May 31, 2008
Life’s kind of funny, you know? One day I’m a sixteen year old girl laying on the beach, with a boy, whom, at the time, I thought was the most magnificent man in the world, then the next thing I know, I’ve got a belly that’s six months swollen, a ruined reputation and that boy is long, long gone. The reality that I was alone, sixteen, and a few weeks pregnant hit me so hard it was worse than a ton of bricks, it was mind-numbing, terrifying, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t breathe. I remember standing in the bathroom of the supermarket, holding a pregnancy test I’ve just taken in my hand, my heart beating so loudly and my breath so rapid and shallow I thought I was going to faint.

I’ve always been Britain Lewis, the good girl – quite, kind, polite, a straight-A student who always did her homework and studied for tests, never handed in an assignment late, someone who never broke curfew, never got drunk, never took drugs, was never late for school, and a perfect role model. I only had one boyfriend in my whole life – well, I don’t think I could ever consider him a boyfriend.

We only knew each other for a week. I met him in Miami Beach when I was on Spring Break. That was the first time I was ever on vacation without my mother. I went with eight other friends and I was so excited. I met him in the lobby of the hotel we were staying at. He was two years older than me, tall, blonde, muscular, wearing only flip-flops and board shorts, holding his surf board under his arm. He spotted me from the other side of the lobby and flashed me a smile. I was a bit embarrassed – I was pretty clueless about guys. I’d had some guy friends, of course, but I never flirted with a boy before. I didn’t know how to flirt.

He found me on the beach the next day, and offered to take me on a ride on his sea-do. My girlfriends around me giggled and urged me to go for it. We spent the rest of the week together -- or, last least, most of the week. Looking back on it, I now know I wasn’t the only girl he had infatuated with him. We moved quickly, he kissed me on the mouth that evening of the first meeting, and slept together four nights later, on the last night at the hotel. It all happened so quickly, I was so desperate to keep him interested in me; I didn’t want to ask if he had a condom. We exchanged cell phone numbers, and I went back to my room. I didn’t tell any of my girlfriends, I kept it to myself. It was my little secret. For a few weeks, it made me feel older, wiser, and adult-like; the first of my friends to do such a thing.

Those feeling went away when I started noticing that the smell of cinnamon buns made me nauseated, and I stayed home from multiple times because I’d be throwing up in the mornings. I didn’t know much about pregnancy –my sister Amber and I are only two years apart, and my sister Rachel and I are three years part. All together, I was not even six years old when my mother was pregnant and I learned little, if not nothing about it. It wasn’t until I told my friend Brittney about my strange aliments when she asked if I was pregnant. I think she meant it as a joke at first, but the smile slide off her face quickly when she saw the look of panic on my face. At that point, pregnancy had never even crossed my mind. We were standing at the bus stop by ourselves that day when I confessed my little secret. Brittney really wasn’t the most helpful. She was one year younger and even more naïve than I was. I don’t think she cared that I was pregnant, she immediately wanted to know what sex was like, did it hurt, who I did it with, when I did it, etc. The only helpful thing she did for me was to tell me to go to the pharmacy in the local supermarket to buy a pregnancy test. I took a detour on my way home and took the test that day.

I didn’t tell the father that I was pregnant. We talked on the phone a few times, but I soon learned that I was nothing but a Spring Break fling. He kept calling me Brittney, or Brita, it seemed that he forgot my name was Britain. He lived all the way in America, and I lived in Brampton, and I didn’t want my mother to be paying my phone bill and see I was making telephone calls to someone in Florida. By the time I found I was pregnant in mid-April, me and the boy had been out of touch for weeks.

I didn’t know what to do – what did pregnant women do after they found out they were expecting? When I was a child, the idea of pregnancy and childbirth always made me uncomfortable, so I tried to avoid that topic. In school they taught us about pregnancy, how a baby grows in its mother’s uterus and how it’s born, but they never told us you need to go to the doctors, take vitamins, have ultrasounds, and all that stuff. I was so scared – so I did nothing. I didn’t want to face it. Maybe the test was wrong, I told myself for about a month. It wasn’t until I was about four months pregnant could I no longer deny it. I was never uncomfortable with my body, so I had all sorts of cute, well-fitted clothes that couldn’t hide my baby bump. I didn’t own anything baggy except for one sweater, and by this time it was nearly summer and I couldn’t wear it. I knew for maybe one more month or so I could just pretend I was gaining weight, but I knew that when my stomach got rounder, I couldn’t pretend I was simply putting on some weight. I had to tell my mother.

I lived with my two sisters and my mother. My father died a few months after Rachel was born. I was my mother’s perfect little girl – I was terrified that she’d no longer love me for what I’d done. I was so overcome with anxiety that one Saturday morning when Amber and Rachel were out at a sleepover, I walked into the kitchen when she was making me breakfast and told her I thought I might be pregnant. She dropped the frying pan of bacon on the floor and didn’t pick it up. She interrogated me. She wanted to know how the father was. I told her I didn’t know his last name, or where he lived, or really anything about him. Then she burst out into tears and wrapped her arms around me. We stood in the kitchen, holding each other, crying, for what seemed like forever. Then we had to tell my sisters.

