She walked into the office that morning already feeling a little depressed and low on confidence. She had too much on her mind. Years ago, as a young woman in her teens and early twenties, when she told people she decided to major in English in college, people would always ask, “What are you going to do? Teach English like your mom?” She would laugh and respond emphatically, “HELL no! I refuse to turn into my mother.” Not that turning into her mother would necessarily be a bad thing. In fact, her mom was an inspiration to her and one of the most well respected teachers at the local community college. It’s just not what she had in mind for her future at a young age. She was going to utilize her talent for writing and become a world famous journalist. Now, at the age of 36, she worked at the exact same local community college her mom had worked for thirty years until she retired just a few years ago. Administrative assistant to the vice chancellor by day, adjunct instructor of developmental English by night, she had to laugh at exactly HOW much she was her mother now. Most days she loved her job and loved coming to work, but today was not one of those days. Her mom warned her when she started this job that teaching developmental English was an emotional roller coaster with highs and lows that few people can understand. There were the highs in the seven years she had been teaching. The moments where a student passed the exit exam at the end of the semester, cried because she was so happy, and then told her, “Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I didn’t think I could do it, and I did!” Those are moments she lived for, where her passion for her job was confirmed, and when she recognized she was in the right place in her life.But those moments seemed to be fewer and further between lately. It was still early in the semester, and it had been one hell of a semester already. The new student registration system was supposed to make things easier in theory. And, if the system hadn’t crashed the week of registration, it might have. But all it did was leave students, faculty, and staff frustrated beyond belief. Not to mention Hurricane Kevin halted classes for a week, so now they were all behind. The truth was it was more than all of that. Her class had no energy, and she could not figure out how to reach them. She was beginning to feel ineffective as a teacher. If she could just make a difference in some small way in one of their lives, it would all be worth it. But it had been a long time since she felt she had actually done that. She was beginning to doubt herself as a teacher for the first time. This class just seemed so unmotivated. But wasn’t that her job to motivate them? Why couldn’t she do that? Why couldn’t she reach just one of them in some small way? Make a difference in one of their lives somehow, someway? Any kind of way! Isn’t that why she became a teacher in the first place? It was beginning to feel pointless to even care anymore.Just the night before, one of her students actually asked when he should use a comma at the top. “I’m sorry? A comma at the top?” was the only response she could initially think of in the moment. What the hell was a comma at the top?“You know, like, sometimes you write its with no comma at the top and sometimes you write it’s with a comma at the top,” the student said.“Well,” she said slowly once she recognized what the student was actually talking about, trying not to both laugh and cry at the same time, “Let’s start with clarifying what we call that. It’s called an apostrophe.” Later on that same class, she wrote the words “a lot” on the board. “A lot. It’s two words” she told the class. “You lying Ms. Winters!” one of her students had cried out from the back of the room. Jesus help me! She thought to herself in that moment. Yes. I am lying. It’s a little practical joke I like to play on my students. So she already wasn’t in the best of moods that morning. Before she even sat down at her desk, Kasey walked in the office. Great, she thought to herself. She’s the last person I want to see this morning.“Liz, can I possibly get an appointment on Dana’s calendar sometime this week?” Kasey asked. That would be fine…if her name was, in fact, Liz.“My name is not…” she started to say, then stopped herself as she realized it was pointless. What she wanted to scream was, “MY NAME IS BETH DAMMIT!! Every day for five years, I have told you my name is BETH!! The FUCKING NAME PLATE on my desk says BETH! The B on the necklace that I wear every day doesn’t stand for bitch, you know!” But instead Beth just smiled and said, “Would Thursday at 9:00 a.m. work?” so Kasey would leave the office. That’s who she was most of the time these days- smiling on the outside, screaming on the inside. After Kasey left, Beth opened her e-mail. She clicked on an e-mail from one of her students and read it in disbelief. It was filled with errors in grammar and spelling that would have made her cringe on that fact alone if the words were not so shocking. She read it again to make sure she was reading it right:“Can I be honest with u I have a serious drug problem. I’m hooked on meth. I’m to embarrassed to tell anyone I am really only in school for the financial aid money for drugs. I cant stop. I have a two month old baby at home. Please call cps. Sometimes my baby goes days without eating. There is people cooking meth in my house every day. I dont know what to do. Please help me save my baby.” A million thoughts raced through Beth’s mind. Was this real? Was this a hoax? Why would she send this to Beth of all people? This student attended class exactly once on the first night and Beth had not seen or heard from her since. Why would she send this to virtually a complete stranger? Did this girl send an e-mail like this to all of her teachers, or was it just Beth? Maybe she watched too many Lifetime movies, but Beth knew e-mail was easy enough to hack into. Maybe someone was trying to ruin this girl’s life? A jealous ex-girlfriend of