Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chapter 1: When Bad Condoms Happen to Good People

O.K. I am not freaking out. I mean, I am freaking out, but not totally. Yes, I am totally freaking out. I'm late. Eight days to be exact. But I know, I just know, without a doubt that I am pregnant. I bought the book What to Expect When You're Expecting, and I have all the symptoms, the most obvious one being a late period.

Three weeks ago, my boyfriend was visiting for the weekend. We hadn't seen each other since May when the spring semester ended; and though it appeared that we were both still devoted to the relationship, there was an odd lack of comfort between us. In our case, this tension equated to having sex...a lot. During one particularly raucous night of avoidance, the condom we were using snapped at the crucial moment. Nathan sprang off of me faster than a needle hides in a haystack, and we looked at one another, speechless, as he gingerly pulled the devestated condom off.

"Shit." His face buckled as he stared down at the broken remnants of security in his hand and then tossed it onto the bedside table. It lay there like a soggy second skin.

"Yeah...I'm ovulating, ohmygod...oh shit," I said. It didn't take long before the realization of what had happened floored me like lead safe.

"Maaaannnnnn," he said, scooping the sopping hair out of his eyes. He rose slightly and swung out of bed to move to the bathroom and I crumpled back onto the bed. I became the water pouring into the sink, my pounding heart, the air conditioning unit whirring to life below my bedroom window, the ticking of my alarm clock on the table beside my head.

Nathan padded, naked and shivering, back over to the bed and snuggled under the sheets. He was damp and musky next to me. When I looked at him, his eyes were lightly closed and his face serene as he breathed into my shoulder with his arm draped lazily across my rib cage. He showed no visible signs of worry, not even the fluttering wrinkle of a frown. Only the deep, meditative consciousness of his breath gave away any duress.

"I'm ovulating," I fumed, throwing him off of me and bolting into a sitting position.

"Hey!" Nathan yelled, alert now, "What the hell?"

I shot him a look to split him in half.

"Oh, nothing! I just thought that the fact that a condom broke inside of me containing thousands of your sperm during the exact peak of my ovulation cycle might concern you slightly. It's highly likely that I could become pregnant from this encounter, changing the course of my life and yours, and you seem to want to go to sleep!" My eyes stalked his face with the intensity of a nocturnal hunter.

"Okay, okay," he said, placating me by putting his hands on my shoulders and coaxing me back down, "it's a little freaky."

He pulled my head over to his shoulder and brushed stray hairs from my face, "But really, what are the chances that you will get pregnant from this one time? We've had sex almost every day for the past year and you don't honestly believe that this one time is going to be it, do you?"

I knew he was trying to reassure himself as much as he was attempting to assuage me. Nathan is a lucky person. He takes risks and usually ends up benefiting from them. In fact, I've never met anyone else with such divine intervention; but when I looked into his eyes I saw uncertainty. He wanted me to tell him it was going to be okay, but I lay down instead.

"We'll be okay," he said dismissively, "whatever, it'll be okay. But you're not pregnant, so don't stress." Cocooned in the humidity of the wilted sheets, Nathan rolled away from me.

I stared at the ceiling and thought about what I would do if I was pregnant. I was in my last year of college, living alone off campus. I didn't have a job because my parents had generously offered to pay for my apartment and tuition for the summer so that I could concentrate on school. How would I manage? I wanted to finish school. Would it work out so that I could finish if I was pregnant? Would Nathan stay with me?

My hands worked their way down to my stomach and I lightly rubbed my belly. I stopped when I became conscious of it, but thought that I would rather enjoy having a baby. Granted, I had next to no experience with children of any kind. I am an only child, so I never had any younger siblings for whom to care. In fact, the one time in my life that I was asked to babysit, the youngest sibling pulled a large clever on his older sibling, resulting in a call to the police and a missing preteen. So I couldn't really go by experience.

