June was a big month for me. We moved into a new home, we blended families. Sitting firmly in mid July now, I can say that things are going really well. We’ve settled into a dance of driving everyone to where they need to be and picking up and dropping off and dinners and baths and bedtimes for a family of five.
Five, not six.
It’s taken me a bit of time to process this turn of events, hence my writing absence.
Moving weekend finally arrived. The plan was for Norm and I to drive the four hours to pick up Callie and bring her up to Chicagoland to join us in this new start. The next day, the movers would come to Norm’s house to pack him up as I packed up my moving truck, and we’d all meet at the new house. That was the plan, anyway.
Saturday morning, Norm and I hopped in my car and started the roadtrip. I was giddy. On the way, we talked about how excited we were. The things we’d do this summer. We laughed, remembering how I lied to my parents about going out to dinner with friends instead of actually going out with Norm those first few dates, and how far we’d come.
“My boobs hurt,” I complained.
“Maybe you’re pregnant,” said Norm.
“Very funny,” I said. “My IUD begs to differ.”
“Those things have been known to fail,” he said.
“Well this one better not! You know we can’t have any more babies.”
We had talked about this before. Would we have a child of our own? PB and Jelly were his, Kiddo was mine, Callie counted as mine, too. Would there be an Ours? We loved the idea of an Ours in theory. But the idea of starting over with a newborn? I am exhausted and stressed just thinking about it. Financially speaking, we were already tightly budgeted with a family of six. Adding one more would really, really be pushing it. We had talked about it and decided that no new babies were in our future.
Besides, we had enough to keep us busy for the next, oh, fifteen years or so. But let’s take things one day at a time, let’s get Callie packed up and moved.
We stopped to pick up the Uhaul at a antique mall outside of where Callie had been living. I had rented an apartment for her nine months prior so she could finish high school, which she did, five months early. I texted her that we were minutes away; she said she’d be outside waiting.
We hugged, packed up the Uhaul and dropped the apartment keys off with the landlord. We all went to McDonnald’s. I had a Number 1, Callie had her chicken sandwich and no fries like always, I don’t remember what Norm ate. When we finished, Callie and I got in my car while Norm manned the Uhaul behind us. Here we go, I thought. Here we go!
Here we go.
About an hour into the drive, Callie told me that she was pregnant.
Seven, not six.
She had found out three days ago. I think I was in shock for a few minutes.
Ok, I said, a buzzing in my ears. What are you going to do?
I don’t know, she said. I don’t know.
My head felt heavy. The words started to rush in, filling the silence in my brain.
This wasn’t part of the plan. This wasn’t what we’d talked about. She was moving in with us to start over. Be with Kiddo again. Get to know Norm. Play video games with PB, take Jelly to the park. Watch dumb TV shows and do Pilates on the floor with me. Get a part time job, start taking some college classes, make friends, go to the movies. Decompress. Heal.
This wasn’t part of the plan.
I had to pull over. I said I had to pee, found the nearest rest stop and exited. I went in the gas station bathroom and told myself to pull it together. Just breathe and pull it together. Back in the car, I fell apart, sobbing.
“What’s wrong?” she said, “Jill, what’s wrong?”
“This wasn’t part of the plan, Callie!” I sobbed.
We drove the rest of the three hours in silence. I didn’t know what to say. I asked some questions here and there, she answered. I told her I loved her, that it would be ok. We held hands.
Getting closer to the new house, I told her we had to tell Norm right away. She agreed.
I had been imagining what this moment would be like for weeks. We’d pull up to our new house, I’d say something like “here it is!” Callie would say “Wow!” and we’d squee and run inside. I’d give her the tour, show here the kitchen and backyard, show her her new bedrooms. “And this one is yours!” I’d say. We would be so happy.
It was not like that. We pulled up to Norm already parked and unloading the moving truck, a smile on his face. This is the last moment of unknowing, I remember thinking. Now, everything changes.
“Come inside,” I said.
“Family talk,” said Callie.
“Fuck,” I heard him say softly. I knew he knew.
We sat down in the empty living room. An odd place for such a heavy talk. Noises were amplified by the emptiness, even our silence ricocheted off the wood floors and the bare walls. I nodded at Callie.
“I’m pretty sure I’m pregnant,” she said.
“Yeah,” said Norm, looking at the floor. “That’s what I kinda thought this would be.”
The three of us sat in silence for a long, long time. No one knew what to say. No one knew what to do. This wasn’t part of the plan.
“Well,” Norm finally said, “You’re family. We love you and we support you, whatever you do. What that support will look like… we’ll have to figure out.”
