Bound – Chapter 1
Dec. 2012 — Kate
Sex When You’re Expecting: Is it Safe?
I rolled my eyes and sighed at the headline in the waiting room’s Modern Pregnancy magazine.
Hmm. One less thing to worry about. When the guy you’ve been dating for a couple weeks knocks you up, then freaks out and disappears when you tell him, abstinence becomes an easy choice.
“Did you take your vitamin?” My mom Lynn looked over, her forehead crinkled.
“Took it this morning, like always,” I said, my voice tinged with annoyance. “I’m 22, and I’m going to have a kid of my own in … 22 weeks and five days.”
Mom smiled and reached for my hand. “I hope they get a clear view on the sono today. I can’t stand not knowing if I’m having a granddaughter or a grandson.”
“I think I changed my mind on that,” I said. “It might be more fun to not find out.”
Mom’s mouth fell open and her eyes bulged. “Really?”
“No, I’m kidding. Of course we’re finding out!”
A middle-aged couple sat across from us in the waiting room chairs. The man rubbed his palm in rhythmic circles over the Buddha belly of the woman while she smiled happily. His silver Rolex glistened as he bent closer to say something to the gestating baby.
My bump was much smaller, and I pressed my own palm to it protectively.
Sorry, kid. No doting father for you, I’m afraid.
Quinn Barlow had seemed like a good guy. Back in August, he let me buy the last used copy of a Sociology book in the college bookstore right out of his hand. Sure, I’d flirted for it. I needed it; new textbooks cost a mint. Besides, he was totally flirtworthy — tall and lean, with dark blond curls and sexy reading glasses. When I thanked him for letting me have the book, he asked me out for coffee.
Wham-Bam. One thing led to another – more than once – and though I’d been on the pill since high school, here I was in an OB’s office, waiting for my 18-week sonogram.
A tall, round Christmas tree in the corner of the doctor’s waiting room was adorned with rattles and ribbon-trimmed baby photos secured by large diaper pins. I smiled just thinking that next Christmas, my baby’s face might be on this tree.
I hadn’t planned on being a single mom at age 22, but over the past three months I’d gotten over my initial flat-out panic. I’d be graduating right after the baby was born, and I’d have to make it work.
The shrill wail of a baby caught my attention. “Shh,” the mom cooed, rocking her bundled infant from side to side.
There was no way I’d be able to do that. I’d just have a kid who cried constantly, unless Mom knew how to do that rocking stuff. Shit, that lady looked exhausted. Hopefully I’d get through finals before this baby came.
“Kate?” A young nurse with wild red curls propped the door open. Mom jumped up before I could, her face glowing with excitement. She was rolling with this remarkably well. Better than me, actually.
And Quinn. I still remembered the bulge of his eyes and the desperation in his tone during his hour-and-a-half tirade over how irresponsible I was and how unprepared he was for fatherhood. Not one word of concern for me.
Mom crawled into bed beside me the night I was a bawling, snotty mess over Quinn. She didn’t say much, just smoothed back my hair and wiped away my tears.
“Don’t think about that a-hole, Katie.” She said it then and she said it now. She knew me well.
The nurse led us down the familiar hallway, past the bulletin board that was crammed with photos of babies every time I came here. Most of them were newborns with wrinkly red faces and caps on their heads. There were a few of older babies with toothy grins and wild hair and even toddlers smiling for studio portraits. Dr. Harn was holding the babies she’d just delivered in some of the pictures.
“Need to get your weight,” the perky nurse said. I stepped up and waited, then took a seat in the chair next to the scale. The blood pressure cuff was tight, and I let out a deep breath as it clenched my arm.
“You look so familiar,” the nurse said to Mom.
“I’m an ICU nurse at the hospital,” she said.
“That’s it! I knew I recognized you. How do you like that floor?”
“I like it a lot. There are hard days, but that’s just nursing, I think.”
I blew out a sigh that ruffled my long bangs as the nurse un-velcroed the vise-like cuff. “Okay, Kate, let’s get you into the sono room. Doctor’s doing it herself today since our tech is out sick.”
A wave of nervousness hit me as we walked into the darkened room. The exam table beckoned, and I realized this pregnancy was about to get really real. Baggy sweatshirts had hidden it from the world so far. Oddly, I’d accepted that I was pregnant, but was still working on processing the baby part. I was going to have a baby, and within a few minutes I’d know if it was a boy or a girl.
Jackson Ryan for a boy and Harlow Lynn for a girl. Or maybe Emma Lynn.
“Taking your vitamins?” the nurse asked while her fingers clicked on the keys of a small computer.