the baby’s father? What if this baby was perfectly fine and she called child protective services and got them involved in this girl’s life for no reason? What if she didn’t call child protective services and there really was a baby in a meth house not eating for days somewhere? That thought haunted her even more. Was there even a baby at all?She struggled with what to do, but only for a moment. Her mom told her when she started teaching to not go into it thinking she could save them all. She said, “Beth, I know you. You are just like me. Your biggest problem is going to be that you are going to care a little too much, get a little too involved emotionally with your students. You are going to want to save them all from everything. You can’t.” She had learned with time her mom’s advice was true. But she HAD to save this one. She had to save this baby. Within twenty minutes, there was no turning back on her decision. Beth reported the e-mail to Barry, the mental health counselor on campus. He was on the phone almost immediately with child protective services and the wheels were in motion. And though she knew she made the right decision, the e-mail continued to haunt her. She kept asking herself that one question over and over- why her? There was no way this student could know why that e-mail haunted Beth so much. She and Jeremy had been trying to find a way to have a baby for almost two years. It’s just about all they talked about. It’s not like Jeremy went into their marriage blindly. He knew before they got married Beth couldn’t have children. But they figured it was something they would deal with later when they were ready. They were ready now and had been for a while. For almost two years, there had been endless discussions of the options. Should they try IVF via egg donation or adopt? There was no simple answer, no clear right decision. There were visits to a fertility clinic and the endless tests they ran, countless hours online researching adoption laws. They had made a lot of tiny steps in both directions. And two years later, Beth still felt as torn as she had two years ago. On the one hand, while Jeremy said he would ultimately be ok with adoption, Beth also knew his fears that he would not be able to love a child that was adopted as much as a biological child. She knew that was important to him. And what was she supposed to do? Live the rest of her life fearing her own child wasn’t loved by his or her father? How could she bring a child into her home that way? Would he ever really and truly accept the child? And she knew his fears of trudging through all the legalities of adoption, of getting screwed by some scam artist lawyer who suddenly says the cost of the baby has doubled if you want it. (Come to think of it, maybe he was being subjected to too many of her Lifetime movies as well.) And the thought of actually carrying a baby, being able to bond with it from conception, feel it in her stomach, and go through a pregnancy was something Beth had always dreamed of but never thought she could do. What if she actually could? They had carefully looked at the statistics and listened to every word the doctor said. The chances it would work were not great but not improbable and the health risks were high, but it WAS possible. On the other hand, the one time she tried to talk to her mom about the option of IVF, the reaction she got was the last thing she expected. Her mom was devoutly Catholic, and Beth had never really considered how the Catholic church and its strong views against IVF would sway her mom’s opinion of Beth’s decision to explore the option of trying it. What fertility clinics did to the unused eggs was immoral and a sin according the Catholic church and her mom. Her mom’s exact words were, “I can’t support that. I just don’t see you having a part in that. I just don’t see that as God’s plan for you.” How could she bring a life into the world when his or her own grandmother was so adamantly against the way it was brought to life? Part of her asked how she could disappoint her mom that way; another part of her said how dare her mother for putting that guilt on her! And when she thought about all of the babies out there in need of a good loving home, she couldn’t help but think maybe that was the reason God put her in this situation.The bottom line was that, in her situation, even if they chose IVF, Beth would be the one to carry the baby but it couldn’t be her egg. Biologically, either way it wouldn’t be “hers”. Beth didn’t care. The one thing she wanted most in life was to be a mom. And she knew she could love the child no matter what. It wouldn’t be hers biologically, but it would be hers. Biology is the least of what makes you a parent, right?It didn’t really matter what they decided anyway. Either option would cost about $20,000 that they just didn’t have. Until they did, which Beth was beginning to lose hope that they ever would, all they could do was exactly what they had been doing for two years- talk about it and nothing more. It was taking a toll on their marriage. She thought Jeremy blamed her for not being able to have a baby. Jeremy thought she blamed him for not having the money to move forward with starting a family. Truth was neither one blamed the other, but they both blamed themselves. They wanted the same thing. But why did it have to be so difficult to get? And everywhere Beth turned lately, another friend was getting pregnant, another picture of a sonogram popped up on Facebook, yet one more baby shower invitation showed up in the mail. And her own personal issues didn’t take away the fact the she was happy for every single one of those friends. Hell, in the past two months she had helped coordinate two close friends’ baby showers, and she could never think of doing anything different. But it stung a little each time. It felt like a slap in the face, a reminder of what she wanted desperately but couldn’t have. There was no way this student could have known all of that though. Nobody knew, including her closest