(Save the Storks) I was following my dream. I had worked hard, and my goal of becoming an occupational therapist was within my grasp. In just a year I would have my Master’s Degree.
So why did I feel so empty? I was going through the motions, yet all the while there was a strong undercurrent pulling me out into deep waters.
It was the drinking that was the most frightening. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t seem to stop. In fact, if anything it was getting worse. Some days a dark depression would descend like a shroud. Thoughts of regret and self-hatred filled my mind, like a riptide threatening to drag me under.
Perhaps that’s why I found myself hanging out with Jose. He was different from everyone else I knew—ten years older than me and far more “street-wise.” I had always been insecure about myself, so his attention and compliments made me feel good.
Deep down, I knew he wasn’t right for me. And even though I made it clear all I wanted was friendship, what was I thinking? I should have known when you play with fire, sooner or later you’re going to get burned. It would prove to be one of the hardest lessons I ever learned.
I still don’t remember much about that night—just the vague sense of an argument with Jose outside my apartment. The only other memory is a dark, evil whisper: “I’m not going to hurt you…” Those words still have the power to strike fear in my heart.
The next morning, I woke up feeling completely out of it. I’m not proud of having had more than my fair share of hangovers, but this was different. First of all, everything was somehow blurred. As if my “focus button” were broken. On top of that, moving seemed to require tremendous effort. My limbs felt like they each weighed about a hundred pounds.
When I finally became aware that I was naked from the waist down, immediately, the sour taste of bile burned its way up my throat. I jumped up quickly to get to the bathroom, only to discover I was extremely dizzy.
Once I noticed the blood, the shaking began. It took hours for my vision to clear, and about as long for me to finally accept what I did not want to be true. I knew I had been both drugged and raped. I wasn’t the first college student to be given a date-rape drug. Our campus was no exception to acts of sexual violence. I just never imagined it would happen to me.
The minute I thought I could stand without falling over I was in the shower. But no matter how hot the water or how much soap I used, nothing could wash away the sense of filth and violation.
After that, all I wanted to do was sleep. Anything to blot out what had happened. Although I had no proof, I was almost sure Jose was the one responsible for the rape. He was the one always pressuring me for sex. Finally, I had the courage to confront him. He didn’t admit his guilt, but he actually said it was probably my fault for being such a tease.
What’s even worse—part of me agreed with him. I had nothing but disgust for myself. By hanging around Jose, hadn’t I been “asking for it?” Shame continually crashed over me in waves. Most of the time my stomach was in knots, and at any moment I would find myself shaking.
After that, I rarely left my apartment except to go to classes. Whenever I did go out, I was constantly looking over my shoulder. When I didn’t need to go to class or study, the drinking intensified. The only difference was that now I drank at home.
One of the things that plagued me was a sense of guilt for not reporting the rape. The “right thing” would have been to call the police immediately. But the idea of telling a stranger something so intimate was appalling. And a physical examination? That would have been unbearable.
The first time I vomited, I blamed it on eating too much pizza. But when it had become a morning ritual. There had to be an explanation. God wouldn’t be that cruel.
After staring at two pink lines for what seemed like hours, I finally had to face the truth. The unimaginable had become a reality. I was pregnant.
Suddenly, my hands were like ice, and I found it hard to breathe. I wandered aimlessly for hours, staring but never truly focusing on anything. There was too much within me, screaming for my attention.
What was I going to do? Abortion had always seemed out-of-the-question. The pregnancy represented a life…not just a clump of cells. But what about in this case—was an abortion so wrong? It certainly seemed the easiest way out.
At times, my mind would race, frantically scrambling for a solution to my dilemma. At other times it was as if there was simply too much data to compute and my brain would shut down. I had a huge decision in front of me, yet I felt incapable of even choosing what to wear.
Finally, I did a google search and found Pregnancy Resources. As I walked up to their door, it took all my willpower not to turn around and run back to the safety of my car. Going through that door made everything real.
I don’t remember much about the initial interview, except that the nurse seemed genuine—as though she actually cared about me. She even shed a couple of tears when I told her about the rape. That took me by surprise. No one had ever done that before.
The other thing I recall is seeing another set of pink lines. I’d prayed God would take the decision about my pregnancy out of my hands. But that wouldn’t be my story.
However, I will never forget seeing my baby for the very first time. My heart was lost the second I saw my baby on that ultrasound screen. Seeing him move—seeing his little arms punch and his legs kick, took my breath away. At that moment, it was as though something that had been hard and coiled inside my chest melted. I wasn’t looking at something that would become a “monster”—this was my baby! Yes, he had Jose’s DNA, but he also had mine.
Suddenly, the dilemma was over. No matter what, I would carry my pregnancy to term. That’s when I felt something that had been missing for a very long time. A gentle peace settled over me like a blanket. And even though nothing had changed, everything had changed.
Somehow, seeing my baby had created within me a paradigm shift of epic proportions, and I would never be the same.
Those next few months would be anything but easy. Telling my brothers proved to be extremely hard. Initially, they both advised me to abort. Later, they would come around, but their first response hurt me deeply. I also faced tremendous pressure from friends and classmates. Rape was the “poster child” reason for ending a pregnancy. Deciding to carry to term went against the grain of society, ruffling more than a few feathers.
I never thought I would have to fight so hard to defend my choice to have my baby. Over and over, I thanked God for allowing me to hear the truth and to see my baby on the screen at Pregnancy Resources. Those images would sustain me time and time again.
Bennett was born almost seven years ago. So much has happened since that day. Once Jose learned I was pregnant, he walked out of my life, and I haven’t heard from him since. Three years ago, I married the love of my life. Thomas adopted Bennett and has been the best father a boy could ever want.
My husband and I are now facing a difficult season due to infertility. However, one blessing in the midst of this trial is the realization of how deeply blessed we are to have Bennett. Although I still deal with the “aftershocks” of rape, I will be forever grateful for the strength I found to choose life for my baby.
Nowadays it seems everyone wants a baby on their terms—their timing. But the truth is, we have no guarantees about tomorrow. Our infertility is a perfect example of that truth. None of us know the future. Yes, I’ve had struggles that come along with an unplanned pregnancy. Nonetheless, pregnancy is a gift and a blessing, even if you don’t realize it at the time.
Bennett is amazing. Recently I was looking through his baby book, and I came across this entry that pretty much sums up how I feel:
October 10th, 2010
One year ago today I found out you were growing inside of me. I have changed so much since that day. I can honestly say that now, I am truly happy…something I haven’t felt in quite a while. And I owe all of it to God…and to you. You’ve made my life worth living, and being your mom has turned me into a better person. Because of you, I have grown closer to God, to my family, and I have more peace than ever before. It must have been hard for God to send you down here. He must miss you like crazy—but I think He knew I needed you more. My precious boy, you have shown me a love I never knew existed. I only pray I can give you as much as you have given me. I will strive to be the best mother I can be. I can’t imagine life without you and pray I never have to. You brought me back to life, and for that, I am forever grateful.
All my love,
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at Save the Storks, and is reprinted here with permission.