A Chance to Grow

Getting pregnant the first time was a fluke, a total surprise and not one that I welcomed with open arms.

I was 20, freshly out of my first real relationship, looking for someone to love and to love me. I honestly don’t think I knew how to function without a boyfriend.

When I woke up in my dorm one morning with this outrageous pain in my chest, I knew something was definitely wrong. I suddenly had boobs! (Well, the start of them anyhow. Certainly more than I’d ever had before.) I got the test, blushing and feeling like a harlot, and drove to my boyfriend’s house. I couldn’t even look at the test afterwards. I actually went into the next room and started folding socks. He came out of the bathroom with a sheepish look, “I can’t tell what it means.” (Liar)

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I nearly fainted.

I may have cried.

My Mama was gonna kill me and I didn’t even wanna think about Daddy.

He was ecstatic.

A friend from home came to visit and helped me cope. Time and the realization that I was going to keep the baby helped to push me out of the initial shock. And surprisingly, when I told my Mama she cried but she hugged me. I will never forget her words, “Your life will never be the same.”

I enrolled full-time in summer classes so I could graduate early in December. My pants got snug and my shirts started to ride up. I felt my baby girl fluttering and moving around in my stomach like a butterfly during classes. Instead of taking notes, I doodled dramatic and whimsical names across the page. Only my closest friends knew and they were home for the summer. My baby was my secret.

By autumn I was ready to pop. I looked like a balloon, waddled, and couldn’t even be bothered to wear maternity clothes. I just wore my boyfriend’s jeans and polos while mentally telling everyone on campus that they should be glad I was dressed at all.

I learned a new kind of humility walking from class to class. Some friends were supportive and treated me like nothing had changed but most people I knew acted like I was contagious. (Like they weren’t all doing exactly what had gotten me knocked up at least weekly, religious institution or not.) So I walked with my head down, concentrating on not tripping over my swollen feet shoved into cheap slide on shoes and trying to look as though I was totally fine with how my face was constantly flushed with chloasma. Thanks to my hormones my eye shape had changed and I had to resort to wearing glasses full-time. Not cute ones either.

I was a mess.

She was born at 34 weeks after 7 days of trying to stop my labor, steroid injections and bed rest… And she was perfect. I cried tears of joy that she was born and that it was finally over. My Mama was there holding my hand, crying for her own reasons. (My Daddy missed her birth by just a short bit, he’d had to pick my sister up from school. He still holds this against me. He jokes, “Why couldn’t you wait 30 more minutes?”)

I wish I could go back in time and walk with that girl across campus. I would tell her that her life was about to get harder and things would never be the same. Goodbye to dance classes 20 hours a week and the wonderful ease of only worrying about yourself. The pregnancy symptoms will pass, you will eventually get your body back in a condition pretty similar to how it was before, although some things are forever different.

Just like Mama told me, everything changed. Those first days and nights are a blur of pain and happiness and soured breast milk. At nine years old she is full of energy, independence, and has a helper’s spirit. She brought me into motherhood before I thought I was ready.

I love her with my whole heart.

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