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One month - Mother
She blinked a couple of times to clear her eyes. Perhaps she was seeing it incorrectly. It could not be- she had only tried it once. That type of thing wasn’t supposed to happen. You couldn’t possibly have this type of thing happen to you because of one night- right?
She shook her head and looked again. Threw it away. Grabbed another one- her sister kept a couple underneath the sink. Drank some water. Tried again a few minutes later. But there it was once more, the tiny plus sign, pink in the light of the bathroom. She tilted her head to the side and shook her head. This was definitely not how it was supposed to be- no, it couldn’t be. It simply could not.
Knock, knock, knock. “Jan, I’ve been waiting for, like, an hour now. Get out,” Her sister’s voice carried angrily through the closed door. Jan sat there, paralyzed. “Jan. Come on,” her sister pleaded. These things went right over Jan’s head. She began to shake her head vigorously. “No, Maggie, just stay out there!” she pleaded.
It was too late. Her sister kicked open the door and looked down at her, surprised to see her holding the pregnancy test in her hands. Jan looked up at her, shaking.
“I think I’ve figured out why I’ve been so sick lately.”
Two months - Father
He walked out the doors of the school and headed towards his car. He had just gotten out of astronomy club and was exhausted from it all- smart as he was, so much information could make anyone tired. He just wanted to get into his car, pick up some Chinese food for him and his five-year-old brother, and crash on the couch while watching the same superhero movie for the eighth time.
Yes, that sounded like an exceptional thing to do at that particular moment, but then he saw the note. It was taped to his window shield, scribbled in handwriting he didn’t recognize. He picked the tape off of the glass and held the note in his hand, squinting.
Sam, I’m pregnant. Don’t worry, no one will know that you are the dad. Just thought I would tell you.
Three months- Mother
The office smelled like disinfectant wipes. The vinyl beneath her stuck to her bare skin. They sat, waiting for the doctor. Jan had never liked the doctor’s office- it was a place of cold metal instruments and rubber gloves in your mouth and sitting. Waiting. Anticipating. The silence between her and her mother did not help her nerves.
“Did you think you would be able to keep this from me forever?” Jan turned around and looked at her mother, surprised that she had finally spoken to her. Jan shook her head, chuckling. “Of course not, mom.” It wasn’t a very pleasant experience to come home to her mother on the day she found out she was pregnant. Her mother had called to make an appointment right away, and from that moment on, there was nothing that could be done about keeping the baby a secret.
The door squeaked open and a woman in a white coat walked in. Strolling over to Jan’s mother, she asked, “How long have you been pregnant?” Jan’s mother shook her head and pointed at Jan. The doctor turned around to where Jan was perched on top of the cold, plastic couch. “Oh, I see,” she said, shaking her head.
Four months- Father
He locked the door behind him and sank to the floor. Nobody knew what he had done except for him and Jan. He couldn’t deal with it. Yes, that night, it was his suggestion, his idea, his decision that it was his turn to try it out. He was the one who spotted the girl clothed all in black, standing by the stereo, next to her sister whom he’d seen once or twice in school. She told him that she’d always wanted to try it. He barely knew the girl, and it’s not what he’d intended at all- he didn’t want to think about it, afterwards, but now he had no choice.
He could not be a good student, a parent’s prize, a future astrophysicist and a father at the same time. He could not go on believing that somewhere in the world there was a child- a real-live person- that was partly created due to him, born before he was ready.
Then again, he could not sit in oblivious bliss for the rest of his life, pretending that he was unaware of the little one that he never knew but yet, was responsible for.
No, that was something he could not do.
Tears were building in his eyes, but he got up and bravely wiped them away. He opened the door and walked into the laundry room where his mother was folding clothes. She looked up at him, concerned. “What is it, Sam?”
It was one of the hardest things he had ever done, but he took a deep breath, let it out, and said it. “I’m going to be a father.”
