Let me just start by saying that I never wanted to have kids and never wanted to get married. I didn’t want either, but I especially didn’t want the kid part. I remember in a college literature course reading Jane Eyre and seeing the name “Adele” for the first time, thinking, That would be a really great name for a girl, like someone’s daughter. Not my daughter, of course, but someone else’s daughter.
I was 26; I’d been with my boyfriend Andy monogamously, which, trust me, was a record for me, for about five months when I started to get the familiar feeling of discomfort. The suffocation of intimacy was closing in on me and closing in tight. We had spent Memorial Day weekend together the way most single twenty-somethings our age did, by binge drinking. We’d partied Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night together, and as the days went on, the stronger the urge for my freedom grew. I invited him over on Memorial Day “to talk.” When he got there, we sat outside on my parents’ deck (since I, admittedly, still lived with them as an aforementioned “twenty-something”) and I proceeded to break up with him through my hangover via straightforward sentiments with the occasional analogy thrown in for good measure (“It’s like I’m a ship and I just need to sail,”) and chain-smoking. After all, he knew I’d been planning on moving away to Charlotte, North Carolina, with my best friend Tom. It wasn’t like he shouldn’t have seen this coming. Through it all, he forced a smile, and although I knew it wasn’t genuine, I figured it wasn’t my problem at that point. He shouldn’t have gotten so attached.
Right before he left, he handed me something that I didn’t think much about. “Here,” he said. “Since you were late.” I stared at the e.p.t. he clutched in his hand and kind of shrugged. “O — kay,” I stammered. “I mean, I guess I’ll take this.” I really don’t remember how many seconds I peed on that stick. I don’t remember what I was thinking while I peed. All I know is, I did do that, and then waited for the result. I looked at the little lines on the stick and looked at the illustration on the box. I stayed in the bathroom for a long time. When I slowly and reluctantly emerged, with a mixture of shock and disbelief, I said, “Ummm — I can’t really tell — I mean, it’s hard to tell — ” Andy took one look at the test and said, “It looks to me like you’re pregnant.” The whole room was spinning, spinning save for those damn little lines indicating the life already growing inside me. I asked Andy to leave and then I curled up on the couch and called my other best friend, Missy.
“I’m pregnant, Missy.” I started bawling the second I said it out loud. While I don’t explicitly recall her exact words, I know they were full of surprise. I couldn’t stay home by myself so I decided to go to her house. But first I threw away my cigarettes – you know, just in case I decided to keep it.
I suddenly forgot how to drive. How to breathe. All I could focus on is wanting desperately for the tears welling in my eyes to not start streaming down my face, wanting desperately to suppress the urge to smoke every single one of those cigarettes I’d thrown away.
I had wanted desperately for a lot of things lately. But not this. Not like this. Not in this context, and not like this.
Why did this happen? How did this happen and why did this happen to me?
I hated him. He had done this; he had wanted this. He didn’t want me to leave, so he made sure to do something to keep me here.
It wasn’t possible. It’s not possible. There’s no way. No way.
No way I’m pregnant.
When I got to Missy’s (who, at the time, lived with Tom, the friend I was moving with to Charlotte) she came to the door with a face full of sympathy (although I swear there was a little of Thank Jesus it wasn’t me in there). She hadn’t told Tom yet, so we went upstairs to find him packing for our move. “Hey!” he said, and then, “What’s wrong?”
“I’m pregnant,” I blurted out, and then immediately burst into tears once again. His entire face changed as he came over to me. He and Missy were both just staring quietly, unsure of what to say in this surreal circumstance. I made a lame joke about not having room for a play pen in our Charlotte apartment and Tom half smiled as we made our way down the hall to their computer room to do some Googling. The next few weeks changed my life forever.
The days and nights that followed consisted of me crying off and on, slowly telling more trusted friends, and nibbling on Saltines to put my miserable 24-hour nausea at bay. The night I found out, after trashing my Camel Special Lights, I went out and bought a bottle of prenatal vitamins, again, “just in case,” and I was convinced the entire time I was in line at Kmart that everyone who passed me could already tell I was with child. Every night when my parents were safely in bed I went online and learned everything I could about abortion. The questions I kept coming back to were, Will I feel guilty? Will I regret it? I read a lot about those themes and kept telling myself that this thing, this “baby,” was just a cluster of cells right now; it wasn’t really anything, and this was not in my life plans. I called the people I trusted the most, and looking back, almost everyone I told about the pregnancy had children. They all said the same thing, “You will regret not having the baby. You will never regret having it.” I told them all the same thing, “But I’m different; I’m not you. I can’t have this baby; I don’t want this baby.” And even though I’m the one who hadn’t inserted that month’s NuvaRing, it just felt like Andy had gotten me pregnant on purpose. It was his responsibility, too. He had been obsessed with me all along, and now I hated him. All I could do was think about how all-around hopeless the whole situation was and cry myself to sleep at night.
I eventually made an appointment at the nearest abortion clinic. One of my friends took off work to drive me. I called the clinic the morning of and asked all kinds of questions. “Oh, girls come in here, some of them seven or eight times,” was one of her answers when I’d asked about the pain. I’d been brushing my hair in the mirror and froze. That floored me; I was having an abortion conversation like we were talking about a pedicure appointment. The woman on the phone said, “If you’re at all not sure about this, don’t come in. Take some time to think about it.” I hung up the phone and stared into the mirror. Who am I?
The following week I moped around the house, staying in while everyone else partied, in general just feeling sorry for myself. How could I do this? I didn’t want to be with Andy. If I kept this baby I would do it on my own. I’d have to stay around here, which I hated, but I knew I could never move away with Andy here. He’d want as much involvement as I would, should I come to terms with having this baby.
Then one night, it happened. I had a dream filled with baby’s cries – my baby’s cries. In my dream I went to pull my baby out of her crib. It was a girl. Her name was Adele. It was then, that I knew.
I could do this.
Adele was born in February. It was snowing that day. Andy was there. I was on such a high from having actually made another person – a perfect, amazing little person. I was so in love with her. Despite the lack of sleep, the unknowns I’d kept myself up about every night for months leading up to this – despite all of that, everything seemed so perfect those first weeks after we brought her home to my apartment, at that point.
Andy began spending the night, sleeping on the couch so he could help get up with her in the night. There were fights. There was tension. There was uncertainty. And then, out of nowhere, there was bonding. There was caring. There was love. Love. This man I had sworn to all of my friends I’d never, ever be with again – ever – was giving me butterflies. I was falling for him.
It didn’t necessarily happen in the right order, but I fell in love with the father of my baby. The baby I decided to keep. The thing I swore a few months prior had ruined my life. He eventually proposed and we are now happily married with two daughters. Do I wonder what my life what be like now, had I gotten the abortion? Sometimes. And I’ll never know if I’d have regretted the abortion, but my friends were right about one thing – I have never regretted having the baby, Adele.