sure. She nodded. So I threw it in the air."

I watch him catch the mime coin on the back of his right hand, cover it with his left. I clench my teeth.

"The thing is," my dad says, sniggering as he seeks eye contact. "I never looked!"

"Huh?" I exhale my anger into this one, inarticulate word.

"I never looked at the result. I told your mum it was heads, but I never checked."

A week later, when my mum and I have cooled from our fight, I tell her I know this story. She looks at me sadly, her eyes studying mine for signs of trauma. "Oh baby," she says, "I wish he hadn't told you." I can hear the pain in her voice, but I feel only my own. I assume she's upset that I know how close she came to getting rid of me. But what she says next completes my unlikely origins story and leaves me feeling both loved and lucky:

"It's true. We discussed it for days, deciding nothing. Eventually your dad said we might as well flip a coin. I agreed because in that time, I'd been carrying you around, feeling you inside me. We'd been talking to each other in the bath, you and I. By that time I knew, whatever your father decided with his spreadsheets or his coin, you were already my child."

'Sixteen Sixty One' by Natalie Lucas (The Friday Project, £7.99) is out now

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn