Baby Dreaming

Published on April 19th, 2018 | by Juanita E. Mantz



I bought the electronic pregnancy test at Walmart. I was three days late and I had to pee so I ran into the bathroom with my cart, almost running over an elderly blue-haired lady on her walker.

I have never been good at waiting. One Christmas many moons ago, my sisters and I discovered our Christmas presents in the attic and opened them early and re-wrapped them. This would be the best present of all, I thought, as I entered the dirty stall with writing on the blue walls and torn toilet paper and seat covers on the floor. With teeth bared, I tore open the plastic wrapping and pulled down my pants and underwear in one fell swoop and peed on the pink stick. Pants pulled up, hand on my chin, I sat on the toilet and waited. And waited. I felt as if I had been waiting forever. Forever and ever. I waitressed my way through junior college after dropping out of high school five credits short to take my GED. Then undergrad and finally, USC Law School. Next thing I know, I’m thirty and working at a large law firm with horrific hours staring out a high rise window during my most fertile years. After I left the big firm for government work, I was ready for a baby but my husband wanted to finish dental school. He graduated when I was thirty-five and he was thirty-two. We started trying immediately.

We thought we had all the time in the world. We were wrong.

We tried and tried for eight years. Next, IVF and thousands upon thousands of dollars in fertility treatments, and donor eggs. All we had to show for it was one traumatizing miscarriage and heartache. At forty-three, I knew the odds were not good. Yet, I refused to give up. And every month, I crossed my fingers, eyes, and toes.

I knew I would be the best mom. I wouldn’t yell, scream or throw things like my mom had. I would never come home drunk like my dad had.

Shivering with eagerness I stared at the test stick and tried to will the “yes” into being. I imagined screaming over the phone to Adrian, “We did it, we made a baby!” He would come home and cry and so would I and we would hold each other tight jumping in the air together as one unit. A family.

The small symbol on the pink stick blinked and blinked. Maybe it was defective, I thought. I daydreamed of the cool clothes I would buy. I would dress my child in black and white striped dresses and animal print and punk rock mini t-shirts. I would play “Asleep” by The Smiths and “Lullaby” by The Cure for the baby while I rocked her.

The last baby shower I had been to had been bittersweet. All of my happiness for my colleague had been marred by the rock in my chest. Watching all of the mothers with their babies, I tried to swallow the lump in my throat. Finally, it was all too much and I had to excuse myself. When I got home, I cried in the bathtub for hours.

Damn it. Why was that stupid twelve-dollar stick still blinking? Twelve dollars seemed like a lot, but I needed it to be a dependable answer. The day before, I had almost bought a test at the 99 cent store, but changed my mind knowing with certainty that 99 cents was way too cheap to rely on. As I peeked out the crack of the door frame to check on my cart loaded with Diet Coke, soup, and crackers, I imagined Adrian, me, and the baby in our house in North Fontana. I would cook for us. The baby would cry and I would smile, not minding it at all; her cries the sound I had been waiting and hoping for. It had taken mountains to be moved and miracles, but she was here. Finally.

I thought back to the day in the doctor’s office last year after months of hormone treatments and then the implantation and then the positive test only to hear the doctor tell me there was no heartbeat. “The baby is gone,” the doctor had said in a matter of fact voice and my heart had broken into pieces.

The stick blinked one more time and I said a small prayer in my head. There are no atheists in Walmart bathroom stalls. “Look, I know God that I have asked for a lot and you have given me so much,” I whispered silently in my head, “But just give me this too.”

The answer came as silent as my prayers and the word stood out sharply in black bold font in stark definition against the grey background of the digital stick. “No”.

I threw it into the silver receptacle. Stupid stick. I hate Walmart. It was one thing to sit here in the stall and take a pregnancy test, but I was above crying in a dirty Walmart bathroom stall. Wasn’t I?

No, I certainly was not.

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About the Author

Juanita E. Mantz grew up in the Inland Empire. She is a writer, performer and deputy public defender in Riverside specializing in mental health law. Her stories and essays have been published in numerous literary journals and magazines including The Acentos Review, The James Franco Review, As/Us, Inlandia Journal, and Bitch magazine. She is a four-time participant in VONA’s Summer Writing Workshop and is hard at work on her memoir in progress, “My Inland Empire: Hometown Stories”. You can read her blog at  She is a proud resident of San Bernardino and loves punk rock music.

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