Direction Ingestion

Direction Ingestion

Direction Ingestion 1635 1856 Rebecca Klassen

Chloe moves the football so Abigail can sit in the passenger seat. Twisting, Chloe chucks the ball to the backseat, her protruding belly touching the steering wheel. 

‘How’re you feeling?’ Chloe asks. 

Abigail balances her pencil on her own swollen belly and fastens her seatbelt. ‘Nervous, but OK. I feel sorrier for you than me.’

‘Me too!’ The women both laugh a little. Chloe’s hand trembles as she flicks the indicator and pulls away to join the traffic. 

Abigail picks up her pencil and runs her fingertip along its smooth edge. ‘The scans will be nice. We can see the babies and lie down on a comfy couch.’ 

‘That’s true. I keep reminding myself that we want to do this.’

‘Do we?’

Chloe puts the radio on.


They pull up outside the clinic. Chloe grabs her football from the backseat, Abigail holds her pencil in her fist, and the two friends enter the building. A receptionist greets them.

‘Here for your scans and direction ingestion?’ 

Abigail waits for Chloe to nod before she nods too.

‘Excellent. I’ll need to take payment first.’ The women each hand over a credit card. ‘Just fill in these forms, and a nurse will be right with you.’ Chloe’s hand still shakes as she takes the clipboard of paperwork. 

They sit in the waiting area with two other pregnant mothers. One has a legal pad in her lap, the other a broadsheet newspaper. When the other mothers leave with their items, Chloe leans over to Abigail. 

‘I can’t stop thinking about the horror stories.’

‘Those were mostly people who tried it without the injection.’ 

Chloe embraces her bump. ‘The scalpel one is the worst. Just so her baby could be a surgeon. They both died.’

‘There’re no sharp bits on a football.’

‘I can’t believe I let Dave talk me into choosing a footballer. As soon as he found out it was a boy, he was set on it. I’d be happy with a teacher, like you.’ 

Abigail looks at the pencil in her hand, the sharpened point, the ferrule connecting the eraser, the wood ready to fracture between her teeth.

‘We don’t have to do any of this,’ Abigail says.

Chloe looks away. Abigail knows they won’t have the same conversation again. Chloe made it clear that having a child without a career path and solid future was worse than having no child at all. This seemed to be most people’s feelings, including Abigail’s husband, Ben. Social media was filled with sob stories from young adults whose mothers hadn’t taken part in direction ingestion, how competing for professions against those with a career trajectory in their blood was hopeless.

Abigail and Chloe fill out their paperwork in silence.


‘Ready, ladies?’

A nurse takes them for scans in separate rooms, and they are both told their baby is ‘very healthy.’ Abigail watches her daughter sucking her thumb and swallowing amniotic fluid. She imagines her as an adult with Ben’s dark curly hair, standing in front of a classroom of gum-chewing, note-passing children, a pile of marking waiting for her. She then envisions Chloe’s son playing in a lower division, his father Dave with his head in his hands at the sidelines. 

Abigail looks at the sonographer. ‘Direction ingestion doesn’t necessarily turn out how you expect, does it?’

The nurse smiles. ‘It’s natural to be nervous, but you’re giving your child a good start. My daughter is a midwife now. She’s very happy.’

Abigail knows the nurse needed to have eaten an umbilical cord for her daughter to have such a career. She pictures the bloodied tube hanging from the nurse’s lips like a Fruit Roll-up.  


The nurse leads Abigail to a private room. 

‘I didn’t pay for a private room.’

‘We don’t have communal rooms anymore,’ the nurse says. ‘Gagging can set the whole room off.’

‘Can my friend Chloe be here? We’re supporting each other. She’s the one with the football.’

The nurse leaves the room, soon returning with Chloe, who is clutching her football like it were a buoy and she’s fighting waves. Abigail holds her pencil as if she’s about to cast a spell. They sit opposite each other on plastic chairs before the nurse administers the injections. 

‘A quick couple of pricks in the arm. It’ll stop you and baby absorbing any toxins. It also aids digestion.’

Then she passes Chloe a small pair of shears.

‘Start when you’re ready, ladies. I’m here to supervise. Remember, you need to ingest your entire item for it to work.’ She turns on a small radio, and a soothing classical melody plays.

‘We don’t have to do this,’ Abigail says to Chloe.

Chloe drives the shears into the ball. It hisses. Tentatively, Abigail squeezes the pencil tip between her incisors until it snaps. Using her tongue, she moves the graphite and shards back to her molars, grinding them and mixing them with spittle. She’d chewed a pencil before in class, the taste familiar. As Chloe chews the synthetic material, Abigail can’t imagine what a football tastes like. 


The clinic is closing by the time they leave. They get into the car and drive through the streets in silence. Chloe’s tears glint in the streetlights. 

When they arrive at Abigail’s house, they both get out. 

‘I’m glad I did it, even though it was so hard,’ said Chloe, cradling her stomach. ‘Aren’t you?’

Abigail runs her tongue over her sensitive teeth. 

‘Did you do this because you wanted to or because Dave wanted it?’ asked Abigail. 

Chloe sighs and gets into her car. The vehicle seems as weary as Chloe as it trundles away. 

Standing in her front garden, Abigail roots her tongue gingerly around her gums, pulling forward the splinters and metal she’s hidden. She spits the bloody glob into her palm, the pink eraser a cherry on the slimy cake. Her gums sting as she strokes her stomach. 


Using her free hand, she digs a small grave among some sprouting daffodils and buries the remnants.  

Header photo by J. Dionne.

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1 Comment
  • I’m glad the baby didn’t become predestined to teaching! Ha ha! Great story. Funny but made me think about our choices and who really makes them and why we do the things we do! X

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