I was eighteen years old when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. I was in my freshman year at college and was smitten by her father. Our relationship was brand new when we heard the news. A baby. Wow.
You can imagine the thoughts, fears, worries and long list of other emotions that went through our minds. We talked a lot about what this might look like. We talked for hours about what our options were and how we would tell our families. It was something we took very seriously, but wanted to be on the same page together as a unit, before hearing what others had to say about what they thought we should do.
Telling our families was one of the scariest parts of the entire thing. We knew they would feel disappointed, and tell us about all the different visions they had for our lives. That adding a baby to our lives would slow down or eliminate the possibility of our goals and dreams. We heard everything from considering having an abortion, to putting our baby up for adoption. We had family tell us their concerns straight to our faces and we had others that spoke only about us behind our backs to others. It was an extremely emotional roller coaster of feelings, on top of just trying to process that in less than nine months, we were going to be responsible for someone else besides ourselves.
I will be the first to admit that I was one of the most self absorbed people I knew. I was a spoiled brat. I was, it’s true. But at that moment I realized that it was no longer about me, but this tiny human inside of me, things changed.
It was about halfway through our pregnancy that we received the news that something was “wrong” with our baby. While still in utero she was diagnosed with a rare condition that claimed she would not see her first birthday. The last couple of months of our pregnancy journey soon became much more than two young kids having a baby, but became a wild ride of how we would support a child with such a rare diagnosis.
I remember the day like it was yesterday, though on this very day that this post will go live she will be turning 18. I went in for my typical weekly doctor's appointment, but I didn’t leave the hospital that day. We were admitted and unexpectedly having our baby sooner than originally planned.
I don’t even know if I can put into words what I was feeling in those moments. From the thought of fear questioning if I would be a good enough mother to this child, to enraging anger not understanding why we were given such a difficult journey through our pregnancy from day one, to the mere excitement to meet this child that up until this point I was the only one who truly knew her, as my body had been growing her and keeping her safe from the outside world for the last nine months.
On October 23, 2001, I was introduced to the first love of my life. She was beautiful. She was perfect. She was now my life. In that moment I promised her, and myself, that I was going to fight for her, whatever that looks like. I was going to give her the best life I could possibly give her. I was determined, I owed it to her.
And so the real journey began. Her father and I almost made it to her second birthday, but separated shortly before. To this day, we have done a beautiful job co-parenting our daughter and acknowledged early on that it was what was best for us all.
So with that, at a young age I became a single mother that was determined to give my daughter everything she wanted and needed. We grew up together. We were fighters. We were each other’s everything. Unfortunately, I quickly put myself into a financial mess that ended up uprooting us from our home in New Hampshire to living with family in Maine. That is a whole other post to write for another time.
Today our family is much bigger. I am happily married to my very best friend and we have added two beautiful daughters to our family. I am in an entirely different place today then I was eighteen years ago.
I often think back to those years and it brings me to tears. I’m asked often, if you could go back to your 18 year old self, what would you say? The truth? I would say, “You’ve got this. You are not broken. You are the strongest person I know. You are a fighter and a warrior. When it is hard, when you want to give up, look at those big brown eyes of that little girl that you carried and protected for 9 months in your body and push yourself forward. Do it anyway. You owe it to yourself and to her. You’ll get through this, I promise.”
I might not have been a perfect mom, nor do I pretend to be one even today, eighteen years later, but I can say that I did my best. I would not change one single thing about my past, because it brought me to where I am today. I’m not sure what I will do when she leaves next year to go to college, but what I do know is that I am going to hold onto the story that molded us and reflect on the things that I am forever grateful for. This child has a beautiful soul and anyone that has the honor of meeting her or having her in their life is truly a lucky person. I know I am a better person because of her.
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