Unexpectedly Expecting: Erin’s story
- Apr. 21, 2010
- 1 Comment
It’s the middle of the night and it’s 95 degrees outside.
The Harmony House doesn’t have air conditioning — just windows that let in the muggy, Jamaican air that smothers the missionaries inside. The acrid scent of jackfruit trees fills the air.
Erin shifts on her mattress, trying to block out the smell, the heat and the growing discomfort in her stomach.
It’s got to be gas bubbles, the way her stomach is gurgling, churning and turning.
She looks down at her bare, flat stomach — she’s wearing a sports bra and shorts, sweating, the idea of a blanket laughable in the sweltering humidity.
And then she sees it.
A bump pushes out the right side of her abdomen and crosses to the other side.
She feels a pitter patter across her belly.
I can’t be.
She sees another bump.
You can’t get pregnant when you’re raped.
It happened in February.
He had said he was 22 years old, this friend of a friend. But he wasn’t. He was 36. She went to his house to confront him, and he raped her. He raped her right there on his bed.
And now, 17 years old in a foreign country with her church group, Erin is five months pregnant.
She doesn’t sleep that night. When the sun rises, Erin rubs her eyes like everyone else and prepares for one last day of work.
She’s there with Olathe Bible Church to build two houses in the slum of Harmon, Jamaica.
She tries to take it easy, scared she could hurt the baby already growing inside her, but it’s the last push to finish building. She spends the day pouring cement and hauling bags of sand up and down the hill where the houses stand.
The next day, she’s snorkeling with her friends in the Caribbean. The missionaries are there one more day.
She doesn’t want to board the plane — she remembers reading about how you’re not supposed to fly when you’re too far along. But she can’t explain her fears. Not to them. She buckles her seatbelt and prays.
* * *
It’s Aug. 5, 2008, and she can’t fit into her 1940s-style red dress for the jazz concert that night.
“Erin, how can you not fit into this? I just bought it last month.”
Erin looks to the floor for refuge from her mother’s prying eyes.
Her mom lifts her chin. They make eye contact. Erin sees the worry, the knowing. The floodgates holding back her secret break, and the tears she hasn’t cried flow down her cheeks.
Her father is in Colorado with her older brother. And it’s a good thing, too. He wants to kill someone, preferably his daughter’s rapist. Her younger sister is hysterical.
For Erin, the next three months are the hardest: It doesn’t take long for word of her pregnancy to spread around her Christian high school.
The kids are fine, even excited. It’s the parents who treat her differently, reluctant to look her in the eyes or even speak to her.
She wonders why. She didn’t do anything wrong.
She stays home for most of that semester, making it to one football game, her stomach already growing.
By that time, she’s already decided to keep the baby. Erin’s birth mother has told her what it was like to give her up, and Erin knows she isn’t strong enough to do that.
She worries the baby will look like the father, that she’ll be haunted by her attacker’s face her entire life.
She wonders about the life she had planned for herself — the college degree from the University of Kansas she’s been dreaming of, a career in music therapy. All will be put on hold to take care of a child she hadn’t planned for.
In the end, it’s her baby. Her baby. And she wants to keep it that way.
Erin applies for Women, Infants and Children, a social welfare program designed to help low-income mothers. She’s already worked out a deal with her parents to let her live there for free room and board — if she cleans the house.
She considers herself lucky.
* * *
Erin wants a natural birth — no medication, no pills.
When her water doesn’t break Nov. 16, the due date she’s been anxiously awaiting, she reads up on some labor-inducing tricks online.
She eats cantalope, watermelon and kiwi.
She starts walking everywhere to get the baby to drop.
But her baby doesn’t come.
She goes to the hospital with her family at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 21, a troupe of loyal girlfriends on the way to hole up in the waiting room until it’s over.
She’s connected to an IV of Pitocin to induce labor, which begins an hour later.
By 3 p.m., Erin loses her will to resist relief from the pain. She asks for an epidural.
Thirty minutes later, it’s finally time to push.
One. Two. Three. That’s all it takes — three pushes — and Erin’s baby boy screams his presence to the world.
Erin fills out the birth certificate.
Name: Isaiah Timothy Hettrick. Mother: Erin Marie Hettrick. Father: Unknown.
* * *
That was two and a half years ago. In that time, Erin has graduated high school, attended a semester of college and, as of April 15, become a certified nursing assistant.
She’s seen all but about 10 friends move on or away, although they were already distanced by the gap of their experiences — hers as a mom, theirs as young singles.
Her ideas of fun have changed from sleepovers, movies and the mall to knocking down empty boxes of Pampers and Huggies with Isaiah, scavenging for baby clothes and toys at garage sales with her mother and catching precious moments alone with her boyfriend, Claude.
Her money, which once went toward makeup, earrings and beads, now goes to diapers and baby toys.
She’s gone from being a left-midfielder in soccer and a football cheerleader to “momma” and a qualified professional. And her wake-up call starts at 7 now, with a muffled cry from Isaiah sleeping near her, not the usual 10 to noon mornings of her 19-year-old peers.
‘Saiah, her dimpled, milk-chocolate skinned, hazel-eyed, curly-haired son, is ready for action early.
He’s trying to talk now — “Gaga” being the operative word in most conversations. He can sign, too: thank you, milk, music, please.
It’s only when Isaiah is lying down and Erin can see the roundness of his face that she thinks of her attacker.
Erin tries to forget the day she was raped, but she hasn’t forgotten that humid night in Jamaica when, after the shock of her pregnancy, she considered abortion.
“I hate to say that, but I did,” she said. “Because when you say, ‘I would never have an abortion. That’s terrible,’ that’s because you’re not really pregnant. Kind of in the back of your head you’re like, ‘I’m never going to be in that situation.’”
For that reason, she refuses to judge women who make that choice.
Some days, when she lets her mind wander while Isaiah is napping upstairs, Erin wonders how different her life would be if she had made a different decision.
Try as she might, she simply can’t picture her life without Isaiah.
And she doesn’t want to.
Edited by Sarah Kelly