by Lisa Ferranti

WHEN I WAS ELEVEN, I almost got to play Mary in the church Christmas pageant. During rehearsal I took my duties seriously and swaddled the stand-in baby doll, which looked sadder than I imagined up close, with Brillo pad hair and unblinking painted eyes. Still, as the host of angels proclaimed good tidings of great joy, I gazed at the Baby Jesus with what I hoped was an expression of rapture and adoration.  

My dad joked I’d been practicing for the role since I was three, carrying our cat in my arms and calling him Baby Jesus with my toddler lisp. 

The coveted role always went to Mary Margaret, but she had chicken pox that year. Not only did she have the right name, she had the blue eyes and glowing skin our Pastor was looking for. Tommy teased that it looked like I was pregnant anyway and I couldn’t argue that my belly didn’t pouch over the waistband of my pants, but I didn’t care. I held myself as I imagined Mary would, with poise and grace befitting Jesus’s mother. 

But Mary Margaret returned two days before the show, not a pockmark in sight, and yanked Jesus from me, like she owned him, his swaddle unraveling. I was relegated to shepherd once again, watching from the sidelines, the only consolation getting to poke Tommy the sheep with my staff. 

By college, I outgrew my adolescent pudginess and did sit-ups every day. I had sex, sometimes drunken, unprotected sex, and miraculously never got pregnant. I thanked my lucky stars. My girlfriends and I high fived the Jesus statue by the pond near the campus chapel when we walked by. He might have been blessing the children, but we wanted nothing to do with them. Not yet. We had school to finish, careers to launch.

Later, when I met the man I would marry, I was ready for it all. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue: my mom’s garter checked three boxes. Something new: my ticking clock. The old Sunday school song said I am weak, but He is strong, but now I felt something stronger than I’d ever known. For the first time in a long time, I prayed. 

Have faith, my mom said, but my mustard-seed-sized conviction didn’t work. My baby only as big as a pomegranate seed. The next as big as a kumquat. Next an eggplant. Never an acorn squash or a pineapple. Certainly not a watermelon. 

Like the shortest verse in the Bible, I wept. But there was no miracle. Only my body’s betrayal. And I remembered that feeling from long ago, a baby being yanked from my arms. The devastation of carrying a thing only to lose it. 


Lisa Ferranti’s fiction has been a Top 25 finalist in a Glimmer Train contest, has twice been on the Wigleaf Top 50 Longlist (2019 and 2021), and has three times been nominated for Best Small Fictions. Her work has appeared in RUBY Literary, Gordon Square Review, New Flash Fiction Review, Lost Balloon, and elsewhere. She lives in NE Ohio with her family. Twitter @lisaferranti. Website