Five months- Mother
She had begun to show much more than before. She was now noticeably pregnant, and that was quite obvious to everyone. She would receive disapproving looks while buying cereal or mac and cheese at the grocery store. People would stare when she walked her dog by the river. Even at the doctor’s office, she wasn’t greeted with a smile as she used to be. The little amount of respect she once had was gone.
Walking down the hallways of her school, people looked at her belly and leaned in towards each other, whispering. It didn’t matter who they were- everyone seemed to be talking about her. They laughed, they stared, they spread rumors about who the father was. They did everything but ask if it was a boy or a girl, or what it’s name would be, or if it kicked, or anything- anything- else about it instead of against it. Against her.
A girl passed her in the hallway. “S***,” she whispered, smirking. That girl was on the honor roll, highest in her class. Her and her friends looked down upon Jan, as if she were lesser than them. If only they’d known that Jan had heard that word many times before, then maybe they wouldn’t have felt the need to label her.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the long day. Jan couldn’t go home- she could not deal with her family right now. Getting into her car, she began to drive, absentmindedly and without thought. She was surprised when she pulled into the parking lot of a church. She had never been to a church in her life- she never thought of it as being the place for a person like her. Nonetheless, she opened the car door and walked inside. Waddled into the empty sanctuary. Leaned down at the altar. And then, for the first time in the past five months, she cried. Really, really cried. Sobbed. She was not the type of person to sob, and what she was sobbing over, she did not know. All of the things that had happened since the pregnancy test blended together and poured out of her eyes like a broken pipe with a leak that couldn’t be repaired because she just didn’t know how to fix it. Just didn’t. Just. Couldn’t.
Jan suddenly heard the sound of footsteps, quiet against the carpet. Looking up, she saw a young man approach her, then bend down and kneel beside her. She wiped away her tears and looked up at him. His face was soft, plain. “Can I pray over your baby?”
The question surprised her, but she nodded. The young man put his hands on her belly and closed his eyes. Bending his head over, he began to pray. Jan closed her eyes and listened, allowing herself to sink into the words he spoke and forget about everything else.
Six months- Father
He ran the lawn mover across the grass, watching as the green blades flew up around him. The yard was obnoxiously large, and it was difficult to mow around the complicated landscaping composed of flowers and fountains. He couldn’t possibly imagine why somebody would spend so much time on making a front yard look so poised. The thought didn’t matter at that moment, but it kept coming back to him. What is the point of having such a nice front yard?
The lawn mower slowed to a stop. He was on the edge of the yard- his job was finally complete. Looking up at the sun, he wiped the sweat off of his forehead and let out a sigh. He collapsed onto the cold grass beneath him, stretching out his legs and rolling around. Soon, he would walk into the rich lady’s house and collect his fifty dollars. He could go home and fall asleep early after a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, then wake up the next morning, fresh and ready to mow the neighbor’s fancy lawn.
Oh, gosh, it would be just as difficult as this yard, wouldn’t it?
Sam sighed and pushed himself up. It was hard word, but it was what he had to do. Whatever it took to help out Jan and their baby.
Seven months- Mother
Her and her sister sat on their bedroom floor, card stock and glitter glue spread out in front of them. Jan picked up a black marker and began to write on one of the pieces of pink card stock, drawing little flowers around the border. Maggie looked over her shoulder, laughing. “Interesting design. Sugary sweet.” Jan elbowed her, making her fall backwards.
Jan took the glitter glue and outlined her design, making sure not to miss a single detail. The invitations were handmade, but she refused to make them sloppy. Maggie took the glitter glue from her and began to make one of her own. “So, Jan…” she started, slowly and cautiously, “Do you think that people will come?”
“Well, hopefully. Why wouldn’t they?”
Maggie looked at her blankly. Jan sighed and started again. “Yes, I know I’m too young for this, but the shock has worn off. We can invite a few of mom’s friends, the nice ones, and see who comes. I’m going to need help getting stuff for the baby. I can’t pay for it all on my own.”
