I am biting my nails while I sit in the chair across from her. A bad habit that I have been partaking in since I was about 8 years old. The lady is looking at me and then at her sheet of paper while she scribbles her notes. I want to get this over with as soon as possible. Apparently this is standard procedure when a baby is going to be born with any kind of birth defect or abnormality. The genetic counselor is asking me a million questions.
“How many brothers and sisters do you have?”
“Has anyone in your family been born with spina bifida or any other birth defect?”
“Can you give me your mothers and fathers family history?”
There were so many questions. Some I knew and some I didn’t. And then the question that I knew was going to be asked but was not prepared to answer.
“Can you give me the medical history of the father and the father’s family?”
What was I supposed to say?! In my head, I’m thinking my honest response would be–Umm lady, I only met him a few months ago at a bar and he asked me to dance and then I got pregnant soon after, therefore I know absolutely nothing about his or his family medical history–I couldn’t say that! What kind of person would she think I was? I’ll tell you what—she was going to think that I had no business having a child with no father. She was thinking that I couldn’t be both a mom and a dad to my baby. This is the exact moment that I realized that I was going to have to be both mom and dad. Ben wasn’t coming back. And if by chance he did, he probably wanted nothing to do with me or the baby. A moment of sadness washed over me. Not because Ben wasn’t coming back but because I knew the pain of having an absent father. I knew what it was like to grow up not knowing where the other half of me came from.
8—That’s how many pictures I have of the man known as my biological father.
0- the number of pictures of my father and I. He left when I was a week old.
A million. The times that I have pictured the man who ½ of my DNA came from. I made things up as I went along. Maybe I got my love for playing sports from him. Maybe that’s where I got my peculiar sense of humor. I know I got my height and my face from him because I look nothing like my mom and she is about 5’ tall.
Not having a father changes who you are inside. As a young girl, I never got the chance to be a daddy’s girl. I never got piggy back rides or the chance to ride on my dad’s shoulders. There was never a time where my dad told me I was beautiful or told me that I was good enough. I missed out on Father/Daughter dances and whatever else it is dad’s do with their daughters. I never experienced the protection that dad’s offer their daughters. I will never know the feeling of having my father walk me down the aisle at my wedding. Now, I was faced with my child not having a father. I was determined to not let my child feel the emptiness that I had felt growing up. How was I going to do this?? As my face grew red, I made up some BS answer about the father being deployed and that I didn’t know much family history. It got me out of the hot seat for now but I couldn’t shake the thought of my child not having a father.
I left that office feeling like a failure. I dialed Jen’s number.
“Jen! How did you handle the boys not having a father in their life?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how did you get over the fact that the boys will not grow up with their father’s in their lives?”
“I never thought about it”, she said matter of factly.
“What do you mean you never thought about?!”
“It never even crossed my, Christin. Now calm down”
Easy for her to say. She never thought about it because she had a great dad. So, maybe this was more about me than my child. I knew the pain and heartache when a parent decides to walk away and never look back. I just couldn’t wrap my head around a person not wanting anything to do with their own flesh and blood. Who does that?! On top of this stressful meeting with the genetic counselor I just had to have another hard conversation the previous day. I had to tell Freddie I was pregnant. It went a little like this.
“Freddie, I have to tell you something”
“Is the father black?”
Not exactly the response I thought I was going to get. He was more concerned about the race of the father? Really? No, the baby’s father isn’t black—he’s white. He sounded disappointed. Not sure if he wanted the father to be black (like him) or if he was disappointed in me and didn’t know what else to say. Either way, the conversation ended on a good note and at least he was still talking to me. The truth was I wanted him to say he would be on the next flight up. I wanted him to say he still loved me. I wanted him to beg me to come back to California. He didn’t. So for now, a friendship would have to be enough.
Pregnant and alone. I didn’t have anyone to make a late night trip to the store when I had crazy cravings. I didn’t have anyone to rub my feet when they hurt after a long day at work. When my lower back was aching there was no one there to give me a massage. So as I sat in the tub that night soaking in Epsom salt to take away the aches and pains, I had never felt more alone than I did now. I was on my own and soon I would be on my own with my baby.