Resolute | Flash Fiction
The doctor’s office lobby is full of women with convex bellies attempting to look over their midsections at their swollen feet or flipping through the glossy pages of parenting magazines. Some hold the hands of their first-borns while their soon-to-be seconds continue to bake.
Your hands lay idle in your lap, a normal distance away from your flat torso. Each year since your twenty-first birthday you have visited the gynecologist to discuss having your tubes tied.
“Wait one more year,” your doctor would say. “Let’s see how you feel then.”
Each year, your decision remains unchanged. At twenty-five, you made a deal: one final year. “A lot can change at twenty-five,” she had said before you left her office.
Plenty has changed. Friends got married, had babies, you fell in love. When you first met him, your stomach would flutter and churn and you wondered if that was the feeling friends had told you about. The feeling that would kick start the biological clock each woman supposedly had nestled in the section of their brain labeled maternity ward. Time passes and your stomach settles as the two of you merge lives. Chubby cheeks and pudgy limbs do not make your ovaries swell. There is no longing to fill the limited space between your uterine walls.
Instead, consistent anxiety takes the place of potential fetuses—birth control failure.
In high school, you got it over with. Sex. It was on the list of things unmarried teenagers should never do, so you did it. You were safe and used a condom even though the boy opposed. Even still, your period was late. Everything your mother and the Church had warned you about was coming to fruition. You panicked alone. You couldn’t bring yourself to buy a test—to give someone the opportunity to learn what you would learn. You kept your bedroom door closed so your mother couldn’t see you pacing on your bed, hoping the mattress would muffle the sound. From the kitchen below, she heard the floorboards creak underneath the uneven weight. By the fifth day, you had nearly paced a mile, gathering the minimum amount of courage needed to go to the pharmacy. You pulled down your pants and sit on the toilet when you see your underwear, once grey, was dyed red. Your shoulders dropped and fingers warmed as you realized how much you did not want a child.
If it happened now, you would end the few cells giving life to a heartbeat. You can’t say the same of your high school self.
Long ago you had stopped believing in the mythical man in the clouds your parents strived to make you fear. The older you got, the more you questioned and learned, the more holes you found in the good book. Page by nearly-translucent page, the Bible lost its weight. But the guilt—that festers. Woven into our own fibers by the voices of those we’re supposed to trust, holding our guts in a knot.
A child walks from the toy corner to their mother, seemingly just to give her a hug. The child climbs onto their mother’s lap and nestles their head under her chin. You remember the years you thought you would long for a child, for moments like this—the babysitting years.
The years of tax-free cash clouded ambivalent teenage hormones. New mothers in the neighborhood trusted your patient and kind disposition with their little ones. Too often when you left their homes’ after a weekly date-night you heard the same affirmation: you’ll make a great mother someday. They said it with such joy and expectation. Like there were no other paths forward.
Your own mother echoed similar sentiments. She was thrilled at the prospect of grandchildren. She saw very little purpose to life without procreation. In the days of plague and famine and vast uncertainty, her assertion seemed logical. Then the world was infinitely smaller. Survival would have been at the forefront of people’s thoughts. You imagined few had any desire or means to explore the great unknowns of the world. But today, the world is larger and smaller all at once.
A friend had gotten pregnant during college but did not want to stay with the father of the child. A surrogate partner, you attended ultrasounds, bought strange foods that you hoped wouldn’t be eaten together, sat with her on the floor during long bouts of non-morning morning sickness. You felt her belly when the baby first kicked. For the first time, you imagined what it would feel to have a foreign yet natural creature tumbling in your womb. You felt like you might have more to offer.
Then she gave birth. Wails and smells of stale milk surrounded her. Plans were not made with spontaneity. Life as she’d known it, as you had witnessed it, had ended.
You had always appreciated the padding around you—a relative freedom and silence. Something you would not—will not—compromise.
“I know I said this year,” the doctor tilts her head with the pity and concern one usually gives when they have terrible news to share. Her office is mostly white, accented with pale pinks and blues. “What if you get married?”
You stare at the doctor, who seems to be waiting for a response.
“Don’t you think he should have a say?”
“No.” You hold in your exasperation. You’re not surprised at the question. Just tired of hearing it.
“No? That’s it?”
“My boyfriend knows that I am getting this procedure,” Your voice is calm and measured. “If he decides he wants kids someday, then I will be sad. But my answer to him will be the same regardless.”
The doctor keeps her head down and examines your chart. “Why don’t you want kids again?”
You cross your legs and lean back into the chair. “Does it matter?”
With a sigh, she waves a white flag. She hands you a stack of pamphlets and opens her schedule to check her availability.
Alli Parrett is a prose writer and recently completed the Creative Writing MA program at University of Glasgow. She received her bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Iowa State University and a Certificate in Literary Fiction Writing from University of Washington. Born in Illinois, Alli has spent much her my adult life in the Pacific Northwest and Scotland. She currently lives in Seattle with her husband and two dogs.