Exhausted and weary, I pushed my full grocery cart towards the checkout at the store. The day with the baby had been a long one of feed-change-repeat, and on two weeks without shopping, we were badly in need of some fresh food. I entered a checkout line and started piling the cartons and boxes of food onto the narrow conveyor belt, and the thirty-something cashier gave me a warm smile as she started scanning my items.
“You look tired. Long day?” Small talk as she scanned my cereal box.
I laughed and affirmed her assumption, but focused on the ever-mounting price total on the little scanning screen.
“Did you work?” Scanning canned tomatoes.
“Taking care of the baby all day, yeah.” I was thinking hard about my budget, hoping the 2 for $3 applied to my frozen veggies.
“Oh I see. Was your baby planned?”
That got my attention. I looked at this woman as she scanned my frozen broccoli, sparing me only short glances, the word yes automatically formed on my lips… but before I could lie, I stopped myself.
Why would she ask that question? What about me screams Hester Prynne? And most importantly, why was I about to lie about it?
It was the first time anyone asked me about the origins of my baby since he had been born. I had thought the judgement was over after he arrived- people are usually too distracted by those chubby thighs and bright blue eyes to spare much rudeness- but it continues to follow me still, even without the baby with me. For a while I had forgotten to feel bad for myself as a young mom.
Maybe I look young. Maybe I look like I don’t know what I’m doing. And maybe I feel like I should tattoo my forehead with I HAVE A COLLEGE DEGREE, DON’T LABEL ME.
But as I stood there at the grocery store, facing this cashier, and two really small words came to mind.
Brady is here now. It doesn’t matter to me where he came from- planned or unplanned, adopted or conceived, mistake or success- nothing could impact how much I love him. And though it might make some good gossip or an interesting twist on a TV show, the fact that I got pregnant my senior year of college doesn’t really concern anyone else. And it’s not something I am willing to guilt myself about anymore. So I smiled at the cashier and owned up.
“He was a surprise. A very handsome one.”