Sunday, September 14, 2008

Chapter 2: In the Company of Many

A nondescript tinted glass door with block letters reading Blacksburg Women’s Center lies between me and an uncertain future. I have come to the Center between classes, but I’m not thinking about Margaret Sanger or women’s liberation right now. I’m not pondering the ranks of women I am about to join in the awesome tradition of pregnancy testing. Somewhere in my mind I appreciate the fact that I am able to enter this clinic, very privately take a pregnancy test, and talk to a counselor; but the thought that is at the forefront of my mind is whether I drank enough water before coming here to be able to pee into the sterilized cup

“Please sign in.”

Without looking up, a technician sitting behind a glass partition beckons me to the desk in front of her and hands me a clipboard. The list on the paper is short, so maybe I won’t have to wait too long to be seen. I sign my name and phone number, and hand the clipboard back to the woman behind the glass.

“Have you visited us before,” she asks while entering something into the computer. Her highly glossed fingers rap across the keyboard like rain.


“And what are you here for today,” she continues, her fingers expertly executing the punctuated dance on the keyboard. She has not bothered to make eye contact.

“Um,” I clear my throat, “I want to take a pregnancy test.”

I can barely get this out, attempting to make my voice inaudible even though there are only two other women in the office.

“I see.” She finally raises her head and a smile reaches her eyes, “Well, that’s eight dollars then.” I notice she has fine laugh lines around the outer corners of her bold mouth.

I slide the money through the hole in the glass and finger the receipt that she hands back to me.

“You may sit in the waiting area. We’re not very busy today, so it won’t be too long.” Her smile reaches into the depths of her eyes now, as she motions to the chairs behind me.

The other women glance up as I cross the room. Neither appears nervous with crossed legs and magazines flipping. The receipt remains in my hand and I notice its bounce as I sit still in the boxy chair. My hands are trembling now. I’m probably pregnant. Calm down, I tell myself. It’s nothing. Everyone is right and you’re going to feel stupid for freaking out about this whole thing when the doctor tells you the test is negative. My breath is coming in shallow snuffs now, and I’m going to burst out of my skin. I am alone here, truly alone with no advocate other than myself. Am I strong enough to hear this? Am I strong enough to do this?

The technician is saying something through the glass.

“Miss...Miss? You can come back now.” She gives me that smile as the final stages of my meltdown manifest in my posture, “It’s going to be okay.”

I cross through the threshold and she hands me the cup on the other side, pointing me down the hall to the bathroom on the left.

“When you are finished you just put the cup in the rotating cubby and slide it over to the lab, okay sweetie?”

“Okay,” I choke.

I close the bathroom door on what seems like the last comfort available. After following the procedural protocol for giving a urine sample, I rotate my fate over to the lab and wash my hands, desperately trying to alleviate their trembling by running them under cold water from the tap.

The amiable receptionist sees me exit the bathroom and says, “You can just have a seat in the waiting room. They will call you back in about ten minutes.”

Back to the stiff chair and the glossy rags; the two women who were formerly in the waiting room have left and I am alone. My leg jerks tellingly up and down on my knee as time behaves like a scrawny kid climbing up the rope in gym class.

“Miss, the counselor will see you now.”

A square, portly woman approaches me briskly, stretching her hand, then ushering me into a private room with walls covered in advertising for various contraceptive devices and hotline numbers. We sit opposite each other at a cavernous desk, she with pamphlets lined up like a game of blackjack, and I with my eyes on their gleaming covers.

She begins, “Well, your test came back positive.” She pauses for a moment, possibly due to the audible inhalation of breath from somewhere deep within my chest. “You were expecting this, or no?”

Now I am feeling insecure, sheepish even, “Well, I kind of thought…”

“It will be okay,” she starts. Everyone keeps trying to tell me this. “Have you thought about your options? Are you in a position to keep the baby, or have you considered aborting the pregnancy? Or adoption, there are many families out there who wish to have an infant to love and raise.”

My mind is reeling. Phrases like “unwed mother”, “abortion”, and “adoption” cartwheel through my psyche. This is as real as it gets. I mean, I was just going with the logical conclusion all these weeks, the worst case scenario, if you will; but now the truth has me in a vice.

The counselor is staring at me.

“Um, I am going to keep the baby,” I say, forcing myself to look at her, to show some kind of conviction. A slight sigh escapes her, and do I detect a rolling of the eyes?

She recovers, saying, “Of course. Well, let me just give you some information to take with you to look over. You don’t have to make up your mind today, there is time for that.”

She grabs a Technicolor array of pamphlets and offers each accordingly.

“This pamphlet will give you some information about Medicaid and tell you a little bit about visiting a doctor. This pamphlet gives you a list of adoption agencies. And this one,” she taps the one with a purple cover, “gives you some information pertaining to abortion.” She hands the last pamphlet to me pointedly.

“Do you have any questions about any of these options?”

Questions? My mind seems to have split in two. One side is abuzz with noise and static, while the other side seems to have slipped into stasis. It is from the void that clarity surfaces and I muster the response, “No, no questions right now,” and then, “thank you.”

“Well, okay then, just sign these forms stating that we talked about your options and if you have any questions, please call the number on this card. You may pick up your test results at the front counter. You will need to take them to the doctor on your first visit, or they will bill you for another test and it will be more expensive through the doctor’s office.” She escorts me to the front of the building and pauses before turning around.

“Good luck.”

I pick up the test results from the receptionist, searching for that reassuring smile. She, however, is deep in conversation and doesn’t look up as I take the paper and leave through the gleaming, glass door.

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