I started crying again.
The rest is a bit of a blur. I remember at some point she said she wanted to keep it. At some point, Norm and I laid on our backs in our new empty bedroom and stared at the ceiling fan spinning around and around. The carpeting was brand new and smelled like fake chocolate. I remember how it felt on my back. I remember my heart hurting so bad I thought it would burst out of my chest. We talked about what we would do. What we could do. And this was definitely not in the plans. Pregnant? Jesus, we just had this conversation about us! No matter how we looked at it, we simply couldn’t have three little kids, a teenage mother and a newborn living with us.
All I wanted to do is wrap my arms around Callie and say “It’ll be ok! We’ll have a baby! We’ll do it together! I’ll help you! You can stay home here and raise it! We’ll make it all ok!”
But I know that’s not realistic. And I know that’s not best for anyone in the end. Adults have to make adult decisions with adult consequences. Sometimes the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.
At some point we told Callie that we loved her, but if she chose to have a baby, she wouldn’t be able to live with us.. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to say to someone in my life.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This wasn’t part of the plan.
I remember Callie and I going to my parents’ house for the night and making quick small talk with them before going to bed. I remember hugging Callie goodnight.
“I can’t do this,” she said suddenly. “I don’t want to do this. Back there… it seem so far away now.
“Callie,” I said, “You don’t have to decide right now. You have time.”
“But I do,” she said, “I have to decide.”
I told her to get some sleep and we’d figure it out. In the morning, she woke up saying she felt the same way as the night before. She was sure that she didn’t want to keep it. I said ok, whatever she wanted, I’d help her.
We moved into the new house all day and started setting up. At some point Callie and I made an appointment at Planned Parenthood. They told her she needed to be at least six weeks pregnant for an abortion, and set her appointment for two weeks out.
At least six weeks? I had never heard of this. Why so long? Why not now? It would be the pill, why did you need to wait two weeks? A lot can happen in two weeks.
The next day was Monday but I had taken off of work to stay home with Callie and Kiddo and set up the house. We had a great day. We set up and ate and played and laughed. The mood was lighter. Things were going to be ok.
Tuesday I took Kiddo to school and went to work, leaving Callie home alone for the first time. When I got home, the mood had changed. Callie was outside in the backyard by herself. She wouldn’t look at me. I knew.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said.
I told her it was ok. She had two weeks to decide. I told her I’d keep Kiddo home from preschool with her during the day so she wouldn’t be alone.
It was downhill from there. Callie became more withdrawn as the days went by. I tried to talk to her, but she didn’t want to talk. Not about what she was feeling, not about what she was thinking, not about which way she was leaning. She would go into her room and shut the door when we came home. It became very tense. I tried to give her space, but at the same time, this was a major occurrence that affected the entire family. I needed some basic communication. We argued. We cried. I tried to keep the kids shielded from any negativity, but it was getting harder. I couldn’t sleep. What was supposed to be the first few exciting weeks in our new life was awful.
Two days before her appointment, Callie told us she was keeping the baby. She asked if she could stay with us for awhile until she was able to come up with a plan to move somewhere else, as she was debating her options. We told her of course.
It didn’t last. Over the next couple days, there were arguments and things that neither of us would tolerate. Callie called a relative to come and get her and began furiously packing. I was so angry. And disappointed. And hurt and scared and sad. and felt foolish. Foolish that I could fix things just like in a movie. “Here, down-on-your-luck, kid! Come on in and live in the Chicago suburbs with us and Poof! All your problems will disappear! And you’ll be *ok! And by *ok I mean you’ll look like us, dress like us, talk like us, go to college like us, get jobs in offices like us, get your own house in the suburbs like us, and after life running you over a few times with debt and divorce and depression and therapy, you’ll find yourself able to push your own lifestyle system of beliefs onto another disadvantaged soul and make it all better for them, too!”
What the fuck do I know?
Callie left in a hurry. I was numb at that point. She gave me a quick hug before she left. She didn’t say goodbye to Kiddo.
Five, not six.
So much had changed.
Over a month has passed since Callie left. I’ve had time to process. She’s back in the town where she lived before we picked her up. We spoke just today. She said she’s due in February. She’s looking for a job, but nothing yet. She wants to come for the holidays. We said of course, you’re family.
I’m trying to redefine my role in her life. Not Mother, not sister, not savior. Maybe just friend.
This wasn’t part of the plan. But much of life isn’t, huh? You have to just roll with it.
It’s hard. I love her so much.