If you really want to know how a man truly feels about you, get pregnant with his child.
It was quite apparent that I learned absolutely nothing inside of the Southwest General Birthing Center as I gave birth to Caleb without his father present in the hospital room with me. I called Adam shortly after Caleb joined the world, using my calling card to make the connection between San Antonio and the Coast Guard Station, Annapolis. And he did sound genuinely happy to hear from me, as I was just excited to tell him about the surprising blue eyes Caleb had. Adam chuckled quietly into the phone and jokingly asked:
“Where in the hell did he get those?”
It was a brief conversation; Adam had to get back to work moments into the phone call. But his tender voice through the hospital phone made me momentarily forget that I had just completed my very recent pregnancy without so much as even a Hallmark card from him during the nine months that I carried our son. But I was 19-years-old, and I still believed in unicorns and fairy dust. Giving birth to Adam’s first child was supposed to miraculously open his heart, force him to finally see that he’d been wrong for abandoning me the whole time, and make him now want to do anything he could to make it up to me and our brand new baby.
Excuse me as I take a moment or two to laugh at myself...
A baby is not a magic potion, however, as was proven by the fact that Caleb was now three, and the last time Adam saw him was almost two years before. This fact was also further confirmed inside of the living room of my meager apartment, as I forced myself to watch the desperation inside of Ian’s eyes.
“I promise you...when we get married, I’ll give you more kids. I promise. You will be the next Mrs. Green. I love you, but...but…”
I continued to watch Ian through burning eyes, asking quietly. “But...what…?”
His Adam’s apple moved with the strong effort he gave in order to swallow, and his eyes began to flit back and forth as he searched for the answer to my question. After a moment, he positioned his eyes back onto mine, and swallowed one more time before opening his mouth. Just for a moment, I was almost sure that I saw tears in his eyes, too.
“But my parents don’t even know about Caleb, Megan. So, you see, we can’t have this baby right now.”
His truthfulness stopped my heart inside its ribcage, forcing it to trip over the intricate system of veins and arteries that it beat against each millisecond of the day. I swallowed, as well, as I began to process what was happening. I took my hand back from Ian, suddenly not wanting to touch him anymore. Hugging myself tightly and sniffling back the tears, I forced myself to ask,
“Your parents don’t know about Caleb yet?”
Ian slowly lifted himself from the fake hardwood floor, keeping his eyes on mine the whole time. But he couldn’t continue to look at me as the guilt began to cast a dark shadow across his already dark features. Looking towards his left, he responded quietly,
“No. I never told my parents about Caleb.”
I cocked my head to the side and parted my lips, shocked by my own ignorance, but not knowing how to respond. Ian was my first relationship since I had Caleb, and though things weren’t perfect between us, I had no idea that his parents never knew about my son. As I stared open-mouthed at Ian, I quickly began to feel anger, shame, pain, and deceit all at once, so I brought my lips back together, licked the dryness, and said the only thing that I could think of saying,
His slim face snapped back so that it was facing mine again. “Megan? What? No, no, wait...just let me explain...” He gently grabbed the sides of my arms with both of his strong hands and looked into my eyes. “No, Megan...it’s not like that. You know how my parents are...you know how strict they are…”
As he rambled and begged—and begged and rambled—I thought about my three-year-old and how every time I was invited out with Ian’s Haitian family, Caleb was always conveniently away with my mother for the weekends. I remembered the evening I was at Ian’s parents’ house celebrating his birthday a year before, and how I had begun to tell him about my attempt earlier that day to secure child support for Caleb. But Ian had quickly raised his index finger to his mouth, and with a subtle shake of his head, directed me to keep quiet. But I never put two and two together until this moment, right now.
“—but ultimately, the decision is up to you…”
Yeah right. I stepped away, not knowing the man who was standing in front of me anymore. His arms dropped by his sides. Turning away, I fixed my eyes on the living room’s small window and gazed at Ian’s black late model Acura sedan, parked parallel to the apartment—the prettiest thing in the run-down complex.
