Between my condom struggle with J, newly-admitted motherhood wishes, #StandWithPP, and Catholicism smothering the infrastructure of major cities the way it sometime smothers the infrastructure of my heart, I realized this little almost-a-character from my teen years needed some love. My teen pregnancy-scare story sheds a strangely warm light on my current adventures.
The summer before my senior year of high school, my mom and siblings went away for a week to visit my grandparents, leaving me to fend for myself. My Best Friend, who lived a block away, came over every day and we drank what seemed like the entire liquor cabinet on the first day. My parents weren’t drinkers, so we did the ‘ol top off the bottles with water trick with little worry of being found out. I have very vivid memories of heaving up vodka and pink lemonade into the bathtub and then walking over to the diner for fries. We invited every male person we could think of over and played risqué-but-not-too-risqué Truth or Dare. I remember one of them chivalrously picking me up and carrying me across some gravel, apropos of nothing.
It was the year after the Bad Thing happened. I’d stopped being quite as slutty as I had been and purported to only have sex for love. Sometime in that week of shenanigans, Best Friend decided to introduce me to Dave. He was in a Misfits cover band, or maybe it was Danzig. It was the Nineties. She called him up, passed me the phone, and within ten minutes, he was telling me that he loved me, which I (think I) knew was insane, but the words had their desired affect. (I would repeat this mistake and lose a Twitter handle making the same mistake as an adult. *sheepish.*)
He was a teen version Bill, stocky and handsome, dark-haired and snarly. On the first day, we had angry, vocal sex with the windows open. Sometimes, when I was having sex back then, it was a simple “Fuck you.” to the world. Sometimes it still is.
The next day, after the sex, we went for a walk in the cemetery, the Catholic one that had all of the angel statuary and was therefore my favorite place to pose people moodily in front of for black and white photos. We took the bus to the mall and bought a tape, The Dead Milkmen’s Bucky Fellini.
But on the third day, it was off. He treated me like I was ugly and big, he called me by my first grade nickname, which had the word “barbarian” in it. I couldn’t make him see me or want me, and after that day, he was gone.
I desperately wanted him to be not gone. I looked for his parents’ pickup truck (a red one with one of those cover things on the back with windows) in every parking lot, hoping that I would run into Dave somewhere, that he would recognize me.
In a few weeks, I noticed that my period was late. (I haven’t always been the princess of safer sex that I am now, and I’m very grateful that the consequences were not worse.) Best Friend and I went down to the Birthright, the prolife clinic downtown, next to the little bakery where we sometimes got cinnamon donuts before school. It felt like a very grown up and important errand to be on.
I peed on a stick but never saw the stick. The nice Birthright lady, who in my memory is dressed all in pastels like a doll, just gave me the result: positive.
And I, almost-seventeen and pretty utterly lost in life, didn’t feel even a little bit of fear. Here’s what I felt: joy. The pressure of having my life ahead of me whooshed away and I knew what to do. Of course there was the silly teenage idea that I had made (literally made) a friend for life, someone who would love me and never leave, but there was also a real sense of calm and purpose. I didn’t have to worry what I was for anymore, because I only had to take care of this baby. I named her immediately: Daisy.
It’s seems bonkers now to think that no follow-up doctors appointments were made right away. There was no wait-until-third-trimester-to-tell-people rule back then either, I guess, because after I told my mom, she let me call up the aunts and tell them too. An amazing thing happened: For the first time in my short life, I felt valued and accepted. My mom was 100% on my side, and the wall of hatred that had lived between us for years temporarily came down. No one judged me or said I was bad, they just asked how they could help. My beach aunt gave me my (then) littlest cousin’s car seat.
That all of that happened without me even had a doctors appointment was complete madness, so I can be forgiven for calling the ambulance when my period came. (It warms my heart to think that my mom, who yelled at me for every single other thing, never gave me a hard time about that ambulance bill.) I called Dave, who had never picked up a phone after our third and last day together) from the hospital waiting room, grateful, if I’m honest, to have an excuse to call him, and left a message.
I wanted them to tell me it was okay, that I could still have Daisy, but what the doctors said was that the blood test proved that I had never been pregnant at all. There had either been a false positive or the lady at Birthright had tricked me as some kind of abstinence lesson. I always assumed it was the latter, but I just Googled the organization and it seems pretty not-evil, so most likely, it was an honest mistake. My main advice-giving aunt said to tell people I’d lost the baby, since technically that was true even though I’d only lost the idea of her. I do still love and miss her, even though she turned out to have been an imaginary friend.
That was twenty-five years ago and the closest I’ve ever come to pregnancy. The situation makes really no sense, but I have to take seriously the way motherhood settled over me like a magic blanket of hope and purpose. Though it’s unfair that only motherhood could unlock my family that way, I can still feel that time as an oasis of acceptance and love in those ugly and violent years.
I want to acknowledge that even as I rail against the coercions and injustices that come from the patriarchy, from the institution of motherhood, the actual spiritual fact of motherhood is in me. I felt it in those few teenage weeks, a white light lantern in my soul that I knew would guide me through it, to shiny and wonderful parts of myself. It wasn’t really loss or fear that made me bury that light. It was just life and other projects. But it sure was a lovely little light, and even if I’m not blessed with a miracle baby or stepchildren, I would love to look for big and little ways to shine it.