It is positively pouring outside! March is coming in like a lion! My last doctor’s appointment said the baby was about 4 and half pounds and gaining weight fast. I’ve been wearing the maternity pants because they are the only things that don’t make my belly itch.
I’m getting weird stares in school. I keep thinking someone will say something. Jeff says I’m beginning to waddle when I walk. I try not to, but I can’t help it. The lunch ladies have started giving me extra large helpings. They don’t say anything, either. I AM the white elephant in the room.
More like whale.
Kelsie started to sit with Kaci at another table, leaving me with Jeff. I can feel the tension in the cafeteria. I want to do something to break it, but I can’t think of a good way to do it. All my ideas end in me crying in the bathroom.
I aced my midterms. Spring break is coming up. Jeff just grins impishly when I mention it. I think he is concocting a plan that will knock non-valentine’s day out of the water. I’m trying to lay low, but my belly won’t let me.
I am freee! Spring Break! I want to sleep all day! I am so tired lately. It must take a lot out of me to move my gigantic self around. For some reason, I began to think of taxes today. Maybe I could use my math skills to be a tax preparer to work my way through college. I think that idea came to me in a dream. The tv was on, and there are a lot of tax commercials on in the daytime.
When mom came home, I asked if she would let me prepare her taxes this year. She got this weird look on her face and did a fake grin and said she’d think about it.
That is not like my mom. She is hiding something.
What a week! First, Jeff did plan something awesome.
We got all bundled up and took a walk in the park to see the tiny little buds just beginning to emerge. It was like the Earth was telling me this was a new beginning for the baby, for me. We sat on a bench and I sighed happily.
“What’s that all about?”
“I guess.. I guess I’m happy. I just feel good.”
He leaned in to kiss me. Since I wasn’t walking around, the baby woke up and kicked.
“I felt that!” Jeff exclaimed.
I giggled. “She must want her space.”
“Too bad, little parasite!” he kissed me again.
“Hey! She’s not a parasite!”
“She’s the spawn of Chase, and she’s taking your nutrients. Parasite.”
“She’s half me,” I whined.
“That half didn’t kick me.”
“Oh, really?” He was being so cute!
Then we headed to a matinee movie because there was less chance of running into anyone from school there. Bret was handing out tickets. He looked different in his uniform and even when he looked us in the eyes, it was like he had no idea who we were. Either that, or ignorance was his coping mechanism. Or maybe he was that dense.
I had to pee 4 times, but every time, Jeff filled me in on what I missed. Another perk of the matinee, short restroom lines!
I was getting a bit tired after all this, so he drove me home, where I offered to fix him something for dinner. We made sandwiches together after I opened the fridge and saw that there was really nothing in there. He volunteered to take me grocery shopping the next day.
It was then that I realized he was enjoying this a little too much. “Jeff, why are you doing this?”
“It beats being home with grandma?” he joked lightly.
“I want to.”
“It’s not some secret plan to distract me from something else, or a way to avoid someone, is it?”
“My grandmother has been pressuring me to bring a certain girl over for dinner. I just didn’t know how to ask.”
“Aww! really? I’d love to meet your grandma! But you didn’t have to take me to a movie to ask.”
“I wanted to do that.”
So the next evening he picked me up for dinner with his grandma. I hoped she was nothing like my Grandma.
“Hannah, is it? I’ve heard so much about you!” She offered me a pillow for my back, and being 8 months pregnant, I took it. She made me feel right at home. She told stories about Jeff’s dad and how Jeff was just like him. She bustled in the kitchen with so much verve, I couldn’t help but like her.
“I cook with real butter and real salt, dear. I’ve lived this long, and I have enjoyed every bite!”
She and I talked business. Seriously! About how she was a secretary and handled the accounts of big businessmen, balancing books and keeping files on every transaction. “I handled more money in those accounts than you could ever dream of having!” Jeff said then that he had better get me home, spying a yawn from me.
