Its mid October, 1995 and we are driving to the hospital at 7 in the morning for the scheduled induced delivery of our twins. I’m 16 and my boyfriend is 18. Orange and red leaves pepper the view as we drive on a single lane highway toward the hospital, thinking we should really reschedule. I wasn’t exactly in the mood to be a mother today. Tomorrow or next week would be better, just not today. The reality began to hit. I couldn’t figure it out; why it had taken this long (37 weeks to be exact) to realize what was about to happen could not be undone. How leaves could fall and look just like they had every other year when everything in my whole world was unfamiliar? I say none of this to my boyfriend, as we sit in silence, each trying to swallow our own pill and somewhat forgetting about the other, something that would continue for years to come.
This whole debacle had started a little less than 9 months ago, though which time exactly I cannot be sure. Was it in the living room floor at my dad’s house that night we stayed up late and dad was snoring heavily from his bedroom upstairs? Or maybe it was in his brothers truck parked in the driveway after I finished babysitting for my friends’ kids. Had I been drunk or sober? There were really too many possibilities to narrow down the moment of conception and really what did it matter. I was pregnant, of that there was no mistaking.
As we drove I kept having flashbacks to key moments that I wished I could change. First was the day I realized I had missed two days of birth control pills while standing in the grocery store parking lot talking to my boyfriend while he was on a break from work. Strike one. Second was the morning I was sitting on the toilet at my dads house remembering a dream I’d just had that I was pregnant with a boy. That was the first time I actually knew, less because of the dream and more because I felt it in my bones. Third was later that same day with my best friend, Kim. We had been driving on back gravel roads after school smoking a joint and blaring the radio for a couple hours before I got the courage up to mention that I wanted to buy a pregnancy test. She almost wrecked. I explained I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t, you know, to ease my mind. We decided to drive to the next town over to get the test, as we knew to many people in the tiny town and someone would almost certainly recognize us and spread the word that one or both of us was a slutty whore. CVS had a special on Clear-blue that day; buy one get one free. Ironic. We drove back to our small town teenage arcade/pizza place hangout and I took the tests in the bathroom, holding up everyone’s peeing very discreetly. Both were positive. We sat in her Chevy Blazer in the parking lot staring out the window for a while. Some random faceless friend came up to the passenger side and asked me for a smoke. I gave him my whole pack of Winston Lights, stating I wouldn’t be smoking anymore. I suppose that said a lot, but I missed it at the time.
Weeks escaped as I came to numerous temporary conclusions. First was the abortion I was going to have with Kim’s money in a nearby state whose laws allowed such a procedure without parental consent. After scheduling it I no-showed; instincts kicking in telling me it was a waste of gas and time because I would never go through with it. Then adoption. I had a close friend who enthusiastically explained her parents knew a couple that were looking to adopt and would be thrilled. I suddenly felt like the human equivalent of a puppy mill, wondering briefly if I could make some money out of the deal before pooh-poohing that because I knew I couldn’t live in the same town as my kid without it being my kid; even I had a line. At this point the lovely assortment of choices were dwindling.
To say it was difficult telling my parents would be the equivalent of saying it was challenging to chew off my own leg. My parents were divorced so I started with the non custodial version, my mom. She was depressed after their recent divorce and our long and tumultuous falling out, and so was eager to have a revised reason for living. “You’re going to keep it and we’ll raise it and it will be wonderful” she said. Or some such bullshit. She might as well have said “I am so lonely and uninteresting I’d rather sacrifice you and raise my grandchild than continue on in my meager existence”. My dad was the scarily quiet version of angry. He calmly mentioned that technically what “we had done” was statutory rape and he was considering pressing charges against my boyfriend. Ultimately he had no control, which I’m fairly sure he knew at the time but was enjoying the look on our faces while considering what the requirements of “grandpa” meant for him.
Forward one month and I’m laying on a hospital bed with my now tightly fitting jeans pulled down mid thigh having an ultrasound to determine approximate gestation. Shortly after placing the device on my lubed stomach, the tech inhaled in surprise. I asked what was wrong, imagining an alien or two headed monkey I would have to parade in public. She immediately left the room asking in passing if I minded that she brought in interns to view the procedure. I hadn’t even responded by the time she returned with 5 curious lab coats ogling at the monitor. “And this…”, she said while I held my breath, “is what fraternal twins look like in an ultrasound”.
My reaction now would be different. Then I was excited, thinking how unique and original this was. I called all the usual important people and explained what a miraculous thing my body had done. I remember being concerned that everyone’s reaction was somewhat confused. Did this mean I too should be confused? Yes, it did, but I was not; I was entertained. The next several months involved morning sickness, trying to retain my adolescent friendships, worry, and arguments with my lying drunk boyfriend and fear. I was more alone with child (ren) than I could have ever imagined possible. I never considered the future beyond buying enough diapers. My brain did not have the capacity. Apparently neither did anyone else’s.
Eight months and some days later I was laying in a hospital bed, gowned and ready to go. After the doctor pierced my water sack labor started. Shortly before I received an epidural to numb me from the waist down, my dream come true. I had heard that after a certain level of dilation the procedure would not be possible. The only hitch was that by the time I needed to push for delivery it had worn off. The nurses assured me it would be fine and that by the way there was nothing they could do as the babies were coming. Somewhere in the middle of the 8 hours of pushing, my boyfriend suggested I should just push harder, as it obviously wasn’t working and he was hungry and tired. This should have been clue number 4011 that he less than ideal. It was, but I was more or less tied down and couldn’t appropriately respond.
Everything came out alright. More or less. Both babies were healthy and fairly happy. I was exhausted and scared and felt like I was in a parallel universe in which there was no escape button. Becoming a parent for the first time is not adequately described in words. The love is crazy and makes no sense. All of the sudden you feel willing to do anything to alleviate pain for a stranger, or in my case two. Anything. Every known “normal” in your world becomes new viewed through the filter of parenthood. It all changes permanently and completely. You now live in a different place. One where you are not the most important person in your life anymore. I both resented it and succumbed to it helplessly.
The drive home from the hospital was eternally different than the drive there. I rode in the back sitting between two tiny car seats to ensure both 5lb babies heads didn’t wobble too much, potentially causing permanent damage and embarrassment. The awareness of what could happen and my responsibility of keeping it from happening to them was like an albatross chained around my neck, its weight sitting heavily on my chest making it hard to get a full breath. Somehow I didn’t notice the trees or leaves on that drive. All I could see was what was in front of me inside the maroon Grand Am.