I am not, by nature, a person who is pessimistic. I believe that life is a gift, and that each day, if at possible, is made to be lived in gratitude. I see beauty in the gray clouds that are heavy with rain, marvel at the engineering genius of the women and men who build bridges over endless miles of hard, and unforgiving water. Smiles are like drops of sunshine for me.
I say these things because my life has taken a turn that was unexpected, in more ways than one, and on more levels than one. I am on an unexpected, surreal journey that is unlike any I have ever taken. I have no idea what the destination, if there is one, will look like.
Last year at this time, I was feeling hopeful, happy and looking forward to a future with a partner. I had re-established contact with a man who had been my first boyfriend. I was 15 when I first met him, and 17 when the relationship fell apart. That was a long time ago, and I had fallen in love with this man, who really was a man. He was 7 years older than me, and should have gone to jail for statutory rape. But he didn’t, and I loved him, and as these stories sometimes go, I got pregnant in my senior year of high school.
I felt certain that this man loved me. After all, he never pressured me directly to have sex with him. I chose to become sexually active. Of course, I now realize that I was coerced, conned and played with so that he could get his prize. But, at the time, I thought it was freely and completely my choice. I went to Planned Parenthood and learned all about birth control, reproduction and clinical sexual activity. I armed myself with “the pill,” shut my eyes tightly, and took the plunge. I thought this brought me closer to the man. And, perhaps it did in some meaningless way, until I got pregnant.
This man, who was 24 at the time, single, working full time, and a homeowner, abandoned me. I sat at home, and took my high school lessons from a visiting teacher so that I could graduate with the rest of my class. And home was safely away from the prying eyes of my classmates, who I knew would whisper and gossip about me. I learned later that many of them knew about the pregnancy, despite my efforts to hide it. I took my home schooling and waited for the man to come back and rescue me. I waited and studied for almost 4 months. I grew slightly larger, and saw my stomach and breasts swell from the pregnancy. At almost four months, my doctor told me that it was “now or never.” Keep the baby or have a late term abortion. I had a decision to make. I tried calling the man, and he usually answered and hung up on me. So, I stopped calling, and made my decision.
Early one morning, my mother took me to the hospital. I don’t remember which one. I just remember that she dropped me off, told me that “we just went through this,” (referencing my sister’s child who’d been born a few months earlier) and with that, she left me.
An IV was attached to my wrist, or maybe two of them. The amniotic fluid came out, and the saline went in, as a kind, warm nurse held my hand through the labor pains I was experiencing. She wiped my face as the tears came from my sheer terror, loneliness and heartbreak.
The baby came and was caught by the nurse. She looked down at the bundle, and told me, “you had a boy.” I later named him Amari. I still miss him.
I had to pick myself up, and go on with my life, which I did. I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t slit my wrists, or have any desire to do so. I didn’t become a drug addict, or drunk, or randomly begin to have sex with anonymous men. I just kept going on with my life.
After one, brief appearance in my life at around 31 or 32, Amari’s father and the memory of him, faded away.
That is, until October of 2017, when his brother died and he reached out to me half way across the world, where I was working in Saudi Arabia. I talked with him daily, exchanged pictures, and cried with him about the baby we lost all those many years ago. I was about to have a new life, an old love, and a beginning that I’d never had all those years ago.