I am alone, but not quite.
Let’s start from the beginning. My father was killed in a drunk driving accident that he caused. He had gone to a party and on his way home he hit a van containing a young mother and her infant child. Thankfully he was the only one that sustained serious injury and I’m glad he’s dead. My mother is a drug addict who cares more about the various men in her life than she does about her children. She parties every night and sleeps with anyone that offers. As long as she can get the drugs that she thinks she needs, nothing else matters. I am the oldest of seven children. My younger siblings and I are very malnourished and I am always the one left to take care of them. Even if someone in our lives had taken the time to teach me how to cook, it wouldn’t have done me any good. The is never any food in the house. Mother goes out every night and sleeps all day. I don’t think she even realizes that the last time she went grocery shopping was four months ago. Sometimes, when we can’t stand the hunger anymore, I run down to the nearest 7-11 and fill my backpack with anything I can get my hands on. It might not be much, but food is food. The people that run the place don’t seem to mind. I’m only twelve years old, I don’t deserve all this responsibility. Sometimes I wish that mother had been in the car with my father that night. At least then there wouldn’t be so many of us and we would all be better off than we are now.
I thought that things couldn’t get any worse until I realized that we hadn’t seen anything yet.
Mary Ann, age five, went to school today and got into trouble for stealing food. While trying to explain why she had taken the food, she told her teacher everything there was to know about our home life. Her teacher called the officials and they came to our house. Mother wasn’t home and they separated all of us in order to question us. They could ask me all of the questions that they wanted but I would never tell them the truth. The next day when I brought the kids home from school, there was a strange van parked out in the front of our trailer. I brought the children in and saw seven blue duffel bags lining the hallway. Each of them had our names written on them. That is when I realized that they were taking us. They can take wherever they want, but I will never tell my secret. We piled into the van and they explained that they were unable to find a family willing to take on all of us. We made five stops. Mary Ann went to a nice older couple, they seemed so grandmotherly and I knew that she would be happy. The next stop was for Jimmy and Alex, twins aged thirteen months. A young, blond couple took them in. I was thrilled that they would be able to stay together and have a mother and a father to care for them. The next two stops left eight year old Pam, ten year old Joseph, and 3 year old Monique on the same block.
Once again I was alone, but not quite.
We continued to drive for nearly forty-five minutes before the van came to its final stop in front of a juvenile detention center. “Why?” This is the first time I have spoken since I walked into our home this afternoon. They told me that I had been busted for stealing all that food and that my punishment was to serve the next seven months of my life here. This is the first time I can say that I’m scared. They left me at the desk with a small brunette named Sergeant Ramirez. She led me down the hall to a room full of medical equipment and asked me to sit down on the bed. After she walked out I began to look around. The last time I had been to see a doctor was when I was four years old. There is a drawer in the corner that is partially open so I sneak closer to get a better look. The doctor chooses that moment to come into the room. He orders me back to the bed and asks me to remove my clothes. At my shocked expression, he soothes me by letting me know that he only wants to give me a standard exam. I laid down on the exam table and he began to work. I felt his hands as he checked my newly developing breasts for lumps. “Have you begun menstruating yet?” He asked. I could hear the questions running through his head. “ Yes” I replied. Then came the inevitable question. “When did you have your last period” he asked. The truth was to be revealed. “I am sixteen weeks pregnant doctor” I replied. “Who is the father of your child Daisy?” Asked Sergeant Ramirez who had entered with the Doctor. “My mother’s last boyfriend had waited up one night until my mother passed out and came into my room while I was sleeping. When he left the next day I hoped he would never return, but I wasn’t that lucky.” I responded while trying not to cry. “How long did this go on?” inquired the Doctor with shock written plainly on his face. “Six months” was my response. Sergeant Ramirez asked me to put my clothes back on and led me from the room. She took me to the maternity ward on the third floor.
The ward consists of eighteen rooms that each house four girls. Before I arrived, the ages of the girls ranged from thirteen to seventeen. Now I stood out from the others. I was the youngest that this ward had ever seen. It wasn’t exactly an accomplishment for me. On the way to the third floor, Sergeant Ramirez explained the rules to me. “There is to be no personal property with the exception of the Bible that will be provided on admission. That Bible is yours to take when you leave. There is to be no swearing, no piercings, and no loud noise. Lights out is at nine o’clock every night. If you keep to yourself and follow the rules, you will be out of here in no time.” She explained. The girls I was to room with seem very kind. They helped me unpack what little was sent with me and we all became fast friends. There was Jenna, who is fifteen and twenty-three weeks pregnant, Melanie, who is thirteen and thirty-two weeks pregnant and Sarah, who at seventeen was the oldest in the ward and thirty-nine weeks pregnant.
