You are me
and we are you. . ."
I saw this young couple in the residents' clinic several months ago. Super young--like not even twenty years old. And it was a rather odd visit to have in an Internal Medicine clinic at a public hospital. This couple was here together because even though they hadn't been using any birth control methods for several months . . . . they hadn't yet conceived.
"So we just came to get checked out." That's what the young woman said as she looked over at her partner.
"Checked out?" I asked.
"Yeah, ma'am," he quickly answered. "Like to make sure we can have a baby."
And I looked at this teenage couple and coached myself not to have a judging facial expression. I hoped my face didn't show my thoughts.
Say WHAT? What the hell are y'all thinking? A baby? A BABY!
But they sat there patiently--her in the chair next to the desk and him rolling around on the wheeled stool. Faces as innocent as little cherubs and eyes twinkling-twinkling like little stars.
Even though they were young, I liked how genuinely and lovingly they looked at one another.
"Do you mind me asking how old you all are?"
"Both of us nineteen," she replied. She scoldingly cut her eyes at him and he abruptly stopped rolling back and forth on the chair.
I cleared my throat. "Are you . . .like trying to get pregnant?"
"Yes, ma'am. We're the last ones in our family. Everybody be asking what we waiting for." When he said that, he looked at her and laughed.
And honestly? This sounded completely crazy to me. Two nineteen year-olds who'd been trying to conceive since age eighteen sitting in our clinic asking to have thyroids checked and sperms counted up to see what was keeping a bun from going into their oven.
"Ma'am, do you think we gon' be here more than another hour? I got to go to work and need to know if I should call my job," he said.
His face was so boyish and the way he kept twirling from side to side on that chair made him look even younger. I couldn't imagine what kind of work he was doing.
"What kind of work do you do?" I queried.
He then told me of his job working in a storage warehouse. Good money. A very solid, substantially-more-than-minimum hourly wage. And health benefits even.
"Including dental," he added proudly.
And her? She was finishing up cosmetology school.
"It's going real good," she shared before launching into telling me about the upscale salon where she hoped to get a job.
"Yeah, she always been great with hair. She do everybody hair already so I'm glad she in school for it." He was quick to support her. It was endearing.
"That's great," I responded. Because that was great.
Great yes. Even though in my head I still thought the whole idea of two nineteen year-olds intentionally trying to get pregnant was a little off putting. And even more, I found the thought of those same two nineteen year-olds getting sweated by their respective families because they hadn't had a baby yet rather . . . crazy-ish.
That said, we ran a few simple tests on them both. Each received a full physical exam and everything checked out okay. After referring them to the family planning clinic, I bid them adieu and wished them well.
And by well I meant growing older and maturing some more before conceiving a human.
The other day I was standing next to the clinic elevators and who did I see? Them. Side by side still and looking at each other just as lovingly as they had before. I glanced down at her unbuttoned coat and noticed an increasing abdominal girth poking out of the opening.
"Pregnant!" I said out loud when I saw them.
They immediately remembered me. He spoke first. "Yeah, ma'am. We just kept tryin' and we finally got pregnant!"
I love it when men refer to pregnancies as a "we" phenomenon. And you know? They were a "we." A nineteen and a half year-old we. But a "we" all the same.
I looked at their hands and their laced together fingers. Next I noticed the cursive name on his uniform. Just coming from or going to work again I supposed.
"You all having a boy?" I asked.
"Naw, it's a girl! We just fount out!" she squealed. "But everybody guessed it's a boy!"
They looked at each other again and smiled.
"She gon' be so spoiled," he said with a shake of his head. "I know it already." He glanced over at her again with her petite body with it's new miniature beachball in front. Beyond that, she didn't look pregnant at all.
"You know why they keep guessing boy, right? It's because you look so good." I figured I'd throw in my mother-wit as I mindlessly pushed the "down" elevator button repeatedly.
"Oh yeah," he chimed in, "'cause them girls rob you of your beauty right? Tha's what they say? Ha ha!"
"That's what they say." I giggled at that old adage.
"Well, not her. She been pretty since the day we start going together."
Going together. Wow.
"How long has that been?"
They both knitted their brows in tandem thinking. "Middle school," she finally answered. "Or a little before that."
We stepped onto the elevator and I watched them. He carried her purse and held up his arm for support even though she wasn't that big or tired appearing. It was just the gentlemanly thing to do for the lady you love.
And it was obvious that there was love there. Love between that young couple for sure. And no, they weren't married and yes, nineteen is hella-young if you ask me. . .
Nobody asked me. And even if they did. . . . who am I to judge their readiness to start a family? A tax payer you say? Was this your initial thought?
Funny that my initial thought was negative. . . . or rather, it's actually not funny at all. The truth? Here I was imagining for them some life tethered to government support and generational poverty and ignorance. All because they wanted a baby at nineteen. Or was that all?
Look. I sure as hell wasn't looking to have or feeling ready for a baby at nineteen. But that doesn't mean they aren't. Or that someone else isn't.
What if this hadn't been at Grady? What if this was some young ivory-faced nineteen year-old couple with tiny crosses around their necks and vermeil bands on their ring fingers?
I waved good bye to them and congratulated them once more on the pregnancy. As I watched them walk away, I froze for a moment.
Had I passed judgment on them for being young, black and working poor? Had I sized them up and assigned them a life and a future that, in all actuality, I had no idea about at all? Had I?
All that they had shown me up until that point was youth, yes. . . .but more than that, just love and devotion. The same things we had when we were expecting our first baby. Harry taking off of work and holding my coat and my arm at those prenatal visits just like them. And just like our first baby and the one that came after. . . .the main thing their little daughter would have in common with Isaiah and Zachary was that she was wanted. . .and conceived in love.
Young love, no less, but love all the same. I had no grounds for thinking anything else.
As they disappeared from my sight, this word popped into my head:
prejudice [prej-uh-dis]: an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
I stopped at the glass door and caught my reflection. . . . .
I told that woman in the mirror, Careful, profesora. . . . Be careful.
Now playing on my mental iPod. . . . .Maxwell singing "I'm you."