Times were tight. She couldn’t remember a time when they hadn’t been short on money. This was different. It wasn’t about her anymore. It was about the mass of cells that were developing in her, those foreign things. It would become a baby. A baby meant bills; it meant responsibility, more money. Money she didn’t have. It had already cost her monetary value.
She hadn’t bled, so she’d gone to the store and stared at those fateful boxes. So many to choose from. She’d bought them before, this time was different. Just standing there had been different. It wasn’t quick like the previous times. She had chosen carefully, read the labels, calculated the sales then scurried off to the register.
In the bathroom at home she actually waited the two minutes as instructed, had sat patiently on the toilet seat, glancing occasionally at the stick on the counter. The stick with its stupid pink cap like that was supposed to make her feel better. When she picked it up the lines told her about the mass of cells. They couldn’t tell her how long the cells had been there only that their existence was real. It had been quite a shock.
The real shock came a couple days later when she started bleeding. Bleeding rather heavily. Concerned she’d gone to Planned Parenthood who sent her to Urgent Care and Urgent care sent her to the Emergency Department. There she waited and waited, a prisoner unable to eat or drink. Hours passed, she decided it didn’t matter. If she bled, she bled; it was meant to be, but they wouldn’t let her leave. They told her it could be serious, her life could be in danger if it was an ectopic pregnancy. They would have to operate, cut her open. She listened to them calmly. She didn’t call anyone. She wanted to be alone. Finally they transferred her to a room where she waited some more.
More hours passed, still waiting for the ultrasound that would determine whether or not they would have to cut her open. Then she was wheeled away to another room. With all the IVs they hadn’t wanted to unplug her. The nurse was nice, he was cheerful and talkative. He wished her the best as someone else squirted warm gel onto her abdomen.
Searching, searching and searching the screen was a mix of black and grey shadows. And in the midst of all that was a white speck. After a few clicks and clacks on the keyboard the technician told her it was the size of a grain of rice. But that didn’t impress her, it was the heartbeat. Something so small had a heartbeat so strong. It was a lot faster than her own and louder. She listened and stared at the speck. The mass of cells had a heartbeat.
She could hear it now as she waited in the abortion clinic—the steady thump of the cells’ life. After the hospital bills she had decided she’d get rid of it. Once the decision had been made everything else had fallen into place—the research, the phone calls, even the drive to the clinic. But the cushioned chair wasn’t comfortable and the heartbeat was so loud. She grew angry. Had she not heard that heartbeat it wouldn’t ring in her ears now. Had she not cared about the blood she wouldn’t have known that something so small could be so strong. Despite all the calculations she had made and the hours of sleep she had lost tossing and turning over what decision she’d make, she left.
Months passed and she grew to love the speck that became a fetus. It communicated with her through its kicks and movement. She picked out names, prepared the room and ate healthy.
When she went into labor she felt confident. Her partner was there. He encouraged her, held her hand as the pain became unbearable. And then the life she had spared took hers. The strong heartbeat led to loud cries. He stared at the small bundle in his arms as they tried to revive her but the flat-line remained. She had seen her child for a brief second. Her pained face had turned to a smile, then her mouth had parted in a gasp for air. That’s how she remained. Wide blank eyes.
He looked at the bundle that was now quiet. He was still in shock, but he could see her features. It hurt him. It was her last gift, but how could he love something that was so innocently filthy? He could feel the child’s heart beating against his chest. He remembered how angry he’d been when she told him she almost killed it. Now he wished the never faltering thump was hers. The thought sickened him, but it was there and so was the child.