The first night I was there, Sarah was stuck to me like glue. She took me down to the meal hall for dinner and took the time to tell me everything she could about being pregnant. As we walked back to my room I realized that for the first time in my life I have found something to be excited about. The next day dawns and I’m beginning to realize how lucky I truly am. I was walking down to breakfast when I realized that I get to have three good meals today and after I finished eating, a nurse came over to bring me my prenatal vitamins. I was just told that every day I will have to do a few simple chores but in the afternoon I get to spend an hour outside and the rest of the afternoon is mine to do with as I please. Sarah came over as soon as we got outside. After we came back in we went to our room and spent the afternoon curled up on our beds talking. We did this every day that week and one afternoon about six days after I arrived we began to talk about ours reasons for being in our current situations. “Why are you here?” I asked her. “When I was eleven years old, I brought a gun to school with me killed two of my fellow students and one of my teachers. I was sentenced to twenty-five years. Seven years are to be spent here and the remaining eighteen are to be spent in the state penitentiary.” By this time, she was crying hysterically. “I didn’t want to do it.” She cried out. “It was my Chemistry teacher and two of the boys in my class. One day, after class had ended, the boys held me back and the three of them took turns with me. I tried to tell the principal, but he didn’t believe me. I didn’t know what else to do”. Her body was shaking and I suddenly realized that I was holding her in my arms as she shuddered and cried. “If you’ve been here that long” I asked “how is it that you are pregnant now?” “ I was raped by one of the guards” she replied nonchalantly. “ No one did a damn thing about it, they just moved me up here” she responded. “The worst part about it all is that as soon as the baby is born, he will be taken by social services.” I held her close as she sobbed. Suddenly her body tightened and he sobs became cries of pain. I can hear her cries echoing off of the walls of the room as her water breaks and her contractions begin to rack her body. Before I can react, the room fills with people. I feel myself being pulled from the bed as two men rush in with a gurney. The room empties quickly as she is rushed to the elevator. The image of her pale, screaming face is etched into my brain as Jenna and Melanie rush in. We don’t know what to do, so we collapse to the floor and begin to pray. Two hours later a guard walks in and orders us into the main room to talk with the warden. “There were some problems with Sarah’s delivery” say the warden. “The baby was born in the breech position and the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. He didn’t make it.” There was a pause as we all gasped and began to cry. “Sarah lost a lot of blood and her body gave up. She joined her little boy” he said as he left us sitting there. I’m not sure how I got here, but I’m back in our room. I collapse on Sarah’s bed and it feels so strange to know that I will never see her smile or hear her laugh again.
Once again, I’m alone, but not quite.
I lay down on her bed and cry myself to sleep thinking about all the loss I have suffered through. I wonder daily about the well-being of my siblings and I pray every night that life will be better for all of us. The months seem to race by and the joys of pregnancy are somewhat overwhelming. I am now due in a matter of days and the rules are simple. If you are more than three quarters through your sentence, the baby is yours to keep if you so choose, without exception. That means that I get to keep my child. I love the way that sounds. Life may be difficult, but I will always have my little ray of sunshine. It’s now time for lights out, I guess we will see what the morning has to bring. It is one o’clock in the morning and there is no longer any chance of sleeping through the pain. Today is my birthday and my bed sheets are so full of amniotic fluid that I am sure I will be sharing this day with my baby. I try to stand up but the pain intensifies and causes me to fall back upon the bed. I reach up to the head of the bed and push the call button for the very first time. A nurse rushes frantically into the room and upon realizing that I am in labor, she quickly calls a code eighty-seven. Two men rush into the room with a gurney and take me to the birthing room. I was given some kind of medication through a needle in my arm and the pain is starting to recede. The doctors are telling me to push, the nurses are telling me to breathe, and my heart is telling me to pray. A cry broke through my prayers and tears streamed down my face as they rushed my little girl to the corner of the room. My heart leapt for joy as I glimpsed her face for the first time as they rushed over there. I didn’t know that I was capable of having that much love for anyone. My beautiful, innocent little girl is here. Her cries suddenly stopped and panic seized my heart as my gut-wrenching cries began. I begin to pray as I have never prayed before. I pray that God will find it in him to save my little girl and in doing so will save me. God must have heard my adamant prayers because I can hear my child’s sweet voice crying out from the darkness. The nurse walks over with my child in her arms. She hands her to me and shows me how to feed her. I am sitting here watching as she closes her emerald green eyes and her angelic features give in to sleep. I will guarantee that my precious, beautiful Arrianna will never know the pain that I have known. A few days have passed and Arrianna and I are being moved to the mommy’s ward. This is where we will stay until my sentence is served.
My sentence is now over and Arrianna has grown so much. She just turned three months old. My days are long but thoroughly enjoyable. Arrianna is growing at a speed that utterly astounds me. We are now living together in a home for teen mothers. I see a tutor twice a week to get caught up with school. I bear sole responsibility for Arrianna. The government pays us to take care of our children’s needs. She is mine without a doubt and that will never change. For now, we are happy, but I only see life getting better from here. I will never be alone again.