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On a warm, slipping-into-autumn, New York City morning in September 1988, just before my twenty-seventh birthday, I realized my period was a day late. Or maybe even two days late. I wasn’t rigorous about keeping track of it. My period was like my bank account—if it was within my mental ballpark, I didn’t worry. But then it was three days late, and five days, and finally my younger sister Sarah said, “You know, you might be pregnant.”

“I don’t think so.”

Denial was one of my trademark characteristics. But in this case, I had reason not to be too concerned. My boyfriend, Selig, was fourteen years older than me and had been married before. A doctor had told him and his then wife that he was infertile.

When I met Selig, I was twenty-two and had just moved to New York City from my hometown in southern Indiana. I was ambivalent about marriage, kids, or commitments of any kind, the residue of growing up the seventh of eleven children in the Worldwide Church of God, a small, apocalyptic, doomsday faith whose ministers shouted, “Brethren, Satan roams society like a lion seeking to devour you! God has raised up this Church to warn the world that the End Times are coming!”

Who would choose to bring kids into a world that was coming to an end very soon?

So once, just once, Selig and I were careless about birth control.

“Take a pregnancy test,” Sarah urged.

The blood never came.