by Robert J. Lanz, LCSW
The school called Mom because Suzy hadn’t shown up, and Suzy always showed up because she wanted to graduate with the rest of the kids she had grown up with. It would have been embarrassing not to. All of her middle-class girlfriends were going to graduate, and Suzy was working hard in night school so she could graduate on the same day they all did. She wanted to have that special summer, the last big blow out of adolescence, before heading off to college somewhere. The teenage rebelliousness that put her in night school in the first place seemed to have subsided. She was finally getting along with her parents and she had a steady boyfriend they liked and trusted. He played sports, was still in regular high school and planned to go to college, too. His parents were still married. They all belonged to the same clubs and lived in the same neighborhood. What a score.
Mom didn’t like the way she felt when the call came in that night. Suzy had been doing so well lately. Coming home on time. Being polite. Doing her homework. She had even stayed home on Sunday and laid around the pool with her family and friends, looking so cute in her bikini. Mom knew Suzy would shake all of the problems she had been having and go on to live a happy, normal life. She just knew it.
But then, she got the call, and she felt that hole in the pit of her stomach. It was the hole that says someone I love is dead, or my husband is leaving me for that bimbo down the street, or there’s been an accident or, no, not that one, not my Suzy.
Mom went looking for her blond and blue-eyed daughter, the one who was just starting to repent and be the girl her parents always knew she would be, perkily bouncing off to college while they cried tears of joy. The paramedics were looking for Suzy too, and they found her first. She really had gone to school and that is where they found her, lying in the middle of the bathroom floor, with a pool of blood surrounding her. Her blue eyes had that glazed over, one-step-from-death look. The paramedics thought that she might already be dead, and ran to her with their box of lifesaving equipment. And then they heard the baby cry. They noticed right away that Suzy didn’t.
When Mom saw the ambulance parked in front of the school, she knew it was for Suzy. Moms always know things like that. She didn’t know what it was going to be, but she knew it wasn’t going to be anything nice. Nothing that would help her get into the college of her dreams or marry that great guy with a solid future. Nothing that would put a good spin on life and wrap up the last of those untidy ends that had been on display just a few short months ago. No, this would be a spin of another sort, and for the next two days, everyone would be saying over and over again, “I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it”. Even before Mom ran into the bathroom, she knew it was her girl. Suzy was propped up against the wall, the baby in her arms, both of them still covered with blood.
In the hospital everything went perfectly, at least almost perfectly. The new mother didn’t need a transfusion, since the baby had been delivered without problems despite the unsanitary location. It looked like everything was working okay. The baby was blond, blue-eyed and healthy, just like her parents. What a lucky baby. Someone would surely want her.
Suzy’s mom arrived at the hospital in shock, unable to cope with the wicked change in plans for her daughter’s life. Suzy’s dad was a hundred and fifty miles away on business and Mom asked if I would call him. She thought if she called him herself, he wouldn’t believe her. I had to do it and had to sound as official as possible. When Dad got on the phone, he didn’t believe me, either. He kept thinking it was some out of town friends just bringing up every parent’s nightmare as a cruel joke. Those guys! I told him to call information, get the number of the hospital and call and have me paged. A moment of silence. A pregnant pause, so to speak.
“That won’t be necessary” he said, “Tell my wife I’m on the way.”
He had a lot to think about during the two hours it would take to get to the hospital. So did I. Didn’t anyone notice that Suzy was pregnant? How dysfunctional was this family anyway? Did Suzy even know she was with child? How could her attention-to-all-details family have missed this significant change in her body contour? Denial is a great psychological defense, but this seemed to be a pretty big stretch for an educated middle class family. When the neighbors came by to see the new mother, her Mom told them what happened.
“I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it”, they said as if they were reading from cue cards.
“When’s the last time you folks saw Suzy?” I asked the neighbors and friends, out of earshot of Suzy’s mother, who was now at Suzy’s bedside.
The baby wasn’t getting billed and cooed at liked the other kids in the room. Even the ones who were there without grandparents were getting a little love from somebody. Not Suzy Jr. She was in the neutral zone, set aside like the dolls used in class to demonstrate what a hassle it would be if you got pregnant and had to carry it around all the time.
“We saw her Sunday, at a pool party at her parents house. She was wearing a two-piece bathing suit. I can’t believe it. I just can’t believe it.”
Now, these women seemed pretty smart. They were schoolteachers or professionals, women with some kind of job that requires one to pay attention to detail, maybe computer programmers or social workers. All I remember with any degree of clarity is that they seemed pretty normal to me and they just couldn’t believe it.
Dad arrived at the hospital and he believed it. He moved into action the way a lot of dads would. Damage control. No one would have to know. Let’s make like it didn’t even happen. Mom agreed. This is not what Suzy needed right now. She needed to study for finals. She needed to get ready for those college entrance exams. She needed to have a future, not a past.
Blond and Blue had things to do and nothing, no thing, was going to change that. She didn’t come from the type of a family that had children out of wedlock on a bathroom floor in a second rate night school. Suzy wasn’t like those other girls who threw their babies out the window, flushed them down the toilet, put them in the dumpster or left them on the church steps and skulked away into the night. Suzy was a good girl.
The doctor was a nice man. Probably had a daughter about Suzy’s age, and he understood, so he went along. The baby disappeared that night, as quickly as being tossed out the window, flushed down the drain or wrapped in a paper bag and put in the dumpster.
“I’ve got fifty families that will take this baby,” the doctor said.
He knew about such things because he worked at a fertility clinic. His patients paid thousands of dollars and waited for years to have a baby just like Suzy Jr. She would be in somebody’s home in a few days, getting billed and cooed at like nobody’s business. A perfect baby. No sewers or doorsteps or dumpsters for Blond and Blue.
Everybody wants one of those babies. Well, almost everybody.