The first signs of trouble
She almost cannot get out of bed. There is this hollow feeling at the base of her neck, this tightness in the pit of her stomach. Twenty minutes after Mark leaves for work, she finally summons all the energy she has to get up.
She is immediately sick, and at the kitchen sink, she almost retches out her guts.
She is not only physically sick, but emotionally fatigued as well. As she starts to prepare the kids’ breakfast and lunch packs, confusion swirls all around her.
She has been sick now for three days, and the telltale signs are there. Tender breasts, a higher temperature, nausea, unusual sleep patterns.
It must have been that stupid nighteee, she thinks, that stupid night I forgot to take my birth control pills. How can the mistake of one night lead to this?
“Mommee.” Christie enters into the kitchen, rubbing the last vestiges of sleep away from her eyes. Christie is six, a perfect miniature of Mark. She is the oldest of four, bossy to her little heels.
“Morning sweetheart.” Ruth drops a kiss on her little girl’s head.
“What are we having for breakfast? Is it pancakes and milk?”
“Yes. Go brush your teeth, please.”
As Christie leaves the kitchen, Ruth basks in the silence. In this house, silence is a luxury she can only enjoy early in the mornings and late at night.
She and Mark were high school sweethearts, had gotten married seven years ago. Two years after, there was one year old Christie and two month old twins, Paul and Matthew. Suddenly, Ruth’s life was taken over by diapers, baby poo, and feeding bottles.
At that time, they’d decided on no more babies. But the hormonal injection she took made her sick, and she’d gone off it. Two years later, Isaiah was born. And then they’d decided yet again. No more babies.
Ruth sets the table for her three eldest, and starts to make a bowl of cereal for Isaiah. At three, he is the most rambunctious of them all, and since he hasn’t started school, he is an all day responsibility for her.
I can’t do this all over again, she thinks. God, please no. let me be wrong.
Because Ruth knows that if she is not wrong, and she is indeed pregnant, she’d have no choice but to carry the baby to term, albeit grudgingly. Because she’d never abort her own child.
There is a commotion at the entrance, and she turns to see the twins chasing each other and whooping with delight.
“Hey boys.” There is a warning in her tone and they immediately shush. “Go brush please. Breakfast is ready.”
As they run to the bathroom, a wave of nausea washes over Ruth. At the sink, she comes up dry and her vision clouds over.
Somehow, she gets through the morning. Christie and the twins are waiting on the porch when the bus arrives. Isaiah is unusually cooperative, perhaps because she bribes him with a video.
In her bathroom, Ruth strips naked and examines herself in the mirror. Her waist is not what it used to be, but apart from that, she is still the same size she was when she walked down the aisle to meet Mark.
God please no. She finds herself praying as she opens the medicine cabinet and brings out the pregnancy test strips she’d bought yesterday. Brought up in a Christian home, becoming born again at eighteen, Ruth considered every life sacred, and she would never kill her child, no matter what circumstance it came through. And she knows that Mark feels the same way.
But how on earth would she cope with a fifth child, one whose eldest sibling would be seven when it was born?
She dips all four of the strips into her pee, waits in agony for the one minute the result takes.
When all four strips reveal the same thing, the tears finally spring to her eyes.
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