Today is January 10, 2016…January 10th is a day that brings several emotions to me each year. January 10th is a day of reflection, a day of gratitude, a day of joyful tears, and most importantly this is the day our daughter was born.
Our story isn’t unique, thousands have surely gone through the same thing, but today I’m choosing to be vulnerable and share our story to inspire someone who may be going through the same thing at this very moment in life…so we are going back down memory lane.
The year was 2001, the end of my sophomore year in college. I was 20 years old, lived on campus, I had no car, and a part time job that paid $6.25/hour. I was involved on campus, I was aspiring to be a physical therapist in the school of Health Sciences at Oakland University. I just finished being initiated into my sorority and excited to work for the organization. My plan for myself seemed to be on the right track. Yet, in May that year, I found my self pregnant. I was involved with one of my best-friends (now husband), and was not exactly in a committed relationship…
There were several emotions that took place at age 20, we were definitely not in the ideal situation to bring a baby into the world. There was fear, disappointment, shame, and a lot of self doubt…I was afraid because I did not want to be a single parent, I knew how hard that could be growing up in a single parent home (even though my mom did an amazing job)….I was disappointed because I was on the path toward my goals and now they were derailed…I was ashamed because I knew how I would be treated differently by people I cared about…I had self doubt because it was very uncertain how things would evolve…Would I be strong enough to handle all of the obstacles that could occur alone?
After the initial shock, and shorting through my emotions, I decided that the only person and actions that I could control were my own. That very moment, it was decided to put my big girl pants on and be an adult.
I created realistic goals to achieve by the time our daughter was born.
- Find a New Job
- Look into any assistance I could receive
- Get a Car
- Find a Place to Live
- Get back in school and graduate
As I mentioned earlier my plan had been derailed, however being on a small campus we had a great network. I asked around if anyone knew of a place that was hiring that was paying at least 10 dollars an hour. (Now there are several resources on the internet: indeed, career builder, Facebook, etc.) Being in the greek community an Alpha gave me a number to a fellow Oakland alumni that was a supervisor at EDS. I called and was granted an interview, I had to ask a friend to take me to the interview and pick me up. (Now there is Uber, other ride sharing resources.) I was fortunately hired as a customer service representative with a shift of 4pm to 1am., a shift I worked my entire pregnancy ( #1 completed within a month of me finding out I was pregnant).
Still on campus and taking classes I needed transportation to get to my new job. Fortunately, another friend who was also a fellow greek (AKA) was gracious enough to let me borrow her car to drive to work, I was able to do this until the summer semester was over.
Once the summer semester was over, I found assistance by signing up for WIC, here (#2 completed) so I could have essentials while I was pregnant and the baby could have formula when she was born.
I moved in with my older sister, brother in law, and nephews…While with my sister I was able to save money toward getting a car and my own apartment. They were also gracious enough to let me borrow one of their vehicles to get to work…When I was 5 months pregnant, my mom was able to give me some money towards a vehicle, and my best friend now husband) was able to contribute as well, to what I have saved for a car…Pulling those resources, I was able to purchase a car. (#3 completed).
By November I was eight months pregnant and approaching my 21st birthday (not what I envisioned for my 21st birthday)….Time was running out, and I still did not have a confirmed place to live. I had placed my name on a list for an income based apartment near our college campus, but still no openings… One highlight, my sorority sisters, sister, and best-friend (now husband) organized a baby shower a day after my 21st, and I had friends from High School, college and work show up. My best friend (now husband) and I were on better terms and working together toward bringing our daughter into this world.
We decided to get an interim apartment, until the one we wanted (wait listed) was open. (#4 completed at 9 months).
My entire pregnancy physically was not difficult (mentally yes), I was never sick, I didn’t show until was 7 months. However, on the night of January ninth, I went into labor, I experienced symptoms from first, second and third trimester in one night. I was nauseous, pressure was high, and in an extreme amount of pain…I had two epidurals and they did not work…the hospital gave me some other medicine that caused me to only wake up during contractions. Apparently I wasn’t very nice when I woke up during those contractions, however my sands have another story (I do not remember being mean…). I also remember being extremely exhausted. After 13 hours, we had a beautiful baby girl.
As I mentioned before, I attended a smaller school, so we were a close community. We had several class mates from school show up to the hospital, my mom, and my sister were also at the hospital (Hubby is not from the same state, so his parents came a little after she was born.) Those who needed to be there and could, were there. At that moment, the fear, disappointment, shame, and self doubt..was replaced with faith, and tenacity. I knew I wasn’t alone, our daughter would be surrounded with love. She would have support from family and friends, and most importantly commitment from both parents to be the best parents we could be.
By the time our daughter was age one, I was back in school. I switched majors to Occupational Safety and Health because it seemed I would have more opportunities in the HSE profession…Those first three years of her life, we had so many people that helped us along the way. Watching her while we went to class or work, professors being patient while I brought her to class. Her father working two jobs to make sure she did not go without anything. Both grandparents were amazing…my mother-in-love purchased enough clothes where we did not have to buy our daughter anything for the first two years. My mom was able to watch her, (we knew she would be safe) so we did not have to take her to day care until we were able (we received a stipend from the campus day care when she was 13 months). Her aunts, uncles, family, and our friends from campus truly loved her like their own.
My husband and I were both able to graduate from college ( a few years later than expected…#5 completed). We purchased our first home by the time our daughter was three (2005), and at that time both on our way to thrive in our careers. We were married in 2008 and our daughter (age 6) was our flower girl. Not only did we make vows to each other, but to our daughter to continue to be committed parents.
If we did not have our daughter at the time we did, I honestly believe we would not be where we are today. I don’t know what my outcome would have been if “my plan” would have proceeded….
I do know …that now that I have a 14 year old young lady, who is smart, beautiful, talented, and loving. I could never imagine life without her. Our blessing (daughter), made us humble, un-selfish, grateful, and driven to do more with our lives because we were responsible for someone else. I only hope that she will continue to grow as the exceptional young woman she is.
My Life Lessons Learned:
- No matter how old you are, you are never prepared enough to be a parent. It is definitely on the job training.
- The only actions you can control are your own. You have to strive to be the parent/adult your child will need. Instead of worrying about what your significant other (other parent) will or will not do. Use that energy toward being a better you mentally, spiritually, financially, and physically.
- No matter what obstacles are presented in your life, if you have the will and desire, and the faith to get through it, you will. It will be hard, but it will only make you stronger.
- Do not be afraid/ashamed to seek help, programs were put in place for a reason. Without programs like WIC, it would be a lot harder for woman to get on their feet and give back to society.
- You are not alone, even if you don’t have the other parent or extended family in the picture…there will be someone or a sequence of events that will occur to help you along the way. But you have to be brave and remove yourself from the environment that is not set up to help you.
- People seem to help more, when they see you are on a destination. I purposely did not call out names, because I did not want to forget anyone that has helped us, if you were in our lives from 2000-2005, I am pretty sure if you demonstrated a kind action, you assisted with getting us to where we are today. It does take a village, and for that I am eternally thankful.
What is your story? What are some resources that you pulled together to get through a life challenge? What are some lessons you have learned as a parent? What are some things you can celebrate as a parent?