Friday, February 22, 2008

little big girl

She pokes her head around the corner of my office. Jen? I look up. It's a girl I've known since she was 11 and I haven't seen her in a year or so and she's probably 16 by now. Her long hair falls around her face. Oh my god, honey. Hi! I jump up and walk over to the door and open my arms to embrace her.

She walks around the door and I can see her fully. Holy shit, she's enormously pregnant. I look at her belly and look in her eyes. She looks at me and then away and I give her an awkward strong hug.

So, babe, holy shit. You look absolutely beautiful but wow, this is a surprise. I know, she says. I had to come and see you. I'm so fat. Honey, you aren't fat, you're pregnant. And exhausted too, right? She nods her beautiful head.

She came to us five or so years ago, her mom had left a horrible abuser and was attempting to raise her and her little brothers on her own for the first time. Mom was terrific but overwhelmed, a lifetime of abuse and poverty had dictated her reality, she had babies too soon and struggled ever since. Ami was the oldest and adorable, a young girl who'd seen too much and wanted the love of her father above all else, something she'd never get to have.

She quickly took to some of us and over the course of a couple of years we became surrogate older sisters. I remember her coming to talk about sex when she was 13, a terrifying conversation of peer pressure and boys, of risks and loneliness and confusion. I tried then to dissuade her, to remind her of her beauty and strength and value. She listened and yet took some the condoms from the dish on my desk and I knew then and in the year to come, by the make up on her face and the clothes she wore, I knew we were going to lose her. I've seen it too many times, this desperate searching for love.

They moved out and on and at the time I told her what I tell all the kids, that they can always call and I am always here. I can imagine the courage it took to finally show up today as pregnant as she was.

She looks so small to me now, her gigantic belly covered by a t-shirt with bunnies on it, the irony is almost too much. Are you okay? How can I help?

I'm so scared to have this baby, I know it's going to hurt so much. Well, babe, it probably will. But you'll get through it because you are one of the strongest girls I know.

Are you mad at me? She looks down at her belly. Honey, of course not. But I'm sad for you because you are still so young to be going through this and to be honest, I am somewhat in a state of shock. What happened to the condoms? She smiles. I knew you'd say something like this. And yet she came anyway.

It's a boy, she says. I'm naming him Alex after his dad. I smile while simultaneously wanting to find this little fucker and strangle him. That's a good strong name, babe. A perfect name. She lifts her little Hello Kitty backpack onto her lap and starts looking for something. Stickers and a stuffed animal and gum and a bunch of papers are piled onto my desk. She finds what she's looking for and hands it to me. It's a sonogram picture. He's gorgeous, I say. I can't wait to meet him.

We talk a bit more and she asks some birthing related questions and all of a sudden her mom walks into the room. She looks at me and comes over and hugs me and I look at her too and I want to cry. So what do you think? She says. I think you're going to have your hands full grandma. She smiles. I know. She's so young and I wanted her life to be different than mine.

And I don't have the words because I believe her and yet it's so obvious this was where Ami was headed, it was all the life she knew. It's the intergenerational poverty and a broken family and the repeating the past that slays me the most, this beautiful girl never really had a chance.

It's time for them to go and we all hug again. I hold Ami tight and remind me that I am here to help. I just wanted to see you, she says. I'll call you after the baby comes so you can come see him.

And I will. And we'll help her if she needs us, the mother passes to the daughter and the daughter becomes a mother, babies having babies and the drum beats on.

59 comments:

flutter said...

This just made me cry

wheelsonthebus said...

It's hard knowing you can't help everyone, I imagine.

Blog Antagonist said...

Another one. Sigh.

But you did your best, you always do. You can't change the world for everyone.

Gina said...

This cycle is so heartbreaking. And it's so hard to break it where young girls are concerned. At that age, it's so easy to get wrapped up in those emotions and even worse in a situation like hers.

Annie said...

So many of your posts make me cry - but that is a good thing - stops us getting too comfortable in our segregation from all that you see so often.

I'm so happy that this kid has the support of her mom - I think even in dire circumstances, that counts for something?

I gave a lot of my barely used baby items to a local school that supports teenage moms, kids who've been thrown out of home by their families for being pregnant, victims of domestic abuse etc. Your girl has a tough road ahead - but I can only imagine it will be that much less tough because she has the love of her mom - at least I hope so.

