When I was in high school, a junior to be exact, I walked in on adults having a conversation about me. I was 17 and pregnant. I wasn’t the first girl to get pregnant and I most definitely wasn’t the last. This was a time before shows like Teen Mom made celebrities out of young mothers. According to Kiaya, who was the fetus involved in that adult conversation, I was the first teen mom. As if Jesus himself didn’t have one as well.
On that faithful day I walked to the school office to ask about getting an excuse. I had an OB/GYN appointment the next day and would need to be away from school the first half of the day. I knew that I would need an excuse if I wanted to attend my junior prom which would be held that Friday. There were pretty tight rules about leaving school on the day of prom, because hair and nails were obviously not as important as English and math. The powers that be had obviously forgotten what it was like to be a teenager. As I turned the corner I heard this sentence, “Well, you know that Heather has ruined her life. She won’t do anything with a baby.”
I stopped and my back stiffened. I remember the pure shock I felt. I remember the ugly outfit I was wearing: a purple and orange flowered baby doll dress with matching bike shorts. That outfit should have been considered a crime against humanity. It was truly hideous. I also remember the anger. I was pissed. One of those all over body rages where your arms feel numb and your fingers feel electric. With my anger brewing I walked into the office. The woman who thought I would amount to nothing looked shocked to see me. She pursed her lips and asked me what I needed. I explained that I had a doctor’s appointment the next day and was going to prom as well. What did I need to do for an excused absence? “We will need a detailed doctor’s excuse.” If they needed a detailed excuse I would give them a detailed excuse.
That year was filled with tiny horrors for me. A great deal of time was spent thinking about how I would tell my parents. There was my first pelvic exam. My breasts leaked in history and I had to ask to be excused. My pee smelled of hell due to the prenatal vitamins and I tried to time my peeing so no one would know how bad it smelled. I count the day that I heard the woman talk about me as the changing point. Heather would be a victim no more.
In the early 1990s the health department was run like a cattle ranch. Teen girls lined up early hoping for a low number so they would be the first called. Pregnant girls, with expanding waist lines, stood in long lines holding on to empty cups to pee in. One by one we would be led into the bathroom to pee in a cup marked with our initials. We would line those cups up on a rolling tray and then we would sit and wait for the doctor who was taking his turn at ranch Questionable Decisions. The process normally lasted about four hours. I was glad that I liked to read. When my turn finally got there I asked a nurse for a favor. I wanted her to write down every thing that happened. From dipping the test strips into my urine, measuring my stomach, to every detail of the pelvic exam; I wanted every second on record. The nurse asked why and I gave a quick summery. She was more than willing to go along with me. After I was done she handed me back the paper and wished me luck. I returned to Reidland High School a little after noon on the day of my prom.
With my five month pregnant belly leading the way I walked into the office and gave the talker the excuse. She read it and looked up at me. “Detailed enough for you?” I asked. “I hope this doesn’t ruin my life.” Her eyes were a little wider as she handed me my excuse for class. I had just had my first “how do you like those apple” moment.
That night I strapped a bright blue size 24 dress to my body; a spray of sequence against one lactating breast. I danced and talked to my friends. We ate an overpriced meal and went to a cabin at the lake. I slept through about half of the fun at the cabin as I was growing someone’s hair.
I will admit that for 21 years I have been holding a grudge against that woman. A grudge against the person who said, “Well we won’t have to worry about the baby being very smart.” A grudge against, “It’s always the quiet ones.” Everything that I or my kids accomplish is a middle finger in the face of those people. Every scholarship and award is a fuck you. At times I feel petty for feeling that way. A better person wouldn’t still feel that way.
I am coming to terms with not being a better person.