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Life Stories

Surprise Baby

By Anne Schroeder

I was thirty-six and in the middle of the-mother-of-all-prideful-battles with my husband, Steve. We were hardly even speaking to each other. I was tired of our life. Tired of him. Tired of him being tired of me. But an ironic thing happened.

My body told me the day after, but in those days before home pregnancy tests, I needed six weeks before a doctor could give me conclusive results. To pass the time, I railed at God. This was all His fault, a penalty to remind us that Steve and I still had unfinished business together.

When I realized I would need the services of an OB/GYN, I searched the yellow pages for a name I recognized. It had been ten years since I'd carried my last child. The doctor who had delivered her had retired, and the one who delivered my first child had died. I called a few friends, but they hadn't used a baby doctor in ten years either.

With shaky hands I flipped the phone book pages. The only name I recognized was Dr. Lollipop (not his real name). He had been on call the weekend my last baby was born. I had hated his movie-star good looks and his frat-boy arrogance, but in that moment I was prepared to forgive him for showing up the morning after her birth with his boots reeking of horse manure from an early morning ride in his arena.

Given my choices, I opted for familiarity. I dialed his number and made an appointment for him to tell me what I already knew.

Dr. Lollipop's reception area reeked with spiritual bleakness. I don't know what was more offensive, the dead potted plant in the corner or an indefinable tension burning off the walls. I gave my name to a receptionist who didn't smile back, and I took a seat in the waiting room.

A tiny, gnarled Hispanic woman huddled in the corner, trying to make herself disappear into the sofa cushions. She looked worn-out and far too old to conceive. It was her eyes that drew me; she stared straight ahead with vacant despair. Strange, I thought. Across from me a fresh-faced teenybopper flipped through a magazine without looking up.

I offered the obligatory waiting room smile, but neither of them reciprocated.

The receptionist caught my glance and quickly averted her eyes, shuffled her papers and disappeared from view. A conspiracy of bleakness in this place, I thought. Finally I picked up a magazine.

When the Hispanic woman's name was called, she rose from her seat and followed the nurse down the hallway while I tried to imagine how her body could supply its own needs, let alone a baby's. Fifteen minutes later I shifted my magazine and watched the teenager rise to follow the nurse down the same hall.

Fifteen minutes later it was my turn. In the lavatory I filled a cup and handed it to the nurse. I was surprised when she didn't ask me to disrobe. Instead, she left me standing in the middle of an examining room feeling awkward and unwanted, a guest who hadn't been offered a seat.

When the doctor entered I watched him hesitate with a brief, dramatic beat that seemed leftover from his younger days. But life had defeated him. He was no longer handsome; he didn't even try to be charming. Apathy clung to his white lab coat beneath his flaccid double chin. His first words were, "Test results are positive."


He nodded and studied my reaction with an assessing interest that unnerved me. The conversation reminded me of one I'd had sixteen years earlier on a pay phone in a college cafeteria. Above the laughter and chatter of college students, a nurse had delivered the same words, "Test results are positive." I had listened with the dawning realization that each of the students in the room had a future while the nurse had just eliminated mine with four words.

What I didn't know then was the blessing that our baby would become for two hastily married college kids.

But no nurse was present today, just the man with the stethoscope and me. His next words were flat and cautious. He watched my eyes without blinking while he gauged my reaction. "Do you want to terminate?"

Terminate. It took a second. Then I remembered the bleak eyes of the older woman in the waiting room who was, in her own mind, trading eternal damnation for necessary goods and services. I thought of the woman-child hiding her fear behind a magazine. Where was her mother? Suddenly I understood the tension I had felt from the walls of the waiting room. Dr. Lollipop had become an abortion doctor in the ten years since I had last seen him.

I felt defiled.

I turned and raced from the room, out into the parking lot. I opened the car door, sat down, and waited for my heart to still. At that moment, I knew I wanted this baby. It was time to pull out the brave smile.

Later, at home, I hugged my husband. With our first kiss I knew that whatever unsettled issues had been between us were over. Life was going to be good again.

The rest of the pregnancy went perfectly, even for an "older mother." Seven months later, Steve took a scissors from the delivery nurse and cut his son's unbiblical cord—and I saw his happy tears. We named our son Christian, for his great-grandfather who had carved his name on the Civil War musket we still own.

This is the story I share with Chris—that he is loved and appreciated by two parents who needed him as much as he needed us.

Anne Schroeder lives with her husband on California's Central Coast. She worked in the Social Services field and trained teens at her pizza restaurants for 18 years until she retired to write full time. This essay is excerpted from her inspirational memoir, Ordinary Aphrodite, available on and Kindle.

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