Another Try

R had been none too happy about my summer of music.  In addition to the three Rick Springfield concerts I’d attended, my new friend Amy had convinced me to take a three day holiday to Montreal, Canada to go see Corey Hart in concert.  Corey Hart had released new music in Canada, having done some touring there to support it, and was planning on headlining a summer music festival.   She coached me as to which summer day camp would be able to accomodate Zach so I could attend, and told me her husband was donating frequent flyer miles so she could make the trip on the cheap.  R had reluctantly done the same, but was nonplussed by my absences from home, even after a rock star had asked me to work for him.

“Do you think you can come home without stopping by the airport this afternoon?” I asked him on the phone one afternoon.  R had been taking flying lessons at the local airport; he’d always wanted to try them, and we lived literally down the street from the local airport.  R had become friendly with the office staff, helping out with their computer glitches and accounting problems, and often went over there now after work.

“I guess I could come home first,” he said.  “But I’ll have to go over there later, they need me to figure out what is wrong with the fax machine.  It sends but doesn’t receive.  Why, is something wrong?”

No, nothing was wrong.  I hadn’t even noticed, at first, when I’d packed a box of tampons for our trip to Montreal and they had gone unused.  I was horrible at calculating my cycles, and even worse since the miscarriage last winter.  I was usually so regular that I hardly ever had to pay attention.  I hadn’t remembered exactly when my period was due, but I didn’t want to get caught in a foreign country without supplies, so maybe I was just being overzealous when I’d packed the Tampax.

But then I’d vomited on the plane ride back.  I never threw up on planes.  At first I thought it was because I hadn’t eaten much before the flight, but then I started counting the days.  It didn’t take me long to surmise that I might be pregnant.  I stopped for the test on the way back from the Tulsa airport, and had watched the second line form on the stick a few hours later.

I was happy, of course.  But somewhere in the back of my head I was a little sad, too.  It was July.   I should have still been pregnant from my miscarried baby; the due date had been late August.  Maybe it was a little bit of cosmic justice somehow, helping me to get through what promised to be an awful month by giving me the hope of a new life.

“No, nothing is wrong,” I told R.  “I just have something to talk to you about, and I’d rather not do it on the phone.”

There was a silence on the end of the line before the words rushed back at me:  “You’re pregnant!”

I laughed.  So much for drama.  “Yes, I am.  What do you think of that?”

R laughed also, and the tension from the last few weeks disappeared.  “Well if it comes out playing guitar or holding a microphone, you’ll have some ‘splainin’ to do.”

I wanted to be irritated, but I couldn’t be.  R was joking, and the fact that he was meant that everything was fine between us.

Another baby.  Another try.  I was nervous, but hopeful.

The Stick

It was like a scene from a movie.

I went to the bathroom every fifteen minutes looking to see if my period had started.  After several days of this, I knew that it was time to find out what was going on.  I went, alone, on a 10 degree day, to the slightly off campus drug store.

I am the girl that to this day can’t buy her own condoms and feels funny buying tampons when there’s a guy at the checkout counter.  Every time a person I thought I might know went down the pregnancy test aisle near me I moved away, as if I was only curiously looking at the different types.

There were many different brands.  Back then they didn’t have pee on a stick tests; you had a tiny little lab kit that you had to work with.  You didn’t get two for one packs and they weren’t cheap.  Of course I am, which meant I was looking for the cheapest kind.   I found one that had the word Blue in the title and took it up to the counter.

You can see this coming right?  Not only was there a peel off coupon (that’s why I picked that brand), but the price wasn’t on the test (this was before price scanners).  They had to call “Price Check” and someone had to come and verify my 11.99 story before they’d let me walk out of the store, wallet lighter, face twenty shades redder.

I went back to my dorm room and surreptitiously read the instructions cover to cover.  The test indicated I’d need to use “first morning urine”, as that would have the most concentrated amounts of the pregnancy hormone (which I prayed, of course, that wasn’t present).  I told my roommate Karen and of course Joe that I would be performing the test the following morning, a Saturday.

