Wheels on the Bus
“Mommy! Look! That lady is fat!”
Hush, Freddy. And she’s not fat, she’s going to have a baby.”
“But mom-m-y! Look!”
Freddy’s mother dragged him back to his seat. “I’m so sorry about that. He’s in that phase, you know.”
Amy nodded politely, not so much as bothering to brush back her dark chocolate brown hair to remove the ear buds of her iPod. She had grown used to it. The typical obnoxiously curious and brutally honest toddler was a regular encounter when you took public transportation, and she was well familiar with that short period in childhood in after them just learning how to talk, yet before learning what not to say. She was only twenty, after all, so it wasn’t all that long ago that she was blurting out things she probably shouldn’t have. But still. She was definitely big, and her belly was definitely heavy, but fat? Come on. Certainly not.
She didn’t even look fat. It wasn’t like she was wearing stripes that day; now those made her look enormous. True, she was a bit below average in height and that made her belly look a little bit bigger –a fact that she didn’t lament in the least –but her limbs were still slender, and her nose and chin were still well defined. She may have gained a few pounds elsewhere but it was mostly all in the belly that rested in her lap. Since she was so heavily pregnant, that meant that Amy was able to use the seats reserved at the very front of the bus, and therefore it also meant that every other passenger would pass her by and give her a glance on the way to their seats behind her.
The fact that she was on the bus at was a bit of irony in of itself. She had intended on using the pay from surrogacy to finally buy herself a car. But she found rather quickly that in her third trimester fitting behind the tiny wheel of her mini cooper was really uncomfortable.
But then, it was never about a car or money. The truth of the matter was, as strange as it might have sounded if she were to say it aloud, Amy had always wanted to be pregnant. Maybe it was just her biological clock running in double time, or maybe it was the dolls she had as a child, but she had always had the utmost respect and adoration for pregnancy. And over the years, that regard turned to desire. She had wanted to experience it for herself; the feeling of something living and growing inside of her, the kicks and cravings, even the ridiculous tent dresses. It was definitely a bit odd, and she could even admit that much, but it was a guilty little dream of hers.
Reality, of course, kind of got in the way of that. She wasn’t about to go run off with the first guy she could, and waiting tables at Fridays after class was not any way to start a family. She’d come to the conclusion rather soon that although she desperately wanted to be pregnant, having children after the fact was something she wasn’t at all ready for any time soon.
And then a ray of hope appeared. A completely random encounter while at work that changed her life. This was the sort of thing her sociology teacher had been getting at when he’d tried to explain the concept of serendipity. Well, not exactly, but it was close enough for her.
She could remember the time and date perfectly. It was Tuesday, May twenty-ninth, during the dinner rush, just after eight. It wasn’t particularly odd to see the occasional pregnant woman in the restaurant, and Amy had eventually gotten so sick of that nagging feeling of envy that she had started to try not to pay them any mind at all. But for whatever reason, maybe because this one woman was dining alone, or because fate stepped in and steered events in such a manner, she had ended up talking to the customer. It turned out the woman, whose name was Julia, was acting as a surrogate for a friend that was unable to carry a child herself.
The possibility of surrogacy had never actually occurred to Amy, and yet in hindsight it seemed like such an obvious solution to her dilemma. Almost immediately she began researching how to become a surrogate, and the prospect became her new pet project.
But, after much hard work and research, things didn’t seem to line up in her favor. Despite being in good health and psychologically stable, (and all too willing to explain to the psychiatrist she had been made to sit with for a session seemed to pick up on just how eager she was to carry a child), there was little room to bend the rules requiring her have been married and already a parent. All the applications and miles of red tape hadn’t been worth it.
So, rather than completely giving up hope, she decided to find something more along the lines of a private agreement. It wasn’t as if she could run an ad that said “womb for rent”, although the idea had crossed her mind more than once when it became clear how many obstacles were in her path, but it was better than nothing, and it turned out to be the idea that finally bore fruit.
By June she met the middle-aged couple, the Robinsons, that she’d be doing such a great act of kindness for. They praised her on her altruism in helping them realize their wishes of starting a family. They were good people, and doted on Amy in a way that reminded her of her own parents. She couldn’t help but smile, then, for while she was truly fulfilling their dreams, the pregnancy itself was her own dream come true.
And then she found that it was a dream come true and then some.
She had agreed to be a gestational surrogate. The doctors would combine eggs from the missus Robinson and sperm from mister, while Amy would nourish them as they grew within her womb. Since it was fully expected that an embryo wouldn’t actually make it, it was customary that for better odds more would be implanted at once. It made sense, of course; the Robinsons were paying Amy fifteen thousand dollars for her services as a surrogate, and the medical costs on top of that. They’d logically want a child when all was said and done.
But then all five embryos that had been implanted took and decided to stick around. It was one of those impossible to predict, million to one chances. A surrogate pregnant with quintuplets.
Amy was over the moon. For months she couldn’t stop smiling. Morning sickness came and went and she grinned and bore it all the way through. She beamed, when she could no longer button her favorite jeans, and floated on a cloud of ecstasy when the people on campus stared at her growing belly. She even responded with good natured laughter when she was accused of stealing in the produce section.
Amy had done her homework. On average, a single full term child was a little over seven and a half pounds at birth, while quintuplets were a fraction of that at two pounds. But that was mostly because they didn’t have time to gain weight in the womb. The average pregnancy was about forty weeks in length, but with multiple births the mother to be often gave birth early. With quintuplets, she was told to expect to go into labor by week twenty eight. But, everyone was surprised and elated, Amy especially, when that deadline came and went without any signs of her time drawing near. She was thirty-five weeks along and going strong, just one month away from a full term pregnancy.
Which might have explained why the entire bus was trying not to outright stare at her. At the last checkup they told her that the Robinson’s quintuplets were a surprisingly healthy six pounds each; virtually unheard of in a multiple pregnancy, and an occurrence that confounded them almost as unheard of as Amy’s high spirits. Even in her almost perpetual state of joy, Amy had to admit that she was getting pretty big. Not that that excused the child’s outburst.
She sighed and leaned back further in her chair, slowly caressing her swollen belly. She was rewarded with a soft kick from one of the children in her belly. Hopefully they’d be better behaved and wouldn’t go shouting at big pregnant women on buses.
“You guys wouldn’t do that, would you?”
A reply came in a volley of kicks. Amy took it to mean a yes.
“That’s what I thought.”