This is a follow up to My Story, where I responded to some particular women from the Women’s March this past weekend. I am still absorbing my post’s popularity — I truly did not expect it to reach so far. I figure if it was shared so much, I owe it to you to share “the rest of the story.”
People tend to respond to my story with a lot of “buts.” “But” you had family. “But” you lived in a decent area. Etc. I thought it might be helpful to expound a little bit on what it was REALLY like to keep a baby at barely 16 years old — and then the BEAUTY that came from my ashes.
He happened to be born on Spring Break of my sophomore year. The birth was terrible. The nurses were far less than kind to me, no doubt because of my situation. I had no idea what I was doing. They gave me an epidural too late, so I felt all the pain until the very end, and then couldn’t walk. Warning, as the next sentence is a bit graphic, but important. After he was born, the doctor reached up and tore out my placenta. In case you are wondering, no, that’s not normal (or allowed). I remember telling my mom that I could feel it, and was scared. She didn’t know what she was doing either, so we didn’t ask questions. I also had a third-degree episiotomy, and my recovery was horrid.
I went back to school in 2 weeks. Having a baby wasn’t exactly in the “excused absences” category, so there wasn’t much choice. My teachers didn’t give me any passes on the work I missed, and I had to pull a couple of all nighters the first week back for a huge paper that was due. I didn’t own a computer, and everyone else had computer lab time that last week to do their work. She wouldn’t allow me to have any time, as I should have “planned for that,” so I was on my own. I found someone gracious enough to let me spend the night to work all night on their computer. I got a B on that paper. I was a straight A student, and I remember that being really difficult for me to swallow.
I kept 2 jobs. I worked before and after school. I got a job at the bagel shop, and since it opened so early, I could do that. After school, I either worked there or tutored French and math. Then it was back home to do homework and stay up late with the baby. He wasn’t on a good schedule, so it was really hard. But I also wasn’t willing to compromise on my academics, so I did what I had to do. I didn’t have a car, so my friends or my parents would cart me around. I walked a few times to the bagel shop if it was good weather and my parents couldn’t (or didn’t want to) take me.
It was exhausting. I remember being up all night at times. I remember very vividly not going to bed until 2 or 3 am, only to have to be at the bagel shop by 5 am. It took its toll sometimes. I assisted in chemistry lab my junior year. My teacher knew of my situation, and several times my head hit the desk, asleep. I remember once waking up and being so upset and embarrassed. He looked at me and said, “I figured you needed the sleep.” He had let me sleep the entire class. That teacher ended up writing me one of the best academic scholarship recommendations of the entire school. I loved chemistry because of him.
By the time I graduated high school (6th in my high school class, with honors) and went to college on full academic scholarship, I still had to keep the jobs. My mom didn’t work and my dad was retired and had cancer. I didn’t have a car, so I either took their old car or a friend took me to school. I changed jobs and went to work at White Castle because they were open 24 hours. It also paid more than minimum wage. That left me room to work weird hours around my classes. I carried a full load of credit hours and worked at least 20 hours a week. To say I was tired is an understatement, but I made the Dean’s list and carried on. By my second semester, I was running an honors chemistry lab as a TA for the extra money, still working in food, and still pulling all nighters routinely. I drank a lot of Mountain Dew and Espresso, but I am proud to say that outside of state funded health insurance (Medicaid), that I only used for routine checkups for the baby, I never received a dime of government assistance.
My sophomore year in college, my heart changed. I met a man who changed my life. He introduced me to everything I never new…balance, stability, compassion, and hope for eternity. He befriended me, introduced me to Jesus, and swept me off my feet. I decided to stop the crazy. I quit everything. I went home to my son to get us the help we needed, because by this time, he was showing clear signs of Autism (a topic for another blog post). My body, heart and soul needed rest, and he needed healing.
I became a legal assistant through a complete blessing from God. My first order of business was to get off of Medicaid. It felt good to have only used it for about 3 years. I married that man right after we turned 20. We healed my son from Autism. We grew a family. And as they say, the rest is history.
This is our life today:
There were a lot of dark, dark days in those early years. There were days when I wondered if I would ever sleep, have a car, have a home, or see any type of success. But I wouldn’t trade those days for anything, because they made me who I am.
The reason I had to write my story is because we all want the easy way out sometimes – even I. But by taking the road less traveled – by keeping my baby and owning up to all of the responsibility that choice entailed – I was molded into a better, stronger, more resilient person. I have a perspective that is very unique. I KNOW what hardship is. My story has given me the fortitude to survive many trials. It has given me the resolve and strength to get through some very difficult times: losing both of my parents by my early 30’s, moving 4 times in 5 years with anywhere from 5-7 children, and just growing a large family – we have had 8 more children in 14 years. My story prepared me for the road ahead.
Now, my life is so full. I have 9 children and a very happy and fulfilled marriage. I homeschool my kids, and I have my own small business. And then there’s this kid:
I have to tell the world, YOU’RE WELCOME! Because he’s a pretty cool kid! And the world is better for him to be HERE. I gotta tell ya, he’s pretty great. He is a fabulous big brother. He loves babies. And Jesus. And puppies. And all animals. He’s a helper. He will be the first one to stop and help an older person who is struggling with anything at all – ask me how I know. When a near tornado hit our town, he spent the entire day helping the elderly clean up their yards. He works hard – harder than ANY kid I know. He works nights right now – 10pm to 6 am, and when he gets off work he drives to my neighbor’s house. My neighbor had a stroke a couple of months ago, so my son is driving him to work every morning until he is cleared to drive – at least 6 months. And he never complains. And that’s legit. He’s smart. Like, super smart. Not normal smart. We home schooled him for the last 6 years after he no longer needed therapy for Autism, and he has good enough test scores to go to most any college he chooses. He’s been interning over the last couple of months, has worked hard to save up money (because he wants to live debt free!), and will start classes this fall. Society will benefit because he is here.
I chose the image at the top of the post because the woman looks free. That is how I feel – free. Free of guilt and shame. Through the grace and mercy of a loving God, before I ever even know who He was – my story made me who I am and produced a unique, honorable and contributory member of society – my son. It is a beauty from ashes story, and I am able to look back with no regrets. I do not regret a single minute of my decision to ignore the world’s advice to end my son’s life in order to “save” my own. My life turned out more fulfilled and wonderful than I could have ever imagined – and I will be forever grateful that my son is in it. I am thankful that I chose hope.
I am thankful that I chose life.