Butterflies and a baby

Emailed from somewhere on the ocean on a ship on a bed of uncertainty on : February 21, 2014

“Dearest friend,

The past month I’ve been walking around thinking… I’ve been raped. I’m a woman who has been raped.. And it doesn’t feel real. Except when Jeff grabs me playfully into a hug, surprises me.. And I scream. Fold in half. Clench my fists. And suddenly I’m there. Fighting. Humiliated. For some reason, ashamed. I go over that day in my head…and over it and over it. I don’t want to. But it’s there.

I found out on board. We were leaving Aruba which I got to see from the porthole of the medical unit where I’d been since day two. Dysentery, they figured. Only the antibiotics weren’t helping. The pregnancy test was my idea. The doctor caring for me, one of two on the ship, wanted to put me on a stronger IV cocktail and something inside me cringed at this plan. What if.. I was sure I wasn’t but –

The doctor, Kat was her name, said it was too early. A pregnancy wouldn’t show up. But I had been the only patient for days and there was all kinds of time to humor me.

“See? Negative. Definitely negative.” That’s what she said. Definitely. Then right before she went to throw that little stick away, that life changing stick, she stopped. Held it up to the light. Squinted. Turned it in every direction. “After five minutes, you can’t read it anymore. You’ll get a false reading.” I know this. I also know she’s stalling. It hadn’t been anywhere close to five minutes. Thirty seconds.. Maybe forty. I asked to see it. “There are two lines.” My voice is flat and dispassionate. A voice announcing movie times or reading through coupons. “It’s positive.” I tell her, “That’s a positive.” “Maybe”, she hedges. Maybe? I look at her wondering where she got her medical degree. Online, maybe. I get it though. This is more than she has bargained for. She is unprepared. Yeah. Well. My world and welcome to it.

She dips another stick that I take from her immediately to watch that second line appear. Somehow I’m both shocked and not. Two days later, we dock in Cartagena, Colombia and a local missionary greets me off the ship. I wonder how much he knows. He’s all big toothy grins and full of historical tidbits about this city that he clearly loves. I’m so weary. I want to lay my head on his shoulder and cry and have him stroke my hair and call me sweetheart and tell me that everything will be all right. Like a daddy would. The way I’ve seen Jeff comfort Julia a hundred times. What would he do? I briefly toy with the idea in that nothing-left-to-lose way and consider the possibility that I’ve lost my mind. Out the window, the city looks no different from downtown San Diego from the weary palm trees, dingy from auto exhaust, to the colorful Spanish graffiti utilizing unconventional canvas to spread a message I don’t understand. This is comforting. Not hair stroking comforting, but it helps. I’m taken to what resembles a basement but I’m promised is a perfectly adequate hospital where no one speaks English. It doesn’t matter. Butterflies are slowly hatching in my belly when I see the dot on the internal ultrasound. And that’s the same in any language.

I smile at him/her.

I smile.

And just like that, I’m overwhelmed with love and a fierce defensiveness that would grow each time I’m told how “easy” it is to terminate at this stage.Terminate. What a horrible word. I pop a pill and within a day or two it’s done. But it wouldn’t be. No matter what road I take, there is no done.

The medical staff was adamant. I wasn’t angry exactly but I was bracing for a fight. Maybe that’s unfair. I know they were trying to comfort me. I was uncharacteristically quiet, wrapping my arms around my already slightly swollen middle (damn uterus muscle memory) telling myself it would reflect poorly on me were I to punch anyone in the head and just keep cool. All I know is that no one, and I mean no one.. is getting near my baby.

 It’s not the feeling you’d expect to have , that you’d expect anyone to have..How amazing is God…

My favorite nurse. She speaks in a lilting Irish brogue and has a face full of freckles. She held my hands in hers and told me I’ll be able to move on once I “take care” of this. A terribly sad mask washes over her face when she whispers, “this innocent little victim”, referring to the baby (who nobody calls a “baby” because then it’s real.) Innocent. Her way of preserving this innocence is through abortion. She sees it as a mercy killing and she is far from alone. I will need to prepare myself for the backlash. She asks about Jeff and the kids and swoons over my Facebook pictures and is everything I need.. But I know she won’t understand when I tell her.

