High school for me was your average experience. There were the cliques, the parties, and the crappy school lunches. Working as a cashier at Piggly Wiggly and Shopko paid for my weekly tans, nails, and hair obsession (and I was also able to save up some money on the side for college.) I always enjoyed doing homework and good grades came easy to me; which was why I knew I was going to go to college. Smart people went to college, right? Well that’s what I thought anyways. Tech school was for dummies. That’s how the school made it seem when they passed out information to our classes…Oh how wrong I was…
I graduated in June 2007. That summer I met *Josh. Josh was charming and funny and I instantly fell in (what I thought to be) love. He went off to college in Iowa and I went to the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and we maintained a long distance relationship via many greyhound bus-trips. I was going to become a Physical Therapist. That was The Plan. Then, my second semester, I took my first real physical therapy class: I hated it. I finished out the year with parties and shots…your average college freshman. Don’t get me wrong -- college was a blast and the experience of a lifetime. Just not the right experience for me. It’s also an experience I probably won’t have paid off, for at least 9 more years…
Next came technical college. I knew I still needed to go to school; but, since I had no idea what for, I decided to spend my money wisely and take generals through a tech school. Josh and I were still together and looking to go to school together and get a place. We decided to attend a tech school that was the same distance away from both of our hometowns (we lived 2 hours apart). We chose Eau Claire, WI. That summer marked our one-year anniversary and it's also when I started to have serious doubts about our relationship. Right before I was about to break it off, was also when my whole world was about to turn upside down. Nothing would ever be the same again.
CHAPTER TWO: TWO PINK LINES
I was 19, and alone in the bathroom of a Kwik-trip, when I found out I was pregnant. I called four friends and none answered their phones. I didn’t know what to do. My head was spinning. Somehow I managed to drive to my friend’s house; but, nobody was home. So I sat there on the porch and cried, by myself, for an hour. How was I going to tell my parents? How did this happen? (I was on the birth control pill and took it faithfully) What would my boyfriend think? What about my career? How was I going to finish school? How could I raise a baby? I don’t remember much of that day…I think I was mostly in shock. One of my close friends finally called me back and I didn’t know what to say; so she came over to my house. I just blurted it out and then had to work up the nerve to call my boyfriend. He didn’t answer his phone. I texted him that it was an emergency. When he called, I was crying. Over and over he kept asking what was wrong and all I could finally whisper was, “I’m pregnant.”
I come from a Christian family and attended private school from kindergarten through eighth grade. I “knew better”. Josh was in shock. He didn’t answer his phone for a few days after I told him. He wanted me to have an abortion. So I called the clinic in Madison, WI, and set up the appointment. Josh wouldn’t even take off of work to drive to the clinic with me; so my friend, Ashley (the only other person who knew my secret), went instead. Despite the 2 ½ hour drive, we got there early at 8:30 to find the parking lot was packed. It was a terrible experience. I was still in a daze over what was going on and in denial that I was actually pregnant. The receptionists were terribly rude. There were young girls around me; some crying, some looking pissed off at the world. And then there was this couple. The woman was visibly pregnant and they were laughing and joking around. I couldn’t believe they were laughing in a place like this.
I knew abortion was wrong. I knew it. Yet here I was. They called my name and I was led back to a small waiting room. That’s when the song “Always Something There to Remind Me” came on. I was taken into the ultrasound room and the technician wasn’t even going to show me the monitor. I demanded to see it. And that’s when I saw it. Him/her. Life. It was an indescribable moment to see this little baby. I smiled and the technician looked at me with a sneering expression and said, “You think you’re ready to be a mom?! HA!” I said, “I wanted kids anyways. I’m not even sure about the abortion; I’m just checking options.” She made some other snotty comment and that was pretty much when I’d had enough. These people didn’t care about me…or the baby…or anyone in the clinic. It wasn’t about options?! They already had their opinion. I was 19 -- yes. I didn’t have a boyfriend (one who was functioning and actually supportive, anyways). But who’s to judge how good of a parent you can be based on age? Based on marital status? I ran out of the clinic. I had made my decision. I knew it would change my life forever; but, I knew it was the right decision. The decision I would be able to live with and never regret.
Josh didn’t like my decision. He screamed at me over the phone after I left the clinic. His parents are strict Catholics and he didn’t want to tell them. It was hard listening to him and the things he said. My heart was torn. I knew I was making the right decision; but, I also wanted his support. After that he didn’t talk to me again for a couple of weeks. Those were the toughest. He was the one person who was supposed to be going through the same thing. Supposed to be there for me, telling me it would be alright. Tensions arose in my family. My parents were separated and heading for a divorce and I didn’t want to add extra stress on them. I didn’t know how to tell either of them. I couldn’t imagine what my Dad was going to think or say. