Adoption is the answer, my friends.
Sally fainted for the first time when she was six years old.
It was in Ms. Jones’ second grade class, when a fellow student’s father came in to talk to the children about their bodies. He was a doctor. The children all gathered around a central table, listening as he told them where the heart is located and how to check their pulse. He then brought out a ziploc bag, in which the liver of a pig leaked greasy pink blood, and began to explain about their liver and kidneys. See, kids? This is what they look like.
Sally was kneeling in the front, arms folded on the tabletop, sitting on her sneakers. Her clear blue eyes never left the doctor as he talked, enthralled. Sally loved to learn. She loved the attention adults gave her when she raised her hand and offered the correct answer to a question. She wasn’t very popular with the other students in her grade, but the teachers adored her.
She wasn’t expecting for the liver to make her feel the way she felt. The boys in the class squirmed closer to see, elbowing their way into the front. Sally was jostled by Matthew as he shuffled his way forward, and scooted to the side to accommodate him. She looked up at the bag the doctor held in his hands, and suddenly she felt that the classroom was very far away. The man’s words faded, muffled, and all she could see was the way the pig’s blood clung to the sides of the bag. It slowly slid down the side, small droplets sliding into larger ones, twisted shapes smoothing out into quivering domes. Speckles of fat drifted on top of the pool of blood that gathered in the bottom.
Darkness began to encroach on Sally’s vision, a starry black that came in from the sides of her eyes. She struggled inside, trying to make it stop, trying to make her stomach stop churning, but her battle was over before it had begun. Her face grew pale and her head swung backwards. She fell away from the table and landed with a thunk on the tiled floor of the classroom. The students stopped gathering around the pig’s liver, and grouped into a circle around her limp form, suddenly silent.
Sally woke up once, stirring to see a vague vision of worried students and her teacher trying to retake control of the classroom before she slipped back into darkness. When she opened her eyes again she was in the nurse’s office, white plastic curtains around a green plastic bed, butcher paper crinkling beneath her. Two women and a man were gathered around her bed, dressed in dark blue uniforms with two-way radios on their belts. Thinking they were policemen, coming to arrest her for doing something wrong, Sally began to sob. She was sick, she was tired, her head hurt and she couldn’t quite figure out what was going on. She wanted her mother. The EMTs checked her over quickly, determined nothing was wrong with her, and left to talk with the nurse.
Sally spent the next day at home, lying in bed and reading get-well cards from her classmates. One hand scrawled in crayon,
"Dear Sally. We hope you get well. It was scary when you fainted! Did it feel weird?
P.S. I thought the liver was gross, too."
Sally threw that one away. She didn’t want to think that she fainted because of the liver. That was weak and girly, and she was proud to think of herself as a tomboy. She had five brothers, she had to be tough just to survive the games they played. When she returned to school, she had some story about how she hadn’t eaten breakfast that morning, and was just tired and dizzy, and it had nothing to do with the bloody liver at all. Her classmates didn’t believe her. They talked about it all week.
When Sally was eighteen years old, she signed herself up to donate blood, confident she would have no trouble. After all, she hadn’t fainted since second grade, and showed no signs of queasiness when viewing a pickled brain brought into Mrs. Murray’s fifth grade classroom. Her blood type was O negative. She felt obligated to donate.
Sally settled herself into the chair and offered her left arm to the nurse, watching with interest as she cleaned the inside of her elbow.
"What lovely veins you have," the woman murmured, pressing a spot of Sally’s arm to make it pop out just a little bit more. "They’re very easy to see, this should be easy."
The needle slid into Sally’s vein, and was taped in place by the nurse. Sally watched, fascinated, as the clear tube turned dark red and the blood bag began to fill. It looked like wine. She began to feel dizzy, and she was having trouble focusing her eyes. She placed a finger cautiously on the tube that ran from her arm. It was warm to the touch. She felt cold.
Darkness slipped upon her, emptiness flowed through her, and this time it took fifteen minutes of shouting and jostling before she returned back to consciousness. The nurse led her over to a cot behind some screens, a stitch of worry between her brows.
"Just lie there until you feel better," she instructed.
Sally lay on her stomach, leaning her forehead on her arm and breathing deeply. She still felt ill -- not just dizzy, but sick, like there were worms inside her stomach, writhing and trying to crawl up her esophagus. She could still feel the needle in her arm and see the blood coursing down the tube. She leaned over the edge of the cot and threw up for the first time since she was eleven years old and came down with a nasty flu bug. She lay there, coughing and crying in frustration at her own weakness, until the nurse came back to help her. She never gave blood again.
She majored in History at the local university, hoping to avoid most science classes. Sally hated science. She did, however, have to complete her General Education requirements, and so she took one Child Development class, hoping it would be easy and full of good tips for when she was a parent.
After a few classes, students had to watch a video entitled The Miracle of Birth, in which three deliveries are shown, graphically, on screen. Sally was sitting in the center of the front row, dutifully prepared to take notes. She barely managed to write a few sentences before the movie depicted a forceps-assisted delivery. The child was not coming out as he should have, and so the doctor inserted a pair of forceps into the mother to help pull the child out. Salad forks, Sally thought. They’re bigger than salad forks.
Feeling the tell-tale dizziness, Sally tried to not to look at the screen, instead turning around in her seat to watch her classmates. All the boys were looking down all too attentively at their notebooks, often with their hands shielding their eyes from the trauma on the screen. The girls, she noticed, all had their legs crossed.
Unable to divert her attention for much longer, Sally glanced at the screen just as the infant was pulled out, accompanied by a rush of blood. The last thing she saw before her vision went black was the child, seeming monstrous and alien, covered in white and red tissue, squalling with all his might.
Something about this episode was worse than the others, or at least so Sally deduced after being told what happened. She could remember nothing, but those sitting next to her in class remembered the episode vividly. Not only did she faint, that time, but began shaking. When the teacher’s assistants came to remove her from her seat and carry her to the annex behind the classroom to recover, she fought them. She shouted at them, struggled against them, all while yet unconscious.
Waking up was hard. Images flashed before her eyes, and she could put them into no coherent order. A face, a wall, a floor. She didn’t understand it. At last she focused on the eyes of a man kneeling beside her, asking a question. “Are you okay?”
"Yeah, yeah, I’m fine," she said, her voice sounding alien to her own ears. She wiped cold sweat off her forehead with the back of her hand. "This has happened before."
"I’ve fainted before, this is normal." She tried to sit up, but decided it was a bad idea before her head was two inches off the ground. "I just need to rest for a while."
It was an hour before Sally felt well enough to walk home. She decided to skip the rest of her classes for that day, and crawled straight into bed. She napped for the majority of the afternoon, and awoke with tears still wet in her eyes. She called up her mother, and explained the whole ordeal.
"Mom, how am I ever going to have kids?" Sally asked, upset. "I can’t even watch somebody ELSE give birth."
"Well, the benefit to giving childbirth yourself is that you don’t have to watch it."
"But I’ll have to FEEL it, and that’s just the same. What if I faint during the middle of labor and something horrible happens? Why am I so weak?"
"Sweetheart, everything will be okay. You aren’t even married yet. Why don’t you cross that bridge when you come to it?"
"Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t worry. Thanks, Mom."
It was three years before Sally was married, and another two before she conceived her first child. She explained her fears to her husband, and though he was sympathetic he could do little to allay her fears.
"You’ll probably just keep giving birth," he said. "The whole thing is run by hormones, it shouldn’t matter if you slip out for a couple of minutes. Things’ll keep plugging right along." That wasn’t very helpful.
She lived in constant fear of the labor and even worse fear of a miscarriage. She saw blood in her urine when she was six months along and nearly fainted right there in the bathroom. Her husband rushed her to the hospital, talking with her all the way to keep her alert, lest she pass out again. The doctors said she wasn’t miscarrying, but the wanted to keep an eye on her just in case.
Two weeks short of her due date, Sally went into labor. She felt dizziness onset as soon as they brought in the epidural, and things went downhill from there. She did not remember most of the labor afterwards, for she closed her eyes and blacked out, passing into the valley of the shadow of death before delivering her firstborn son.
"He’s wonderful," she whispered as he was set in her arms for the first time. He grasped a lock of her hair in his fist, holding onto it with all his might. She laughed quietly as she tried to pull his hand away. "He’s so strong."
"He comes by it honestly," replied her husband. "So are you."