Author: Andrea Goyan
In the stark examination room, I cradled Maxine. When I kissed her forehead, her bitty fingers grabbed my nose, and she giggled. My six-month-old miracle baby.
“There are worse things,” the doctor said.
I kissed her again. “I don’t think so.”
Penner Disease had come for my daughter. It was named for the scientist who’d found microbial evidence of the virus in Arctic glaciers. Cell by cell, it would destroy her, until she slipped away like the melting ice shelves that unearthed it in the first place.
But not before I loved her for 1,269 more days.
I spooned pureed vegetables into my almost four-year old’s mouth. “Swallow,” I said, wiping away the food that dripped from Maxine’s paralytic lips.
I changed her diapers.
“And I’m one of the lucky ones,” I murmured, repeating the empty words spoken to me at this month’s compulsory insemination. “Humanity’s hope.”
I rubbed ointment onto the lesions that bubbled on Maxine’s waist. She groaned, her face red, pained. I replaced her bandages.
Only eight percent of women on Earth can conceive. I’m one of them.
I sipped the secret herbal potion that rendered me infertile, by choice.
It was my life. My choice. Humanity be damned.
With Maxine fed and cleaned, we went outside. Slumped sideways in her wheelchair, her eyes lit up as she watched the birds.
I lifted her frail hand to point at them. “Spread your wings, little darlings. Be free.”
Maxine’s icy hand nestled in mine remained motionless. Despite a cloudless sky, warm wet drops moistened our skin. It wouldn’t be long now. A mother knows.