Carmen is the youngest of four children. Her mother and father have been married for 10 years. She and her family are non-churchgoing Christians. Carmen has two older brothers, 19 and 17 years old, and one older sister 16 years old. Carmen is 14 years old.
Carmen, like many Hispanic girls, cannot date openly. She met Carlos, a 21-year-old young man, in her home. He was a friend of Carmen’s oldest brother. Carlos had one child by another woman. Carmen knew this but it made no difference to her or her family.
The relationship began, no more than hand-holding was experienced. It soon became apparent to both Carmen and her family that Carlos and she wanted each other. A wedding was planned and it was to be a joyous family occasion. Although the parents desired the affair, funds were lacking. Carmen’s mom had family in Puerto Rico; she decided to leave with her older daughter to solicit their help. Carmen, her step-father and her two brothers were left at home.
As the wedding date approached, Carlos starting getting “cold feet,” a permanent marriage situation frightened him and he tried to convince Carmen to put off the wedding until a later date. He suggested that they just live together.
Carmen was confused. She loved Carlos passionately and trusted him, her mother was away and could not counsel her, she had always relied on her to make her decisions in the past. Going off with a young man without her mother’s blessing meant that she would have to sever all lines of communications with her family and even drop out of school.
Because she was not used to making decisions, Carmen gave in to the pressure and went off with Carlos with the understanding that they would marry at a later date.
Carmen was still a “senorita” and had no real knowledge of sex. In fact, she feared pregnancy and the responsibility of a baby. She thought of contraception, but without “Mami” how could she get help? She was ashamed to go to a clinic because she would have to see a male doctor; she could not discuss this with Carlos.
Eight months later, she found herself pregnant.