She was a pretty young lady. Tattoos peeking out from under her clothes, make up well done – eyeliner was winged in a way I could never hope to pull off. Not yet in her orange scrubs that prisoners wore, which was unusual but it was owing to the booking officers being too busy to get her fully booked in before I was ready to do her medical screening.
“I’ll need you to pee for me. We have to do pregnancy tests on all women that come into the jail.” I always offered this explanation immediately to save time and save them any paranoia as to why I wanted their urine. This tactic works about 75% of the time.
She took the urine cup from my hand and started walking towards the toilet behind the privacy wall that I silently indicated towards. She stopped suddenly and turned to ask if I would tell her the results.
“Of course,” I nodded.
“How long will it take to find out?”
“It only takes about three minutes, we’ll have the results before I’m even done with you.”
“Oh, okay good,” she responded.
I stepped back to the doorway of the cell to give her the semblance of more privacy as I asked her if she thought she might be pregnant. She didn’t know, but let me know she had been thinking her period seemed to be late.
She hesitated, “I’m… I’m just not sure.”
“Okay, well we’ll find out soon enough.”
When she was done, I indicated for her to sit while I dipped the pregnancy test in the urine. Then, as I removed my gloves and sanitized my hands, I told her I’d be getting her vitals and asking her a bunch of questions.
She was agreeable, but within a couple of minutes then she heard that her grandmother was almost done with her business around the corner at the booking desk. This young lady and her grandmother had both been arrested together, the grandmother was able to bond out, but the young lady in front of me wasn’t allowed to bond out and had remain in jail on a probation hold.
She yelled out to her grandmother to have her call her parole officer, after some back and forth between the both of them the officers told them to stop so we could all get back to our jobs. While she had been distracted, I took a moment to look at the test strip.
Once she settled back into her seat and turned her attention back to me, I started again by telling her “Ma’am, you are pregnant.”
She stood up quickly, gasping. Her hand flew to her mouth and tears were almost instantaneously welling in her perfectly wing-tipped eyes.
Oooh noooo, I thought. She’s gonna have a break down.
With her voice cracking she asked me if I was serious.
She took her hand down slightly and whispered “I’m so happy.”
Thank the gods.
“Can I see?”
“Sure, it’s right over there,” I gestured.
She hurried over to it and looked, then looked back at me. “This means I’m pregnant?”
“Yes, see the two purple lines? Two means pregnant.”
“Can you tell me how far along I am,” she asked genuinely.
“No, I can’t tell with this test. You will need to have a confirmation appointment with an OB/GYN and have an ultrasound to find out that information.”
She lifted her shirt slightly and put her hand to her stomach and looked down. “There’s a baby in here?” She looked back up at me. “Really?”
I smiled at her and nodded in affirmation.
She heard her grandmother getting up and the officer telling her she was free to go. She ran to the door of the cell and leaned out, excitable.
“Grammy! Grammy! I’m PREGNANT!”
“WHAT?! OH MY GOD, WHEN… HOW?” The grandmother shouted back.
“I DON’T KNOW… THEY JUST TOLD ME! Grammy! I’m PREGNANT!”
“Alright, that’s enough,” the officer said. “Get back in there so the nurse can do her job.”
“Ok, ok… Grammy don’t tell Linda, ok?”
She turned back into the cell then turned right around again and stuck her head back out to shout as her grandmother rounded the corner, “Grammy! I don’t know whose it is!”
“That’s enough!” The officer yelled.
She turned her attention back to me, calming down. She asked me quietly, “can I even be pregnant in jail? How can I be pregnant in jail?”
“Don’t worry about that,” I said. “We have pregnant ladies all the time. As you are on a probation hold, I doubt you will be here for more than a few days… But in the case that you’re here longer we have protocols for taking care of pregnancies. We will get your OB GYN appointments set up for you, transport you and all that. Regardless we have a pregnancy diet and prenatal vitamins we’ll start you on. We will take care of you.”
*Some details have been slightly changed to ensure privacy