Motherhood

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I wasn’t ready to be a mom. I didn’t particularly like children, and maybe that was because in so many ways I was still a child myself. But the doctor told me with the tone of voice he probably used to tell people they were terminal.

“The test was positive,” he said.

Yes, my head exploded, but that was my internal response. I was angry this guy would have the nerve to decide my child was some kind of tragedy. Granted, in hindsight he was viewing the ‘pregnancy’ as a tragedy because I’d already told him I wasn’t married. Big scandal back in the day. But something got forged in me right in his office. His F. D. R. Infamy-Speech-voice, the one used to address the bombing of Pearl Harbor, made an instant woman out of me. More than the act of procreating had. This stranger had cast aspersions on the idea of my child existing! And that ticked me off like a spring mama bear.

So I blew a Bazooka bubble and let it pop really loudly. That only garnered more alarm, and disgust on the doctor’s face. If he wanted proof I’d make a horrible mother, he seemed to have it.

“Okay, thanks,” I said gathering the gum off my face and standing.

“Wait a minute,” he said, “what are you going to do?”

“I’m…going to go home,” I said.

“Do you have a supportive family?”

That did make me smile. “Oh, sure,” I said, the room tilting slightly as I imagined my WW2 PTSD father’s angry face.

I got out of there lickety split, as if some distance would put the pregnancy thing on hold so I could throw up in Catholic-girl peace.

That evening I told my boyfriend.

“It’s not an ulcer?” he said.

I’d hoped it was an ulcer as my dad had one and who knows…it could run in the family.

“Not really,” I said.

“Well,” he said, “there goes my new ten-speed.” He’d been saving his money to get a new bike. As in bicycle. He was a Junior College art student and campus was only two blocks from his house, so you see the sense in it.

I felt relieved that he planned to stand by me. I knew we were in love, but beyond a couple of fights where I stormed home dramatically and he followed me in his mother’s Ford and begged me to get back in the car, which of course I did after he was sufficiently punished for not…calling me or whatever, our love hadn’t really been tested.

And that was forty-five years ago. I talked to her this morning, that little bundle of joy. She’s kind of formidable, running things all the time, and the mom of five boys. She’s kind of the most wonderful creature God ever made.

My boyfriend would get me pregnant three more times. But he’d be my husband by then so Dad didn’t take it so hard. Not like that first time when he sat at the kitchen table with his face against the formica and his hands just hanging.

I learned something then, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. Today’s biggest disaster can be tomorrow’s greatest blessing. When my oldest is in town, she visits my dad. She pulls up close to him, knee to knee and tells him about her life. And he smiles the whole time.

As do I.

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