"Let's discuss the pregnancy. Normal?"
"As normal as could be, given the circumstances."
"When did you discover you were pregnant?"
"About three months into my internship in Chicago."
"Had you any indicators you might be before then?"
"No. I have always been irratic, and thought stress was causing it."
"What made you question it?"
"Nothing, really. I discovered it when I accepted a full-time position with the company I interned at."
"They make you take a drug test."
"You're all clear!" The doctor walked in, holding the results of my drug screen. I was sitting in a chair in her office. "There aren't even traces of prescription drugs in your system, but I'm sure you knew that, given your condition."
"Well, yes...wait, what condition?" I asked, puzzled. I knew the drug screen would come back clear--I didn't even like taking Tylenol for headaches.
A small crease appeared between the doctor's eyebrows, and one of them shot upward towards her hairline. Her smile dropped off as quickly as it had appeared, and my hands clenched the well-thumbed magazine in my hands. It was a Friday night, and I was the last patient for the evening.
"You mean you don't know?" An eerie stillness settled over the quiet office, her eyes fixed on mine. "Oh, dear. Well, umm, your bloodwork showed high levels of hcg, the human growth hormone." Her eyes held my own, seeing the confusion there.
"HCG is secreted during pregnancy. You're pregnant, Andrea."
Pregnant? The room began to spin. I desperately tried to focus on Dr. Kell's face, to concentrate on the words she was saying, suddenly deaf in the wake of that bombshell. Pregnant.
"..and your levels indicate a pregnancy consistent with someone in their second trimester, but you're not even showing." Seeing my white face, Dr. Kell leaned over and touched my shoulder. "Is there someone you can call? I am so sorry, I honestly thought you knew."
I stood up, shaky knees locked to keep me upright, shrugging off her warm hand. I had been feeling tired and bloated, but I attributed that to the late nights working and not eating well. I never even entertained the thought...I shook my head in an effort to clear it, and smiled wanly at the doctor. "No, all of my family is still on the West Coast."
"What about the father?" A sudden wave of panic swept over me as I realized that Devon was on his honeymoon with his wife. Tears threatened and I shook my head again forcefully.
"Not an option. Thank you, Dr. Kell, you've been most helpful." Ignoring her protestations and offers of help, I clutched my purse to my chest and walked out of her office and into the parking lot. It was dusk, and the El rumbled by, taking people home to the suburbs. I walked to the staion, waiting for the next train, stomach churning.
"What am I going to do?" I thought, as the tears broke, coursing down my face. Somehow, I made it back to my newly-leased apartment, excited at the prospect of living in Chicago and working at a major newspaper. Now I wasn't sure what to do. Suddenly tired, I collapsed onto the couch and fell into an unsteady sleep, where confused dreams and the disappointed faces of my family chased me all night.
I woke around seven-thirty in the morning, more tired than I had been the day before. I stood in the shower, making a plan. I decided to make an appointment at Planned Parenthood, where I could talk to someone. I knew that I couldn't raise a child, but I didn't know whether I could actually go through with the pregnancy or not. Telling Devon was clearly out--he was married, and I didn't want to force him into a decision or cause problems between him and Heidi. I had to find out what my options were, and fast.
The Planned Parenthood I called was open on Saturdays. I got a three o'clock appointment. Several times, I sat with the phone in my lap, dialing my parent's house but being too afraid to push send. I went through the pictures I had recently hung and took all the ones of me and Devon down, putting them in the closet. I decided to walk to my appointment, since it was just a couple of miles away and I couldn't be in the apartment anymore, alone with my thoughts, or I'd go crazy.
I arrived early, and got all of the paperwork filled out. A young nurse called me back, handing me a plastic cup and a long hospital gown. She directed me to a restroom, then into an examination room. I shed my clothes and waited for the Doctor.
She came in, and I liked her immediately. Her name was Dr. Mayer, and she was a petite black woman with the same eyes as Devon--deep brown, with gold flecks around her pupil.
"Now, let's see here," she said, reviewing my paperwork. She had a soothing alto voice, and small, long-fingered hands. "You're 27, and a newcomer to Chicago, I see." She smiled at me, and patted my knee with one warm hand. "How many weeks along do you think you are?"
"I know how many weeks along I am," I said, trying to smile and failing. "I am three and a half months, give or take a few days."
"Are you in contact with the father?" Dr. Mayer asked gently. I shook my head, afraid to speak. "So, he doesn't know yet." She stood up and washed her hands, back to me. I compoosed myself as much as I could, wearing a short cotton snap-front gown, and took a deep breath.
"Andrea, we're going to do an exam now to determine what's going on and to make sure you're healthy." As if summoned by magic, a nurse knocked softly at the door, bringing in gynecological tools and a small ultrasound machine. After the uncomfortable internal exam, Dr. Mayer spread some gel over my slightly poochy belly and turned on the ultrasound machine.
"Hmm, let's see what we can find," she said, smiling at me. I watched in fascination as she glided the paddle across my belly. I was able to make out indistinct shapes of internal organs with Dr. Mayer narrating. "There's your ovary, there, and your bladder, now down to the uterine cavity..." Her voice trailed off as she frowned at the screen, which she turned slightly towards her for a better look.
Putting the paddle down, she looked at my chart, then back at the screen. She picked up the paddle again, this time as though to confirm something. She had fallen silent, and I began to get a bit scared. Had she found a tumor? Was it a tubal pregnancy? Before I could open my mouth to ask, Dr. Mayer turned the screen to me and pointed.
"Here's what we are looking for," she said. There was a small comma on the screen, pulsating wildly. I stared in disbelief, realizing that this was my baby's heartbeat. Suddenly, Dr. Mayer slid the wand slightly to the left. "We weren't expecting this," she said, pointing again.
The realization washed over me, turning my body cold and hot by turns. On the screen, there was another pulsating comma, just mere centimeters from the first. I jerked involutarily, my frightened eyes meeting Dr. Mayer's, and spoke the only word I could force through my clenched teeth.
She nodded and the room went black.
"How long were you there?"
"About two hours. The blackout was temporary, but they wanted to make sure I was okay."
"Did you talk to a counselor that day?"
"No, but I made the appointment for Monday night, after work."
"Did you tell anyone?"
"No, not at that time. I couldn't have, even if I wanted to."
"What were the courses of action you considered?"
"Adoption, abortion, suicide. I knew I couldn't go home, and I couldn't tell anyone at home if I decided to abort or on adoption. I just didn't know."
"Would you have chosen differently if you knew what would be set in motion?"
20 May 2008
"Let's discuss the pregnancy. Normal?"