“Life isn’t about money, Honey,” she offered up as we put on our coats. “It’s about relationships. You leave your legacy in other people.” I think she winked at me.
“I like your Grandma a lot.”
“She certainly outdid herself tonight.”
“Is she always this full of life?”
“She’s been resting and napping a lot more. I bet she is snoring soundly by the time I get home.”
Jeff texted me that she was, and I slept soundly as well.
I had an appointment the next day and they did a few tests. They said my blood pressure was high and they made me pee in a cup. By the time I left, they said I needed to rest and not stress myself. I asked about going out and they frowned at me. “Don’t elevate your heart rate for extended periods of time.” I wanted to know how long extended was and how elevated, but I just nodded. They felt my belly a lot and weighed me. I could tell something was up. They scheduled my next appointment early, in about a week and a half.
Don’t stress, right?
So I went home and told Jeff I was told to rest and that something was up. He came over to bring me dinner, his grandmother insisted on her special soup, and even tucked me in on the couch with a kiss on the forehead.
The next thing I knew, the phone was ringing. I had fallen asleep, and bleary eyed I located the receiver and answered with a groggy “Hello?” I blinked and blinked to get my eyes to clear. The clock said almost 1AM.
“Hannah, it’s me, your Mom.”
“Mom? Are you okay?”
“Well, I’m healthy, but I’ve been arrested.”
“What for?!” I felt adrenaline rush through my body.
“Never you mind, honey. Listen, I can get out on bail, but it will take a couple days. Then I’ll have to go to court.”
“You should be fine for a couple days right?”
“Mom! What is going on? Do you need me to come get you?”
“It’ll be okay, honey! Just get the rent payment out in the mail tomorrow, okay? Don’t worry! I gotta go.”
I played her words over and over in my head. She was supposed to be at work. What was she doing if she wasn’t at work? They were holding her with bail, so she had to be guilty of something, right?
I texted Jeff when I couldn’t stand it any more. I had to tell someone, even if it were just a text. I didn’t expect him to call right back.
“Jeff? Did I wake you? I’m so sorry. You didn’t have to call.”
“You didn’t wake me.”
“I’m at the hospital.”
“What?!” I sat bolt upright, my heart leaped into my chest. “Are you okay?”
“Grandma...” his voice cracked. “Grandma had a heart attack,” he barely managed to squeak out.
“Oh God!” I jumped up. “I’ll be right there.”
“No, Hannah, they have her in the ER, really, there is nothing you can do.”
“My mother is in jail! There is nothing for me here! I can be there with you and at least feel useful! I’m grabbing my purse now, have my keys, hear them?” I jangled them for emphasis. “This is me leaving.”
My heart raced all the way to the hospital. When I got there, I felt a heaviness in my pelvis. I was sure I had to pee and it was just the way I was sitting. I parked in the nearly empty lot and stood up out of the car. Sharp pain shot down my legs. I waited a few seconds and it left. I decided it was just the stress I wasn’t supposed to have right now. I walked to the entrance, steadily, taking deep calming breaths. I was here for Jeff, and it was going to be a long wait, no stress in sitting around waiting. I realized at the desk that I didn’t really know Jeff’s Grandma’s name. But I didn’t have to ask because he was there.
“You didn’t have to come, sit down.” He led me to a chair. I sat. I grabbed my lower abdomen as a pain shot through it. My face contorted and I grunted.
“What is it?”
“Oh, nothing. It’s probably gas.” I smiled.
“Tell me if it happens again.”
My legs began to throb and my lower back too. He told me he had come home and she was her normal self, then she said her neck hurt and her jaw and she passed out on the floor. He called 911 and by the time they arrived, she’d come to and passed back out once, and Jeff had to start CPR.
He stood. “We should get back to the emergency waiting room, if you are staying.”
I tried to stand. Pain shot through my back and I grabbed my abdomen for support and cried out a little. “What is it?” Jeff took my arm. “Nurse!” he called. An orderly rushed over.
