Spina Bifida. I had honestly never heard the term. It sounded bad though—really bad. After going to the library (this was a time before google) I found out babies that are born with Spina Bifida have a hole in their spinal cord. The baby could be paralyzed and could have developmental disabilities. My baby was going to be born with a hole in its spine. So now, I am trying to wrap my head around having a baby and now my baby was going to be born with a birth defect. How was I going to do this? I was too young and inexperienced to handle this. And then I heard the words “God will never give you more than you can handle.” I hung onto these words for dear life. It took everything I had in me to keep it together.
I went in for further testing. The results still indicated abnormalities. I was referred to a specialist at the Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma. Once a week I had to go and they would take an ultrasound; making sure the baby was growing and healthy. I began doing what any expectant parent does—buying baby stuff. I didn’t know what the sex of the baby was yet, so I began with gender neutral items.
Still no word from Ben. I was still hopeful though. I checked my messages in the evening hoping to hear that familiar accent. But nothing. One night, I did get a message on my answering machine it wasn’t Ben but it was Alphonso.
“Chrissy, it’s Alphonso. Jen and I wanted to do dinner sometime to celebrate your big news. Call me back!”
Honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating. I just wanted my baby to be ok and I wanted to hear from Ben. Nothing to celebrate here. But it was nice to hear from him and maybe we all could meet up soon. I did miss Jen and Alphonso—and the quiet that surrounded me was deafening.
I began to take one day at a time. I had some good days and some bad days. On the good days I would come home and work on the nursery. I was doing the “Raggedy Ann and Andy” theme for the baby. On the bad days I would work late. It was getting close to the holidays and overtime was allowed. I didn’t want to be alone at home, so instead I would work late; at least at work I wouldn’t be alone. One of the support managers, Karl, would ask me to help out with different things. Sometimes it would be putting a display up or figuring out what to put in action alley. He was outgoing and friendly, always had a smile on his face. One evening that I was working late, Karl came to my department as I was scanning my out-of-stocks.
“Hey Chris, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure. Ask away.”
“Why are you always working late—doesn’t your husband miss you?”
I had to laugh. My husband? Where did he get the idea I was married? I did wear a ring on my ring finger but I always had. So now I had to explain to him the whole Ben thing and pregnant thing. My Walmart vest had concealed my pregnancy pretty good up to this point. So I took it off and revealed my growing belly.
He had no idea. He looked at me differently. Maybe it was sympathy—maybe something else.
After this, Karl and I became friends. He was always so upbeat and happy. I needed someone like that around me. Several times a day he would stop my department and we would chat about work and life. He always wanted to “feel the baby”. It didn’t bother me. He was very endearing and showed a sincere interest in me and the baby. What could it hurt?
Karl began stopping by my apartment on his way home. He was commuting to and from Chehalis every day. I happened to live on his route home. Sometimes he would stop by in the evening and we would chat about work or whatever the latest work gossip was. I showed him the nursery I was working on, that was coming together nicely. He was impressed.
It was nice to have conversation in a time where I felt so alone. The pregnancy hormones were all over the place. Sometimes I wanted to cry and in the next instant all I wanted was a chalupa from Taco Bell. I told Karl all of this—he assured me that it was completely normal.
On one rainy November night, I was working late again. Karl came by my department and asked if I would help him gather carts outside and bring them in. No problem. Karl and I walked outside and began to hunt for carts in the parking lot. The rain began to come down in sheets. Both of us soaked and cold—Karl offered to warm his car up so we could warm up and dry off. So, we ran to his car and jumped in. He turned on his heated seats as I wrung my hair out.
We were laughing about how we must look. It wasn’t good. But it was funny. It was good to laugh. It had been awhile since I had laughed that hard. It felt really good.
Hypothermia was setting it and I decided it was time to go home.
“Its time for me to go home. I can’t feel my feet”
“Stay for just for a few more minutes and warm up”
I was hungry and cold. It was definitely time to go. As, I was getting ready to open the door, Karl placed his hand on my hand. Just for a second. It was unexpected but nice.
I had never looked at him in any other way than just a friend. But now there was something. Maybe a spark or maybe it was just these pregnancy hormones acting crazy again. I don’t know. All I know is that I liked his company and conversation.
A few days later, I saw Jen pass by my department. I was feeling especially emotional and vulnerable. I just needed to vent. As I began telling her about my feet swelling and my uncontrollable cravings for Salt and Vinegar chips, I let it slip that Karl had been stopping by on his way home.
“Jen, so you know Support Manager Karl?”
“Yeah,” she said looking curiously at me.
“So, we have been hanging out at work and sometimes he stops by on his way home to chat.”
And then I saw it. The look she gets when she’s ready to tell me something bad but doesn’t want to.
“Christin, you know he has a girlfriend, right?!”
The Wedding Planner
Steve: Do you ever think about that night at the park?
Steve: I barely know you. I don’t know your dad’s first name, I don’t know if you ever wore braces, or contacts, or glasses and I have no idea how you came to be a wedding planner, Mary. But I do know the curves of your face. And I know every fleck of gold in your eyes. I know that the night at the park was the best time I’ve ever had. Pl-please say something.
Mary: I’m a magnet for unavailable men, and I’m sick of it. It’s simple, I love Fran, I respect her, and she loves you. So besides your tux measurements, that’s all I need to know. Please go away.