Young girl, you'll be an excellent mother

Submitted into Contest #161 in response to: Write a story where a character has to take on heavy responsibilities (perhaps beyond their age).... view prompt

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Sad American Drama

This story contains sensitive content

Sensitive warnings// forced birth, teen pregnancy, abortion, teen sexual activity, rape

“Honey, help me move this against the window.” I lift one side of the white metal crib and scoot it to my left, waiting for her to do the same on her end.

“Won’t it be cold here?” She asks.

“The windows are well-insulated, and the flannel jammies are cozy. He’ll be okay.”

“What else do we have to do? I wanna meet Emma at the movies at three.”

“The onesies are in the dryer; they’ll need to be folded and tucked away in the dresser. We need more freezer meals for the crockpot,” I can think of fifty other things off the top of my head that needs to be done before a new baby arrives. “Oh!” I flip my palms up. “Did you get all your assignments for next semester? We were still waiting on your science project.”

“I asked Mrs. Murdoch last week, but she hasn’t emailed it yet. It’s already so much work! Do you know Mr. Elliot wants me to write a freaking ten-thousand-word essay?”

“Is that all you’re required to do for your English grade?” I wave Olivia to follow me to the laundry room.

She shrugs her shoulders and chews on her lip. “I guess so.”

I unload the dryer full of fresh-scented white onesies into the empty hamper. It’s been fourteen years since I cared for a newborn, but I remember how quickly she grew from newborn size to six months. Better to have them available than one day having a diaper-clad baby without sensible clothing. “What does he want you to write it about?”

She takes the plastic mint green laundry basket from me and carries it back to the baby’s room. “He said I could pick whatever I wanted so long as the title is ‘When Everything Changed,’ but like, that’s not super helpful.”

I swallow a dry knot in my throat. “Well, I suppose that could cover just about everything. Changes happen every day. Have you thought about it?”

“Yeah, like, I think a big change was when we moved into this house. I miss my friends in West Creek.”

A cramp seizes in my jaw. I rub the pads of my fingers over the tension and rotate my neck, earning a few cracks. “I do, too, honey. But now the baby will have his own room.”

“Mom, stop, it could be a girl! We don’t know if it’s a boy or girl. Don’t you want a girl to spoil and buy all those pretty dresses like you did for me?”

I maintain a vacant look, staring at the drawer of properly folded, pristine white baby onesies. Soon they will be covered in spit-up and yellow poop stains. I give a single nod. A boy would be easier. A boy would not have this trauma. Perhaps we could raise a boy to be proper. A boy who would not take advantage of a thirteen-year-old.

My husband wanted to try for another baby. He wanted a son. But after my first traumatic labor experience, I worried about dying on the maternity ward. I couldn’t risk leaving Olivia behind. Out of fear, we stayed abstinent for years, only giving in to rounding third base like a horny backseat teenager until it was finally my turn for a full hysterectomy in Canada. A list with a three-year waiting period.

“Sophia had a girl and she said it’s so much fun to put big bows on her head. And Ryleigh had a boy and he peed on her in the face when she was changing his diaper! So gross.”

I release a small chuckle. “Either way, some pee and poop will end up on you that’s not yours. That’s motherhood.”

She gives me a disgusted look. “Anyway,” she says as she grips the crib for stability as she stands up. Her round belly is in my direct eye line. “A boy would just want to wear shirts with dinosaurs and race cars,” she quips.

Her innocence mixes with my grief and I swallow the feeling of nausea rising in my esophagus. Olivia attends a public school for pregnant and teen moms. The government built these schools across the nation to accommodate pregnant students. They offer individual rooms for girls with morning sickness so if they need to throw up in the middle of class, they won’t be embarrassed. Her friends are what the kids call the ‘accidental mothers,’ the ones who had consensual sex with boys. Cliques still emerge even at a teen mom school; the accidental moms don’t hang out with the rape babies’ group, and the old religion girls don’t associate with the “new Jesus girls,” the ones who didn’t go to Christian church until they were brought to the teen mom school.

When I was thirteen, I gossiped with friends about my crushes, went shopping for cute jeans and cool shoes, and begged my mom to let me get my belly button pierced – of which she vehemently said no. Flipping through teen magazines, daydreaming about being an older teen — a cool high school senior. A now defunct glossy publication named Seventeen I couldn’t wait to be the appropriate age to read, would taunt me in the grocery check-out line with Hottest Trends for Prom, College Application Tips, and a flow chart to help me decide what method of birth control was best. The nostalgia of my teen years waves in my roiling gut.

“Hey,” I nudge my chin at her, bringing myself from a cross-legged pose to standing, just two inches above my still-growing daughter. When she reaches her full height in a few years, she’ll be taller than me, just a smidgen above five foot seven. She hit puberty last year and shot up like a bean stock. We bought her new jeans every three months to keep up with her long legs. But now, we find it easier to buy maternity dresses and shorts than to keep up with the height and belly changes as her body expands in both directions.

 “Go to the movies with Emma,” I brush my knuckles down her cheek. “Grab some cash in my wallet and treat yourself. It won’t be long until you’ll be up all night and exhausted all day.”

“But I’ll have you to help me. Right, didn’t you say you’d take the night shift?” She winks at me and walks down the hallway to her room. She shouts from the other side of the wall, “No, but for real, Liam’s mom said she’s super excited to help from time-to-time.”

I shake my head. “They’re moving in July to some Air Force base in Florida. That’s a long way to North Dakota to quote-unquote, help out from time-to-time.”

“Yeah, but maybe Liam will get stationed here when he enlists.”

