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Prenatal Care and Lessons from Reinhold Niebuhr

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              Jeff was frozen where he stood in the entryway of his apartment. His brain had gone fuzzy. Pregnant? Had Annie just said pregnant? There was no way. He must have heard her wrong because pregnant was not part of the plan. Marriage had just recently become part of the plan and he was still wrapping his head around that.

              “Jeff?” Annie asked again, taking a step towards him.

              He swallowed hard and focused on his fiancé standing in front of him. She was here. She had gotten on a plane and flown all the way to Colorado to see him. Now she was standing in front of him looking very worried. “Um. What?”

              “I’m pregnant,” she repeated.

              “Are you sure?”

              She went from concerned to frustrated in record time. “Of course I’m sure!” she shot back. “I took six tests, I’m pretty damn sure!”

              This was so not part of the plan. Jeff took a few steps back and tried to think of something else to say, but the static hadn’t cleared from his mind yet. He had nothing.

              “Well, say something!” Annie demanded.

              Jeff shook his head back and forth. “I’m freaking out.” It was all he could say.

              “You can’t freak out! I’m freaking out! You already have a kid! I’m the one who should be freaking out!”

              “Tyler is different!” Jeff froze again as soon as the words were out of his mouth. He cut his eyes to Tyler’s closed bedroom door. The kid was supposed to be asleep, but if they had woken him up, his room was easily within earshot of where they stood. This was not a conversation he wanted his son overhearing.

              Jeff reached out and grabbed Annie by the elbow, leading her into his bedroom and shutting the door behind them.

              “Jeff,” Annie said his name again as he shut the door. “I went from a soon-to-be step-mom to a soon-to-be-mom overnight. One of us has to be calm right now and I am guaranteeing you it is not going to be me.”

              He turned his back on the door and faced her. She was looking at him with wide, pleading eyes, her hands pressed against her stomach like she was still grasping the concept herself.

              He took a deep breath. “Okay,” he said, mentally steadying himself. “Okay, I think I can do calm.”

              “I like order. I like structure. I like things to go according to plan.” Annie shook her head. “Spontaneity is fun every now and then, but an unplanned pregnancy is way too spontaneous for me.”

              She moved to sit on the edge of Jeff’s bed and Jeff moved with her, sitting beside her in silence while she panicked. “I have a contract with the FBI. New recruits have a three year commitment. I don’t have a choice. I have to keep working there for the next year and a half.”

              Jeff knew his part in this was to just listen. On the outside he projected calm, but on the inside, he was still neck deep in panic.

              “This was not the plan,” Annie said.

              No, this was not the plan.


              Jeff slept restlessly. It seemed like he woke up at least once every hour. He just couldn’t seem to stay asleep. Beside him, Annie hardly seemed to stir. She was out cold. More than once he found himself leaning over her to check her breathing, just to be sure.

              He opened his eyes to see soft light pouring in through the blinds of his bedroom window. It was early. He gently extended his arm underneath the sheets, searching, but found Annie’s side of the bed empty. He rolled over and looked around. She wasn’t in the room. He was just sitting up to get a better look when he heard the sound of gagging coming from behind the closed bathroom door.

              He crossed the room and knocked gently on the door before peeking inside. “Annie?” She was kneeling on the bathroom floor with her head positioned over the toilet. Her hair was pulled up into a messy ponytail, held in place by her right hand.

              She looked up when Jeff opened the door and groaned, her voice echoing off the tile. “I’m sorry. I’m okay. Go back to sleep.”

              Jeff stood in the doorway of the bathroom for a moment before moving inside and joining her on the floor. He leaned against the wall and reached out for her, gingerly drawing her close so that she was resting against his side.

              “Sorry,” she apologized again.


              She shrugged.

              He didn’t press. Instead he asked, “How do you feel?”

              She silently traced the tile on floor for a moment before she spoke, keeping her eyes down. “I’m fine now. I just woke up feeling sick. I didn’t think – It was unexpected.”

              Jeff watched her as she nervously traced the lines of grout on the bathroom floor rather than look up at him. “Morning sickness?” he asked gently.

              She nodded. “I think so.” She sighed and leaned back so that her head rested against the wall. “Jeff?”


              “Are you going to be mad if I tell you that I’m kind of happy? I mean… I meant what I said. Having a baby out of wedlock with over a year left at work was not part of my five-year plan. But… I think I’m okay with that.”

              “No,” Jeff answered immediately. “I’m not mad. Still a little confused, but not mad.”

              “Confused about what?”

              Jeff hesitated. He was confused about a lot of things. How to feel for one. And how to proceed from here. This was feeling like a very strange dream to him right now. He couldn’t quite get his head around it. Whenever he tried, his thoughts would turn to static again. It was all just so overwhelming.

