Friday Night Story

Baby Back

I have a baby. I’ve never really understood why women say they “had” a baby- to me that always said they’d left it in the food court at the mall and someone walked off with it, or that it died. Wait- let me start over.

Frank and I were having a break; I mean, we were still living together, still sleeping in the same bed, still carpooling to work- I was still cooking him breakfast. But we weren’t having sex. He wouldn’t even kiss me.

I know I was eating more, because I was depressed, and that’s why it didn’t worry me that I started gaining weight. When I started getting sick, I just thought, you know, that it was the stress. I tried changing my diet, I even started exercising, which made me feel a little better, emotionally, but it didn’t help.

I was throwing up more frequently. And I was late. Frank was distant, even pissier than usual, and he told me there wasn’t room in his car for all of my fat ass; I told him, “I’m pregnant, you dick.” There was a long moment that he stared at me, and I thought it was a huge mistake I’d told him and now he was going to kill me. He didn’t. He kissed me.

Everything wasn’t just perfect after that, like it was magic or anything, but he cared a little again- and that was a lot. He put his arm around me when he slept, and he waited until I was up in the mornings so we could shower together.

I was getting so big. I felt like a whale, but Frank said I’d never looked prettier. He was even a little turned on when I started lactating, although my neighbor Jean, who was a few months further along than me, told me it wasn’t milk, but colostrum.

And I don’t know why, I mean, I guess I was scared, but until then, it just wasn’t real, so I hadn’t gone to the doctor. He gave me a stern talking to, took blood and urine samples, and ran some labs. And when he came back he was very serious. He told me there was no hCG in my urine- he told me I couldn’t be pregnant. I told him he was wrong. He said he could prove it. I had an ultrasound, and I asked, “Is that my baby?”

He explained that that was where my baby should have been, but it was empty. He said that I had pseudocyesis- that I wasn’t really pregnant. I called Frank, to tell him; he was at his parents' house telling them they were about to be grandparents. I hung up.

In tears I showed up at Jean’s. I figured if anyone would listen, if anyone could understand, it was her. She brewed a pot of tea, we talked and she made sympathetic noises. I don’t know if it was a reflex, but she kept rubbing her belly, as if to make sure whatever had stolen my baby hadn’t taken hers. It just made me sick inside.

The pot ran dry, and she waddled into the kitchen to make another. I followed her. She was on a stool, on her tiptoes, reaching for the teabags over the stove. She grunted, and touched her belly, whispering softly to it that now wasn’t a good time to be kicking her.

I touched her gently on the arm, just enough that she lost her balance. She landed flat, smacking her head with a dull, wet slap. She was still breathing, slow and deep; her stomach rising and falling.

I rolled up her shirt, and then used a kitchen knife to cut a small incision into her belly. I reached my hand inside, the baby held onto my finger. I used a potato chip bag clip to clamp off the umbilical cord, and cut it with the knife. My baby, a beautiful boy, started coughing; I used a kitchen towel to clean him off. I finally looked back at Jean; her stomach wasn’t moving anymore.

I took my son home. I called Frank, and told him that there had been complications, but that our son was fine. In fact, he was beautiful, and healthy, and he would be waiting at home when he got back. His parents live out of the county, in the sticks, but Frank’s coming home to see his son. I’m holding him close to me, wrapped in one of Jean’s kitchen towels. He’s cooing softly; I think it’s almost time to feed him. It’s only when I hear a scratching noise, probably an animal outside, that I realize I still have the kitchen knife in my hand.

I have a baby. I cut it out of someone. And I’m not giving it back.

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