“Aww, isn’t her baby cute?”
“Hah! Not really. He cries all the time. They’ve been banned from pretty much everywhere on campus because of that. And she has this habit of just leaving him places and going to class.”
She should take better care of her baby. Get some babysitters. Stop taking him everywhere with her. Make him stop crying. Throw his icky diapers away in the dumpster across the parking lot, so we don’t have to smell them. Feed her baby from a bottle, or go feed him in the restroom.
They don’t say these things to her face, but she knows they’re thinking it. The looks, the whispers, say all she needs to know. So she hunches her shoulders and keeps walking, carrying that sweet baby boy who makes her world go around.
He wasn’t planned, and they weren’t yet married. Now they are, but she is a single mom until she graduates – they went to different colleges hours away from each other, and the last semester of senior year is much too late to change that. Her roommates decided they couldn’t handle extra visitors to help care for the baby, so she moved into a hotel room. Her roommates later calmed down, but it was easier to just stay in the hotel. That way she wouldn’t be inconveniencing them with his cries.
People offered to help before he was born, but when she asked them to commit to babysitting, few did. Those who did soon came to her with important reasons why they couldn’t do it anymore. She knew they were just excuses – he was an inconvenience that they could get rid of, thereby simplifying their lives. But they made her life more complicated.
The head of campus ministry told her that she could bring the baby by if she needed someone to watch him and no one else was available. She tried not to take advantage of that generosity, but as the semester went on and helpers melted away, she finds herself doing it more and more. She knows the only person who doesn’t resent it is the head of campus ministry. She wishes she could do it some other way – but this is the only choice she has, aside from taking him to all of her classes – and failing them. She can’t care for a fussy baby and pay attention in class at the same time. So she does it, and effaces herself, tries to be so mild that no one can possibly find any more fault in her than they already have.
She gets other looks, too – from those who had counted on their fingers, and know she sinned. How could she have done that, she was such a good girl, or so everyone thought. How could she walk around like she wasn’t sorry. At least she hadn’t aborted her baby.
In her deepest, darkest moments, she wishes she had.
The rest of the time, she knows he is worth it.