My education had mostly ended after eighth grade. So when I was sent off to college I was less than confident. I was informed not to worry about failing. I could go back home.This was no doubt said as a comfort, but to me it was a painful reminder of my inability. If I was to fail at college, I was to be sent to Alaska to find a husband. Not kidding.
This was repeatedly said to me. Followed by a laugh. Followed by a, “No really, I’m serious.” I would have to work as a hard as possible to maintain a C average. To my surprise, working as hard as possible produced A’s instead. Yet before I could receive my report card, I had been proposed to. I tentatively accepted on the advice of my Father.
I was hopeful to get out of it swiftly. Yet a series of sexual assaults made me, as Christian purity culture proclaims “A chewed piece of gum.” I was stuck to the teeth of my betrothed, or doomed to remain single. This thought was severely unpleasant for me on many different levels. In fact, it was levels I wasn’t allowed to even think.
I couldn’t question my Father’s choice in a spouse. He was the head of my household. I couldn’t question my betrothed actions, he was my future head of household. I tried to speak to authorities, but I was reminded of policies and losing my place at school. The one place I had ever succeeded at anything. There was no changing course.
My Father had it all planned out, because it was the best chance that “someone as neurotic” as me could have. I loved my Father so much. It had been easy for me to accept patriarchal doctrines. Yet when I overheard my Father defending the man who had repeatedly violated me, my heart broke.
I deserved him? Marriage as a teenager was all I was good for? The good grades I had earned for that past school year wasn’t good enough. I was still useless. A liability. No longer a cute little girl, but something far worse, a woman.
These ideas were only confirmed to me at school. I had a knack for biblical scholarship, but women aren’t suppose to teach. Those who dared defy the norm were often the source of ridicule. Something I couldn’t afford to bear. So when I was informed by my Father of my wedding date, I numbly made it happen. It was going to be okay. I might have to take a little time off of school, but I was going to get my bachelors and then my masters. I’d support my family myself, and show my Father how wrong he was for underestimating me. However, my new spouse had other plans.
Now I was aware of most forms of birth control, and how to use them. Yet the women in my family had bad reactions to the pill, and therefore I opted for barrier methods. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the problems that arose. When had I ever been respected in a sexual setting? Yet I was consistently surprised.He’d say one thing and do another.
A little over a month after my wedding my period did not occur. I was very confused. It had seemed like we were very careful. After a positive pregnancy test, a confession was made. “I lied.” He said with a giggle.It wasn’t even a mistake,but straight out deliberate deception, for the sake of his desire.
Bubbling, boiling rage filled me. I’d never felt hate like this, but who was I to hate? My husband was my head, and provider. For all of his faults he believed in me,and was thoroughly looking forward to me becoming the primary provider in the future.
My mind raced. What could I do? Who could I blame? Men are notorious for not liking condoms. Obliviously it was my fault for not going on the pill. A pill? Could I kill this baby? I erupted in tears. What had I become?
I was low income, ignorant, pregnant, white trash. If only I had listened to my Daddy, right? My tears mixed momentarily with maniacal laughter. I sat on the floor and clutched my belly. As tears hit my navel, I whispered, “It is not your fault. I will find a way for both of us.”
I needed to find a way and fast. Before I could even confirm my pregnancy with a professional, my husband was unemployed and without insurance. Thus began my weeks of trying to get government aid. Never had I been treated so poorly by a stranger. This confirmed my reality. Trash. Trash who didn’t deserve to be treated with human dignity. After all I was mooching off of the government! I was adding to the surplus population. I had the audacity to be poor!
My husband regained his insurance before the government even gave me a drop of health care. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than to say “Thanks but no thanks” to her snotty voice. It was just in time too. Few give care to someone as far along as I ended up being. Of course, my midwives were happy I made the cut.
What a difference the private sector is! Not only was I received with open arms, but they wanted me to add government aid on top of my insurance. They felt not only did I need it but I deserved it! For the first time since I had entered my husband’s home I felt hope. Everything in the clinic was beautiful, but something better was coming.
“Can you hear that?” She asked softly. It was the sound of my child’s quick heart. Hope had uplifted me, but love was overwhelming. My child was alive and well, and I loved him. So too, I would live and be well and have love.