Them. I asked to see the whole team. Both doctors, the nurses, and a few housekeepers who kept me occupied when they scrubbed their way down the halls at 3am and inevitably spotted me staring blankly at the ceiling.

Deep breath. There are those butterflies. Butterflies keeping my baby company. “Thank you for being so caring. You’ve made a really tough time a lot better than it could have been. I’ll remember you all. ” Here goes. “If…if you ever think about this again, if you ever wonder what happened to me..My husband and I had a beautiful baby in the fall.”

There was a moment of just..nothingness. Then the doctor, the one all the the nurses good naturedly fought over, the one nicknamed Dr.Clooney, smiled at me. A genuine smile. “Did you ever know you could be so strong?” There were murmurs of assent from the crew. They may not agree with my decision, but they did respect it.

Here’s something that will stay with me forever. Good old Kat? She of the zero bedside manner, Ukrainian, I think.. not cold exactly but very clinical. Unwilling to cross any professional lines and show herself human. She had tears in her eyes. She didn’t speak. Just nodded at me..her face soft. I realized something then.. The fact that it hit her in this way, hit ME. God did something. I don’t know what and I don’t need to. She was moved. He can use this. This nightmare. He can use me.

There are hugs all around but for one notable exception. My hand holding nurse from the emerald isle, had already left.

It’s almost 4:30am and I haven’t slept for days. I’m scared.


But this is a baby.

There can never be anything sad about a baby. They’re a beautiful reminder that God still works miracles. In all things. Right? I mean,..

I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Nothing is real. Nothing since before him. Surely nothing after.

There is only this.

I’m a woman who was raped. And I’m having a baby.

That’s a book. Or, at least a really good blog piece.

~ Jen ”


About JJ's song

My freshman year of college, my English prof was fond of saying "A writer writes, always." I found him to be desperately profound until Wikipedia became a cultural staple some years later and I learned that was not an original quote, but rather one he had ripped off from that Billy Crystal movie "Throw Momma from the train." I admit this threw me. If you're going to quote a movie (and you're talking to someone whose entire household can quote "The Princess Bride" backwards and forwards), and you're not even going to credit said movie ( "HALLO! My name is Inigo Montoya.."), at least let it be a decent movie. I'm not hating on Billy. I'm just saying..not his best work. Could he not glean some inspiring gem from "When Harry met Sally"? But I digress. I love words. I love them in the nerdiest coke-bottle glasses, pocket protector kind of way. There's such a pure beauty, a ballet of cadence when you're writing and you've hit upon the exact right word producing the exact right sound...sweet, sweet alliteration. The marriage of that rise and fall, auditory ebb and flow of our spoken language creates a type of symphony as beautiful as can ever be composed. (My husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this. It should be noted here that he finds Jim Carrey hilarious. 'Nuff said.) I started writing www.abendingtree.wordpress.com shortly after returning to the real world from months of inpatient tratment for anorexia. I was targeting a specific audience, sure, but also working things out for myself. This branched out organically into purging myself (sorry) of angst related to childhood abuse and self harm, both highly prevalent in the eating disorder community. I still write pieces for abendingtree but rarely publish..such a perfectionist am I that when the aforementioned exact perfect word eludes me, my work will be tabled. Last January though. Last January I was raped. Last January I was raped and beaten up and tossed half naked in a stairwell. Last February I found out I was pregnant. Last September, six weeks early, we welcomed a 7lb. 7oz boy with huge blue eyes and fine, fuzzy dark hair and deep dimples. In him I see how God spared my life. With him I am reminded of when He used this tiny human to pull me from my ever darkening spiral. Watching my husband blow raspberries on his round little tummy and rock him to sleep, nuzzling his neck, I see the love Christ has for us. From our earliest beginnings. Such love. The fondness for Jim Carrey can be overlooked in these moments. Joshua. We named our son Joshua. It means: Jehovah saves. No kidding. How could we name him anything else? (Also, everyone else shot down the name Finn which I thought was super cute.) My newest blog will be our journey with him. It may be slow going, but I've got a start.. Writers lay our offerings humbly before our readers who we can only hope will be moved. Will laugh. Learn. Pray. Hurt. Wonder. Love. Grieve. Eat. LIVE. And heal. I hope at some point you'll do all of the above. Thank you for reading. In His truth. "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." William Wordsworth
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