“She’s 8 months pregnant and supposed to be resting.” Jeff informed her.
“How many weeks?”
“34 and a half.” I managed. “I just had an appointment.”
“Do you have pre-eclampsia?”
“Were you on bed-rest?”
“Just told to take it easy.”
She frowned and got a wheelchair for me. She took my blood pressure.
“I’m admitting you.”
Jeff followed all the way to the labor and delivery wing. Another pain passed through my back, but it wasn’t as bad when I was sitting down. They took me into a room marked Triage. They ran a few tests, taking my blood pressure again, calling for my records, and drawing blood. The cramping eased up. Jeff held my hand, his brow creased.
“I’ll be fine.” I tried to reassure him, but he wasn’t buying it. They admitted me and put me in a room. I was hooked up to an IV and strapped into a machine that was supposed to measure contractions. I was told to rest.
I finally convinced Jeff to go see about his Grandma, promising to sleep. I nodded off.
I woke up when a nurse took my temperature and blood pressure. Jeff was back. He was snoring on the couch in the room. A doctor came in.
“Hannah, you have pre-eclampsia. Do you know what that is?”
“Your blood pressure is too high, and it could mean that the baby is not getting enough oxygenated blood through the placenta.”
“So, is she okay?”
“She seems fine, but it means you may deliver early. If you deliver now, she will be premature. We’d like to keep you here until you do deliver. We need your parent’s signature. Where is your mother?”
“She is in jail.” I closed my eyes in annoyance. “I don’t even know why.”
“Do you have any other relatives close by?”
“My Aunt, but how I’d hate to involve her.”
“I need her contact information.”
I closed my eyes. The last thing I needed is for Aunt Candice to come and bring her judgement with her. I could picture her pursed lips and how she would curse my mother. My blood pressure must have risen, because the machine beeped that cuffed my arm and took my pressure every hour or so. It inflated and the doctor became concerned.
The beeping must have woken Jeff. He slid his hand into mine. “You okay?”
“They need a relative to fill out paperwork.”
“I’ll help you. They’re just going to ask you to answer the questions anyway.”
“Thanks.” I said. The doctor overheard, “I’m afraid you can’t give permission for certain procedures.”
“But I can help her fill out the basic stuff. Let me see it.”
“I need permission slips signed.”
“If she passes out, we’ll consider that her consent. Her relative is not close to the family and probably doesn’t even know she is pregnant. How would she know what is in her best interest? Give me the papers.”
Jeff can be very convincing. I’d have cheered, but a contraction rocked my body.
A nurse read the paper print out from the contraction machine as the blood pressure monitor beeped. “She is contracting, Doctor. The baby’s heart rate is slowing.”
“Put her on Nifedipine.”
Once the drug was in my system, I was forced to call Aunt Candice. The contractions stopped and Jeff left to check on his Grandma.
A couple hours later, Aunt Candice crashed into my room. The nurses frowned at her, always one there, not leaving my room for even a second. They ushered her out into the hall to fill out the paperwork, explaining that I needed rest, no disturbances at all.
She came back later, much more subdued.
“Hannah, I’m here now, I signed the papers, and I’m going to find out what happened with your Mom, okay?” I nodded. She had never been so quiet or nice for as long as I knew her. “Do you have any idea what she is in for?”
“No. But she was supposed to be at work, so maybe something happened at her job.”
“Okay, you just relax, and I’ll go find out.” She practically tip-toed out.
Jeff came back, looking sad and scared.
“She is alive, but in a sort of coma. They are keeping her sedated while she heals. She had a massive heart attack, but they say she had been having heart attacks, small ones, for a couple weeks. I should have noticed.”
“No, Jeff, how could you know?”
“She was tired more often.”
“She is old Jeff, old people are tired.”
“She never told me she was hurting.”
“Maybe she thought it was gas,” I joked.
