From the June 2021 issue of CHM

Cool gel made a sloppy sound as the technician expelled it onto the subtle bulge. Evelyn couldn’t help but twitch. Offering an apologetic smile, the ultrasound tech began running the little machine over the goo to spread it over her abdomen.

“This is your first pregnancy?” the technician asked.

Evelyn nodded. Her nerves must have been showing. She’d never had the same technician twice, and they always asked which pregnancy she was on. This technician sounded particularly sympathetic, so she could only imagine what her face was like.

“And this is the ultrasound before the big decision, huh?” The technician paused. She took Evelyn’s hand and gave it a tiny squeeze, meant to be reassuring. The vinyl glove against her skin just reminded Evelyn of how clinical it all was. “How old are you?”

“Twenty.”

“Oh, wow,” the technician whistled. “You got started much later than most people.”

Evelyn hadn’t known a single girl throughout high school and college who hadn’t been pregnant at least once before. She envied them; the choice seemed simple, obvious when you were young. Teenagers didn’t have the means to support a child. It was easier not to get attached. It was tougher once you left school and had the means to support yourself.

Evelyn wasn’t quite there yet. She was still in college, but plenty of her classmates had one or two children. They’d spent more time pregnant than not. It wasn’t fear that had prevented Evelyn from getting into the same condition, more so a lack of interest. She’d just been too busy for sex, too selective with her partners.

“I’ve had ten pregnancies,” the technician disclosed. The gentle thump, thump, thump of the baby’s heartbeat on the monitor was distracting. “I kept four of them. My personal philosophy is to always give more than you keep, you know?”

“My mom says something like that,” Evelyn said. “She only kept my brother and me.”

“Was she pregnant often?”

“Almost always,” Evelyn answered. She managed half of a smile. “She’s one of the most compassionate women in the world, my mom.”

“I bet she’s weighing in a lot, then?” The technician smiled. “World needs more people like your mother, though. I just feel sick every time I hear about countries full of starving kids. It’s horrible to think some mothers are just that selfish. They’d rather keep a kid and let them go hungry, instead of offering them up for the Food Drive like everyone else.”

Evelyn nodded in agreement, folding her hands under her breasts. She happened to agree with the technician, even though part of her railed against the thought of giving birth to her own meal.

No, they wouldn’t do that. The Government controlled the Food Drive with strict regulations. Parents were never forced to eat their own children.

“Active little thing, isn’t it?” The technician chortled. “Baby’s making it hard to get a good picture! They’re moving around a lot, can you feel it?”

“A little.”

“I’m going to use a little more of the gel. Sorry, I know it’s cold.”

“It’s all right,” Evelyn replied. The technician squeezed more goop just above the tissue towel preserving her modesty.

“Once we’re finished here, it should only be ten minutes before your OB sees you. Though, it might be closer to fifteen,” the technician admitted. “I think he’s running behind today. Did you want me to put in a request for a counselor, as well? Just in case you need to talk through anything, understand any parts of the process that might be confusing…”

“No, I should be fine.”

It was a lie. Evelyn had no idea what she wanted to do.

Meat was an extremely precious commodity in a world that couldn’t get it anywhere else. Humans weren’t just the dominant species; they were the only species made of muscle and fat, and science had only come so far in manufacturing protein akin to it. This was her first pregnancy, and writing off the baby felt like the right thing to do.

She knew it wouldn’t be pleasant, if that’s the route she went down. Sure, she’d be well compensated, she might even get enough from the baby to make a dent in her student loans. Everyone around her would tell her that it was the right thing to do. ‘Nobody keeps their first’, her mother had once said.

But pregnancy wasn’t a fun thing to go through with no real reward at the end. Evelyn had been going through horrendous morning sickness, and the mood swings had her distracted to the point of detriment. Her tolerance for pain wasn’t anything to write home about either, so the prospect of giving birth filled her with dread.

If she traditionally birthed a baby bound for the Food Drive, it would be a difficult labour. That was guaranteed. Babies for the Drive were deliberately grown bigger, and one of the reasons she’d need to have her decision made by today was to know whether or not she’d be put on the necessary hormones to stimulate fetal growth.

There was no way she was getting out of this without a scar. It was just up in the air whether it would be a cesarean or an episiotomy.

Keeping the baby, though… She didn’t know whether or not she could handle the judgment. Her mother wouldn’t approve, that was for sure. Evelyn’s mom volunteered down at a group called Drive For The Destitute, which promoted back-to-back pregnancies in order to farm enough food to properly feed poor families. She’d never said so, but Evelyn knew she’d always been a little disappointed that she hadn’t gotten pregnant at fourteen.

She was also still in college. There was so much work to be done. She couldn’t even imagine balancing a course load with changing diapers. She was in pharmaceuticals, that wasn’t the kind of schooling you could neglect for anything.

The thing was, Evelyn liked children. Not just slow-cooked or barbecued, but the ones people kept in order to populate the Earth. She loved their open innocence, their imagination, their energy. She could easily imagine herself lying on the carpet surrounded by blocks and stuffed animals, clapping and laughing while her child learned to crawl. She knew she would melt the first time her baby smiled at her, or called her ‘mommy’.

It was hypocritical and strange, but she was unsettled by the prospect of someone slaughtering her child.

Evelyn redressed when the ultrasound was finished, thanking her technician robotically while her mind was miles away. She shouldered her purse and did up her jeans, then wandered back out to the waiting room. Easing into a chair, Evelyn looked up at the electronic clock on the wall.

She had ten minutes, thereabouts, to make a decision.

This was ridiculous. It had only been three months. She shouldn’t be attached to this fetus—it didn’t have a personality yet, didn’t even have awareness. It couldn’t love her.

She wanted to love it, though. Love them.

Evelyn released a sigh loud enough that another pregnant woman looked up at her from across the room. She had to think rationally. Clear her head. Deep down, she knew what decision she should make. She took her hands off her baby bump, eyes ruefully downcast.

Another mouth to feed. Taking without giving. What right did she have?

There would be other pregnancies. Other children. Maybe she’d be finished with school, living in a house of her own with a husband she could rely on to pass on good genes. If she wanted to have a family of her own one day, she wanted to prove to herself that she was the kind of person who’d care for somebody else, first.

There was no better way to help her fellow man than by giving them something to eat.

End.

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