Another Unwanted Pregnancy Story
By Kayleigh Shoen
I got my first unwanted pregnancy in the middle of workshop. The professor was telling us about the lives of famous writers when I felt a little movement in my stomach like a pop. I went to the bathroom to see what the problem was. Luckily I had a test in my bag, because—some urine and five minutes later—yup. A plus sign.
That first time I made a big deal out of it. When my boyfriend came home, I made a roast like Donna Reed. Mashed potatoes, boiled carrots, and something green. After we finished I served him a hot apple pie fresh from the oven. He took a bite…right into the test I’d cooked in there. He reached into his mouth and pulled the pee stick out.
“Well,” he said, noticing the plus sign.
“Unwanted,” I bragged.
“I’ll pay for it,” he offered gallantly.
The second time was less convenient. We were on a roller coaster at a theme park. Everyone was wearing these ridiculous hats. In my belly I felt the protrusion of two very tiny plastic mouse ears.
I bought a souvenir test in the gift shop. “It’s the size of a bean!” the test said. A small world after all.
By the fifth, I was just going through the motions.
My boyfriend was getting tired of roasts with mashed potatoes. He was working on becoming the next Faulkner or Cheever while he still had his hair, and he resented the attention the unwanted pregnancies were taking from his drinking. When I suggested he try anger he shattered a few heirlooms, but soon he got bored and went to the store for more whiskey.
By number twelve the dispenser in the school bathroom had run out of tests. I was getting the unwanted pregnancies too often now. Sometimes two or three a day. In class we were reading “Hills Like White Elephants.” My stomach swelled and subsided as I tried to listen to what the other students said.
“I think what’s important is what’s left unsaid? Like between the lines? You can tell her life will be destroyed by this decision?”
“Can I be excused?” I asked. “I just need to run to the 7-11 for something.”
At home my boyfriend and I often fought over money. We were each committed to our writing, but procedures and brown liquors are expensive, and it was becoming clear we couldn’t both afford to be happy.
Sometimes I thought, “Maybe I’ll have this one.” I had a feeling the pregnancies were becoming better in some vague way. I’d walk through the baby section of a superstore and look at the tiny socks and sandals and sneakers. Or through the produce aisle and think about the gremlin in my belly. Is it the size of a grape? An egg? A peach? A watermelon? I knew from appointments that fetuses were always measured in terms of food. Inevitably, I left the store with a few bananas in my cart and stopped at the clinic on the way home.
My doctors got worse once the receptionists remembered me. They liked to give the new doctors experienced patients to learn on. I could recognize the new doctors by their scrubs printed with cartoons like Powerpuff Girls and Snoopy, and their too-obvious pride in brightly colored stethoscopes. They were in that phase of any new career that’s about accessorizing, like when I started grad school and bought a fountain pen.
Additionally, I knew they were new because of how bad they were.
“Your fetus is the size of spaghetti,” one told me.
“It’s usually a round food,” I corrected him.
“Spaghetti with meatballs.”
After some months I came home to find my boyfriend with a suitcase at the front door. His drinking had become more serious and he wanted to see if he could make it as the next Jack Kerouac. He said he was going to California to drink his way up the P.C.H. He was gone before I could ask him to drop me off at the clinic on the way.
After he left, I slowed down on the unwanted pregnancies. I finally had time to update my scrapbook. With double-sided tape I fastened the pee sticks to foil paper and drew explosions in glitter glue. With my bad handwriting, I didn’t trust myself to write anything, but I had a packet of puffy stickers from an art store that did the job. “Oh Baby!” one sticker read. “Fat Chance!” read another. By the end of the book some of the stickers made less sense. “Hole in One!” and “Shoot for the Moon!” I put them in anyway to avoid being wasteful.
Graduation morning I had my last unwanted pregnancy.
“Well,” I said to myself. “From here on out you’ll have to keep them.”
I was so emotional I got a few tears on the stick.
At the clinic, the receptionist seemed to know this one was special. We embraced until the corner of my graduation cap poked her in the eye.
She set me up with a new doctor in My Little Pony scrubs and a lime green stethoscope.
I asked him how big the fetus was, but he just shook his head.
“A lima bean?” I asked. “A walnut? A Brazil nut? A raisin?”
He just kept shaking his head. “There’s no food,” he said. “There’s no food exactly like this one.”
“Wait a minute,” I said, pulling the tassel to the other side of my cap. Then I lay back and put my feet in the stirrups. “Okay now I’m ready.”