Stephanie Jimenez

stephanie jimenez headshot


Stephanie Jimenez is a writer from Queens, New York. Her work has appeared in Yes! Magazine, O The Oprah Magazine, Vol 1 Brooklyn, Entropy Magazine, Label Me Latino/a, Vibe, and is forthcoming in The Guardian. In 2016, she completed a novel-writing intensive at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and is working on her first novel. You can find her at @estefsays.

Girl miracle

         My first job was at a pediatrician’s office on a busy boulevard in Queens, New York, next to the Queens Center Mall. The doctor accepted all forms of insurance, and saw dozens of kids every day. During the summer months, he hired temps to help fill out the medical forms that the kids needed to enter school in September. I’d fill out the forms from the doctor’s computer while he sped across the exam rooms, and from my work station, I’d play the week’s episodes of DemocracyNow!. His office was used as a spillover waiting room for newborns too fragile to be kept with the older kids, and every time the newborn mothers came into the room, I’d lower the volume of the radio. I never knew what it was about me, but it’s like those new moms, with their sweatpants bunched at the ankles, hair swept up into buns at the nape of their neck, didn’t see me sitting there. On one of those afternoons, I learned what a placenta was. On another one, I learned about tears from here to there. Stitches that wouldn’t stay closed.
         I was a sophomore in high school, one of three kids, the only girl among them. That summer, I learned that having a baby meant destroying your body beyond recognition, and Mom had never bothered mentioning this to me, had gone on raising me as her only daughter without ever thinking that she might need to tell me how fucked up it was—truly fucked up it was—to live one’s life as a woman. What Mom did say was that I should wait till marriage like she did so I was on the NuvaRing, the most discreet form of birth control possible because it literally disappeared inside of me. Being a girl sucked so often, my boyfriend was a jerk, I felt fat all the time, and apparently childbirth was even worse than I thought—and it made me so mad that one day I came home from work at the doctor’s office in tears, and swore on my life I’d never give Mom a grandkid. No matter how much she’d ever beg me, I’d neverever have a kid, and it was as much an affirmation of the life I was going to live as it was a rebuttal of hers. 


         The first time I seriously thought I was pregnant, I was 20 years old, and an ocean away from Mom. Or, if I counted the point where the Indian met the Atlantic, a place I had recently visited with my study abroad program in Cape Town, then I was actually two oceans away. I was at a Nando’s Portuguese-style chicken with a couple of girls from my study abroad program. We had been in morning classes all day and as soon as we sat down at a table to wait for our food, I started to cry. By then, I had been off birth control for a while, and I hadn’t bled since I’d left my college campus in Los Angeles. We’d been in South Africa for three months and I had gained about ten pounds. I knew I was pregnant and would need to terminate. But we were in Cape Town for another three weeks and what was I going to do? I looked down at the receipt where they’d charged me 4 dollars for an order of coconut rice and a side of extra hot green sauce. I felt like I was going to throw up.
         One of the girls jumped up out of her seat and said she was going to the pharmacy. I waited with my head on the table and when she came back, I shook the whole way to the bathroom, shook while I peed on the stick, shook while a dribble of pee went onto my hand from all of that implacable shaking. I put the drenched test on the sink and paced from the door to the mirror and back, until I finally looked. I unlocked the bathroom door with a cautionary grin, dizzily made my way back to the table. Had I really just gotten fat? My friends reached over to hug me, and gestured to the portion of coconut rice, which they had retrieved for me while I was gone. I ate the whole thing, with the extra hot green sauce. I decided I would go on a diet as soon as I got back to New York. All of the rice stayed down. 
         That night, I went onto my Facebook and started writing a message, a jar of peanut butter and a silver spoon on the table, a reward for surviving another day so far away from home and so unexpectedly homesick. He was studying abroad too, he was in Kenya, and I knew it’d be hours, if not days until he’d be able to read what I wrote. I wrote a very long message, and I only remember the first line of it because he couldn’t stop talking about it afterwards. Don’t panic, I wrote, but I am not pregnant. Did you really think that I could read a sentence like that without panicking?  His response was immediate. 

         But it was true, there really was no reason to panic. On the plane back to New York, I got my first period in four months.  Immediately, I made an appointment at the gynecologist’s. Her office was close to the mall, not far from where I used to work at the pediatrician’s office when I was 15 and used to hide circles of hormones inside me. The gynecologist told me that everything was fine. She said I had a sensitive cycle, easily disturbed by stress, travel, weight gain, weight loss—some women, she said, are just like that. It’s good to know now, she said, now that you’re young. Wait, what do you mean? What I mean is that with a period that disappears for months at a time, you might have some trouble conceiving.
         I told my mom what happened. Nonsense, she said, no woman in my family has ever had trouble becoming pregnant. I tried to forget all about it. I broke up with my boyfriend, the one who studied in Kenya. I went on the diet I promised I’d go on while I was still abroad. During my senior year of college, I lost my period entirely. I ran all the time, I could feel all my bones. I had sex carelessly, never used contraception. A miracle! It was a miracle—made of no more than 900 calories a day. Cum inside me, I announced to boys, I don’t have a period, I swear you can do it. My hair fell out in their hands. I remembered my 15 year old self. I will not destroy my body, I promised, not by having a baby.
         A few years later, I was telling people flat out that I was infertile. I never knew what kind of reaction I wanted, but sometimes I saw that it made people sad, and eventually, I thought maybe I am sad too. I pinched my thighs, looked for the gap, impulsively felt for the bones of my rib cage. Maybe this is no miracle. There is something wrong with me.


         Last month, I was in a pharmacy during my lunch break. I walked to the Duane Reade because the cashier at CVS knows who I am, and says good morning to me every day. I walked in circles around the tampons and pads until I finally found what I was looking for. As I approached the counter, I also picked up a pack of Haribo Gummy Bears, just in case I needed the comfort. Back at work, I went straight up to the fifth floor. I tore open the box and pulled out the stick. This time, I don’t shake. This time, I am 26 years old. I do not need to call a friend. I do not need to tell the boy. The stick lays flat like a body reclining. I didn’t have a period for five years, but now they are back, and I’m here in a bathroom again. I watch as the result comes onto the screen.  
         How do you measure a woman’s worth anyway? Is it the way she handles her pregnancy scares? Is it the careful discipline she uses in choosing her meals, the way she spits out her next measly bite? Or is it how she recovers from unthinkable damage, stitches that never quite close? One day I’ll know what it truly means to live life as a woman. The screen only shows one of two options. I forget that I’m waiting, and then I remember.
         Not pregnant. Not pregnant. Not pregnant.

© The Acentos Review 2017