The Living Proof

Erin Britt essays

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On February 11th, three days before Valentine’s Day, a young man lost control of his car while driving up a snowy mountain en route to a couple’s massage. His car was filled with so much love and hope for the future. Wedding invitations that were postmarked to be mailed out; business cards from florists, DJs, and photographers; and his fiancé in the passenger’s seat. One wheel off the road and his car was swung into the opposing lane. The passenger side, with his fiancé, was t-boned by another vehicle coming down the mountain. Two lives were taken in an instant.

The man was cut out of the backseat of his car, where he laid lifeless in a pile of wedding plans and was airlifted away from his dead fiancé and high school sweetheart, as well as another innocent man. He attended his fiancé’s funeral straight from the hospital and spent six months in a wheelchair. His own mother and best friend took turns wiping his 27-year-old ass and spoon feeding him like a baby. He required around the clock care to prevent him from committing suicide. The local papers. The comments. The front page headlines. 

I read it all in disbelief. I went to high school with this man, although we never spoke. I knew his fiancé. This stuff does not happen to people I know. Unbeknownst to me, I would one day come to know this man better than I know myself. One double date with this man’s friend and I was in love with him. Keeping it classy, I know. Even though we walked the same halls in high school and grew up two miles away from each other, I had never spoken to this man before in my life. Suddenly, I could not get enough of him.

Maybe it was the alcohol or my girly desire to be valued by someone during a time when I had no idea who I was or what I was doing. I did not intend to fall in love nor did I want to. I was at a point in my life when I was finally content with a date being just a date and never hearing from the guy again. I caught a lot of grief for my unconscious decision. “This guy has a lot of baggage,” my mother would repetitively remind me. I did not care. I was happy and loved for the first time in a long time, possibly ever. 

My happiness abruptly ended after a switch in birth control pill brands. More estrogen, less progesterone. Less estrogen, more progesterone. Whatever the chemical imbalance was, it changed my life forever. Just days after seeing that evil red cross on a urine saturated stick, the phone rang.  This man would be going to trial. Vehicular homicide. Twelve months jail time. I knew this was a possibility since the day I fell in love with this man, but reality was kicking in at the absolute worst time.

I contemplated abortion. I made the appointment to kill my unborn child on four separate occasions. I finally drove to an appointment alone without anyone knowing my plans. Maybe I could play it out as if I had an unfortunate miscarriage. I could not do it. If I was going to kill my baby, then I was going to kill myself. It is what I deserved, right? I Googled whether committing suicide while pregnant was considered murder. If the fetus died, but I survived, would I be a murderer? I was a mental health registered nurse at three state prisons, oddly enough, so I was all too familiar with suicide, the criminal justice system, and the human body’s instinct to save a mother’s life over the fetus inside of her. The only thing worse than my current situation was the thought of being incarcerated for killing my unborn child and unsuccessfully killing myself. Thankfully, Google failed me. There is no or Wikipedia site for the consequences of killing an unborn child. 

The walls were closing in on my “once perfect life.” I was not this girl. I did not associate with criminals. I did not kill babies. I did everything I was told I was supposed to do in life. I attended a top university and graduated with a 3.94, and more importantly, with a degree that would land me a stable and dependable occupation  I was on the homecoming court, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, prom court contestant, and student council secretary. My mother was a teacher at the high school I attended for Christ’s sake. I was “the teacher’s kid.” My brother was on the consistory at our family church (which I never attended) and here his sister was knocked up out of wedlock to a man in prison. Black sheep at its finest. Nature versus nurture. I was not some single mother to jail bait, but I was, and for some reason I knew I had to live this life. Now it was time for everyone to point and say, “What the hell was she thinking? She really messed up her life.” 

I went through pregnancy alone, as well as the first six months of my child’s life. Nothing cut me as deep as when I chose to have a gender reveal party and it got back to me that a mother of one of my childhood friends made the statement that I should not be celebrating my baby. You can say whatever you want about me, but do not belittle my son. I remember Thanksgiving Day during my pregnancy as though it was yesterday, although I wish it was as easily forgotten as where I put my keys. My entire family left for New Jersey for the holiday and I was not welcome to join them.  Family members who did not stand a chance of running into me in town were not to know about my pregnancy, even at 30 weeks along. I went to bed sobbing and woke up the same way.  I was pissed I could not even watch the Macy’s Day Parade through my tears, which was always my favorite Thanksgiving tradition growing up. I forever wanted to be one of the dancers.

Thirty weeks pregnant and starving, I bundled up and drove to McDonald’s drive through for some Thanksgiving brunch. Comfort food; it never gets old. I approached the drive through with my swollen eyes, while donning my over-sized sweatpants, and ordered a medium fry. “Mam, we don’t start serving lunch until 11.” I sounded normal and cheerful long enough to pull away before I lost it again. Another failure. I was a single mom, fat, pale, swollen, and alone on Thanksgiving Day, and I couldn’t even successfully order McDonald’s fries. I settled for a freezer burnt Joe Corby’s pizza instead. 

On February 18th, I birthed my baby boy alone. My only companion was my doula. Ninety percent of me does not believe that there is a God, but finding my doula made me feel otherwise. She was the only person who was able to help me achieve my goals and be in charge of what little was left in my control during the most uncontrollable time of my life. I spent four days in the hospital alone with my baby. Nothing was as painful as hearing new mothers with their families celebrating what was supposed to be the greatest time of their lives. My celebratory dinner from the hospital was ordered and my mom surprisingly agreed to accompany me. I took her order over the phone and was looking forward to finally having some companionship that could talk and did not sleep all day and poop every 30 minutes. The meal came to my room, complete with a fabric tablecloth and wine glasses for sparkling grape juice, but my mom never showed. Tears soaked my mashed potatoes as I realized I had a long road ahead of me.


About the Author

Erin Britt

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