friends. Secretly, in the shower or in bed alone at night while Jeremy was still in the living room watching television, she cried almost every day over all the pain and emptiness she felt. That’s the thing about infertility that nobody understands- how lonely it feels even if you are not alone. Beth kept it all bottled inside and didn’t talk to anyone about what she and her husband were going through. She couldn’t even really talk to Jeremy anymore because they just wound up fighting about it more than talking. He didn’t understand how she felt; she was being too impatient. It went around and around in a vicious cycle that never ended. And as far as everyone else, what was the point? Nobody could help them, and after the reaction she got from her mom adding more opinions to the mix would only complicate things more. She didn’t want any more input, any more opinions. She was mostly a strong person, but she was fragile enough lately. She didn’t think she could take feeling judged by anyone else on top of it all. A doctor once told her that the reason she felt the way she did was because right or wrong, there was a stereotype in society that it was a woman’s job to reproduce. And when there was the inability to do so, it leaves you feeling like less of a woman. Truer words had never been spoken. Until that moment when she heard those words, she hadn’t realized that her infertility was the source of a lot of her insecurities throughout her life. It was like a virus that spread and seeped into every area of her life.And that’s why the e-mail from her student shook her so much and haunted her. All she wanted was to give a child- any child- a loving, stable home and to be a mom. It was all she ever wanted. And it was the one thing she was unable to do. And, yet, there were meth heads popping out babies and not feeding them for days. Where the hell was the justice in that? How the hell could God be so unfair and let that happen? It didn’t make any sense. But for now, she had done all she could do. She had reported the e-mail. It was in child protective service’s hands now. Still thoughts of that baby plagued her mind for days. She couldn’t let it go. Was the baby ok? Was the baby really in danger? Why did that e-mail come to her of all people? It took a few days for Barry to get back to her with a follow up report. Child protective services did, in fact, pay a visit to the girl’s house. There was meth found being cooked in the house. The student was arrested, and there was an infant in the house that was taken into child protective service’s custody. She wasn’t sure if knowing this made it better or worse. It was a little bit of a relief to know child protective services had not been sent to the house in vain and that the baby was now safe. At the same time, the fact that there was even a baby in that situation to begin with made her both sick and angry as hell at the same time. She couldn’t help herself. She looked up the student’s schedule and contacted her other teachers. None of them got that e-mail. It was just Beth. Why her? Why did this girl chose Beth to send that e-mail to?A month laterThere was another e-mail from the same student in her inbox. What the hell? Beth thought as she clicked on it to open it. Why does this girl continue to haunt me? The e-mail was short and sweet:“I just got out of rehab. I’m doing alot better. I just got my baby back on the condition I stay clean and keep a good place for her to live. can u help me make up my classwork? I want to do better. Can u help me?”“You have GOT to be FUCKING kidding me!” Beth screamed out loud. “They gave a meth head a baby back!? Where the hell is the justice in this world? How fucked up is that?” Luckily she was alone in the office. She wanted to write back and say “I’ve helped you enough. Help yourself.” But she thought better of that and instead replied:“It’s going to be tough to make up almost the whole semester. I’ve already dropped you from the class. But if you are willing to try, meet me before class Tuesday night and we’ll talk. I’ll consider reinstating you.”Two weeks laterShe was sitting at home on the sofa watching Survivor with Jeremy. As she suspected, the student never did show up that Tuesday night. Or any night after that for that matter. Beth hadn’t heard from her since that last e-mail. The doorbell rang.“Are you expecting anyone?” Beth asked Jeremy.“No. Are you?”“No.”Beth got up and answered the door. There she was. She had the baby in her hands and from the looks of her and the look in her eyes, she was obviously high. Rehab is really working for you, huh? Beth screamed to herself but didn’t say out loud. And more importantly, what the HELL are you doing at my house? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME? I just want you to LEAVE ME ALONE! It’s not fair! You are a selfish meth head who doesn't deserve that baby you don’t take care of. Why do you keep showing up in my life and reminding me of that fact? Don’t you know what the hell that does to me? But, she didn’t know. How could she possibly know? Beth had met her exactly once, and now here she was at her front door step wanting…what exactly? “You were in the phone book. That’s how I found your address,” the girl said. “And what, exactly, can I do for you?” Beth asked. “Here,” the girl said as she handed her the baby. “I can’t anymore. I’ll just fuck it up like I do everything else. I can’t do it to her. But I know you can. I know you are the one to take this baby. I’ll sign whatever. I’ll do whatever. She’s your baby.” “How do you know I can? How do you know that I am the one?” “Because you heard my cry for help and you cared enough to do something. I could see in your eyes that first night of class. I could see you cared. I didn’t get to stay in your class. But, you are a good teacher. I can tell. And you’ll be a good, caring mom. I can just tell. She needs you.” And with that, the girl walked away. And Beth closed the door and knew in that moment she was holding her baby for the first time.