Now that I had finally come to face my pregnancy by telling my family I felt a mix of emotions. I was scared and embarrassed, but in the odd moments or so, I feel almost happy. A smile would jump to my face when I thought about my baby. I had all these motherly, maternal feelings all before my baby was even born. At my first doctor’s appointment, my doctor, mother, and I talked about my options. I was told it was too late to have an abortion, so my only options were to have the baby and keep it, or to give it up for adoption. I told them I needed time to think about it, but I knew right there in the office I could never part with my child. I loved him, from the moment I knew he existed I loved him, and I didn’t realise it until that moment.

A few days later I told my mother about my decision. At first, she tried to talk me out of it. But she knew how I felt -- I know she did. We had to make compromises. Once the baby was born, I had to get a job and continue going to school. Once I was home, it would be up to me to do my homework and take care of the baby. Our biggest concern was who was going to watch the baby when I was at school and my mom was at work. We were wracked with anxiety – I was so fearful that I’d be force to give up my baby because no one could take care of it. It was the last few weeks of school when my mom found a school in Brampton called The Safe Haven for Young Mothers – a school just for pregnant girls. My mom contacted the school immediately, and they told her at the moment they had no spot for me, but sometime in September or October I could probably be enrolled. Nothing was for certain, which didn’t help relieve my anxiety.

I told all my friends I was pregnant in the beginning of June. Some of my friends were pretty good about it, they wanted to come shopping with me when I bought the crib and the baby clothes, wanted to feel my belly and pick out baby names but some of my friends turned on me. They told everyone at school, and in a few days, I was no longer Britain the good girl, I was Britain the pregnant slut. People laughed at me, gave me dirty looks, and called me names. I lost a lot of friends. All my girlfriends told their mothers, and maybe five months ago these women were praising me, telling everyone what a good girl I was -- now these middle-age women who were once family friends would see me in the streets, give me dirty looks, ignore me, or make some snippy comment. Everyone looked at my belly.

I was so relieved when school ended. The last month at school had been so hard. On top of being made fun of, teased and bullied, I was constantly sick, throwing up multiple times a day, and I was tired all the time. When I came home after that last treacherous day, I told my mother that I was never going back to that school ever again.

I spent July and August in the house, getting larger. My mom I spent a lot of time preparing for the baby. We moved all my furniture out of my room and into the basement, to make room for a crib and a changing table. I had my first ultrasound too, and I said no when they asked if I wanted to know the sex of the baby. After that we made sure all the baby stuff was yellow or green, something gender neutral. I had a lot of fun picking out the crib, and the baby sheets, some blankets, a soother, and a mobile.

So there I was. Six months pregnant, and sitting on my front porch. I had my feet up on a small little table, and I was wearing shorts and a tank top. My hands were resting on my stomach. I was dozing a bit. It was the last few days of summer vacation.

My mom walked out onto the porch. “Brit, is there anything else you need that I should pick up? The woman over at Safe Haven gave you that list, have you looked it over?” She was nervous about me starting a new school, more nervous than I was, probably.

“No, I think I’m all packed, Mom.” I said. I looked away from her and out onto the street. There I could see one of my friends, Grace, walking down the road towards me house. She was wearing black flip-flops, a short denim skirt, a pink tank-top, and a leather jacket and had her long blond hair tied up in a tight pony tail. She walked quickly, over towards my house. When she saw me looking at her, she raised her hand and waved at me. I paused for a minute, wondering why she was dressed up, but then I realized she was probably going to the huge party that a girl in my grade, a girl who’d once been my friend, Alice Casey, was throwing. It was a beach bash, to celebrate the start of our last year of High School. I hadn’t been invited, and I was probably the only girl in the grade who hadn’t been. Not that I could go anyway.

I took my feet off the table and sat up as Grace walked up the steps of our porch. She was smiling. She had a full face of make-up – black smoky eyes, pale pink lip gloss, layers of foundation all over her face, covering up her acne and pink blush smeared all over her cheeks.

“Hey, Britain,” she said, happily.

“Hi Grace. Are you going to Alice’s party tonight?” I

“Yeah, I guess you’re not, huh?” She sat next to me on the bench.

“No, didn’t get invited.” I said.

“Alice is such a bitch sometimes. I’m only going because Fred’s going to be there,”

“Oh,” I responded.

“It be so much more fun with you there, though.” Grace said. She paused, looked at my stomach for a minute, then said, “I suppose that…after all this is over…we’d be able to do things like this again,”

I started at my friend, at her smudged eyeliner, her layers of foundation, and her poorly applied blush. I knew I was worlds away from her. While she was buying bathing suits, I was buying maternity clothes, she bought sunglasses and rubbed on sunscreen before she left the house, and I bought baby monitors and rubbed coco butter all over my stomach. In a few months that she was still living her childhood, I had said good-bye to mine, and I had grown more than I think anyone realized. I knew this part of my life was over. I’d never get to go party, I’d never have another spring break, another summer vacation or I’d never be able to go out to the mall with a group of friends again and have a fun-carefree time. I’d have new responsibilities and new priorities, and I would no longer be a child.

My attention was diverted when I felt my baby’s root hit my ribcage. He was just letting me know he was still there. I ran my hand over my stomach and looked away from Grace.

“No, I don’t think we will.”

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