Baby Weight first appeared in The Guilded Pen 2019. Copyright 2019
Baby Weight is a non-speculative flash fiction story that I wrote for the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild Anthology. It is a snapshot of the pressure put on one woman who is childless by choice to conform.
Erik C. Martin
Tammy pulled the stack of mail out of the box. A pale, pink envelope stuck out from the bills and ad—the invitation to Margaret’s baby shower.
Like when Grandma Betty had died, the sting was no less for knowing it was coming.
“The Mommy Club claims another one.”
And Margaret had been the last friend that Tammy had actually liked. Now she’d be stuck hanging out with sad Sally Smith or Wendy-Who-LOVES-Dancing-With-The-Stars.
She slammed shut the mailbox door and jiggled out the key. Her phone began to play Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start The Fire. The name on the screen read “Paula,” but the photo was a toddler with cake on his face.
Tammy’s friendship with Paula had effectively ended three years ago when Aiden was born. Since then things had devolved into Facebook likes and the occasional text message. This was the first phone call in more than six months.
“Sweeetie! It’s Paula! I just got Margaret’s baby shower invitation. Did yours come yet?”
“Uh huh. I’m holding it.” She fumbled with her house key and managed to get the door open.
“Isn’t it great? I’m so excited for her. I know it was hard for her and Dan to get pregnant. They’ve been trying for so long.”
Her apartment was stifling. First day of September and it was the hottest day of the year, nearly one hundred degrees along the coast. Tammy didn’t have air conditioning.
“Have you looked at the gift registry yet? I’d be happy to help you pick something out. If you need help.”
“No. I literally just got the mail.”
“Honey! She’s been registered at Babies ‘R’ Us for a month! If you wait, the good stuff will all be gone.”
Tammy placed her workbag on a dining room chair. The bag tipped over dumping out her empty Hogwarts travel mug, Heat Miser lunch box, a thick file, and a Vanity Fair; on the cover was a picture of Serena Williams, naked and pregnant.
“I don’t know; I might just send some Pampers and a fruit basket or something. I’m not sure I can make it.”
“What are you saying? You have to come!”
“I hate playing all those games. That one where you eat chocolate poop out of a diaper?” She shuddered.
“They’re candy bars. I think I understand. You’re upset because it hasn’t happened to you yet. Tammy, it isn’t too late. You’re young still.”
“Tons of women wait until their thirties. What’s the hold up? Does Jason still have cold feet? If I were you, I’d throw out his X-Box and tell him to grow up.”
“What? No! God, it’s hot today.” She opened her sliding door and turned on a fan. “It’s a mutual thing. Neither one of us thinks we’re ready for that.”
“Are you kidding? You’d be a great mom! No one is ever ready. You just have to do it.”
“We can’t really afford a baby,” she protested.
“Ha! And I can? You make do. You sacrifice. It is the greatest thing you will ever do, trust me.”
Tammy grabbed a marvelously cold bottle of chardonnay from the fridge. She cradled her phone between her ear and shoulder and dug through the drawer where she kept her wine key.
“Umm, that’s great for you. I don’t think it’s for me though.”
“What are you talking about?”
She poured straw-colored liquid to the rim of her wineglass.
“I don’t want to have kids. I never did. I’m tired of pretending that I do. I’m sick of the looks of pity that I get from women who have kids when I tell them I don’t—like I’m a failure. it’s bullshit. I made a choice not to have children. I’ve worked not to have children.”
The other end of the line was very quiet for a moment.
Then, “So what, am I some kind of asshole?”
“No. That’s what you’re saying. That I’m an idiot for having a kid.”
“That isn’t what I said. But I feel like I’d be an idiot if I had a kid, if I let myself be brainwashed by all the crap the media puts out.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You know, like the hundred movies they make every year. The couple says they don’t want kids, then, surprise, they get pregnant in the next scene, spend forty-five minutes debating, have the baby, and it turns out to be the greatest thing ever.”
“It’s a lie.”
“Screw you! You have problems!”
Tammy drank down a mouthful of the fruity chardonnay. She smiled.
“I do. But I’m not compounding them with children.”
“You need help!” Paula hung up
Tammy took another sip, loving how the cold wine warmed her insides. She picked up the pink envelope that had caused her so much stress only ten minutes before. She held it tightly and ripped it in half. Into the trash it went.
She called Jason.
“Hey, let’s go out for dinner tonight…”