I felt him hesitate behind me for a minute before he blew out a quiet breath and muttered fine softly and frustratingly. After some shuffling behind me, I was incredibly disappointed when I heard the jingling of his set of keys before he finally opened the door and let it close behind him. I didn’t want him to leave; I had actually wanted him to stay and to see my side of the story—to see my tears and see my pain—and to understand that what he was asking from me was wrong. I wanted him to stay until we figured everything out until we were both content.
But I had to be strong in front of him. I had to show him that I wasn’t going to let him knock me off my square. I was better than that and deserved way more than how he was treating me. I had to show him it was completely fucked up to ask me to kill his child.
However, when I watched him finally pull off from the side of the curb and down the street—back to his cozy home, far away to a reality that didn’t belong to me—I let the blinds close and headed to the only bedroom in the house, falling in a heap of tears upon the bed Caleb and I shared. Memories of my time with Ian over the past year and a half infiltrated my mind as I fought to understand why in the world he didn’t want this baby. Why in the world did he have to wait to marry me when he could just do it right now, if he really wanted to?
Because his parents don’t know that you’re already a mama, that’s why.
I squeezed my eyes shut, trying to block the voice inside my head. Ian and I were both 22, we both had decent jobs at the time, he had his family home and I had my apartment (no matter how small it was). I wasn’t doing so badly for having a small child. Ian and I could’ve gotten married, joined our two incomes, and lived happily ever after with Caleb and the new baby (even though Caleb was completely nonexistent to Ian’s parents.)
There I go again—unicorns and fairy dust.
As the sun began to cast an orange glow across the bedroom, indicating the end of the day, my heart sank into the pit of my belly as I tried to figure out why nobody wanted me or Caleb.
Two weeks later, Ian and I were in the waiting room of The Family Reproductive Center—code for abortion clinic. The procedure was $390, and Ian had already paid it. As I waited among the other young women who had obviously made the same mistake I had, my sandled foot tapped uncontrollably alongside the erratic beating of my heart.
I took slow deep breaths as the doctor pried my cervix open with a speculum, while silently convincing myself that I was doing the right thing because it made no sense to keep a pregnancy the father clearly did not want, not again. And I bit down hard on my lower lip when I heard the motor of the huge vacuum system switch on, making sure to hold my breath every time I felt the suctioning of my insides. I felt sick to my stomach with each forceful push of air into my uterus, but after five minutes, it was over.
Ian was waiting inside the adjoining recovery room, and when I saw him, I immediately collapsed into his chest. He held onto me securely and let me cry out my pain and my regret in muffled cries against his dark blue t-shirt. I hated him for not having to feel the torture that only I had to feel, but I hated myself even more for getting pregnant, once again, and having no other choice but to kill an innocent part of me.
I should’ve seen the end of our relationship coming a lot sooner than it actually did. In the month following the abortion I became despondent as the world outside my apartment door seemed to recede further and further from my view, leaving me and Caleb inside of a darkness that was ours alone. I saw Ian less and less, and on the days that we did spend time together, he seemed impatient with me, as if being around poor, pitiful Megan was now an obligation of his. Like the morning we attended Sunday Mass, a tradition we kept for most of our relationship. As usual, after the service, we visited the crypt of the basilica, wandering around together as a family (the weekends that I had Caleb), stopping at each chapel to admire the statues and the small, but ornately decorated prayer rooms. But as I walked on that particular Sunday, I couldn’t help but notice that Ian kept mostly to himself—and checked his watch every five minutes.
When we finally made it back to my home, my heart fell when he told me that he’d see me later. Another custom we kept on Sundays was to have lunch together at the apartment.
