Chapter 5: How to get kicked out of Catholic School

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After telling my parents back in June about my pregnancy, and after the stuff with the police calmed down, I was barely showing. By August, there was a little bump you could see if you were looking for it, but it was nothing a baggy sweatshirt couldn't cover up. It took awhile for me to realize that Map was really serious about not letting me have an abortion, and as my first trimester came to a close, the reality of it all settled in. Map came in to my room one day in mid-August, interrupting my afternoon nap.

"Sheila, dear, wake up, sweetie. We need to get up to Target today and get your materials together. School starts next week."

At first, in my half-asleep state, her voice becomes part of the dream I'm having about eating ice cream, and it takes me a full minute to wake up and respond, "Um, Map, I kind of assumed I'd be staying home. Being prego and fourteen and in High School just doesn't seem like a good combo."

 "I spoke to the administration about it last month, and they're willing to make an exception for you as long as you don't tell anyone, because I'm an employee. Also, your father offered to make a sizable donation for the new gym fund this year."

What the shit? "What do you mean, Map? That's nice of them to make an exception and all, but are you all asking me to lie about being pregnant? What am I supposed to do when I'm changing for gym? A baby belly doesn't lie, Map."

 "It's covered: they'll excuse you from gym class once you're starting to show too much--just tell everyone you've got asthma."

 This is nuts. "Then what? What happens when I actually have the baby in February? What then?"

 "We'll just tell everyone it's mine. I've committed to gaining a little weight right along with you, so I'll look a little pregnant."

 "Are you also planning on wearing a prosthetic belly, Map? What is wrong with you--this is craziness!" Map is bat shit. And I can't believe Dad just bribed my way in to being prego in Catholic school.

 "Sheila, trust me. You just need to play along with this and it'll be over before you know it. Of course, some people will know, but if you just don't talk about it, they can't confirm it, and you won't be accused of setting any kind of example. And this way, you won't fall behind in your studies; you'll stay academically competitive and be able to go to college with your own age group. If you miss a year of high school, it's pretty hard to make up. And don't think you're the only pregnant girl to go to Catholic school--the key is just to not talk about it. It's like: don't ask, don't tell."

 "Map, did you really just say that? I'm not doing it. No way. Keeping this baby is your idea, so you should homeschool me this year." I let out a big sigh, and start to get up out of bed because I have to go pee.

 "If you go along with the plan, your father and I will buy you a new car for your sixteenth birthday."

I stop. A new car ups the ante: I imagine my sixteen-year-old self speeding down the highway in my brand new red convertible with the top down. The wind is in my hair, James is sitting next to me with his hand on my knee, and neither of us have a care in the world. "Okay, I"ll do it, but it has to be a convertible." I think I just sold my soul.

***

Okay, so you didn't really think I could do it, did you? Honestly, I did try to keep the "secret" at school (for a couple weeks) but in mid-September, Ms. Dronan, our English teacher, asked us to write an essay on what we did over the summer. I was feeling a little sorry for myself that night after school and decided to do a little Internet research into how exactly it came to be that in the United States of America--land of the free, home of the brave--a fourteen-year-old gal like me could be stuck incubating a rape baby and having to lie about it while attending Catholic school? And how did it come to be that I do not have control over my own body, even though I am perfectly capable of telling anyone who will listen that I really, really, really do not want to be pregnant right now?

My night of Internet research on the history of reproductive rights for women (and now lack thereof) in America turned into an all-nighter (due to second-trimester spunkiness). I wrote my essay about exactly what had happened to me last summer: I found out I was prego, then I found out I have to stay prego against my will, and now I'm currently lying about being prego at school. Then, I included a quick historical rundown on Roe v.Wade, the closing of Planned Parenthood, the Supreme Court, and the 2008 election. You'll see parts of my Internet research on reproductive rights and other political stuff interspersed in my journal in the places I see fit (I feel the need to write some of it down in order to understand how things happening in the political arena affect, and will continue to affect, the random events of my tiny little life).

 That morning, on very little sleep, and with not much sanity left, I presented my essay to Ms. Dronan.

 Goodbye convertible, goodbye high school, goodbye lies.

 


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