I keep starting the tale of Matthew at different points in his life and having to back track. I’ve got two other drafts and realized as I was writing each one that I need to go back even further. Matthew’s story is complicated, and I guess there’s no other place to start but at the absolute beginning. So, let’s go ahead and jump in.
I was 20 years old, living with my boyfriend, my friend, her boyfriend, and her son. In a one bedroom apartment. I had just lost my job, had no vehicle – and to be perfectly honest, no license. I had been driving for a couple of years on a learner’s permit. I am not a stupid person, but my sense of priorities was a complete disaster. . . And all of a sudden, I was also pregnant.
I had gotten very sick, out of the blue. Fever, vomiting, dizzy. I couldn’t get out of bed. I had called off work several days in a row, and quit before they could fire me because I didn’t have insurance, thus didn’t go to the doctor for the requested doctor’s note. Finally, I did go to a hospital in Toledo. They did testing for pregnancy – at this point I had already taken a test and it had come back negative, and so did this one. They ran an IV for nausea, with pain meds in it as well and dismissed it as stomach flu. I went home.
Two weeks later, I was better but randomly still vomiting.
And the dollar store pregnancy test came back positive.
I was 20. Jobless. I mean, I’ve listed above all the reasons I should not be pregnant and bringing a little defenseless person into the world.
And I had to tell my parents. At that point in my life, this was the scariest obstacle I had every encountered. I figured my dad was going to disown me. I figured my mom would be disappointed due to my current situation, but happy to finally have the grandchild she so wanted. Mind you, I was an actual adult, and did not live with either of them. No reason to be afraid of telling them. I knew though that they had higher aspirations for me than for me to be an unwed mother at just barely 20 years old. And in the predicament that I was in, at that. I had nothing to offer this child what-so-ever.
My dad would be the hardest. He had raised me, and had expressed on multiple occasions that he wanted me to go somewhere in life. And I knew this was not what he meant by going somewhere.
I figured I would get telling him out of the way, and dialed his number immediately.
As soon as he answered, I started crying. I couldn’t help it.
“Calm down and tell me what’s wrong,” he said quietly, trying to soothe me. What was wrong? This was probably the last time I would ever talk to him. What was wrong? I was absolutely fucking lost and a complete failure. What was wrong? I was going to hurt and disappoint my dad. I took a deep breath.
“Dad. I’m pregnant.” and I started crying all over again. There was a solid minute of silence on his end.
“Do you need to come home?”
Shocked, I told him I didn’t think so at this point.
“What can I do?”
“. . . you’re not mad?”
“No. Just tell me what you need me to do.”
“You’re not mad. That helps. I don’t need anything right now, I guess.”
“Probably a cigarette,” he said, laughing.
“Yeah, that habit just went in the garbage,” I laughed. He was making jokes. Definitely a good sign, despite the note of disappointment I could hear in his voice.
“You know, I told you how to prevent this.” Always with the jokes. Always trying to lighten the mood.
“Dad. . .”
“I told you. Put an aspirin in between your knees, and don’t let go.”
I laughed despite myself. Laughter was my dad’s medicine, for himself and anyone else. We ended the conversation on a much lighter note than it had begun, and I felt much better about the situation after finding that I had my dad’s support.
Mom shocked me in the opposite way. She was more disappointed than happy, and asked if we were going to get married. I was shocked at the question because her and my dad hadn’t been married, and the only marriage that she had been a part of had not been a good one. I told her that just because he got me pregnant didn’t mean I wanted to marry him. Mom and I didn’t interact much after that conversation. Her lack of support hurt me.
This was the beginning of November. I bought prenatal vitamins and made an appointment with my family doctor back home. I gagged at the smell of cigarette smoke and had no problem quitting. Word spread through my family quickly, as always. By the time Thanksgiving came around it was jokes about how I was eating for two, much to my dad’s annoyance. He grumbled about aspirin as everyone at the dinner table laughed. No one in my family judged my young age or financial or living situations. Everyone was happy. A baby was coming.
