Mary is a former coworker and a friend. About ten years ago, a fellow began to woo Mary. It took him six months to convince her that he really cared about her and to get Mary into bed. It was the first and last time they had sex, for he dumped Mary like yesterday's trash as soon as he was finished with her. Unfortunately, that was not the end of it, for Mary was pregnant.
Neither Mary nor her family believe in abortion. It was a difficult unplanned pregnancy. Mary spent approximately the last month to six weeks of the pregnancy confined to bed in a hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She had to keep her legs up and her head down and remain in bed in order not to lose the baby.
The child, a boy, was born with diplegic cerebral palsy. He has had almost twenty eye operations since birth (Mary has lost count.) The prognosis whether he will lose his sight completely or retain enough to be labeled legally blind is up in the air. The doctors have broken his legs and reset them to help him walk almost normally, but he still tiptoes often. He attends special education classes in public school.
Because the child has "only" diplegic cerebral palsy and is not yet legally blind, he has been denied even partial disability by Social Security. Like many working people, Mary is not adept at navigating the maze of social service agencies and sees little point in humiliating herself any further with them So, Mary is the child's sole support; she works a full-time job and runs the house. The biological father has degenerated into a crackhead, and only the paternal grandparents have shown any interest in the boy from that side of his family. The maternal grandparents dote on the child. However, there are relatives in Mary's extended family that still do not speak to her, for she was the first wayward daughter in the family to give birth to a bastard, thus bringing shame on the family name.
Mary has not had a medical check-up since delivering her son. She can not afford the luxury. The sectarian hospital and the archdiocese so intent on bringing her son into this world have lifted not one finger to help her since he was born. They do not even lift her up in prayer as far as I can tell.
At one point, the company where Mary had worked for seventeen years went under, and she was laid off. The loss of that job meant the loss of what little health insurance coverage she had. A local merchant sponsored a benefit for her son, and the working stiffs of Parsons Avenue chipped in to raise enough to help her pay down about $17,000 in outstanding medical bills. Mary does not earn enough on her current job to afford health insurance with or without healthcare reform.
About four years ago, Mary finally met a man worth his salt. A widower partially disabled from literally backbreaking labor in road construction, in coal mines, and on oil rigs, he has proven to be a good soulmate and a decent stepfather for the mother and her son. Their summer treat is to take the boy to the drive-in movies, where the screen is big enough that everbody can see the film.
One time I asked Mary what she would do if she discovered that she was pregnant again.
"I'd shoot myself. Don't get me wrong. I love my husband, and I love my son. But I could never go through this again."