December on the streets
When I first learned I was pregnant, I felt terrified. I learned I was pregnant on a Monday in early November, and the next morning I was to go out onto the streets. Like normal.
In addition to this fear, I immediately did not feel well and learned that your immune system gets suppressed very early in pregnancy so that your body does not reject the baby as a foreign object. I therefore became afraid of being on the streets with people more likely to carry untreated illnesses. Some have the flu. Some have AIDS. Some just have the common cold.
But I wanted to run and hide.
I also hated myself for wanting to run and hide. I have worked so hard to face fear, to live with the things I fear, rather than running from them and letting them control how I live. And yet it seemed that pregnancy was taking me back to square one, a place I did not want to go.
Even in the face of this fear, I went.
On Tuesday, the day after finding out I was pregnant, just like every other Tuesday before, I shook unwashed hands. I still sat on the concrete and squatted in the dirt next to my homeless friends.
For the first seven days of knowing I was pregnant, I felt this continual fear that my life was going to change forever and I would no longer be able to do my work. I felt the fear would never subside, and I would be taken "out of the game" by it.
And so the fear lived with me. It walked with me on the streets. I had a hard time being fully present with my homeless friends that first week because my fear was always in the back of my mind.
And then one day, after what felt like an eternity of being overtaken by fear, I took a deep breath. I had made it a week, a week of still doing my work while being pregnant. A week of still walking abandoned streets and growing in friendship with the homeless. I was still alive. I had not gotten sick. I would be okay.
Now, I am thirteen weeks pregnant. My work has not stopped. If anything, I think walking this journey with my friends on the streets has the potential to further bond us. It gives me a vulnerability I did not have before, and being vulnerable can connect us to others.
My homeless friends are in a continually vulnerable state. Their lives are fraught with risk. They daily face the elements, a subculture of drugs and alcohol, and other people in desperate situations who might take advantage of them. Carrying a child on the streets and then learning to work once the child is born means a new level of risk for me. It means venturing into the unknown. It also means getting closer to the lives of my friends who are homeless in South Dallas.
And so I will take the risk and the fear. I will live with it. In my experience, living with my fear -- instead of running from it -- means more life in the end.