It was early in 1981, and my mom’s period was late.
She was only 16 years old at the time, and her boyfriend– my soon to be dad– was 18. Not knowing what to make of this conspicuously absent period, they decided to buy a bottle of Orange Crush and toast each other when it finally did arrive.
The Orange Crush bottle sat, unopened, for a week or so.
Then a few more weeks.
Then a month more… or maybe two.
In retrospect, my young ma was very obviously pregnant. But at the time, my soon to be parents were young. They were naive. And they remained foolishly optimistic that my mom’s period would still come. Better late than never, right? That Orange Crush would taste so good when my mom’s period finally came. ‘So worth the wait’, they would crow when they finally uncorked that soda bottle, champagne-style. ‘Thank goodness for Orange Crush!’
It was still 1981. My mom’s period was several months late, and she and my dad were hanging out at her place.
“Oh man, my boobs are killing me”, my mom complained. “I wonder what could be making them so sore.”
My dad, at eighteen years old, definitely knew the word “boobs” but could not fathom what could make them sore. What was he, a doctor? Then it dawned on him:
“Hey, Valerie! My mom’s a nurse– you should phone her and ask her why your boobs might be sore.”
My dad’s mom, my soon to be Baba, was indeed a nurse. She was an older parent, having given birth to my dad at 43, and she was very protective of her cherished son. She looked down on my mom as the evil spawn of Satan and was convinced that her angelic boy was being corrupted by his rotten-to-the-core girlfriend.
My mom wanted nothing more than to bond with her potential mother in law and to prove herself worthy of her beloved son’s affection. She was no Hell Hound! She was nice and well-intentioned, if not virginal or innocent in the strictest sense of the terms. So she jumped at the opportunity to have a heart to heart conversation with my Baba. My ma no doubt imagined them laughing together like old friends, confiding in each other about boobs and other “girl talk” things, and then probably going grocery shopping– just the two of them– after that.
My dad, being chivalrous and polite, decided to give my mom some privacy while she phoned my Baba. He said his goodbyes, whispered ‘good luck!’ or ‘don’t worry! You’ll do fine– my mom loves you!’, and started walking home.
Meanwhile, my mom had dialed my Baba’s number and had launched into her heart to heart:
Chirpy 16-year old: Hi, Mrs. La-pipsqueak! It’s Valerie calling!
Non-plussed 61-year old: Hello Valerie.
About to set foot into the black abyss of doom: I had a question, Mrs. La-puppychow, and I know you’re a nurse. You see, my boobs have been hurting a lot lately. Do you have any idea why that could be?
Thin lips/Moral indignation: Pardon me?
Blissfully unaware: [remembering to use correct medical terminology this time] Oh, I’m sorry. Um, my breasts have been hurting quite a bit lately. Do you have any idea why that might be?
Wielding sword of death and destruction against She Who Would Dare To Corrupt The Innocent Fruit Of The Loins: Pardon. ME?
Struggling to communicate effectively/Scrambling to find another medical term for “breasts”: Um, I’m sorry. Ah, my… bosoms?… have been really sore and tender lately. I thought you might be able to tell me why that could be.
If looks could kill/Frostier than a witch’s tit: Well, ah, let’s see. I think that could be caused by one of two things. First, it could be a very rare genetic disorder. Do any of your sisters or your mom have this extremely rare breast condition, Valerie?
Still painfully and tragically unaware: Nope! We definitely don’t have any family history of rare breast diseases!
Zing! Dropping the bomb: Or you could be pregnant.
Implications have finally dawned: Ha- that’s… funny? … OKthanksMrs.LePepsiI’vegottagonowbye!
My mom slammed down the phone and ran into the street to hunt down my dad. Being the very epitome of youthful naivete, he was probably whistling some cheerful tune to himself, sauntering home casually with his hands in his pockets. (I also picture a varsity letter jacket being worn, and birds/squirrels/deer in the vicinity, irresistibly drawn to my dad’s melodic hum.)
“Michael! Emergency! Do NOT go home!”, my mom gasped when she finally caught up to my dad.
“Why, what’s up?”
“Your mom says I’m pregnant.”
[insert heart-stopping musical score here]
That’s how my mom discovered she was, indeed, pregnant with me. That’s how my Baba confirmed my mom was, indeed, evil and morally bankrupt. And that’s how my dad ended up grounded.
Post script: My parents ended up getting married a full 18 days before I was born. My mom, nearly nine months pregnant at the time, had to endure a 2-hour Ukrainian mass (on her pregnant, swollen feet!) and wore a purple flowered maternity dress, which she accidentally splattered mustard on right before the wedding. No guests were allowed to attend the hush-hush ceremony, which took place surreptitiously on a Thursday evening in a locked church. SIN was the name of the game, and the best that my parents could do to redeem their already-damned souls was to not deliver a bastard child. Hence the shotgun wedding.
PPS: Amazingly, my parents stayed happily married for 18 years. I had the best childhood and grew up enveloped in unconditional love. I loved hearing this story about my mom’s mortifying phone call to my Baba– especially knowing that they became extremely close after I was born. By the time my Baba passed away in 2006, my mom had bonded with her even more than she had with her own mother.
PPPS: Some of my friends had pregnancy scares in their teens, but in each case, we were able to crack open a bottle of Orange Crush, champagne-style. 🙂
This post was inspired by Chris from bridgesburning, who recently shared her tale of caring for a patient who complained of a pain in his nut. (It was a guest post on The Idiot Speaketh.) “Is the pain in your head?”, Chris tried to clarify, her fresh-into-nursing-school innocence no doubt scorching a sinful hole in the old man’s paper gown. Nope. That pain was most definitely not in his head. It was in his nut. 🙂