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Blackmarket Baby

Caitlin Duerinck, 2011

I didn’t mean to get pregnant. It was an accident, a broken condom with a random john who bought the only thing I had to offer. The exact night could have been one of a hundred: back pressed against stained, crumbling brick in dark alleyways, hands clawing at cheap sequins and imitation leather, teeth biting at exposed skin. Quick thrusts from men who were as sleazy as they were desperate. Most of them weren’t looking for sex. Not really, anyways. They wanted power, control over someone who wouldn’t complain about the bruises. They probably went home to nagging wives and whining brats. I don’t know why they chose me. I didn’t want them, but they were willing to pay for my body. The momentary shame was worth a full belly and a warm bed. This was the first time a john had left something behind besides cash. I can barely feed myself, but I can’t just get rid of it. It hasn’t done wrong.

I think I love it, my baby.

I can’t understand these girls. I take care of them when they come into the hospital with swollen bellies. I nurse their premature children to health. I try to convince them to be abstinent. Still, they return to the streets and the drugs, burning themselves out before they turn thirty. It isn’t long before they come back to the clinic for STD tests or because of an overdose or to give birth again. I’ve been told that you need to separate emotionally from your patients. That it’s easier to work in the free clinic if you don’t think about what happens when your patients walk out the door. Still, every time I hold the tiny hands of children born addicted to heroin I wonder why their mothers would do this to them. I wonder why they would keep the children when they intend to return to their crackhouses and pimps.

They don’t deserve these babies.

I couldn’t make her feel better. Not when my daughter was denied a child again. I’d held her when she found out that an insidious virus had invaded her womb. I cried with her when the doctors told her she couldn’t have children of her own. I’d stood by my daughter when the first two adoptions had failed, but nothing I did could remove the despondent gaze from her eyes after the loss of this child. She simply shut down when the birthmother decided to keep the baby. I held my girl. I told her this wasn’t the end. That she would get her baby one day. I don’t know what to do. I talked to the birthmother, making sure to flash my police badge as I tried to convince her to give up the baby. I even went to the offices of the lawyer who works with my unit. He said there was no case, that the birthmother was correct in the eyes of the law, even if she had broken a verbal contract. The baby isn’t theirs.

There is nothing I can do.

I don’t want to believe her. That bitch. She promised us, swore to heaven and high hell that she’d give us her baby. Nearly seven months, we’d taken care of her. Seven months of medical bills and living costs and anxious hope for nothing. She decided to keep her son. It isn’t fair. I would do anything to have what she has. I can’t have any children, not ever, and this stupid teenager gets pregnant on accident. She promised us. She promised us a child and now she’s ripping my baby away. I held him. The little boy who was supposed to be mine. I wasn’t allowed to, but I did. I wanted to show the girl that her son would be happy and loved as a part of our family. I wanted a connection to make it clear that he should stay with me. I held him but it didn’t matter. There was no connection, no love.

I wasn’t his mother.

I didn’t think things could get worse. I did everything right. I quit the drugs and the sex. I moved into a woman’s shelter, though the ladies whispered about my previous profession with thinly veiled disgust. I even found a job bagging groceries with the help of an outreach group. It wasn’t much money, but I’d earned enough to buy a crib and baby formula. We were going to be okay, my baby and I. I’d even started to dream again. Dream of something besides the next night, the next meal, the next fix. I held her right after she was born and imagined our life. It wasn’t perfect. There were hard times and money worries and arguments. But we were together and we loved each other despite everything else. The dream hurts now, worse than anything I’ve ever felt. She’s gone. She was stolen right after I began to hope. Right after I began to love her. She was the only good thing I did right.

I’d do anything to get back my daughter.

I couldn’t leave the baby with her. I couldn’t send another child home in the arms of a drug-addicted prostitute. I rocked the infant gently. I was partially responsible for this baby’s entry into the world. I’d stood by the girl, holding her hand and monitoring her breathing. I’d cut the cord. I couldn’t let another innocent suffer. Not again. I cradled the underweight newborn in my arms, admiring the pale skin and blonde fuzz. The mother had been pretty once, before hard drugs and street living had destroyed her. The baby would be pretty too. I rocked the infant gently. There was a couple on my street that desperately wanted a child. The husband would do almost anything to find one for his wife. It was surprisingly easy to cut the hospital bracelet from the baby’s ankle and slip away from the hospital.

The girl didn’t want the baby anyway.

I don’t want to be here. My daughter just adopted a little girl. After all these years, she’s finally smiling again. I should be with her, counting toes and cooing over my grandbaby’s tiny fingers, not investigating the disappearance of a streetwalker’s brat. I pulled at the scratchy polyester collar of my uniform. The kid is probably better off anyways. The hooker had old track marks on her arms, though reports said she’d quit during the pregnancy. My head ached. The kidnapper had taken bottles and extra blankets. Not something a person with murderous intent would do. I asked the worn, distracted nurse routine questions. She kept glancing away. Maybe I could take a quick break and say hello to my family. The nurse says she didn’t see anything suspicious that night. I sighed. This was a waste of time.

But the girl loved that baby so much it shone through her eyes.

I can’t believe it’s finally happened. Finally, she was here. Our baby. My little girl, an earthbound angel with pale hair and sweet little dimples. I didn’t believe it at first. I’d given up hope on ever being a mother when my husband entered the room with a baby. She’d been abandoned, dumped on the side of the road along with her birth records. My sweet child. All we had to do was sign the papers. Sign as her parents and no one could prove otherwise. No one would think to check. She was ours and damn it if I wouldn’t fight to keep my little girl. I rocked her gently, hoping to lull her to sleep. She yawned, cuddling deeper into her fuzzy pink blanket. I brushed her hair out of her eyes. She blinked lazily and smiled.

I love my daughter more than anyone in the world.

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All Information Copywright by Chimes Publication, Saint Mary's College 2010