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My Baby by Pamela Painter

I assured my daughter’s doctor that yes, Gemma could have the pill. So how did she get pregnant—with those pills in cunning containers. Never mind condoms or the Morning After pill, mostly too late. And lord knows what she sees in her guy with the fancy motorcycle, acoustic guitar, and expensive telescope. Her saying “we’re in love,” just noise.  

But it’s hard to suggest an abortion when at 16 it’s something I didn’t do—and Gemma, with my frizzy red hair and freckles, is here to prove it. Should I tell her she almost ruined my life, kept me out of college for two decades, tied me to a man I didn’t love, who undid the knot before she could say “Daddy.” 

When motorcycle man takes to the highway and keeps going into the next state, a weeping Gemma considers the future. She knows she has a mother who will hold her hand during labor, set up a crib next to her dresser, change diapers, feed and put the baby to bed, arrange for day care then take on extra night shifts in the ER. All while Gemma pumps milk, then goes off to finish high school and fill out college applications. When she returns to dating I’ll be a mother again on someone else’s schedule.  

I hold Gemma’s hand in the clinic waiting room. Waiting, I pace the room during the procedure, hold her hand again in recovery. I nod goodbye to the nurse, prescriptions in my pocket. Gemma curls up on the seat next to me and I drive her home into our future. We skip dinner. We hug and cry together, then I put my baby to bed. 

Hear Pamela Painter read her story

Pamela Painter is the award-winning author of five story collections. Her stories have appeared in numerous journals and in the recent anthologies Flash Fiction America, Best Microfiction 2023, and Best Small Fictions 2023. She has received three Pushcart Prizes and her work has been staged by Word Theatre. 

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