Adolescence is the time when, if we haven’t
already done so, we refine our ability to lie—the big lies, little
lies in between and the lies we don’t even realize are lies until
we glance backward at them from the future and see them for what they
are. If childhood is a sunny afternoon we remember for bursts of spontaneous
honesty, puberty is the night we dig a hole in the yard and bury our
imagination—and with it some part of our ability to tell the truth.
Superstition is one of the stumps of imagination that survives.
When I was a kid, I had a superstition about a step in the staircase
I avoided. It had a particularly sad looking eye that gazed up from
a knot in the wood. Who wants to step on an eye...? I didn’t.
And what’s more, skipping that step on the way from my bedroom
out into the uncertain world beyond it gave me a misguided but necessary
sense of control.
And that’s the little acorn with which I started to write Stephanie
Daley—a girl who skips a stair because it makes her feel
safe. Then (since this is fiction) I took it further and gave Stephanie
something to practice lying about—an unexpected pregnancy that
she convinces herself and the world around her isn’t happening.
I researched and discovered that “surprise” deliveries happen
a lot, crossing boundaries of race, privilege and knowledge. Some have
happy endings and some end tragically. When I told people I was writing
about a teenager with a concealed pregnancy, they would tell me about
a cousin or a friend that “something like this” once happened
to, and sometimes they looked thoughtful and said, “That could
have been me....”
I wanted to explore how this could happen. The answer I discovered
lay not in a specific moment but in the sum of many small moments when
a small conversation that could have changed Stephanie’s course
could have happened, but didn’t.
Meanwhile, closer to home, all the grown-ups in my life were getting
pregnant, or, even more bravely—trying to. Inevitably, I joined
their number, tried to get pregnant, failed, and then when I least expected
it, conceived twins. And during all this I noticed something interesting...I
noticed that even the most honest, fully-realized among us were making
it look way too easy. We would chat about calendars, swells and tingles
and share bits of medical insight...but the darker stuff we carried
quietly. There is a solid primal want of privacy behind this quiet,
but also some superstition. No one wants to jinx a pregnancy with negativity—and
so like Stephanie, we banish it. A friend, seven months along, once
told me that she meant it when she smiled at the world, because she
had never felt so connected to everyone and everything—but at
the same time, she had never felt so incredibly alone.
This is the film’s point of entry for Lydie, the pregnant psychologist
who interviews Stephanie. Every rite of passage involves some darkness,
some loss, some fear, and a dose of superstition. Preparing for children
is no exception. And I’m not talking about birth, I’m talking
about what we do before we bring home a child, whether by birth
I’m talking about the demolition work both women and men must
do to make way...Some of us let the wrecking ball swing ourselves,
happily reducing our past lives to an unrecognizable pile of timbers.
Some of us neatly renovate just one room and order a nest in a flat
box from IKEA, and some of us wake up terribly surprised, and just deal
with it. However it happens, it’s a part of the human story worth
telling. And that’s why in this film, grown-up Lydie needs young
Stephanie—to start a conversation that needs starting, to tell
a story that needs telling, because once we start telling stories, at
least we’re not alone.