The Gift

2011 Fiction Contest—Adult Honorable Mention



(page 3 of 4)

*

She makes a doctor's appointment but does not put it on the family calendar. She discusses the details with the nurse over the phone. The nurse reassures Miranda that there is still plenty of time to decide.

"Well, you're definitely pregnant," the doctor says. "How far along do you think you are?"

"I'm guessing around six or eight weeks," Miranda answers.

"More like 14," the doctor says.

"You're kidding."

"We'll confirm with a sonogram, but everything looks great. The baby is a good size, the heartbeat is strong. You're in great shape. Obviously we will take all the appropriate precautions but I am confident that you will have a healthy, full term pregnancy.”

"I cannot tell you how many doctors were confident that I would never get pregnant."

*

Her pregnancy is showing. Everyone is quick to say “congratulations.” Miranda’s family seems thrilled, as if she has been missing out on something. She is sure that some of her friends think she is crazy. Particularly the ones that congratulate themselves on well-planned pregnancies early enough in life so as to enjoy their empty nests. Miranda reminds them gently of the things they have not planned; their children’s learning issues and personality quirks, rejections and missteps; reminds them of the kids that are seemingly all grown-up but don’t seem to be moving out anytime soon. She asks them to consider whether her late-in-life, unplanned pregnancy is so different.

*

After-dinner time the children are up in their rooms doing homework. Miranda expects to be summoned shortly. Homework for both Sam and Charlotte is a painstaking process.

"I called Eliza at the adoption agency today,” Miranda says.

"You did? Why?" Eric asks.

"I used to have fantasies about how I would call her up and say: "I'm pregnant. You can take us off your cruel waiting list."

"So you called Eliza to tell her that you are pregnant?" He looks at her uncomprehending.

"No. I called to see how Marcy is doing."

Marcy is Sam's birthmother. She was a confused teenager when they first met her. The much older boyfriend, the sex, the un-terminated pregnancy, all seemed to happen without conscious will. But Marcy thought long and hard the days after Sam's birth and before she signed the adoption papers. It was Marcy's humor and honesty that pulled them through the terrifying, sometimes awkward, moments when it was undecided whom Sam's parents would be. Miranda loves that Sam inherited those excellent traits.

Since then, Marcy has married a nice man named Mark and they run a business together. Miranda secretly looks forward to the time when Marcy has a baby with her new husband. Hoping it can heal the part of Marcy's wound that Miranda can never reach. Thinking how lovely it would be for Sam to have a biological sibling he can know---not now, but someday.

"And how is she?"

"Their business is going great guns, Eliza said. Marcy's working all the time. Apparently sports camps are in high demand now that lots of stay at home moms are going back to work."

"Well that's good. Has she been getting the pictures that we send?"

"Yes. She loves them."

"I wonder if the agency will tell Marcy about your pregnancy," he says.

"Eliza told me that Marcy is trying to have a baby."

*

Miranda thinks often about Marcy. And about Charlotte's birth mother Debbie. They met each woman fairly late in their respective pregnancies but still, Miranda had been unfailingly ready with advice and consolation. She wishes that she could talk to them now about what it re-ally means to be pregnant; to have an immaculate new being, half of your making, inside you. Did they worry about their genes, about what disorders and diseases lurked unknown there, however unlikely? Did they fret that the baby would get their less-than-perfect traits, a nose that was fat on the bottom, or a tendency to shyness? Did they feel this exquisite sense of accomplishment: damn my body can do this? And how did they handle the smug self-contentment: everything I need, and everything I want, flows like liquid gold from me to this baby and back? She was sure she did not ask them such things. Perhaps because Miranda imagined she would not understand their devotion. Or perhaps because she understood all too well the potential loss inherent in every pregnancy. Miranda wonders now at what point their doubts began. How long did they stew in the potency and potential of their bodies before they asked the hard questions. More than 30 years difference at the ages of their pregnancy yet Miranda imagines that she is asking the same questions. Is this the right time? Am I the right parent?

*

Yes, yes. She emphatically could promise each birthmother. Funny when she looks back that neither asked her to stop working. She took Sam to daycare for awhile---a bright, clean place---and Miranda cried each time she picked him up from one of the amputated cribs lined in a row along the wall. Eventually she quit her job. It was a matter of a complex calculation: the children's needs versus her own; the maximum amount of tension that their notion of a balanced family life could withstand; an economic window, perhaps a promise that unconsciously she had made. She never understood the math, but she could see the answer. Lately, though, there was enough strain on the factors that the equation was ready to implode, and that was before she got pregnant.

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