Do You Love Me? Will You Love Me Forever?

While I was lazing my life away sleeping during the day and working during the night, all the rest of the kids in my family were going to school at Bishop Ryan Catholic School. Tonia seemed to be doing well, making new friends. I don’t know how the other kids were doing–if Joyce told me anything when she called during the day, I was too groggy to remember. I do remember going to a parents’ breakfast with Jerome Michael because Joyce and Jerome couldn’t get off work. I mostly remember because of two things: Jerome Michael and I had absolutely nothing to talk about. And there were two drinks offered at the breakfast: milk and black coffee. I find both utterly disgusting. 

Tonia started dating a boy whose parents were kind of bigwigs at the school because they owned a printing company in town and did printing for the school for free or at a nice discount. About three months after I found out I was pregnant again, Tonia told Joyce she wanted to go on the pill so Joyce made an appointment for her at the clinic on base. And that’s how they found out Tonia was pregnant. At the time I thought Tonia got pregnant on purpose because she couldn’t stand that Joyce and Jerome were no longer focused on her, but on the imminent first grandchild. 

In the years since Tonia’s surprise pregnancy I’ve changed my mind about its reasons and her motivations. IF Tonia got pregnant on purpose, it had nothing to do with me and everything to do with her desire to be loved. If her pregnancy led to marriage, she’d have a husband to love her forever. And if it didn’t then she’d still have the baby to love her forever. I also think Tonia wouldn’t have gotten pregnant on purpose in high school because of Larry and his stupid mean prediction. 

But she was pregnant and didn’t believe in abortion, so now–as always–she carried on. Joyce told Tonia that if she kept the baby, she, Joyce, would quit her job and stay home to take care of the baby so Tonia could continue with her school and graduate. She said she didn’t want Tonia to be a high school dropout like she herself was. When the Catholic school learned Tonia was pregnant, they called Joyce, Jerome, and Tonia to a meeting in the office. The principal said they could not have an unwed teenage mother attending their school and so Tonia was going to have to withdraw.

Joyce looked around the office and asked where Boyfriend and his parents were. The principal said they had nothing to do with this situation. Joyce blinked at him and then asked if he was suggesting that Tonia had gotten herself pregnant. She wondered if that meant Tonia was going to have a virgin birth and if that was so, could Tonia be carrying the second coming of Christ? What did the principal think Jesus would have to say about his mother being kicked out of Catholic school?

The principal said of course he didn’t think Tonia had gotten herself pregnant, or that she was carrying the baby Jesus, about to be reborn. But Tonia would be visibly pregnant and the boy would not, so Tonia would have to withdraw. Joyce said she thought that was an interesting take on the situation. She wondered if the Minot Daily News would think it was interesting too. She wondered what the school board would think of his reasoning, and also what the priests and congregation at the Catholic church in town would think of the situation. Joyce then explained in clear terms that if Tonia was kicked out of school, the father of the child would also be kicked out of school, or they would all find out what everyone else thought of the situation. Either Tonia and the boy would both withdraw from the school, or Tonia and the boy would both remain.

Tonia remained in the school. She even attended prom with a group of her girlfriends, about 8 months pregnant. The boy wanted nothing to do with Tonia or the baby. Neither did his parents.

The closer Tonia got to giving birth, the more excited Joyce became about raising the baby. The more Joyce talked about staying home with the baby, the more uneasy Tonia became. AJ was delivered C-section because she tried to be born butt first and refused to turn. Joyce was in the delivery room and was the first to hold the baby. Tonia decided she was giving the baby up for adoption.

The baby daddy refused to sign the adoption papers. He wanted his name off of everything to do with the child. He insisted it wasn’t his. When Tonia left the hospital, the baby stayed behind, waiting for the daddy to sign so she could be adopted. Tonia kept visiting the baby, unable to bear the thought of the poor little thing being all alone. It took less than a week for Tonia to decide she couldn’t let her baby go and she brought AJ home. 

Tonia requested child support from the baby daddy. He refused to speak to her. Tonia had to take him to court. He told the judge he didn’t think the baby was his–it could belong to anybody. He told the judge that he and several of his friends had all slept with Tonia the week she conceived. He got those friends to tell the judge they had all slept with Tonia. Tonia told the judge they were all lying; that she had been in love with the baby daddy and that’s why she’d had sex with him. 

The judge took the boys into his chambers and explained to them what perjury is. He explained to them that if they were found guilty of perjury, the punishment was a heavy fine and/or jail time of up to 5 years. They might even find it hard to get into college or get a decent-paying job. Then he took everyone back into court and asked everyone to tell him once more who had slept with Tonia. Baby Daddy found out his friends would do anything for love, but they wouldn’t do that. 

He paid child support until AJ turned 18.

Tonia finished her senior year of high school and Joyce quit her job to become the baby’s primary caregiver. A struggle that would continue for almost two decades began: who did AJ belong to?


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