              “We can do this, right?” Annie asked, drawing him out of his spiraling thoughts. “We can make this work.”

              Before Jeff could respond, Annie was lunging for the toilet again.

              “You should go,” she said into the toilet bowl before she retched, her body tensing as she threw up.

              Jeff shifted to his knees and reached out to her, gathering her long brown hair into his hands and holding it back away from her face. “We can make this work.”


              Annie stayed hidden in Jeff’s bedroom while Tyler got ready for school. Jeff wanted to keep Tyler in the dark about the news for as long as he could and Annie’s presence would only raise questions. Jeff tried to play it as cool as possible, but he was sure Tyler saw through it. The kid was alarmingly perceptive, especially when it was most inconvenient. He could feel Tyler’s eyes on him the entire drive to school and he knew there would be no escaping the questions later.

              He returned home after dropping Tyler off and found Annie already dressed and waiting for him on the couch. She looked up as he entered the apartment. “You’re not going to work?” she asked.

              Jeff shot her a look before sitting down heavily next to her on the couch, looking exhausted.

              She nodded. “Fair point.”

              Jeff leaned his head back and closed his eyes. He had hardly slept at all last night. He supposed that would be his new normal in about nine months. His eyes sprung open at the thought and he sat forward with his face in his hands. The numbness that had been protecting him was suddenly gone and full on panic had replaced it. Annie was pregnant. He was forty-three and his twenty-six-year-old fiancé was pregnant.

              “My flight leaves in two hours,” Annie said suddenly, breaking the silence in the room and pulling Jeff out of the mental tailspin he was in. “I booked a ticket while you were gone. I need to get back.”

              “Right.” Jeff took a deep breath, attempting to re-center himself, and stood up, offering Annie his hand. “We should probably get going then.”

              Annie looked up at him. “I wasn’t – You don’t have to drive me. I can take an Uber.”

              Jeff rolled his eyes and grabbed her hand, hauling her to her feet. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he muttered, turning to head for the door, her hand still clasped tightly in his. “I always drive you to the airport.”


              Jeff and Annie stood silently on the curb outside the departures zone of the airport. They were unfortunately very familiar with this spot. Annie visited as often as she could, but being an FBI agent was a demanding job. Her free time was few and far between.

              Annie looked around like she was lost. She had no suitcase to hold and it was throwing her off. In her haste to get to Colorado, she hadn’t packed a bag. She had borrowed one of Jeff’s button-ups to wear on the trip back.

              “I’m sorry,” Annie said, still looking lost.

              “For what?”

              She gestured at herself. “I know this is… Not what you had in mind.”

              “Why are you sorry? I thought you were happy.”

              She shifted uncomfortably. “But you’re not,” she said, speaking to the sidewalk.

              Well, that wasn’t what he wanted. “Don’t be sorry.” Jeff took both of her hands in his and squeezed. “Just because I’m not there yet doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy. It’s just a lot to think about.”

              He watched her shoulders relax as the tension left her body. He had said the magic words. She looked up at him, the beginnings of hopeful excitement glimmering behind her pale blue eyes. “I know,” she said. “This is crazy.”

              “It’s insane,” Jeff agreed.

              “I called my doctor as soon as the first test was positive. I have an appointment on Friday. I’ll keep you updated.”

              “What time?” Jeff asked.

              Annie furrowed her brow. “What time what?”

              “What time is your appointment? I’ll be there.”

              “You want to come to Washington? To go to the doctor with me?”

              Jeff shrugged. “Well, yeah.”

              Annie’s right hand flew to her mouth as tears began to pool in her eyes. She kept her left hand in Jeff’s, squeezing tightly.

              Jeff’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Are you – Are you crying?”

              Annie nodded silently, her hand still pressed against her lips.

              “Why? What’s wrong?”

              “I don’t know!” Annie sobbed, leaning forward so that her forehead was pressed against his chest, her tears wetting the front of his shirt.

              Jeff bewilderedly wrapped his free arm around her, stroking her hair in an attempt to comfort her. “Um…”

              “I’m okay,” she said into his shirt. “I just need a second.”

              A few moments later she stood up straight, wiping her tears away with the pads of her fingers. She seemed calmer, but Jeff still looked concerned. “You sure you’re okay?” he asked.

              She nodded and gave him a sheepish smile before reaching into her pocket for her phone. She checked the time and sighed. “Sorry to cry all over you and then dash, but I have to go.”

              Jeff patted the damp spot she had left on his chest. “It’s alright. Wouldn’t want you to miss your plane.” He stepped forward to give her one last hug. “See you on Friday,” he said, eyeing her warily, half expecting the waterworks to start again.

              She smiled and stood on tip toes to kiss him once on the lips. “See you on Friday,” she repeated.