She still struggled with the word.
"Doctor we don't know if we can go through with this... procedure."
The doctor simply smiled.
"For many of my patients, it is tremendously difficult. I understand; it still isn't completely accepted in our society..."
His eyes rolled ever so slightly.
" with our held over religious notions that really mean nothing. It is simply about choice. Your choice."
His words were comforting. She needed them. Her husband needed them. She looked at Thomas. His head was in his hands and he said nothing, staring at the floor.
"We are stopping a beating heart. That is what some of our friends say."
He gave her a different smile which seemed to say: Do you know how many times I've heard that worn out line?
"Technically, of course, that is correct. But any intelligent person knows there is a difference. A big difference. How do we define when life really starts? I don't think we need to concern ourselves because some have outrageous definitions of this. Fortunately our society has become more enlightened...at least some have."
"But this would be late term."
"Late is relative. Many are later than this. You can actually go right up to the cut off line. Go past that, and then obviously we don't perform the procedure. That would be killing. I can't emphasize one word enough: choice. Your choice. You need to think about you, your emotional state as well as that of your family."
She nodded slowly, thinking.
"Yes. Our family. Our son Anthony has been so excited to finally have a brother. He's still so young. Just seven. What do we tell him? He'll be crushed."
"You need to tell him the truth."
The doctor had an almost evangelical fervor to his words.
"The truth is so important here. It is time that our society quits blaming mothers, blaming parents for making a choice. Parents need to feel certain that they can care for these children in the long term, that they have sufficient love, emotional energy, and of course, financial resources. Children cost."
She nodded again.
"Thomas just got less hours at the plant. I know this sounds so...superficial."
She was crying now, speaking between sobs.
"My family goes on a big vacation every year. We've done it since I was a child. We need the extra money, or we won't be able to go. We can't make it with two children."
It was so difficult to actually say it. The doctor seemed to pounce on her words.
"Don't you see? This is exactly what I mean. All this stress, guilt, emotion. For what? You're tearing yourself up simply for making a choice. You are the important person here. It is just a procedure."
She didn't know what else to say.
"We can continue to talk if you need it. However, I have found that just getting in and doing it is the best thing. It will take you a little while to get over it. But you will. Can we do it?"
She looked at her husband.
Tears streamed down his cheeks. He still hadn't raised his head. She saw the slightest nod.
Her voice was a whisper.
The doctor grabbed her hand and squeezed.
"Let me tell you something. You are a hero to me. A hero for your courage."
The drive home was silent. Thomas didn't say a word. She looked out the window at the slowly drizzling rain and thought. Already she missed him more than she imagined possible.
Thomas paid the babysitter while she made her way to Anthony's room.
He was a beautiful boy with green eyes and sandy brown hair, just like... She wasn't going there.
She forced a smile on her lips.
"How were things with Suzette?"
"They were fine. When do I get to stay home by myself? I can take care of myself. And Tommy too. Where's Tommy?"
What was she supposed to say? She'd been over this in her mind a thousand times in the last month. And now it was blank. She remembered the Doctor's words.
"Tommy is gone, Tony."
"Where did he go? How come he always gets to go places I don't get to go?"
He didn't understand. She couldn't drag this out.
"Tommy is never coming back. He's dead."
Tony's face froze.
She grabbed him and held him. Her words came fast.
"It was just a procedure Tony. Sometimes parents decide to have procedures on their children Tony. Tommy wasn't really alive yet. You have to have eight birthdays before you're really alive. He was only five. Sometimes Moms and Dads can't have so many children. Do you understand?"
She was sobbing again.
Tony was just staring straight ahead, face blank.
"This will make it better for you. And for Mom and Dad. Tomorrow we can get you the Action Ranger you want. And this summer we'll get to go to our family vacation with Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Ross. All of that comes from the procedure. It helped Mom and Dad a lot."
"How soon is my birthday?"
His face was still frozen, but she was relieved that he was thinking of something else.
"You just had it two months ago, honey. You still have ten more months to go. But you'll get lots of presents."
He continued to stare straight ahead. She ruffled his hair.
"I'm going to talk with Daddy now. If you need to talk more, come in and see us."
He nodded his head; she knew he was fighting back tears.
She walked to the door.
"Is Daddy going to get laid off?"
He must have heard them talking about it.
"I'm sure he won't. He is too good of a worker."
She tried to sound confident.
He nodded again and continued to stare.
She turned to go out the door. She didn't even want to think about if Thomas lost his job.