Lesson Seventeen: My body can hold a baby.

Stephanie, my best friend since high school, had a baby. My niece was about three months old when I first met her. I was in my first trimester. Preston took Stephanie to the Roosevelt to see the Christmas trees while I stayed home with a fussy Aubrey and persistent vomiting.

My friend from the Melting Pot was with me as we got the at-home test. He and I laughed about it actually turning blue. It wasn’t funny for long.

I was in an open relationship with a white army boy in Mississippi. He was older than me and great in bed. His job required him to be away a lot, which suited me fine. I had time for my own life. I didn’t see anyone else regularly at the time. We used protection: condoms for him and the pill for me. I shouldn’t have been pregnant.

My body was not ready for a baby to take up residence. The amount of prescription meds I took for sleep alone was enough to harm anyone, let alone the anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, mood-stabilizer day meds I took. I was exploring alcohol in a big way.

I’d started seeing my gyno on a recommendation from my therapist. Dr. Hope Ruhe is one of the best medical professionals I’ve seen. During my first ultrasound, with my Mississippi boy holding my hand, we learned the date of conception. It was the second week of his three-week training period. He couldn’t be the father.

Much to his eternal credit, he did not drop my hand.

I scheduled another ultrasound before I left the office. It had to be wrong. The date had been correct, though. It wasn’t his baby.

The army boy pointed out that I was still “spacey” at times. I’d termed it for therapy purposes, and to explain to close friends. I was losing time so frequently that I had to find a label for the circumstance. I had considered that, and dismissed the idea of me fucking strangers and forgetting about it. That could never happen. Right?

Preston cycled back to being invested in me. We’d been on the outs since the angry sex had stopped. Now I’d just cry and ask why he didn’t wait that night in October. When my baby announcement went out, he started to come around more often.

I decided to keep the baby. I figured the army boy was as good as it would get. Military means regular work; maybe not great money, but enough for me and a kid. I’d be working, of course.

I’d felt empowered to abort, which was the loose plan my friend and I made as we bought the test in the first place. Maybe it was the years of Bible indoctrination, or maybe that I want to see if I could pull off that Mom thing; either way, I was going to keep it.

One of my role models and co-workers at Hallmark bought me a pregnancy journal. I got a Tigger washcloth from Shanny for the baby. I bought a Pooky keychain, to match the Pooky bear I have from my infancy.

I woke up to go to the bathroom and found blood. More than spotting. I called my grandparents and partner on the way to the ER. I was told that things were fine, but to see my gyno that week. I was sitting in a paper gown, waiting to be released when my Pa-Pa came into the room.

At first, I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. He told me that since I was here, maybe I’d best just take care of things. I told him that I had. I was here to take care of things. The doctor said to see my gyno. He shook his head. Pa-Pa was not a talker, in the best of times. Once I realized what he meant, my first thought was that people like him voted against abortion being that available. I put my hand over my belly and took him I was keeping the baby. He didn’t bring it up again.

Hormones were the worst part. Puking for about four months on end was the next worst part. I would be around people and get on emotional rants. From inside my head, I’d listen to myself and think about how stupid I sounded. This usually made me cry, which made breathing through my nose impossible, which infuriated me. Then I’d be sick to my stomach again.

Washing my hair one night, I had a thought so clear that I felt it as infallible. My baby was a girl. My baby was a girl, and I wanted to name her Lyra. I think it’s a beautiful name.

My partner had decided that he didn’t want the baby, and left. I had started my second trimester and was showing. I had committed.

The second ultrasound went poorly. They couldn’t find the heartbeat. The machine was broken. I was scheduled to go to another facility the next day.

The follow-up said that a heartbeat was present. No, two. Two heartbeats were present. Twins. I called my mother and cried.

I got a call from the imagery people the next week saying that the ultrasound machine had been broken at the time of my twins reading. Once again, I rescheduled an ultrasound. Women who carry to full-term might not get as many ultrasounds as I got to have. The baby was fine.

Bleeding started again the next week. The ER doctor told me I was losing her. I didn’t know if it was a girl but I’d been calling her Lyra in my mind. He told me it might take a couple days, but she wasn’t going to make it. I heard that my baby was dead inside me. I told him I wanted a DNC. He told me something about laws and it meant no. He gave me a list that would go to whoever deems me worthy of making my own adult choices, and I could come back on Monday.

I picked up Megan and $1,000 in cash from my savings and drove to Houston. I saw three anti-abortion billboards on the drive.

Planned Parenthood in Houston was an amazing facility, filled with kind, supportive people who helped me during one of my worst days. By law, the doctor had to do an ultrasound before the procedure. She was quiet, almost soft, as she told me that I could save my money and wait if I wanted. I told her no. I needed it done now. She nodded.

I threw up on the side of the freeway on the way back to our hotel room. We watched horror movies and ate junk food and drank. I went over to her bed and held Megan the next morning as she was struggling with nightmares. She never asked why we were at Planned Parenthood in Texas, and I never explicitly said. It was the first time she’d bought me booze since the baby was announced, though.

“It was a blessing, really, honey,” said Everyone.
“At least you lost it and didn’t abort it. I don’t know if I’d want you around my kid then,” said Friends with Kids.
“What were you gonna do with a kid anyway?” said Everyone Else.
“I’ll miss you, I whispered.

In a box that contains my past, there is an ultrasound picture of Lyra. I still have the miniature Pooky bear and a sympathy card from Shanny.

If I ever have kids, or I ever get to explain it to my nieces, I hope that I leave them knowing that there are many reasons that people do the things they do.

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