Finding Compassion When You’re 23, Single & Pregnant.
My actions are my only true belongings.
I cannot escape the consequences of my actions.
My actions are the ground upon which I stand.
~ The Five Remembrances
There was this beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring moment of complete silence.
I heard absolutely nothing—not the voice of the person speaking to me, the sounds of the music playing in the background, nor the sound of my own heartbeat. I felt as if I had been pulled through a vacuum and now I was slowly falling down towards a bottom I could not see. My fingers tingled, my heart raced and my throat slowly closed off. The sound of my own sharp breath brought me back to the moment.
“I could care less that you are pregnant or that the child is mine.”
A blast of harsh reality rushed against me and suddenly everything was far too loud and bright. His words echoed throughout my body, bouncing off every emotion and embedding themselves deep into my mind. For the first time in my life, I felt what it meant to live in a moment. I could feel the rough grain of the wooden door against my hand, the child inside of me kicking and could have sworn I felt the earth move beneath my feet. I couldn’t even look at him any longer and yet I still felt like I needed him to hold me. I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? I shut the door quietly behind me and stood in the small hallway unsure what to do next. Should I rush back in there and beg the man I loved to please reconsider, please care, please love me again and help, or should I just pick up my feet, as much as they didn’t want to move, and shuffle them away from that door? Would you think it silly of me if I told you I stood next to that door for a good five minutes unsure of what to do? I wanted to go back, but I knew I could only go forward from here, or unravel.
So I took one step away from the door, felt my body heave into a sob and kept walking until I found myself sitting on the front steps of his house waiting for a dear friend to pick me up.
That one step was the strongest moment of my life thus far.
I cannot express the amount of pain that comes from someone you love rejecting you and the child that you both created. I have had my fair share of pain during my 23 years but this was a new kind of pain that I didn’t know how to deal with. I sat on my bed that night and did nothing but stare at the stuffed otter he gave me when we visited his family earlier that year. There were no tears, no anger or sadness only a terrifying numbness that wrapped around me.
My mind kept replaying things he had told me: I remembered the first time he told me he loved me, recalled when he told me he wanted to marry me one day, how he would hold me while we slept and the way his eyes would light up when he looked at me. I couldn’t turn these thoughts off and they replayed over and over until I wondered if I would sincerely go mad from it all.
The night passed and thankfully, I did not turn into Lord Sauron or play Anna Karenina with a train. I stood up, said hello to my stomach and decided even though I didn’t think I could go on I had to because the little one inside of me deserved that much (and so did I.)
I told my family, friends and community about the pregnancy and that I would be doing it alone. I am not sure what I expected but the amount of love and support I received was (and still is) amazing. People took me aside and told me how strong I was and that my little girl would be just fine, others gave me clothing, cribs, and a rocking chair, and still others held me when I cried.
I saw my own strength grow as the days went on, but there was always this darkness that surrounded me. I didn’t let people see it for fear they would think less of me, but when I was alone, I could feel it hold me tightly. His words still haunted me as did the love that I harbored for him. I was angry with him, hurt, confused and sad. A part of me believed he would apologize and be a part of my life and our child’s life.
I will be very honest with you. I hated him for leaving me and this child alone. I abhorred his behavior, loathed his face and despised the emotions he was making me feel. Days after he left me he was with a new person. When he spoke to me it was only to tell me that he hated me and blamed me completely for the situation, and that he still believed I was selfish for trying to be a mother or for asking him to tell his family about the little one. He wanted nothing to do with me and didn’t want to see any of the ultrasound pictures or know anything about this child.
His new talent for crushing me was amazingly well honed and worked like a charm.
I hear people talk about compassion an awful lot, and I know I have spoken about it often, but I find that compassion is one of those things that is easy to talk about, but not easy to practice. I think that sometimes we believe that compassion should only be handed out to those that we feel deserve it and never to those that do not. The person who has been beaten down? Hell yes! What about the cruel person? Hell no!
I had a choice in this situation. I could live in my emotions or I could choose compassion. I could walk alongside anger and fear or I could hold out my hand and let compassion take off the blindfold so I could see again. My ex’s choice was to walk away and say cruel words and there is nothing I can do about that. Stewing in the emotions which were brought up by that choice will not change that choice nor will it bring me any closer to happiness. Hate will only destroy me and those I love—but compassion felt like injustice. It didn’t feel right that I would be compassionate to a man who had caused so much pain.
Looking down at my growing stomach made this choice easier. I realized that I do not want to raise this child in anger and hate. The world is beautiful and terrible; it is unfair sometimes, but that does not mean that the storm of one day should ruin the sunshine of the rest. Compassion isn’t letting my ex and his words trample me. Compassion is seeing the reality of his state. It is seeing the fear, confusion and anger that is in him and realizing that I have the same in me. It is speaking in kindness and honesty even when I want to throw a rock at his face, it is seeing the beauty in change and the sorry state that we are all in. Sometimes (in my case) compassion is knowing when not to speak to him or knowing when enough is enough, for the sake of my daughter.
It hasn’t been easy. In the month since he left me, I have cried more than I care to admit and there are times when his words still sting. Many of my friends don’t understand my choice and I guess I wouldn’t either if I were them. But every time I feel my daughter stir inside of me I know the choice I am making is the right one. Every morning I wake up not knowing what the day will bring, but that doesn’t scare me any longer. I wake up with inspiration and wonder, and while I may have my (many) sad days or moments in general, I know that they will pass. I do not believe that my life will be easy. In fact, I know it will be the opposite. I stayed in the area I live in for my ex and gave up the promise of a good job and a different life someplace else for what I believed was love. Now I am left without a job, the man I loved left me and I have a daughter on the way. It is terrifying but I can’t help but feel a well of strength, hope and passion grow within me. I can’t help but know that while nothing will ever be perfect, everything will be alright.
It may sound strange but it feels as if, for the first time in my life, I can actually understand reality as it is as not as I wish it to be. It feels as if I have finally put on my glasses after a day of not wearing them. I stop squinting and trying to understand what the blurry mess in front of me is because I can clearly see what it is.
Don’t get me wrong—I still feel the pain and anger from my ex’s choices. I still think about him more than I should. The whole situation surrounding my daughter and myself is still extremely stressful and I am not downplaying that in any way. Sure, sometimes I wish life was different for me, that maybe I had made different choices, but I recognize these wishes as fleeting thoughts that should not be obsessed with. I don’t believe that compassion is a choice that we make once or twice and are finished with. I believe it is a lifestyle, a daily struggle and a teacher—one that constantly reminds me of my own darkness before I can look at the darkness in others. It is not the path for those who are looking for an easy way out or that wish to live in a bubbled existence of “everything is wonderful” type of thinking. Compassion forces you to look at the reality of a situation and that is rarely ever wonderful. But compassion is the path of intense healing for yourself and the world around you and it is the path that I have chosen for better or for worse.
And there is no way I am looking back now.
Editor: Brianna Bemel