“That’s two years away, Olivia. The newborn stage is when help is needed the most.”

She rolls her eyes. “Always the Debbie Downer, mom.” She taps vigorously on her phone. “Emma’s mom can pick me up.”

“Just... realistic.” It’s dangerous to be optimistic. “Be safe and call me when you’re done with the movies. Let me know where you’re going.”

“Aye-aye Captain,” she gives me a two-finger salute.

Three hours later, the kitchen smells like cooked carrots and raw onions. We have enough crockpot meals to easily get us through the first two weeks. I don’t remember exactly how tired I was as a new mom, but I know it was enough that planning meals was at the bottom of the list. We ordered a lot of take-out which was not the healthiest choice for me or my baby.

I want to help as much as possible and preparing meals ahead of time gives me more focus on Olivia and the baby. Olivia will need time to recover. Her little body doesn’t heal as quickly as a fully mature woman’s. I shiver as blood runs cold through my veins at the memory of what my friend Diana told me in our secured group chat. A father of a classmate took his own life a month after his daughter gave birth. Rumors swirled that he couldn’t get her labor screams out of his head. He allegedly wrote to his wife that the sound of the keyboard on his work computer taunted him with cracks and pops like the fracture of Chloe’s hips as she pushed out her seven-pound son. He left behind his wife, four children and two grandchildren. No matter the torment my husband and I suffer from our new reality, we have made a pact to never leave our daughter and grandchild behind.

My phone pings with a text on the secure app. The messages come an hour after they’ve been written after bouncing around so many locations before they land to the intended recipient. Dozens of secure messaging apps have taken over the marketplace, but it’s difficult to trust the right ones. A colleague of my husband’s at the hospital was arrested because she placed erroneous trust in an app her husband shared with her. He thought she was a member of a group of clandestine abortion providers. He set her up with an app created by a vigilante watchdog group and in exchange was awarded a $20,000 bounty for turning in his wife. He had gambling debts and lost his job when he watched porn in the office.

Chevy needs to borrow your carpet cleaner. She spilled three bottles of red wine. Can you drop it off tomorrow at her house on Elliot Street?

Tomorrow, I’ll drive my Chevrolet Tahoe over the border to Canada with three women—or girls— seeking abortions. The highway is lined with billboards of fetal ultrasound images and blunt quotes like, “Don’t be a murderer,” and a number for the hotline to the National Adoptive Parents Waiting Agency. I’ve driven more than one hundred pregnant women —girls and children as young as ten— to the land of bodily autonomy. I don’t know their ages, their names or why they want to terminate the pregnancy—I never ask. But one thing they have in common is either the full support of the male, or they caught it early enough to go under the radar.

When we hit Butchery Blvd., officially named by the state of North Dakota, I turn on dance music and distract my passengers with my embarrassing mom moves. Only once did a young woman change her mind. She opened the door and flung herself out of my moving vehicle. I slammed on my breaks, spilling my coffee cup all over my lap, to run to her. I stood on the other side of the freeway as she limped onto the road. She closed her eyes and stood. She was swallowed by a semi-truck full of potatoes. Pieces of her body were mixed with the vegetable across the road. I haven’t had a french fry since.

With Olivia, it was no question. As soon as she told me she thought her period was late—despite knowing they can take years to become regular at the beginning of puberty—my husband and I made plans to take her across. She broke down and told me about Homecoming night with Liam, the nice neighborhood boy. She said she felt so beautiful, and he told her she was the most beautiful girl at the dance. Since she was five, we taught her not to ever be alone with a boy. She couldn’t trust even the nice ones. We tried so hard to protect her. I punched a hole in the wall and released a primal scream from deep inside my soul. I blamed myself for allowing her to go to that fucking dance. I just wanted her to feel what it might be like to have a normal teen moment. I naively believed this couldn’t happen to us.

But when she slipped and told Liam she was pregnant his father overheard their conversation on the phone. It was too much pressure to put on a fourteen-year-old; to keep her mouth shut. To not seek comfort from the first boy to ever give her that fluttering sensation. His father reported the pregnancy to the National Creation Registry, and we were immediately court ordered to appear at a state hospital and confirm Oliva’s pregnancy, where her appointments have remained every week to confirm the viability of the fetus. I prayed for a miscarriage, despite knowing the brutal forensics she would endure, if it meant giving her another opportunity at her young, free life.

I reply to the text.

Yes. I just got a new brush and chemicals for it. It’ll work great.

I wipe the kitchen counters, removing all evidence of meal prep. In the pantry, I grab a jar of peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, and a new jar of grape jelly. I make a dozen sandwiches, and three nut-free options if one of my passengers has a nut allergy. I add carrots, chocolate bars, and chips to separate sandwich bags. These are for the drive into Canada and back on the road after they’ve recovered. In Canada, they’ll eat like queens and recover in a comfortable room at one of the many women-friendly hotels. An economic boom to the small border town.

Olivia texts me on the main messaging app, often monitored by the government. Movie’s over, going to the mall. Charlotte said Gap has the comfiest pants to wear after I have baby.

Can you stay at Emma’s until dad gets home in the morning? I have some mopping to get done.

Another carefully scripted code. I whispered into her ear one night that whenever I said I was mopping, she had to stay out of the house. “Sometimes the floors are too wet and dangerous.”

“My friend Amber’s mom mops a lot, too.” A light flickered in her eye. Of course, she knew what that meant. Some moms go to prison for mopping floors or cleaning carpets.

Sure. Be safe, mom.

You, too, baby.

September 01, 2022 17:12

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