This story is by Gloria Jainchill and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The birth date of my daughter. A wonderful, amazing, beautiful gift of love from God. The best thing to have happened to me in my thirty-one years of life. Redemption? Yes. What happened ten years earlier is what makes the birth of my first born my story of redemption.
I was in my hospital bed, drugged, exhausted after 19 hours of labor, feeling no pain after giving birth to my 7 pounds 8 ounces beautiful baby girl. The nursing staff had whisked her away, my doctor saying everything was fine, that she was a healthy baby girl. I heard her crying, light and soft. She was a live and her wispy short breaths and cries, they comforted me. I was elated and scared out of mind.
My sister Laurie came in and exclaimed excitedly, “she is beautiful”. It was after 5:30 pm when Laurie stopped in before going home to her husband and children.
“I haven’t gotten to see her and hold her yet. They took her away while I was still groggy. Laurie, would you mail this for me?” I said, then I handed her the sealed stamped 1980 census form. I had not mailed it hoping to include my new born child. I made the right call!
Laurie laughed, “you are too funny” she said.
“I hoped she would arrive before the deadline!”
“Yes, she did” Laurie said as she sat next to me and laughed, shaking her head. The stuffed little bear Laurie brought for her new niece was so cute, I couldn’t wait to show it to my little girl. I couldn’t wait to meet her, feel this bundle of love in my arms.
Laurie was still there when the door opened, and the nurse came in. She walked over towards me, gently placing Cassandra in my arms, her head resting on my left elbow. The nurse mumbled something, spoke something, but to me it was all mumbo jumbo. I could not hear or see anything, but this miracle bundle I now held in my arms. I stared at my baby girl for what seemed like a lifetime. I could not believe my eyes. God had given me this beautiful gift, my beautiful baby girl. I had promised God earlier in my life to dedicate my children to Him if I should have any. I had been told years earlier that getting pregnant would be difficult for me. I had given up on the thought of being a mother.
It was many years later when Laurie shared this tidbit with me. Laurie said, “that first time I saw you hold Cassandra in your arms I sensed that it was the first time in your life you felt truly loved”.
I carried those words with me not understanding the depth of their meaning until many, many years later. Laurie passed away in 2016. I am still mourning the loss of her beautiful smile, her wit, her wisdom, her laughter, her advice, her love, and the wonderful conversations we had together. I know now, that she knows just how right she was on April 1, 1980.
It was ten years earlier, April 1, 1970, that I was raped. I remember that horrible night and him standing in my doorway, how he smelled. It is two weeks after my 70th birthday and vivid details still come forward. The night, the rape, I was twenty-one, and it’s been forty-eight years of remembering.
I had seen him before. Today I would call it stalking. In 1970 we did not use that word. He was at the bus stop. He was at the package store. He showed up every week or two before I moved. That night he showed up at the home I now shared with two friends. A looming figure in my doorway. I asked him what he was doing here. He said the door was open. I was cleaning my bedroom and walked to the doorway to ask him to move so we could talk in the living room area. He stepped forward and closed the door. A chill came over me, I was afraid, instinctively I looked for an escape route. I stopped, backed up, I thought if I could draw him in then I could jump onto the bed and reach the door to escape. I was fast, but he was over six feet, able to stretch over the bed, grab my arm and restrain me. The rest is history.
I did not report the rape. I knew his name was Bill, but that was all I knew about him. A woman had to prove she was not lying in 1970, that she was not “asking for it”, that it was not consensual, that the man was a predator. A stigma came with reporting a rape, you were now dirty, used, untouchable by both males and females. In 1970, the advice was to not struggle or resist, or the rapist would kill you.
Three weeks later I was doing my morning exercises that included thirty sit-ups. I was half-way through when a severe, breath-stealing, air-gasping pain swept over me. I collapsed on the floor. My roommate and I drove to work together. She came downstairs wondering where I was. I was on the floor still gasping in pain. She realized something was wrong, called my office and then called in sick herself. She then got me to a doctor’s office. The doctor said I sprained muscles and my back, he then gave me a cortisone shot. It hurt like the dickens but in two days I could walk and run again.
Two weeks later I found out I was pregnant. I was that one in a millionth rape victim. Lucky me! I was scared, confused, and lost. In 1970 we did not have Roe versus Wade. There were no pregnancy clinics. There was no health insurance for women that included maternity. My doctor asked to talk with me after the nurse made her announcement, “you are pregnant”. He spoke about my options. He said he could perform an abortion, they allowed it in cases like these, that I would have to go before a medical review board. A week later I had my interview. I explained about the cortisone shot, I explained about my morning sickness, missing my period, and going for a pregnancy test. I told them I was raped. There were three doctors on the board. I left the room and when I returned, they told me they approved me for a Therapeutic Abortion.
Rape does not have the same labels today, thank goodness!
I carried with me deep seated self-hate, I was a rape victim and I murdered my unborn child. I gave up art. I gave up laughing. I became someone else to cope with the self-loathing I felt. A young man whom I knew asked me to marry him. I said I needed time to think. Alone, I thought to myself: I will be dead before I’m thirty if I continue down my current path, he is smart, he can carry a conversation, he was good looking; he seemed like a nice fun guy, why not. On out next date I said yes. We planned an August wedding but had to cancel it. Why? Because he was a married man. I should have paid attention to the warning signs. He paid his lawyer and got his divorce, and we got married a month later.
Stories floated around. My friends told me about him being out with someone else. He denied it when I asked him, and I believed him. One can deny the truth but when his lovers began approaching me, I finally accepted it, stopped lying to myself. I divorced him after eight years of lies.
I filed for divorce, we continued to live together until our house was sold, and we dated for several months afterwards. I found out I was pregnant shortly after we separated. I called him and when a woman answered his phone, I hung up. I determined then I would not abort this child. I hoped for a miscarriage. I fell in love with my unborn child.
I kept my pregnancy secret for six months. When work found out, two childless couples asked about adopting my unborn child. I said no. My siblings laughed. Eight years of marriage, no children, divorced and now pregnant.
Cassandra’s birth on April 1, 1980, was my day of redemption. I vaguely remember that night forty-eight years ago. I do remember that wonderful day thirty-eight years ago. Learning to love myself took me a lifetime. My son was born ten days after my 40th birthday. My family of eight includes three grandchildren. Today’s memories include sharing, kissing, hugging, Eskimo kissing, snuggling, laughing, crying, grieving, rejoicing, birthday celebrations, Christmas mornings and graduations. My children, their spouses and my grandchildren, without doubt, show me I am loved, and I am loving.