I wrote this story for all the young women, past and present, who have heard those words.
“Babies raising babies,” the night nurse harrumphed with disapproval as she turned to leave the room, her big butt swaying dangerously close to the door frame. “And make sure that child stays awake long enough to eat something this time! You can’t go home until she starts to gain some weight.”
Home, I think, tears welling up in my eyes. I want to go home. I want to walk in the front door and smell fried chicken cooking and hear Mom reminding Kate to put the forks on the left as she prepares the salad. After dinner I want to do my homework at the dining room table, finishing in time to watch TV. I want to hear Daddy call me “Angel” when he says goodnight.
I know that seventeen is young and we should have waited. Mike has college to finish and I missed the last six months of high school but I can make it up. It’s just that we love each other so much. It can’t be wrong, can it? We’ll be OK, won’t we?
I feel my daughter’s tiny body begin to squirm as she roots around searching for a nipple. “Eat baby,” I whisper. “Eat enough to get us out of here.”
She has Mike’s face, a tiny heart shape with beautiful brown eyes that will glow with pride when she says her first word. Flash with defiance when her will is tested. It will be a struggle but I’ll encourage her to stand up for herself, to reach for the stars, to sing and to dance and, one day, to leap for joy when she finds love.
We both relax as she begins to nurse, relief flooding my soul as my body nourishes this miracle child.
She has my red hair and Mom’s tiny feet. She will always be able to buy shoes on sale as small sizes look good on display but not many women can wear them. She will be vain about this and nothing else.
I look down to find her gazing at me. Examining my features quizzically as if she’s trying to figure out where we’ve met before.
Tears fill my eyes again. Tears of joy this time. I can’t wait for Mike to get here in the morning so we can all go home together.
My child has her own wisdom. Through her I will discover the meaning of life.
“Babies raising babies,” I whisper, full of awe and wonder at the sight of her.