This weekend I ran into one of my dear friends (we'll call him Jim), who was out with his daughter (we'll call her Kristen). I brought Sol over to say hi to them, and in a matter of minutes I was wrapped up in a story that will likely consume my thoughts for years to come.
It started with me asking Jim how his wife was. He informed me that they had split up. This was news to me; I told him I was sorry to hear that (what more can you say?). He told me their family had hit a couple rough patches, and they decided it was best to separate. Again I told him I was sorry to hear that, but didn't ask any questions. He went on to ask me if I knew his daughter was pregnant. My heart dropped as I thought about Kristen (how old was she? 12 years old? 13, maybe?) No, I didn't know she was pregnant. He then offered one more detail - that his wife's son (Kristen's older stepbrother) was the baby's father. Obviously this would throw a wrench into any family dynamic, and Jim and his wife couldn't work through it. So Jim and Kristen moved out of their house into an apartment, Kristen had chosen adoption, and they were working to move on with their lives.
We didn't talk for long. Jim told me he felt compelled to share Kristen's story with me because I may be able to relate. So he finished the story, I hugged him, hugged Kristen, told her I'll take her for a pedicure this week, and we parted ways. I intended to continue on with my day, but found it impossible to concentrate on anything. Tears filled my eyes and I hurried to finish my errands, for fear that I would fall apart crying in public.
I continued to think about little Kristen. To be honest, I have no idea how old she is. But she doesn't look a day over 12. I thought of the many things that went through my mind during my pregnancy. Then I tried to remember the things I was concerned with at her age - homework, summer vacation, boy bands, week-long trips to Wiggins Lake, earrings, homework, sleepovers, etc. Kristen probably didn't have a chance to care about any of those things over the past 9 months. I thought of how scared she must have been. I was terrified throughout almost the entire pregnancy - and I'm an adult... a strong adult with a driver's license, a college degree, a full-time job that pays well, and a home of my own. In the grand scheme of things, I had my life together and I didn't have much to be afraid of. Kristen, I'm sure, faced 100x more scorn than I ever did. She probably had to explain her situation 100x more often than I did. She has to live with a family that was torn apart by her pregnancy. I don't know whether the initial act was consensual or whether it was forced; I didn't ask, and frankly, I don't really want to know. I do know that this young lady's life will never be the same, and she will forever have to live with the knowledge that her baby is being raised by someone else. Hearing Kristen tell about her experience was like listening to a 5-year-old lecturing on astrophysics. It wasn't right. It sounded like a little girl talking about something she shouldn't have to know or care about.
I worked with an adoption agency, Bethany Christian Services, last summer (I'll write more about that in another post), and I remember the emotional tumult that went with it. There isn't even a shred of doubt in my mind that I made the right choice by choosing to raise Sol. But I know parenting isn't the right choice for everyone, and I respect the hell out of Kristen for choosing adoption. I hope Kristen is able to make peace with her decision. More than anything, I hope Kristen is able to make peace with life in general. This little girl has certainly had a shoddy hand dealt to her.
Kristen's is the most heartbreaking story I've heard in a long time. But lately I find that people open up to me on a daily basis. Fact: when you share your own story, people share their stories with you in return. Comfort and support come in all shapes and sizes, but I think the best support comes when one broken soul leans on another broken soul. Misery really does love company. In the past couple weeks especially, I've heard more stories than I can count: stories of lost love, lost children, broken hearts, broken homes, unplanned pregnancies, unhappy marriages, alcoholism, eating disorders, drug addictions, criminal backgrounds, and more.
This is neither a rant nor a request for help. Don't get me wrong; I love listening to people, and I love that I can help people through difficult times. But I don't know how I can hear these stories and be okay with the world we live in. Our lives are filled with so much sadness, anger, and poison - it's difficult to see past all that and focus on the good things in life. If you need to vent, lay it on me. From one broken soul to another: I'm here to listen.
"I am not dying; not any more than any of us are at any moment.
We run, hopefully as fast as we can, and then we must stop.
We can only choose how we handle the race." -- Hugh Elliott