“That’s not funny,” Jeff berated. I smiled anyway. “It’s good to see you smile.”
“I feel dizzy.” The nurses sprang from their seats. They pushed Jeff aside. They adjusted tubes and took vitals again and called for the doctor.
I must have passed out. I woke up and Jeff was holding my hand, tears on his face. Another face leaned into my view. Kelsie.
“Kelsie, what are you doing here?”
“I called your house and your cell and when I drove by and no one was home, I came here. You think I’d miss this?”
“I thought you weren’t my friend.”
“What? Because I wasn’t hanging out with you? Kaci was just jealous. I tried to win her over, but when I found out you were in the hospital I realized I don’t care for her as much as I care for you. Screw her! You’re way better, tougher, and braver than she’ll ever be.”
“I’m not gay,” I said, kind of in a stupor.
She laughed, “Well if I can’t have you, then you deserve someone awesome like Jeff.”
I felt my heart beat stronger as my friends gave me their peace and love. Then I cried out as a huge contraction coursed through me. The nurses all but shoved the two teenagers out of the way. Jeff backed off, wiping his face and steeling himself for the onslaught of my agony. Kelsie shoved her way back in. “Easy there, Hannah. Relax, let the ladies do their jobs.”
The doctor rushed in. The next hour was pure torture. They took me off the drugs, letting my body labor. I rushed to full dilation. Jeff came back and took my other hand, the one Kelsie was not holding. He stoically stood by, squeezing back. Kelsie coached me, saying all the right words.
And finally, the baby bawled a tiny cry. They took her and worked on her, suctioning, measuring, toweling, and whatever else they do.
“You did it, Hanns.” Kelsie hugged my shoulders. Jeff kissed my hand. The doctors and nurses finished up with both the baby and me, taking her tiny body away and leaving me to rest.
Aunt Candice came in. “I called the adoption agency lady from your paperwork. Smart thing of you to do, considering.”
“Your mother can’t even take care of herself, no wonder you got knocked up.” The negativity was back. But I needed to look past the insult, because she held information about my mother.
“You talked to my mother?”
“I talked to the jail. We’ll discuss this later. You just had a baby and you shouldn’t have to worry about this.”
“Aunt Candice?” I really wanted her to understand that we weren’t bad people, but I suddenly grew very tired.
“Thank you.” She softened a little, I saw it around the corners of her mouth and eyes.
The next day, the nurses instructed me to shower and try to walk around. I sent off Jeff and Kelsie who were trying to camp in my room, and cleaned myself up. My belly felt all mushy. It was still big, but it just hung there, empty and weird. I hoped it would go back flat and taut.
I had to sit down for a bit after the shower. The nurses happily took my temperature and blood pressure, giving me some aspirin for the soreness and pain. Jeff came back in and we decided to walk to the nursery and find the baby.
“How’s your Grandma today?”
“She’s on a ventilator, still very weak. It’s hard to see her like this.”
“Hey, you turn 18 today. Happy birthday!”
“So..” I really wanted to ask this question, because it involved me somehow, but I didn’t want to hurt his feelings.
“So, what?” Jeff asked when I hesitated.
“What will you do, now that you are 18, and if she doesn’t make it?” I asked quietly.
“I don’t know. I am pretty sure she has a will. And the house is paid for.”
“I’m sorry to bring this up.”
“No, it’s been on my mind. Once I stopped worrying about you and had to face my own future, that is.”
“You’ve done so much for me. I want to help. I want to be there for you.”
“What’s the deal with your mother?” He jumped topics to my future, obviously still on his mind.
“I don’t know. I haven’t heard from Aunt Candice yet.” We had arrived at the window where the sleeping or crying babies were wrapped in identical blankets. Little index cards with a last name written on them were the only indicators of the sex of each one, being pink or blue. I wasn’t sure if my baby was healthy enough to be in one of the regular beds. In the back were a row of incubators. Two nurses did rounds, one was opening an incubator and picking up a fussing tiny thing. A lady in a yellow apron, one of those paper things they give to people who visit and need to be clean, took the baby in her arms. I just knew.
