I sat next to her in the crowded ER trauma room.
She had her legs in stirrups.
One hand was in mine,
The other sat on her tummy with an IV giving her a blood transfusion first, fluids later.
I sat very still while nurses and doctors bustled around us,
Tossing meds to one another and trying to find a light for the nurse to see better.
She was 13—a runaway,
She walked into the ER with her 13-year-old boyfriend.
They had sex for the first time that night,
And she was bleeding profusely.
I would whisper explanations of what the medical team was doing for her,
From the IV to the vaginal exam.
I tried to help her understand why there were so many people…
At some point, her wide eyes looked at me and she whispered,
I thought there was supposed to be some bleeding.
My 22-year-old virgin self panicked.
Geesh—how am I supposed to know.
Thankfully rational thought re-entered my brain
Some bleeding is normal, but you’re bleeding a lot.
It’s not normal to need a transfusion of blood after sex. You’re okay—you’ve got a good team of people to make sure you’re okay. But this isn’t normal.
We both sat, wide-eyed,
Whispering back and forth to one another when she had a question,
Or when the team did something new to care for her little frame.
I listened as the nurse went through sex education with her.
She talked about the logistics of what goes where,
And talked about bleeding, level of bleeding that was ok.
She talked about pain, level of pain that was to be expected.
She talked about consent and how to tell her boyfriend if something felt uncomfortable, or wasn’t something she wanted to do.
She talked about condoms and birth control.
She talked about medical care and the yearly pap exam she needed to do.
She asked her about her resources. What adult was available to help her?
I listened as the nurse vented later at the nurses’ station.
THIS is why sex education has to happen. That girl could have bled out. She needed a mom.
I tried to thank her for how she cared for her—gently and assertively.
I told her she was her mom, if only for that night.
The tough, surly nurse got up and walked away.
Were you one of the lucky ones?
The ones who had a mom who told you. Who waded into a messy conversations because she knew they needed to happen.
Who did everything she could to help you feel comfortable, to let you know that no question was off limits.
Who bought books and drew diagrams and gave you chocolate because M&M’s help the most awkward of things.
Who told you what she thought about when and where would be best—told you the consequences, not as a scare tactic but as a means of education if you chose differently.
Who told you about her mistakes.
Who told you her funny stories.
We all may be called up on to be a mom to some kid.
Our very own or the kid down the street or in your classroom or the little league team you coach.
Be as kind as that tough nurse. Show up. Be honest. Be willing to say I don’t know, but find out.
Be willing to be awkward.