His dark eyes took on that desperation look again as he leaned his head into my space to make sure I understood what he was about to say. “Megan, I gotta go. I can’t always be with you all the time—”
“—but you always stay after Mass, Ian…”
He paused before rolling his eyes to the ceiling and retreating his head, and my heart began beating faster inside my belly as my fear of his leaving me forever was quickly manifesting. He put his hands on his waist and blew out an impatient breath. “Megan...I can’t be there for you all the time. I just can’t do—”
“Can I have a cookie, Mommy?”
I looked down at my son, who was tugging gently on my dress, a pale yellow piece I had carefully picked out hours ago to secretly keep Ian by my side, knowing deep down that our relationship had already been doomed the very second I stepped foot inside the Family Reproductive Center. “Sure, Caleb, go ahead in the kitchen and get a cookie.” When I made sure Caleb was out of earshot, I looked back at Ian. “You can’t do what, Ian?”
“I can’t do this anymore, Megan!” He let his hands go and stepped away from me. He started pacing the floor, and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had rehearsed this scene before picking Caleb and me up for Mass.
He stopped in the middle of the living room and turned towards me. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t always be there for you like you want me to be. I can’t be your savior! And I definitely wasn’t ready for a family, at least, not right now. I mean, my God—I’m only 22 years old!”
“What?” My voice came out in a squeak, and I started to shake. I had to wrap my arms around my middle in order to keep my fragile psyche together because I was quickly losing it. The tears started, but I had to keep them in check because I wasn’t going to show my son—or Ian— how weak I actually was. I swallowed them down and pointed angrily at Ian, keeping my voice low. “You told me that if I did this for you, you were going to marry me. You were going to give me more children. Why did you lie to me?”
He rolled his eyes upwards again and breathed out that annoying puff of air, failing to give an answer because there was no answer. This had all been a part of his plan. Making sure I got rid of the pregnancy because he knew that he didn’t see a forever with us later on in his future. It was all part of his plan.
“I can’t do this...you want too much from me. I mean, I’m not ready to be a father yet to Caleb, and yet, you want everything from me! Megan, I’m not even your husband.”
Wow. Suddenly, I felt like I was a nobody to him and to everybody else. I turned to the small living room window before the tears left my eyes and reached my burning cheeks, choosing to focus on Ian’s pretty black Acura. The abortion was just the very beginning of an inevitable ending that I was too stupid to see coming. I swallowed, keeping my composure, and whispered, “Get out then since Caleb and I are such a problem for you.”
I heard him take a step towards me. “So that’s what you really want?”
He still didn’t have the integrity to just tell the truth. The abortion was already done and over with; he was now a free man. I kept quiet and continued to focus on his Acura.
I heard him take another frustrated sigh (or was that a sigh of relief?) before he quietly opened and shut the apartment door behind him. He didn’t even say goodbye to Caleb.
I continued to watch through the window, silently praying that I wouldn’t actually see him leave the front of the building. Praying that he would think twice and return back to the apartment. I never wanted him to leave because I needed him to fill that huge hole in my life that was left when Adam and the rest of my family and friends ditched me when I got pregnant with my son. I didn’t know what else I was going to do because being alone meant that I was a nobody. It meant that no matter how hard I worked to provide a better life for Caleb, I was never going to be good enough to meet anyone’s standards because the ‘single mom’ mark was going to be branded to me for life. But I told Ian to leave because that’s what any woman with even a quarter of self-esteem inside of her would say. I had to show him that I was strong. He was supposed to realize that he was wrong for lying to me this whole time. He was supposed to realize that he didn’t really want me out of his life, and that this was only a game.
I still lived in my idealized universe, though—unicorns and fairy dust…
I watched as Ian finally emerged from the entrance to the apartment and into my line of sight. He walked with his head down low and his hands stuffed into his dress pants, never looking back.
Megan Madramootoo majored in creative writing and English with a concentration in nonfiction at Southern New Hampshire University. Her works usually include pieces of her past that she uses to help others who have experienced the same. On a normal evening, you can find her typing furiously away by candelight, a glass of Merlot close by her side. She resides in Maryland with her husband and four of their five children.