Suz said...

Oh, baby girl.

I can't imagine being pregnant at 16, but neither can I imagine the desperate search for father-love replacing ordinary teen angst.

I'm glad that you're there for her.

thordora said...

Her asking if you were mad just broke my hear a little.

So old and yet so young, all at once.

mamatulip said...

I am so glad Ami -- and her mother -- have you. Yes, this is her life and yes, she is too young, but she has you, an amazing, positive influence, and that goes a long way.

Pgoodness said...

that one gave me chills.

Beck said...

Poor, poor girl.

kristen said...

the contrast of the hello kitty backpack and her pregnant belly was like a kick to the stomach. this is one of my biggest fears - that needing love, because dude, i was so that teenage girl, but i was lucky and on the pill.

NotAMeanGirl said...

While her story and situation is sad... she's so lucky to have her mother and you as a spport system. I sent up a lil prayer for her. It couldn't hurt.

thailandchani said...

(sigh) .. this whole society is so broken.

Hetha said...

You're a blessing to so many people, this girl and her mother among hundreds of the lives you've touched.

This reminds me of my experiences working with rural poverty. The culture of poverty workshop we teachers went to one year really put some of these cycles into perspective. Your writing is like a daily workshop, keep telling these stories jen.

BOSSY said...

Oy, life can get very Real in a hurry.

Mad Hatter said...

There were over a dozen protesters at the clinic when I did my volunteer shift on Tuesday. All but two were big burly men, trying their best to physically and emotionally intimidate the young, female clientèle. Now I would not for one second make assumptions about what Ami should have or might have done with her fertility but every single day I have to wonder to myself why those protesters aren't out on the street helping girls like Ami and the soon-to-be Alex, helping them to realize their potential and to rise out of poverty. Their compassion, sadly, seems to stop at birth.

furiousBall said...

not much to say except, good job mom

liv said...

as always, you inspire me with your strength and love. i went through similar with my babysitter this summer. we did the labor and delivery thing, and now she is doing so well. in fact, she was here today with her beautiful baby girl and i was awed at what a good job a young'un can do.

Amy Y said...

Wow... Maybe lil Alex will break the cycle? Keep pluggin' along, Mama.

Joker The Lurcher said...

the whole chronological age thing is so confused with kids who have seen too much. she is probably older in many ways than so many middle aged women, yet still a girl as well. lets hope it works out for her.

Redneck Mommy said...

I know this too well.

You see, every female cousin of mine on my dad's side had kids BEFORE the age of 16. By the time they were 16 they usually had two or three babies by then.

It is the sadness of poverty and the cycle they can't seem to escape.

Tis a miracle my sister and I escaped it.

I'm glad this child has someone like you.

cce said...

Ah Shit, this must be so damn discouraging on some levels. My MIL is an attorney for foster children and always seems to find herself facing the inevitable cycle. She'll go to bat for some sweet girl and get her an apartment and clothing and furniture and a job and the girl will be pregnant, kicked out of her apartment and unemployed in the course of six months. Though this is the rule, there must be some exceptions. That's what makes it worthwhile, right?

painted maypole said...

oh. oof. how do we teach them? how do we break this pattern? it's so heartbreaking.

Karen said...

oh, jen, I'm just crying.

Oh, The Joys said...

I wish I knew the answer...

xo,
J

Janet said...

This made my heart hurt.

KC said...

And she came to see you.

There's still hope.

I remember my angry post about when I told me (male) bosses about my pregnancy...and you commented how you would have responded. And I remember thinking how much I wish it was you.

meno said...

Oh the sadness of seeing these beautiful young women carry on the pattern.

I'm glad she has you.

ewe are here said...

I hate stories like this...babies having babies... So very sad.

Angela said...

The cycle is so damn hard to break. My heart is breaking thinking of what might have been. Desperately hoping that this little boy and his Mom find a new path. Let's hope they let you lead the way and they follow.

ms chica said...

It's impossible to protect our offspring from our mistakes. We can try, because there is no harm in trying. In the end, some must learn for themselves.

I'm glad they have you.

heather said...

