You traitor! Winnie’s jaw dropped. Joel wasn’t playing fair. How could she make a rational decision with Lynnette squealing with excitement?
Joel’s answering smirk spoke volumes. He’d won this argument. Hand’s down, no contest, award the first-place ribbon. He’d won.
“Oh my gosh! This is so exciting! When’s your due date? Dean! Guess what! We’re going to be grandparents! Winnie’s pregnant!”
“That’s terrific!” Joel’s dad’s voice rang into the room. “How far along is she?”
“We don’t know yet, Dad,” Joel said. “No more than six weeks, obviously. We haven’t had an ultrasound yet. We’ll probably be going to a doctor today or tomorrow. Oh, and Winnie’s probably moving home with me. She can’t stay here while she’s pregnant. So, we’re going to have to take care of her. Do you think you can handle that, Mom?”
“Can I ever? Oh, my goodness, this is so exciting! Do you want me to come with you to the ultrasound? Do you need some help moving her home? Winnie, how are you feeling?”
“Nauseous,” she said. And betrayed, she thought. “I puked up my breakfast. That’s how they figured out something was wrong. Then they did a blood test and sure enough. I’m pregnant.”
“You don’t sound excited,” Lynnette said. She was so perceptive. “Is everything okay?”
“No, Mom, it’s not.” Winnie choked back sobs and finally just let it all come out. “I shouldn’t be pregnant. I shouldn’t have even been able to get pregnant. I haven’t had a period in two years. My body’s not strong enough to carry a baby and I’ll likely miscarry. And the doctor here wants me to get an abortion.”
“An abortion? That’s terrible. I’m so sorry they’re putting that kind of pressure on you.”
Winnie wanted to shout that the only person putting pressure on her was her own husband, but instead she just sobbed. Joel knelt by her side and pulled her into his arms.
“Oh, sweetie, are you crying?” Lynnette asked. “I’ll be there in five minutes!”
Winnie could hear Lynnette’s keys in her hand and knew she was halfway to the car already. When the line disconnected, Winnie laid her head down on Joel’s shoulder and sobbed. “That… was… playing dirty.”
“I’m not playing, Edwina,” Joel whispered. “This isn’t a game. And it isn’t a choice. We have a baby growing inside you. A baby we created. Together. Do you remember that day? Because I remember it. I remember the exact moment when we created that life because it was the most spiritual moment I’ve ever experienced. You experienced it too, admit it.”
“I do admit it, but Joel—”
“There are no buts,” Joel interrupted her. “There’s just love. Love between you and me and now we have one more little peanut of love. We are parents, Edwina. You and me. We are a mom and a dad. We have a baby.”
“You’re jumping pretty far ahead, don’t you think?” she asked. “We’re not parents until the baby is born.”
“Not true. We’re parents the minute my little sperm fertilized your little egg and started multiplying. Part of me and part of you joined together to form a whole new life. I couldn’t have done it without you, and you couldn’t have done it without me. But by some miracle when my body joined with your body, we created a new body. We created that little body. We are parents.”
“I’m scared, Joel.” She pulled away and looked him in the eye. “What if my body can’t handle being pregnant? What if my heartrate drops again? What if the baby dies? What if I die?”
“There are no guarantees in life,” Joel told her, smoothing the hair back away from her face and attempting to dry her tears. “Any one of us could die tomorrow. Heck, we could die on the drive home tonight. If the past year has taught us anything it’s that life is precious and fleeting and tumultuous and frightening. And not everything is going to work out the way we think it should.”
“But there’s a difference between knowing you could die or stepping in front of a bus. If we continue this pregnancy, we are stepping in front of a bus.”
“How are things going in here?” Denise peeked her head in the door. “Are you up for some company? Lynnette just arrived.” Joel’s mom had become a daily visitor as she learned how to help Winnie with refeeding.
Without waiting for further permission, Joel’s mom hurried in the door and knelt on the floor in front of Winnie, practically pushing her son out of the way. If Winnie was willing to take on the challenge of attempting this pregnancy, at least she wouldn’t be alone. “Oh, sweetheart, are you okay?”
“Not really, Mom,” she admitted. “My body’s not healthy enough for this. I could die.”
“This must be frightening for you.” Lynnette nodded. “I was frightened when I got pregnant, and I was healthy at the time. I can’t imagine what you must be feeling right now.”
“Life was just starting to get better. Why did this have to happen?”
“I have an idea,” Joel interrupted. “Let’s go get an ultrasound and see what the little peanut looks like, see if there’s a heartbeat yet or not.”
“Don’t you think it’s too early for a heartbeat?” Lynnette sat back on her heels and looked over at her son.
“Our baby is almost six weeks gestation,” Joel said. “A baby that young can have a heartbeat.”
“He keeps calling it a baby, Mom.” Winnie tried to convey with her pleading tone that she needed advice. “It’s just an embryo right now… right?”
“I mean, technically, that’s the medical term,” Lynnette said.
“Are you going to preach to me for the next twenty minutes trying to convince me to keep this thing inside me like Joel did?” Winnie asked her mother-in-law.
Lynnette glared over at her son. “Have you been putting pressure on her?” Disappointment laced her tone even as Winnie knew in her heart that Lynnette agreed with Joel.
“Mom, this is our baby, that we created. Together. This isn’t just some illness that needs to be treated. This is a baby.”
Winnie interjected again. “But Joel, as far as my body is concerned, this is an illness. My body is sick. My mind is sick. I’m not even healthy enough to leave this clinic and live at home. You said it yourself on our anniversary. You asked me to promise that I would see this treatment through to completion no matter how long we’re apart.”
“That was before I knew we’d created life,” Joel said. “If this clinic would let you stay here for a few more months while you were pregnant, then I’d encourage you to stay. But they won’t. Unless you kill our baby.” Joel looked across the office and glared at Denise.
“Aren’t you being a little melodramatic?” Denise asked. “This should be a nonissue. The embryo is early enough in gestation that removal is quick and simple.”
“Mom, who’s your OBGYN?” Joel asked, circumventing Denise’s lackadaisical attitude. “Call him and get Winnie in for an appointment today. I want an ultrasound and I want Winnie to see what our baby looks like. Maybe then she’ll understand my position.”
“Nonsense,” Denise said. “We have a gynecologist on staff. I’ll call and tell them you’re on your way. If you’re serious about continuing this pregnancy, we’ll work with you as best we can. No one’s going to try to kill your baby, if that’s what you want to call the embryo. If this is what you’ve decided—”
“I haven’t decided anything,” Winnie interrupted, standing and pushing everyone out of her way. “This is my body you’re all talking about. I want to see an ultrasound before I decide anything.”