As far as years go, 2017 began in a somewhat uneventful fashion for me, but that sense of tranquility soon vanished. I live in Memphis. It’s not the safest city, but I didn’t feel a great sense of danger. At 24, I was fairly typical. I had been going on dates and found a guy who I felt compatible with. One night, while I was hanging out with a friend from college, he asked me to stop by his apartment. Still trying to get to know him better, I thought I’d go over for a bit. He seemed like a gentleman. It seemed like no big deal. But things aren’t always what they seem. I didn’t know I would become a victim of rape.
We sat on the couch watching television for a bit, a show I’d never seen. The commercial break came, and he kissed me. About the time the show came back on, his hands began to explore, and I was uncomfortable. I asked him to stop, and I got up to leave. I started toward the door, and a man came out of a second bedroom. The man I later learned was his roommate made his way through the living room and stood in my path to the door. The gun in his hand began to raise, and there was this brief moment – probably two, three seconds long – when those warning bells began to alarm in my head.
He looked at me, at the gun, and at me again, and then said, “I don’t think you’re gonna leave right now.”
That night, as those two men held a gun to my head and raped me, I thought I would die. When they were done, part of me wished I had.
Darkness blanketed my soul, and I spent the next two weeks in mourning. Then, on a Saturday morning after a trip to Walgreens, I sat in my bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test. For the first time since the rape, I smiled. I felt this overwhelming joy.
I began bleeding shortly after discovering I was pregnant and was placed on modified bed rest. It took four months for my doctor to discover that I had contracted an STD during the rape and it was the cause of this bleeding.
For those four months, I lived in constant fear for the life of this baby I had instantly fallen in love with. I prayed every single day for my child’s survival.
As the weeks went by, I slowly shared my news with my closest friends. More often than not, they offered me looks of pity, followed by this one question they always asked in a way that hinted to me they thought there was one, very obvious answer: “What are you going to do?”
As they waited for me to lay out a carefully-arranged abortion plan, I would take one deep breath, smile, and say, “I’m choosing joy.”
And I was. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t complications.
One minute I’d discover more blood and would be begging God to just let the baby be alright, trying in desperation to broker these deals with Him. Take me, Lord. Not the baby.
The next minute, someone would be offering me unsolicited advice. Take care of this before it’s too late. If you can’t afford to fix this, I’ll help you. So you’re just going to give birth to the spawn of Satan? ABORT IT. That thing is evil. You should get rid of the devil baby.
Even my priest and others from church encouraged me to have an abortion.
Pregnancy is hard. But it’s harder when you’re forced to defend your right to love your own child. This defense continued into the delivery room.
A nurse informed the hospital social workers about the rape. Two of them came in as I was mid-contraction. They wanted to know who I’d be placing my son with.
Placing him with? They assumed he was being placed for adoption because, as one of them told me: In these situations, you’re just better off without the reminder.
People thought I’d see my rapist in my son. People thought I wouldn’t be able to love him. People thought he’d be born evil. People thought my child being born seemed like a terrible idea. But things aren’t always as they seem.
It seemed, to them, like my son originated differently than others, but his life – like that of every other human being – began with God.
He is smiles and goofy giggles. He is sunshine. He is joy in the midst of mourning. He is a new dream to replace old losses. And he is light – so much light.
One of my favorite quotes, with an unknown author, reads: We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.
Since he was born, there’s one thing I’ve prayed my son’s life would teach others: we needn’t fear the gift of light, because, on that first day of creation, God spoke light into being… and He pronounced it “good.”