“Had your flu shot?”
“Got it last time I was here.”
“Any more morning sickness?”
“It’s a lot better, but I’ve never been so tired in my life,” I said. The month-long winter break from school was halfway over, and I was going to bed early every night and taking a nap every afternoon.
“Feeling the baby move?”
“I felt something the other day, but I don’t know if it was indigestion or the little peanut kicking me. I don’t know the difference.”
She smiled. “Okay, just have a seat and she’ll be right in.”
The nurse left and I slid onto the reclined exam table to wait. I touched my protruding belly, anticipation coursing through me. When I pictured myself holding this baby, it was always wrapped in a plain white waffle-weave blanket. I’d bought some baby pajamas with yellow ducks on them, but I loved the idea of being able to choose either the blue or pink section in the baby boutiques. Not that I could buy much on my college student budget.
“Thanks for being here, Mom,” I said. “I know you had to switch things at work.”
Her face wrinkled into a grin. “Kate, you think I’d miss this?”
“No, I know, it’s just … not all single moms have someone, you know?”
“I know very well.”
She’d raised me alone, though I’d never given it a second thought growing up. It was only after becoming an adult that I realized how hard it must have been for her. Would my baby and I have the same close relationship? Would I ever be honest with my child about being devastated to learn I was pregnant? It seemed cruel and selfish now.
A graying brunette in a white coat bustled into the room and I smiled. Dr. Harn seemed to have endless energy.
“How are we, Kate?” she asked, pushing her glasses up on her tiny nose.
“Hi, Lynn,” Dr. Harn said.
“Hi. We’re hoping you get a good look today.”
“Well, hopefully baby will cooperate. You need to know whether to put blue booties or pink ones under that Christmas tree.”
The doctor pushed up my shirt just enough to squeeze clear jelly onto my bare stomach, and I gasped a little as it hit my skin.
“Sorry, the warmer’s broken,” she said. She pushed her glasses up again and pressed a stubby wand to my belly, looking at the monitor.
My eyes went right to the screen. The baby was an unrecognizable blob the first time I’d had a sonogram, and I hoped to see something more today. My stomach churned as I tried to figure out the white swirls that appeared.
“What’s—” I stopped midsentence as the doctor’s lips pursed. She glanced quickly at Mom, who was also staring at the screen. Mom’s face was ashen and the corners of her mouth dipped down.
“Mom? Something’s wrong with the baby, isn’t it?” I tasted bile and my heart raced. “What is it? Mom?”
Dr. Harn looked at me, her brows furrowed. “Kate, I’m so sorry, but the baby doesn’t have a heartbeat. I’ll measure it to see when it happened.”
“When what happened? What? Mom? Is my baby gone?” Hot tears flowed as I looked at my Mom. Her eyes were squeezed closed and her hand covered her mouth.
I sank against the back of the reclined exam table, lightheaded. Mom reached forward and pulled me into a tight embrace. We both sobbed, and I felt faintly guilty for making her so sad.
“I’m so sorry,” Dr. Harn said.
“What did I do?” I asked hoarsely. “I haven’t had alcohol or been around smoke. I don’t understand.”
“This isn’t your fault, Kate,” the doctor said adamantly. “This happens sometimes and it’s not your fault. I know this is hard, but we have to admit you to the hospital for delivery.”
“Delivery?” Fresh tears coursed down my cheeks, and Mom squeezed an arm around my shoulders.
“Yes. I’ll induce you and give you medication to help you get through it. It won’t hurt.” Her gentle tone made me want to scream. Like everything was going to be fine. But how could everything ever be fine again? The baby I didn’t want, and then had grown to love, was now dead inside me.
“Oh, God, no,” I said, shaking my head quickly. “No, I can’t.”
“You’ll need to be admitted by this evening. Waiting increases the risk of infection. We have to deliver right away.”
A wail escaped my throat. “No. No, I can’t.”
“Take a few hours to relax for now,” the doctor said, rubbing my arm.
“Do you know—” I wiped a sleeve across my wet cheeks. “Do you know if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“I do,” she said softly. “Would you like to know?”
“No. I just … I can’t. I want to know, but right now, I can’t.” I wanted to scream, vomit, cry … something. But I couldn’t. I just stared at the poster on the wall across from me, which offered an interior view of a baby developing month by month. The mother’s stomach grew larger in each successive picture. Mine never would.
“It’s okay, Katie,” Mom said, pulling me close again. “We’ll get through this.”
They were the words she was supposed to say, but I wondered if she believed them. I didn’t.