After a night of tossing and turning in my top bunk, I finally got up at five and snuck into the shared bathroom to perform the test that I hoped would mean my life was not about to change.

I had to pee in a small cup and mix in a few chemicals that would turn the urine blue.  Then, I was to put a stick with chemicals on pads on the end in the liquid.  If the two pads were different colors, even if they were say a very light blue and a very dark blue, that meant you were pregnant.  If both pads stayed white you weren’t pregnant.

I performed the test quietly and sat next to the cup on the floor of the bathroom.  You had to wait five minutes before reading the test.  I was alone; the dorm was unusually quiet, even for five am.  I tried to distract myself by counting the tiles or looking at the mold we needed to clean in the shower stall.

Finally, I pulled out the stick.  I stared at it, in disbelief, numb.  There was absolutely no disputing the results.

One pad was whiter than snow.  The other was a bright, beautiful shade of aqua blue.

I was pregnant.  Eighteen, a freshman in college, unmarried, and pregnant.

What on earth was I going to do?

Late

“I think I might be late.”

I uttered the words nervously to Joe one cold January morning in a practice room.  We were both furiously practicing for this term’s auditions.  I was disappointed with my placement last trimester, and so I wanted to prepare as much as possible for the one performance that would determine my position for the entire winter term.

Joe looked at me.  “Really?  How can that be?”  I knew what he meant.  We were religious about using protection.  We were very careful, always using condoms, always well before any contact was made.

“Well, I know that nothing is 100 % reliable.  It’s probably nothing, though.  I do feel like it is coming any minute.  But it’s just so odd, because I’m never late.”  I didn’t mention all of the other things that were nervously adding up in my head:  the insane amount of tiredness that had suddenly been hitting me, the nausea that overtook me on the way up to his mom’s place, the urgent need to use the bathroom that had also hit me then.

He was quiet for a minute.   “What would you think we should do…you know…if you were?”  It was the unthinkable.  I couldn’t even let my head go there.

“I don’t know.  I really, really don’t know.  I mean, maybe I could get an abortion?   I’m not sure if I could.  I just don’t know how I’d feel…hypothetical is totally different than reality.”

I’d always considered myself pro choice.  My high school position papers were always firmly on the right to choose.  That being said, when I converted to Catholicism the year before, I knew very well the Church’s position on abortion.  It gave me pause.  I’d seen friends of my sisters go both ways; one who gave her baby away, and one who aborted.  I knew my mother had given a child up for adoption.  That was the one avenue I was sure I couldn’t take.

Joe looked at me, uncharacteristically filled with tension.  “Well, we don’t know yet.”

“No.  I suppose if it doesn’t show up soon, I’ll have to take a test.”  God, I hated the thought of having to go to the slightly off campus but not nearly far enough for my taste drugstore to buy a home pregnancy test.

“When were you due?”

I thought back.  I never kept very good track, because I was always so regular.  But I certainly knew it should have been here before now.  “Um, I remember thinking that it should have been here around Christmas, maybe a few days afterwards.”

His eyes grew wide.  That meant I was a whole week late.

I gulped.  “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” I responded, nervously.  He took my hand and squeezed, and got up to go back to his practice room.  He smiled that smile that he knew would erase my fear and closed the door behind him.

Girl Stuff

I was spending the night at my friend Dawn’s house when it happened.  Finally, when it happened.

Like I’ve said before, no one in my house was talking to me about my body changing, and as 11 blended into 12 and as 12 blended towards 13, I was really beginning to wonder when it would all kick in.

My friend Dawn got her period at age ten.  The boobs followed shortly thereafter.  And she was prepared for it.  Her parents were the kind that used the real terms for every body part right off the bat, so much so that apparently when she was four or five and saw a pregnant lady, she asked her when the baby would be coming out of her “bagina”.

No one was talking to me, though, so I’d ride my bike the three or four miles to the public library across town to spend hours in the Health and Lifestyle section figuring out what exactly was going to happen to me and when.    I coerced my mother to buy me some training bras;  I think she actually sent my older sister to do the deed with me.