I was puking every day though, and being stuck in the apartment all day while everyone was at work was taking its toll. I’m not a social person by any means, but I needed to get the fuck out of there. I did have a couple job interviews, but no call backs. He was working two jobs and I never saw him except when he was asleep. I was depressed and slept and stayed in my pajamas all day.
Things went south with the relationship not long after. By Christmas I had taken dad up on moving back home. I found a job at a Subway in a nearby town, and began looking into baby names. A friend and I began talking about getting a place together not far from where I worked. I saved up money, bought a couple little things for the baby. I was making progress and I was happy.
I came home from work one day, and it felt like my feet were on fire. As I took my shoes and socks off I looked down to see my ankles were as large as baseballs. I screamed. Dad was there in an instant, breathing hard and looking scared. “What’s wrong with me?!” I said through tears. Dad explained why women’s ankles swell during pregnancy, and that my mother’s had, too. I realized that I had no fucking idea what my body was doing and I began to research pregnancy and the process of giving birth. Scary stuff. Life continued. I slept. Got up. Watched TV with Dad. He helped wrap my ankles before work each day with ace bandages because already I was starting to show, and just barely 3 months along, and I couldn’t reach my feet. He made a comment that I was looking awful plump one morning when I got up, and I cried. I smelled out a orange in the bottom of the fruit dish that had a small spot of mold on it, much to dad’s amazement. “I told you something was rotting in here,” I said, feeling very proud of my enhanced senses. But cleaning out mustard bottles at work was rough on me, and I gagged the entire time, and my cravings were strange, to say the least. Cold mashed potatoes mixed with ranch dressing. Fries dipped in honey mustard. Mandarin oranges, Barq’s root beer – fountain only – and fried bologna sandwiches. I don’t even like bologna or honey mustard or root beer. Apparently though, this baby did. I argued with my growing belly when I felt nauseous – “Look, kid. This is my body, you’re just hanging out for a bit inside. I don’t want to puke. I like mandarin oranges, and normally you do too. And they’re good for you. So chill the fuck out and let’s take a nap.” That time, the pep talk worked. Shortly after I asked dad to make steaks for dinner, and being the awesome dad he was, he obliged. He made the most beautiful steak for me, and made my plate. I ate two bites and ran to the bathroom, and expelled everything I had eaten that day. I came out and sat in the recliner, and hung my head and cried.
“What’s the matter? Why are you crying? Are you okay?” dad asked, concerned.
“I. . . I . . . I was sick! and you worked so hard on that, and it was so good!” I wailed.
Dad laughed, not unkindly. “You’re pregnant. You’ll have that.”
Sleep, eat, watch TV with dad, puke, hang out with my friend Oliver and his family, repeat. Everyone commented that maybe I was further along than what the doctor thought because I was getting so big. Working was rough – I encountered so many obstacles. Dad had to wrap my ankles so I could work, as I said, and still my ankles swelled. I got bronchitis and had to sleep with both my head and feet elevated. The baby had found my sciatic nerve, so after twenty minutes of being on my feet my leg began to be painful and feel like it was going to sleep, until it was completely numb. Every day. One time, as I was weighing out meat portions at work, I discovered that the reason it didn’t look like the right amount was because my stomach was sitting on the scale. My coworkers thought that was pretty fantastic, I wasn’t particularly amused. The store seemed so God awful hot that I would go outside and sit on the cold cement to cool off any chance I got – and it was definitely a Michigan winter. I got written up because I couldn’t reach the back of the front food cooler to clean out the stray food particles. I am short and I was almost as round as I was tall. To say that I felt that this was bullshit is an understatement. I was working, and running the store alone 98% of the time, and despite how horrible I felt each day, I never called off. I felt like telling her to shove the piece of paper up her ass, but in this small of a town, and in my condition, I knew I would’t find another job until after I had the baby. Not to mention, I worked all the shitty shifts, too. Including Valentine’s day. Which was when Matt, then just the nameless being occupying my body, gave me cause to worry.
