A few weeks ago the cashier at my favorite lunch spot tells me she's having a baby. As she is over the moon (and has just completely fawned about my recent engagement), I feel compelled to match her energy. I ask her all of the usual questions... 'How far along? When did you find out? Are you excited? Boy or girl?!!' Lots of smiling and laughing ensues as she tells me how she's eight weeks along and that she and her boyfriend are just SO excited, etc.
Judgmental me thinks, 'You're excited? I'd be terrified. Single, young, working at a fast food place... not my ideal baby-making scenario. And why on earth are we being so chatty so early... aren't you supposed to wait awhile??' But her energy is palpable. I can't help but smile and wish her luck.
Fast forward to a couple days ago when, at the register, while she was helping another patron, she says: "My baby died." Immediately I wanted to jump across the counter and hug the devastated girl. Instead I said 'I'm sorry' way too many times and watched the other stunned customers shift and look completely uncomfortable.
After loading up my 17 (hundred) salsa cups, I found her outside. A half-hug and a few more awkward "I'm so sorries" later, she tells me that she's hanging in there. She just wants to get pregnant again. (Huh?) Only, her boyfriend is in prison for two years and he was their main source of income bringing in $600/month. (Huh?!) So, they're getting married next month so she can make conjugal visits and try to get pregnant again. (HUH?!) Only she doesn't know what to do because she only makes $300/month on her own. (HUH?!!!)
The whole situation just makes me sick on so many levels. On the one hand, I just want to bear hug this troubled girl and tell her everything will be okay... I can't imagine how she is hurting to be alone with a dead baby inside... I want to offer her comfort and support. Only I know things won't be okay in all likelihood. How can someone without a living wage, education or support system really hope to care for a child in a way that that child deserves? How is someone in that situation--without the judgment or common sense to recognize a good environment for a child or the resources necessary--allowed to have children in the first place?
I don't know. All I do know is that there is a girl out there, with hundreds and hundreds of girls just like her, in need of prayers and love and support and kindness. So, I will continue to ask her how she's doing. I will continue to keep her in my prayers. I will try my damndest not to be so judgmental. I will remember that she is someone's daughter and sister and a cousin and friend... and that she could just as easily be MY daughter or sister or cousin or friend.