His name was Noah.
When I put down the phone on a 32-minute conversation with Miss X, it was this information that warmed me from the inside. Her baby’s name was Noah. He was wanted. He was loved. And he would have been born next month.
The brave woman first contacted me within hours of me posting my open letter to Miss X, after she went public with the story of how NRL player and ex-boyfriend Bryce Cartwright had bullied her and finally paid $50,000 for her to abort their four-month-old baby.
“Thank you,” she wrote.
“It’s been such a rough week… I really appreciate the support.”
She gave me her number and I called and we talked, one woman to another, about the ordeal she’s been through. Then we arranged a time for lunch as I happened to be travelling in her neck of the woods, and in the space of 10 days I went from sending a letter into the ether, hoping it would find its intended recipient, to hugging her, chatting over apple juice and a chicken baguette.
Her voice was raw yet eager. I asked the odd question, but mainly listened. She wants this story known. She wants the pain to be put to good use.
“The trigger was that I didn’t have any closure,” she explained.
“I never received an apology and I knew I couldn’t let this happen again, to someone else. People need to hear it from me. Unless someone speaks up about it, when will it end?”
I could hear her mother’s heart as she recalled the four months she cherished with little Noah on board. She loved him and was excited. She planned baby showers with girlfriends, planned a new life for herself, reimagined a reality that included a baby boy in her arms. They are fond memories.
Her mother wanted her to continue with the pregnancy, even offering to adopt Noah if she felt she couldn’t cope. Other friends encouraged and supported her, and even her GP said she was ready for motherhood, citing the many challenges she had overcome before this.
But as she considered what to buy for the nursery, pressure was mounting for her to follow through with a termination she didn’t want.
Bryce made it clear he didn’t want the child and would play no part in his upbringing. He said he would not be at the birth and wanted no contact with Noah. Eventually, Bryce stopped taking Miss X’s calls and former Penrith Panthers player Lou Zivanovic (who is also a club life member and fundraiser) stepped in to broker a deal to make the problem go away. He reiterated that Bryce didn’t want the child and was willing to pay a fair price to solve the problem. Lou sent Miss X countless texts pressuring her to sign a contract for $50,000 to end the pregnancy. He refused to meet her in person and hounded her to make a decision.
“A price was put on the baby. At the time, it was like there was nothing for me to feel. I just felt empty, like I was nothing. When someone bullies you and you can’t do anything… it was hurtful.”
No doctor in NSW would see her, because she was four months along and they considered it too risky a procedure. Armed with this information, Miss X told Bryce, thinking it would be the catalyst for a change in his support of her pregnancy. Instead, he looked further afield and found a doctor in Brisbane.
She boarded that flight, two, and returned, less than one.
“I realised my mistake almost immediately after the procedure was done,” she said.
“I came out feeling utterly defeated and lonely. On one end of the spectrum is an overwhelming relief to be out of the crisis, and on the other end there is an overcoming depth of sadness and regret that resonates to the core up to this day.
“I couldn’t walk the streets after that. People knew I was pregnant and I was embarrassed. I couldn’t look at another baby and it’s mother – I wished it was me,” she shared in our bubble at a cafe where people bustled around us.
Between the time of the abortion in November last year, to when she first shared her story in the media early last month, Miss X shared that anger, grief, guilt and shame were never far from her.
“Realising that abortion is a decision I can’t take back has caused me a lot of distress. Being pushed down and made to feel worthless, causing me not to live up to my own beliefs and values. Wishing I had made a different decision even if placed in the exact same circumstances in the exact same place and time. All these feelings brewing inside me have made it a very difficult road to recovery,” she said.
The $50,000 hush money that was paid to Miss X felt like dirty money to her, and she has since been distributing it to charities that focus on children in need such as World Vision, UNICEF, a burns victims charity and other needs she notices.
“This might sound silly, but I donate on behalf of me and the baby,” she said.
She’s not silly though. This is an intelligent 25-year-old woman who has been duped and won’t sit idly by as other women suffer the same. At the moment, the trauma of her experience is too recent for her to remove the cloak of identity, but one day, she ponders, that might be an option.
She is seeing a “great” counsellor and says that speaking about Noah, about her grief, is helping. That’s why she is happy to sit across the table from me and share, one woman to another.
“I’m sure this happens to women everywhere,” she said.
I nod. We know it does.
“Even if Bryce was a taxi driver or a cleaner, that situation is not ok. That’s what I want people to know.”