My ankles were particularly painful that day, and my left leg was numb from hip to knee, and so it was about half way through my shift when I noticed that there was another pain. Low in my stomach, in the pelvic area. I made sandwiches and prepped food, trying to really feel the pain before I panicked. But none of the research I had done had ever explained this kind of pain as a “normal” pain. I took a break and dialed a friends number and asked her if after work she could run me up to the hospital to get it checked out. She had a little one and said that she didn’t recall ever having felt anything like what I was describing. I called dad and ran it by him too, and he agreed I should go in, after asking a bunch of questions to make sure I shouldn’t just leave work right that second.
We arrived at the hospital and they ran some tests. They did blood work, and listened to the baby’s heartbeat – it was such a relief to hear – and discerned that the baby was not under any stress. They couldn’t pinpoint the cause of my pain and scheduled an ultrasound for the next day, since it was so late. I got into an argument with a young foreign doctor about my blood type – “All due respect sir, but Type E blood doesn’t exist.” My friend was stiffling laughter, and normally I’m not intentionally a smart ass to official type people but for fucks sake it was midnight and I was tired and I damn sure knew my fucking blood type. I went home, told dad we needed to go back the next day, and went to bed, utterly exhausted and still worried for the little (big!) one growing inside of me.
The next day, dad drove me to the hospital. The doctor examined me, and had a tech come in to do the ultrasound. Dad sat next to the head of the bed as they prepped me for the ultrasound, and the nurse turned the monitor away from me. I guess that was a just in case measure, because they had never done that before for other ultrasounds. I looked fearfully at dad and he just shook his head and patted my hand, as if to say don’t worry, it’s cool. I took a deep breath and tried to keep from gasping when she pushed the paddle down on the sore area of my lower abdomen. “Oh!” she said. “What!?” I immediately responded. “Well. It’s a little early, but it looks like you’re little one is developing a little ahead of schedule. Could be the cause for your pain. Your pelvic bone is softening already. And. If you would like, I can show you what you’re having.” I had an appointment scheduled already for the following month to find out the sex, indeed it was very early. I looked again at dad. “It’s your kid,” was all he said, but I could read the curiosity on his face. And who was I kidding, I wanted to know, too. ‘Yes, I would like to know, please.” She flipped the monitor around, and Matthew made his debut, legs spread to proudly show off what God gave him. Dad cheered, and I looked over at him, just in time to see him wipe a tear away. I was so glad at that exact moment that my dad was by my side for the reveal. I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else.
1130am Monday morning
“Mom. We’ve been here over an hour. And they’re calling people that came in after us.”
“I know kid. Those people probably had appointments. We got in on a sick call. I’m sure we’ll be called soon.”
“I’m soooooo bored. . . “
“I hear ya, me too,” I responded
I looked over at him. He was growing so quickly. He was only an inch shorter than me, and last week I had noticed a decent amount of fuzz on his upper lip. He was only 12! Where was the time going?
Finally, the nurse called us back, and she took his height and weight. He had gained 15lbs! He was now just over 100lbs. Jesus Christ. Kid was gonna be able to take me soon when we wrestled. “Not cool. Stop growing, brat.” I told him. He just shook his head at me.
She walked us down to a room, and Matt kept sneaking looks at me. I think he was trying to gauge my level of worry. Being a mom enhances any acting skills you may or may not have. I could convince anyone of anything at this point in my life, and convincing him that I wasn’t worried sick was no different. I didn’t need him freaking out over this any worse than he already was. The nurse took some information from us, and smiled apologetically at us. “We’re down to.. . “
“The receptionist told us.” I cut her off, trying to save her from having to deliver the bad news.
“The doctor that is here is working a fast as she can. She’ll be in as soon as possible.”
“No worries. Thank-you.”
And the wait continued.