“Who’s her? Where is she?”
“The lady holding the baby in there is the adoptive mother.”
“You’ve seen her before?”
“No. I just know.” We walked around to another bank of windows for a closer look. The woman caught my eye. I waved a little. She smiled and carried the baby to the window.
The baby had my nose and eyes, but Chase’s chin. She was so tiny. I was glad I was not going to have to be responsible for her. I stared for a few minutes. Then I waved goodbye when the nurses indicated that she needed to go back into the incubator.
I needed to walk back to my room anyway. My feet were tired.
“I don’t want to see you go through that again.” Jeff sat beside me as I eased my tired body into bed.
“Trust me, I don’t plan on going through that again anytime soon.” I looked at him all serious, “And if I ever do, it will be for love. And I’ll keep the baby, my baby.”
“Chase wasn’t worth it.”
“No way!” I looked at Jeff’s cloudy face. “I don’t even remember the act. It’s like it never happened. Except for this pain.”
“Second virginity.” Jeff mused.
“Exactly. I’m starting over.”
“So, I was wondering..”
“Jeff!” I blushed thinking he was joking about sex.
“Since you are starting over..”
I giggled, I wasn’t sure where he was going with this, but it couldn’t have been sex or he’d have been derailed from his train of thought.
“Would you go to prom with me?”
I stopped giggling to gasp. “Really?!” His eyes were so sincere and in love with me. Any guy that would go through this for you, with his own Grandmother in the hospital, was madly in love.
“Yes, Jeff, I will. Provided things all work out.”
“Provided things work out,” he agreed and grinned.
They let me come home yesterday. Aunt Candice drove me, Jeff followed in my car. He sat with me on the couch. I could not go much further. It felt good to be home.
“Thanks Aunt Candice. Did you hear when Mom is coming home?”
She sighed. “Hannah.”
I waited for her to continue. She rubbed her temples, a sure sign that something stressful was coming. “Your mother was arrested for prostitution.”
“You didn’t know what your mother did in the evenings?”
“I thought she was a bartender.”
“The cash, the clothes, the late nights..” she hinted. I blinked at her pause in the conversation. My head was reeling. “She was a dancer who turned tricks. She was fired from the club months ago.”
“No.” She had to be lying, right?
“She’d been arrested once before. This was her second offense and they got her taking money from an undercover cop. This is serious. She’s going to court and they will probably sentence her to 45 days in jail.”
“According to your answering machine messages, she’s lost her day job too, and they most likely won’t hire her back.”
“I can get a job.”
“You will stay in school. I have talked to social services, and you can stay with me until you turn 18. Then you are free to stay with me, or get a job, or go to college. By the way, your rent money was never paid for this month..”
“Crap! I went to the hospital and forgot all about it!”
“I talked to the landlord and you have one week to move out.”
“I’ll help you pack,” volunteered Jeff. He had been quietly listening, taking it all in. I had almost forgotten he was there. Were it not for the warmth he provided by sitting beside me, I would have.
“I will too. I am so sorry, Hannah, but this is the only way. You can still go to your school, you’ll just have to drive yourself across the county.” She left shortly afterwards to take Jeff back to his car.
That was Saturday. I’m barely home from the hospital, and my life has to be packed up in a week. I got started today, Sunday, but all I could do was empty the fridge of old food.
I couldn’t go to school, Aunt Candice called and arranged for my homework to be picked up every day by Jeff. I slowly packed up the house. Jeff came over and we packed for an hour, then I did some homework while he checked on his Grandma, and he called me when he got home from the hospital. If it weren’t for his texts and knowing we are in this together, I’d have given up. This was just way too stressful. As much as I thought those rumors and the bullying were bad, this was ten times worse.