I read magazines at the library too, going through Seventeen magazine trying to decide if I was going to use pads or tampons.  There was a new kind of tampon that was being advertised that was perfect for young girls (aka “virgins”).  I knew my sister never used them, but I was sold on tampons.  As a very insecure person to start with, I couldn’t imagine the horrible embarassment that could possibly come from having dribbles and leaks off of your pad.  Plus, everything I read talked about Odor.  What if I smelled like blood when I had my period?  The many avenues to mortification all seemed related to the blood escaping my body.  Tampons seemed like they just made sense.

So, I was ready.  Friend after friend started menstruating, but I seemed hopelessly behind.  I knew that it could happen as late as fifteen, but as my 13th birthday approached, I was starting to worry.  I laid in my supply of Light Tampax, pads (for the night, since Toxic Shock Syndrome was in the news then) and waited.

I was at Dawn’s house when it finally happened.  I woke up before her and was waiting for her to wake up before going to use the bathroom.  It always felt weird to be up in someone else’s house before them or their parents, even though everyone knew I was an early riser.  As I waited, I realized that it felt a little wet “down there”.  I worried that perhaps I’d had an accident.  I lifted the blanket, looked down and realized.

It Had Started.

I woke my friend, who was all congratulatory glee.

Looking back on it, it was a good thing that it started then.  Dawn talked me through the tampon explicitly and without shame, unlike anyone in my own home would have been able to do.  I was a woman.  Finally.  Just in time for the start of 8th grade.

Ch-ch-changes

My mother did not ever sit down with me and warn me about the way little girls developed into women.

She did, however, one day hand my brother a book called, “What’s Happening to Me”.  In a wildly inappropriate move, she told him to share it with me so I could be educated with it as well.  I suppose in her eyes this made sense, because the book did equal time between girl stuff and boy stuff.

The book didn’t talk about S-E-X.  It was simply a more detailed (and illustrated!) version of what we got in the fifth grade health lecture that my mother signed off on.  What happens to our bodies and when.  When my brother realized there wasn’t any juicy stuff in it except for one graphic with naked girls from ages 9-18, he left me with it.

The book went through, as though talking to a child (though I thought fiercely, a much younger one than I was currently), exactly what would happen to me and when.  How hair was supposed to grow.  And my chest.  And my hips.  And that at some point between age 10 and age 16, I would start MENSTRUATING.

The book of course did not provide any details as to one would deal with any of these scenarios, ie shaving and tampons.  All I knew about shaving was that my girlfriend Dawn did it once when I slept over, and her entire calf was bloody by the time she was done.  Was I really going to have to mutilate myself every day?  And tampons were practically a four letter word in our house, as I could vividly remember the night my sister got one stuck in her who-ha, and called frantically to my mother to help her “GET IT OUT” (I was, of course, about six at the time and had no idea as to what she had been referring to at the time.  As with everything of a sensitive nature in our family, these things were simply not discussed).

I was curious about the period thing.   My own mother had her uterus removed when I was seven due to a medical condition, so she never had her period from the time I became aware that they happened.  My sister refused to talk to me about it, but clearly she’d never recovered from her trauma, because there were no tampons kept in our house.

It was just so odd to me that no one ever talked about these things.  I read Judy Blume for tips on breast enlargement.  I read my sister’s castoff Seventeen magazines for advice on feminine protection (I was totally going to try tampons; I liked to swim for heaven’s sake, and wouldn’t people notice if you stopped swimming for four days during the heat wave?).   I snuck my mother’s copy of the Ms. Guide to A Woman’s Health and discovered deodorant and when to use it.  There was a whole section in there about hygiene for teenage girls and how often to shower, etc.

I was starting to be interested in what came next, after those changes, that that would require a lot more reading before I understood much about that concept.  With my mother and father’s angry relationship front and center for most of my life, I definitely approached the whole idea of commitment with trepidation.  Still, the little girl who cried out for attention longed for the self esteem boost that would come from male attention.  I would have no knowledge as to how to handle it when it came, but like any good student, I was studying ahead, just in case.

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