“Well, duh, none of us could. What about the father though? Are you going to tell him about the baby shower, or would that be-”
“I don’t think he really wants to be involved. He hasn’t talked to me at all. I understand, I guess-”
“No, Jan, he has to help out with this thing too. He was the one who-”
“Mags, it’s okay. Please. Just drop it.”
“It’s okay. It will all be okay.”
Eight months- Father
The store was crowded with middle-aged women carrying babies, their husbands trailing along, trying to keep their kids in line. Sam was at the toy store with his little brother, who begged to come with him. They both wandered around the store aimlessly, his brother oohing and ahhing at the transformers toys, the superhero toys, the millions and millions of toys.
A twenty-something woman wearing a red vest walked up to Sam. “Excuse me sir, can I help you with anything?” she asked. Sam nodded. Five minutes later, there they were, standing in a pastel-colored metropolis of baby blankets and stuffed animals. Sam had brought a small portion of the money he had earned for Jan to spend on something, anything, for his child.
“Okay,” said Sam, looking at the vast array of soft things before him. “Let’s get started.”
Nine months- Mother, Father, and Baby
The baby lay swaddled in the mother’s arms, now cleaned up and sleeping. She is a girl. She is alive. She came from the mother, who now sits in her bed, at 11 o’clock in the evening, staring at the little person.
Knock, knock, knock. “Come in,” calls the mother, not bothering to ask who it is. She looks up to see the father, who is startled to see her, and to see his tiny daughter, one that he knows he can’t take care of for himself but that he is glad to have the privilege to see. He walks over and sits beside them, placing a bag down next to him.
“Hi, Sam,” says the mother.
“Hi, Jan,” says the father. “How was it?”
“Painful. But she’s beautiful.”
The father looks down at the baby. “Can I hold her?”
“Yes, but be careful.”
The father takes the baby from the mother’s arms and gazes into her face. She is beautiful, in an indescribable way. He didn’t think he would feel like this when he held her- he didn’t even know he would be holding her. He felt a surge of happiness, like he could cry, but he knew he had to give her back to her mother. She would be the one to nurture her.
“What’s her name?” asked the father.
“Natasha, after my doctor.” The mother chuckled at the thought. “She was an interesting woman indeed.”
“Natasha. She is beautiful.”
There is silence for a few minutes, but it’s the comfortable kind- the kind that you feel after a long hike, or a difficult test, or an accomplishment- one that you share with a friend. The clock ticked on and the baby slept, and although they didn’t know each other very well, they both knew this baby perfectly.
“I’m sorry about that night,” said the father. “I’d never-”
“Don’t be. It was my choice as well as yours. I have her now. I can’t be sorry about her,” replied the mother.
“You weren’t ready. I wasn’t ready.”
“I know, but I will be some day. Until then, I’ll just have to try my best.”
The father looked down for a few seconds, and then grabbed the bag next to him, opening it. “I wanted to help you.”
The father pulled out a check for five thousand dollars, all earned by him. “To help with the baby,” he said.
The mother stared at the check, aghast. “Thank you. So much.”
“She’s my baby, too. It’s the least I could-”
“No, really, thank you.”
“Yes. All for her. Your welcome. Oh, one last thing.”
The father pulls out an orange stuffed giraffe from the bag and hands it to the mother. There is a tiny rattle inside, and it jingles softly as it passes between them. The baby yawns and brushes it’s soft fabric with her hand. The father smiles when he sees this and wipes a tear from his eye. “It’s so she can remember me, maybe, when she grows older,” he says, smiling. “I want her to always know that her dad loved her, even if he couldn’t grow to know her. I want her to remember that whoever her dad is, and wherever he is, he cares about her.”
The mother looks down at the baby in her arms who is touching the giraffe with her little hand, and smiles. It is a feeling that cannot be explained, knowing that the father cares so much about their baby. She leans her head back and closes her eyes. “I’ll remind her all the time.”
Crooks, South Dakota
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