Knocked Up in Suburbia
Heather sat on the floor of the bathroom for over an hour. She kept her eyes shut for the most part because every time she opened them, that pregnancy test was staring at her. Those two little windows. One eye was just a straight line, maybe an em dash. The other eye was a dark purple plus sign.
If I typed those into the computer, would the oh shit emoji appear?
It had taken her a long time to figure out that she even need to take the test. Her periods were infrequent, and it’s not like she and Chris ever had any privacy, let alone time to sneak away. She thought she might have a mild version of the stomach flu.
But when she walked into the grocery store today and was overwhelmed by the smell of raw chicken, she also caught a whiff of fear. Oh God, please no.
Heather could have sat on the bathroom floor all day, but when she heard the door open down below, she quickly wrapped the test in toilet paper and then tossed it into a Kroger’s bag, before burying it in the bottom of the trash can.
She told Chris first. It took her a couple of days to work up the courage, but finally, she texted him to see if he could meet her at the pancake house near the high school. Nobody ever went there, so she wouldn’t have to worry about people trying to get all up in their business.
Chris’s reaction was worse than she anticipated. His horrified expression reminded her of the next victim in a slasher film. She fought the urge to giggle. It always hit at the most inappropriate times.
“Oh no! How could this happen?”
She was hit by an unexpected ball of fury. “How in the hell do you think it happened? It wasn’t an immaculate conception. I’m not carrying the next Christ child.”
His eyes were cold. “I assumed you were being careful.”
She felt the tears building up. Dammit, she didn’t want to cry. “I thought we were fine. I didn’t do this on purpose.”
He softened a little. Reached over and took her hand. “I know. I know you didn’t. But, how can we do this? We’re six months away from freedom. Our real life is ready to begin.”
They sat in the syrupy silence of the pancake house. Heather was beginning to wonder why she picked this place. The smell made her nauseous. Or maybe it was Chris.
“You know Heather, we do have other options.”
She looked up in surprise. “No! I could never do that. It’s — I don’t know — it’s wrong, at least for me.”
“So I have no say in the matter?” She wondered how his eyes could spark blue, like the fireplace and yet be so cold.
“I’m having the baby.”
“I do have a choice. I don’t have to stick around for this crap.”
He grabbed his coat, threw a twenty on the table and left her to drown in the syrup.
They didn’t talk for a few weeks. Heather sucked up her courage and went to a doctor who confirmed that she was probably about four months along. She thought of all the alcohol she had at different parties, the caffeine that ran through her veins. The anxiety, stress, anger, everything. If this baby came out with two heads, it would be all her fault.
Chris finally texted her.
How should we tell them?
She had no idea how to answer that. She was afraid anything she put would anger him. So she just sent a question mark.
His reply was immediate. Maybe all together? Just rip off the band-aid.
She felt butterflies in her stomach. Was it the baby or nerves?
Okay, I’ll get it all set up.
Chris didn’t reply.
It was a big dinner. Heather couldn’t eat any of it. She just picked at the food on her plate and tried not to look at Chris. After dessert, Chris cleared his throat nervously before he spoke. “We wanted to talk to you all about something. Something important.”
Everyone looked at him expectantly. She wondered if they had any idea. It didn’t feel like it.
Chris lifted his coffee to his lips and then put it back down.
“Mom’s pregnant. We’re going to have a baby.”
Everything stopped. Cole, her twenty-four-year-old, actually held his fork in mid-air. It felt like a photograph. Once again, she stifled the urge to laugh.
It was no surprise that Danny was the first to speak. As the oldest, he always had the strongest opinions. “You’re kidding, right?”
She shook her head, still not able to speak.
“Jesus, Mom! You’re forty-six years-old.Why are you having another kid?” he looked over at his wife who was eight months pregnant. “Oh great,” he said sarcastically, “Our son will grow up playing with his aunt or uncle.”
Finally Heather found her voice. “Is it really that big of a deal? Maybe it will be kind of nice for them.”
“Why in the hell are you doing this? It’s not like you did such a great job the first time around.”
Heather flinched. Chris slammed his hand on the table. “You watch how you talk to your mother!”
But Heather spoke for herself. “I was twenty when I had you, Danny. I didn’t know what I was doing.”
“Obviously, you still don’t know what you’re doing if you can’t even figure out how to use birth control.”
Chris stood up, but Danny held up his hand. “Don’t bother, we’re leaving.”
Danny disappeared into the living room and they all heard the slam of the front door. His wife meekly stood up and took a quick look towards the front door before scooting over to give Heather a quick hug.
“I’m happy for you,” she whispered into Heather’s ear. “I’m happy for all of us.” And with that, she darted through the living room door like a sparrow and was gone.
Heather looked at Cole and Abby nervously. Abby was supposed to be their unexpected blessing. Their cocktail baby. Eight years younger than Danny, she was the spoiled baby girl. And now she was staring at Heather like she didn’t know her.
“What am I supposed to tell my friends? That my mother got knocked up?” Abby’s voice was as shrill as the drill at the dentist’s office, and Heather fought the urge to get up and slap her.
“Great idea! Hey, why don’t you tell them it was the mailman?” Heather fired back at her. She’d finally had it.
“Heather!” Chris snapped his finger at her.
“Don’t snap your fingers at me! I am not a dog!” She grabbed the spoon from the mashed potatoes bowl and flung the whole damn thing at him. She laughed hysterically when it hit him in the forehead and started dripping down his face.
“Mom! How could you?”
“Tell you what, why don’t you ask your father? Because on the night in question, I just wanted to get some sleep. And he wouldn’t leave me alone! And why do you care anyways? You’re going to be in college in five months.”
Abby threw her napkin down and flounced out of the room.
“The flouncing isn’t going to work this time. The baby won’t magically disappear,” she called after Abby.
“Heather, dammit!” Chris stood up and followed Abby out of the room, mashed potatoes dripping on the hardwood floor behind him.
Heather found herself alone with Cole. She looked at him, and he smiled.
“The mashed potatoes might have been a little over the top, Mom.”
“You think?” They both started laughing. Cole had a way of relieving tension, and making everybody laugh. Heather always thought that it was the baby of the family who was the peacemaker. But Cole and Abby were so far apart, he had gotten used to his role as the funny man.
She tried to read his face now. “Are you mad, too?” she asked with a smile on her face and a knot in her stomach.
He got up and came to sit next to her. “Of course I’m not mad, Ma. And they won’t be either, in time. Come on, it’s a baby. Who can be mad about a baby?”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “I don’t know. Your dad threatened to leave me. He’s been so excited about traveling together once we got Abby off to school.”
“He won’t leave. He’s a believer in manning up and doing what’s right. That’s what he said to me, right after I told him I was gay. Like maybe I would man up and be straight.”
“You know he doesn’t care about that, don’t you? I think it just took him by surprise.”
“Nothing I wear matches. Of course he was surprised.” They laughed again. “No, seriously though, that’s my point. He was surprised, but then it was okay. It didn’t matter. Because he loves me.”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen. I really didn’t”
Cole shrugged. “Yea, but so what? It did. And over the next month or so, everyone will come on bended knee to apologize to you. I mean you’re the parents of adult kids. We’re suppose to be dysfunctional. But, at the end of the day, we’re still a family. One that’s about to be a little bigger.”
She knew she didn’t looked convinced.
“It will all work out, Mom. Look at it this way, at least it’s not Abby. Last thing we needed was a pregnant teenager.”