Cycling

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Chapter Twenty-Six

At my doctor’s appointment, after a quick pelvic exam, I put my pants back on and joined Dr. Smith in his office.

“How is Anna doing?” he asked immediately.

“She’s good,” I replied. “She’s over three pounds now, and growing steadily. It looks like she may have had a staph infection a couple weeks back, but antibiotics cleared it right up, thank God. Still on the nasal cannula.”

“Good progress, then.”

“Excellent progress.”

“That’s great to hear. I still wish I could tell you why your water broke. Without the presence of an infection, I don’t quite know for sure what happened. Without an answer to that question, I can’t tell you it won’t happen again.”

“If we ever get pregnant again.”

“Right.”

“I’m not worrying about that right now.”

“Did you want me to write you a prescription for birth control?”

I almost laughed. We’d spent almost four years trying to have a baby. Even after all that time, we’d only been able to get pregnant thanks to medical intervention. No, I didn’t think I needed any birth control at the moment.

“I had to ask,” Dr. Smith said in reply to my refusal.

“I know you did.”

“You’re clear to return to your normal activities. Sex, working out, returning to work.”

Oh, right, returning to work. I still hadn’t figured out what to do about that. I was still pretty confident that I wanted to be home with Anna, but with two more weeks of FMLA leave left, I wasn’t sure I was ready to pull the trigger on actually quitting.

“I’ll, uh, keep that in mind,” I said.

“Not going back to work?”

“Maybe. Undecided.”

“Gotcha. Well, physically, nothing’s holding you back.”

“That’s good to know.”

It was nice to be physically normal. According to the scale, I still had about ten pounds to lose, somehow. I guess I should have been more careful about how much weight I gained while I was pregnant. But my uterus was back to the proper size and shape. I could walk and run and lift with no worries. That was a good feeling, that I didn’t have to worry about me, because I didn’t have time to worry about me.

I did have to figure out this job stuff though.

“How did your appointment with the doctor go?” Ben asked as he unpacked the Chinese food he’d picked up for dinner.

“Good. All back to normal.”

“Awesome, we can start having so much sex.”

“Benjamin.”

“I mean, that’s great, honey, I’m glad you’re doing well.”

“He says I can go back to work whenever.”

“Well, you’ve got a little bit more leave time, right?”

“Yeah, I’m still clear for two more weeks.” I paused. “Except.”

“You don’t want to go back to work.”

“I don’t think so, no.”

“Well, of course you don’t. We have a baby now. She’s so much more fun than going to work every day, believe me.”

I smiled. “I bet. With her health being what it is, I don’t think it would be a good idea to put her in daycare any time soon.”

“That’s putting the cart before the horse, isn’t it? I mean, she isn’t even home yet.”

“I know, but you’re a big fan of planning ahead, right?”

“Ah, I am, you’ve got me there.”

“So I’m trying to plan ahead.”

“Well, we’ve gotten by on my salary alone for the last twelve weeks, so we know it can be done. We might have to make some sacrifices. I don’t know what you’ve promised Anna, but she might have to get by with only one pony.”

“That’s downright cruel.”

“All right, we’ll try to figure out how to afford a second pony, but I can’t guarantee anything. I can always get a second job.”

“I’ll accept those terms.”

“I quit my job,” I said to Paige, who had joined me for a NICU visit to meet Anna.

She’d been avoiding the NICU thus far, and I didn’t blame her. With less than five weeks to go until her due date, she was both busy preparing for the birth of her son and skittish of the reality of what a premature birth could mean for him. Not to mention how busy she was dealing with the legal ramifications of her separation from her husband. She had taken care of us in other ways, with groceries and frozen dinners and the like, and she’s always listened to my concerns when we spoke on the phone. She seemed to genuinely care about how Anna was doing. She hadn’t been ready to see her yet.

Today she was at the hospital anyway, touring the labor and delivery floor, so she’d stopped by the NICU afterward and scrubbed up, ready to meet the world’s cutest baby. She had oohed and aahed over Anna, and after a short visit, we’d headed to the coffee shop that had once been our usual hang out to chat for a bit away from the noise and distractions of the NICU, where Anna was sleeping peacefully.

“You quit your job?” Paige repeated. “Aren’t you still on leave? I mean, you still have time left before you were supposed to go back, right?”

“Right, but the more I thought about going back, the more sense it made to not go back. I mean, Anna will have issues when she’s released from the hospital, so daycare might not be an option. Luckily we’re able to handle losing a paycheck.”

“Well, if you guys think it’s best.”

“Are you going to keep working when Nate is born?”

“I don’t really have much of a choice. Jake’s trying to fight paying child support, saying it’s not really his kid. I know that won’t hold up, because I know what the paperwork he signed before the insemination says. I’m working on figuring out the whole childcare thing, but I’ll go back to work.”

“Jake is such an asshole.”

“Yeah, it turns out he is. Unfortunately. You know someone for nearly your entire life, and you think you actually know them.”

“I’m so sorry, Paige.”

She waved her hand. “I guess I learned a lesson.”

“Are you getting excited to finally meet your baby?”

“Nervous, mostly,” Paige said, putting her hand on her ever-expanding belly. Before I’d had Anna, I’d felt huge. I didn’t know how Paige did anything. How did she drive a car? “I keep thinking I have everything ready for him, and then I think of something else we need. Babies have so many needs.”

“Tell me about it.” I put my hand on hers. “You’ll be fine. I mean, we don’t have anything ready, really, and our baby’s actually here.”

It was a half-truth. We were pretty ready for Anna to come home, in that we had a place for her to sleep, and clothes and diapers and all that good stuff, and we were ready to parent her. We weren’t allowed to yet, and I wasn’t sure if we’d know what to do when the time came to be responsible for Anna’s care. I didn’t know if we’d be able to actually take care of her. That was the real tricky part about having a baby.

“What do you mean you quit your job?”

I read the text from Julianne and inferred a less-than-pleased tone. It certainly didn’t read like she was excited or happy for me.

I texted her back with the same reasons I’d given everyone else. Anna’s health, our financial situation. Perfectly fine reasons to leave a job that I liked well enough, but wasn’t unendingly dedicated to.

“What if something happens?” Julianne texted back.

“Like what?”

“Like if you don’t bring a baby home.”

“Don’t be a bitch, Jules.”

“You know I’m always honest with you. I’m trying to be as real as possible.”

“I don’t need you to be real with me. Things are real enough as it is.”

“I’m sorry. I wanted to make sure that you’d thought things through.”

“I had, thanks.”

I shut my phone off then. I knew she was coming from a good place, but that didn’t stop the anger from bubbling up inside me. How dare she question my choice? Ben and I had worked hard to get to a point where we were lucky enough that we could make the choice for me to stay home. She had no right to tell me that I was doing the wrong thing.

Anna would be fine, I assured myself.

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