Again, tears before my coffee this morning. Beautifully written.

Magpie said...

oh, how do we stop the cycle? how?

you are one awesome woman. that she came back to you speaks volumes about you.

best to that little baby and her not so big mama.

Kyla said...

Oh, you. You're that person, the one people come back to talk to. The one who listens and makes a difference. You have that heart of gold.

Bungi said...

*sigh* I am glad you do whatever it is that you do...

Christine said...

this story hurt me in ways i am not ready to explain.

oh jen, you're good people, girl.

good, good people.

annie said...

Heartbreaking. Your writing is as powerful as you are strong.

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

Heartbreaking. And so it goes.

Lucia said...

What an honor. That she came back. To talk with you. I was thinking about this cycle. Serving breakfast to shelter families on Friday. I kept asking myself. How did they get here? And there is no one answer. Winding paths all. I leave for Haiti tomorrow. One of the countries where my life intersects with cycles of poverty.

Bon said...

you did good by her...not just before, so she came back, but in the now. you offered her acceptance instead of judgement, and a reflection of her strength.

it's not just a cycle of poverty, as you know, but powerlessness. not getting the love you seek leaves you vulnerable the rest of your life. and you can't fix that, but the love you offer still helps. i know.

jennifer said...

I read every single thing you write. Just thought I should tell you that.

Pendullum said...

Such a sad and vicious cycle...
It breaks my heart...
As it truly seems so sad and so lonely...

Lisa b said...

oh jen, how do we break this cycle?
your kindness goes a long way.

Ruth Dynamite said...

Thank God for you, Jen.

Thank God for you.

slouching mom said...

oh. i'm sad, and happy, and moved, all at once.

alejna said...

Oh, wow. The cycle is so heartbreaking, so overwhelming.

But what a powerful story. I'm always so glad when you share these stories.

QT said...

Late to this party, but oof. Seriously.

Family Adventure said...

Poor, poor, Ami. Like you said, I wonder if she ever really had a chance at another life.

Heidi

Jocelyn said...

Ah, the moment you wanted to get your hands on that Alex and strangle him--classic Jen. Hahahahaha.

And the Hello Kitty backpack.

Despite everything--despite the cycle--she will love that baby.

crazymumma said...

This one went deep Jen. I am honestly crying.

carrie said...

Oh, the visual of the little girl with the Hello Kitty back pack -- largely pregnant.

She'll be okay though, and hopefully the cycle will finally end with the birth of her beautiful, strong Alex. At least I hope so . . .

Daisy said...

I can see it so clearly -- the child having a child after looking for love and finding sex and attention instead. I, too, would want to strangle the boy who took advantage of her. I feel for her -- and for her mother. I wish them both, or all three of them, good luck.

Kellan said...

My only hope is that that baby of hers will turn the cycle - it can happen - it does happen. I know it does not happen offen, but I hope it will for that baby! Babies are a blessing and have a way of changing things, if not in the lives of those that love them - then in the lives of those around them - in the future lives they touch. Even the desperate have choices and I hope that this baby makes different choices than her parents made - her grandparents made. They are all lucky to have you in their lives to at least offer them the hope that the choices they make can be different and better and wiser. They are lucky to have you!

Kellan

Wayfarer Scientista said...

oh jen, such heartbreak and yet such love. I'm glad though that she has someone like you in her corner, even if you can't be the fairy god-mother that you wish you could be and make it all go away.

The Expatriate Chef said...

Oh boy, I fear for daughters, all of them, mine, too. I hope I can do well to keep her on a good path. I hope this one can find her way and get through raising a child, too. Not easy. How do you hold up?

blooming desertpea said...

I late to this post but I loved it no less. One of the most touching ones I've read of you.
It truly is frustrating to be walking in circles but then again I think there is still hope, even for girls like Ami, there has to be ...

Lawyer Mama said...

Stuffed animals and a sonogram photo. Sigh. Where does the circle end?

deb said...

It's so hard to make changes when you're busy trying to keep your head above water. Impossible really. It's so sad that history keeps repeating itself. Too bad we can't learn from others mistakes.

bgirl said...

oh wow...
sigh...this is a circle indeed.

thanks for this post jen, touching and thought-provoking.