When you experience a tragedy, you shouldn’t be held accountable to the things you wish for in the ensuing hours. There are so many emotions coursing through your heart, and your brain is generating some wonky thoughts that will be disregarded as bad ideas once the earth stops shaking beneath your feet.
In the twenty-four hours after I learned that Chon had been killed in March, I wished that it was a dream. I wished that he had been mixed up with someone else and would turn up. And I may have wished that his girlfriend was pregnant. Um, yeah, I definitely wished for that. In the throes of shock, it seemed like a way that he could live on, a way to keep some of him around. The days passed and more information surfaced. Including this:
Chon’s girlfriend was . . . with child.
Having a solid seventy-two hours under my belt to let the reality of Chon being gone sink in, I was ready to think clearly. And my thought was that this was terrible, terrible news. Instead of daydreaming about a cherubic child that would float easily through life, a reflection of the personality and memories of Chon, I stared down at the reality that this child will be born to a teenage mom. She will be a fatherless child in a country that does not treat these children kindly. His girlfriend is 19 years old. No one can expect her to ‘stay true’ to Chon’s memory. She will one day have a new boyfriend, and the chances of this new person treating Chon’s child as his own is low. I saw two options for the future. She would be one of the countless children I’ve met running around the direly poor neighborhoods with no access to education and not nearly enough parental guidance or protection. Or she would eventually live in a children’s home, where she would have access to education, safety and nutritious food, but lack the stability of growing up in a family. This child was screwed before her first breath.
Then I met Yamileth.
And since May, I’ve watched that belly grow.
What is it about the promise of a child that makes our outlook on impossible situations idealistic, hopeful and full of joy?
In July, we went to a doctor to make sure that everything was shaping up properly. During the three hours we waited (ugh), we chatted about how ridiculously cold it was in the waiting room, who was next going to cut in front of us in line, and Chon. Her tears as she relayed what happened the night of his death… Our passionate proclamations over what a stubborn, revengeful clod he could be… Her stories of just how good he treated her… Sigh.
Finally, a frigid woman calls us back to the ultrasound room. (Well, actually just Yamileth…but I thought that surely I could be of some use back there, right? Hold her hand or something.) She brusquely tells Yami to partially disrobe and slops on the goo.
“Here’s the head” (The tears start as little pinpricks. Manageable.)
“And the spine.” (Blink. Blink.)
She pushes a button to emit a whooshing sound that becomes a steady rhythm. ”And the heartbeat.” (The gringa in the corner, who is holding no ones hand, loses it.)
(The heartbeat!!! Along with a (kind of big) head! And a spine! What a miracle all of this is!)
“You’ll be having a girl.”
“Ay, no. Una niña?!?” Yamileth says in despair. Ok, we were all hoping for a little Choncito.
Just look at that big ol’ head!
September rolls around and she is at the waddling point. She hops around a bit to try to get the baby to kick for me. I ask her what she needs and she says “Diapers, clothes. Maybe a bed?” (Keep in mind that she has nothing. And the bed is only an optional afterthought.) As Yami cooks, I watch her six year old brother play with the kittens that scamper in and out of the house. He proudly explains that he has taught the dog, Chove (which was Chon’s dog and who is still being taken care of by Yamileth’s family) to be kind to the kittens. Caring for animals is not usually a priority so I’m impressed by this child. I watch Manuel dissect a phone charger after Yami tells him it no longer charges her phone. Manuel is Chon’s brother and his death could have severed Manuel’s relationship with this family, but instead he looks completely at home with them. Maybe this isn’t going to be as bad as I initially thought.
Manuel called last night. She had the baby. The excitement in his voice… He spent most of the day there two days ago and then went again yesterday. He’s planning on going back tomorrow. I talked about how happy I am that my lack of a team on my next trip means that I’ll be able to go see the baby more often. He says “You’ll go see the baby? No Jen, WE’ll get to go see the baby.” She may be fatherless, but she has an uncle that already adores her. Then Yamileth called today to tell me the news. Her joy was just radiating through the phone. Kaylee Nicol is healthy and beautiful and perfect. Nine pounds. (WHAT? If you knew how tiny Yamileth is, you would be wincing along with me.) Sleeps well, but likes to punch her momma as she thrashes around. (Was that a hint that a separate bed wasn’t so much of an afterthought now?) I told her that Manuel had called and was so excited. ”Oh yeah, he has already told me that I’m merely taking care of her for him until he leaves Proniño and then she’s his.” A little later he wanted to hold her, but Yami told him he didn’t know how to hold such a new baby. ”Exactly, and I need to learn!” was his reply.
I may be basking in the glow that comes from the excitement of a new life, but I’m delighted to see the outpouring of love for this little one. I know there will be bumps on the road she’s on. She has not been born into the ideal situation. But the people closest to her are stepping up to the challenge. I’m praying that when things get tough for Yami, Manuel will be able to help. He’s young, but losing Chon has caused him to hold tighter to the people he loves. And I know that he doesn’t want her to have the childhood they have had. And I may be thousands of miles away, but you better believe that I’m planning on being as involved as I can possibly be. Please Lord, let us be an indomitable trifecta of encouragement, support and guidance surrounding this little one.
If nothing else, we know she’ll be gorgeous and spunky and smart.
After all, she’s Chon’s daughter.