Despite that, I decided to explore the idea, and I lay there thinking that I was open to the possibility of being a mother. I was suddenly excited by the chance that I might have a connection to Nathan for as long as we were both alive. Studying Nathan's boyish face in the soft light, I felt more for him than I'd ever felt at any time during our relationship. I fell asleep thinking about Nathan and our possible baby and happily ever after.

Twenty-one days later, I'm sitting in a coffee shop, waiting for my friend Alyson, eight days late and reading What to Expect. To be honest, I am at a loss. I want to take a test, but I'm positive that I really don't want to know for sure. I'm worried about the repercussions of a pregnancy at this point in my life, but a small part of me is also afraid the test might be negative.

"Hey, sorry I am late," Alyson exhales, breezing up to the fifty's style Formica topped table where I'm sitting. She glides into an empty chair, plopping her psych texts onto the floor. Stretching her coltish legs long, she leans back and swings a waterfall of chestnut hair behind her. She glances at my book and back at me, asking quizzically, "What are you reading?"

"Um...well," I show her the book.

"Fuck off, you are not!" Alyson's chair scrapes the floor and her face opens in surprise. She quickly grabs the chair next to me and scoots it closer. "What happened? Are you sure?"

I relate the weekend visit from Nathan as Alyson nods, the details of my story visibly reflected in her changing face.

"So, what does he say?"

"Not a whole lot. I mean, we haven't really talked about it much. I tried to get him to address it before he left, but he kept saying not to worry about it and that we would deal with it if it really happens. I don't think he believes there is a real possibility that it could happen. But I am positive. I know my body, and something is definitely different."

Alyson begins to speak while shaking her head, but my eyes stop any nay saying. Instead, she tries the roundabout route.

"What do you mean, different? Are you sick already? Stress can cause you to miss your period, you know?"

Sick, I thought. No, not sick. I don't feel morning sickness yet and I don't want to eat pickles with frosting. My body just feels off. For one thing, I feel like a dirigible, ready to lift off the ground at any moment; and my breasts are hot and sore.

"I don't know, it's just different. It's hard to explain."

Alyson looks at me cynically and says, "Well, I don't think you should worry about it. Nathan is right. I mean, what are the odds?"

She starts to peruse the menu that is meaningfully stuck between an aluminum napkin holder and the salt and pepper shakers. Seconds later, she flings the menu on the tabletop.

"But really, what are you going to do?"

I had thought about this one.

"I'm going over to the Women's Center today to take a test."

"Will they give you a test this early?" she asks.

"I know they tell you to wait until you are at least a couple of weeks late, but something is going on. It's only eight bucks to take the test anyway. That's cheaper than a drugstore test. If it's negative, we can go celebrate at The Loft tonight."

With this I give Alyson the brightest smile I can muster. It's a small joke between us, because I just turned legal last month. She doesn't laugh.

"Are you going to keep it, you know, if you are?" Her question is tentative.

I have thought about this question as well, quite a bit in fact. Yes, I will keep the baby even if Nathan wants nothing to do with it, or me, when he finds out. You know, I have always wanted to be a mother and I know I'll be a loving one when it happens. I've had a fortuitous life where my parents told me I could do or be anything I put my mind toward. It will be near graduation when the baby is due and if I take eighteen hours during the fall semester and eighteen in the spring, then I will graduation on time. Most of the courses I have to finish are in literature or writing, so I won't have anything terribly unfamiliar to learn. If Nathan wants nothing to do with this enterprise, then after graduation I will go back home and get a job. I will have to place the baby in daycare, but I think I can make this work.

"Yes," I answer, "I'm going to keep it."

"Wow," she pauses, “I would go with you today, but I have a class this afternoon."

She says this convincingly enough, but the slight hitch in her voice suggests that she is glad to have an excuse not to go with me.

"No, that's okay. I mean, I'd feel like I wasted your time anyway, you know, if I'm not."

That is the truth. I'm in this by myself until I know with all certainty that I am pregnant. If I am, things can start happening, but until that point it's all up in the air.

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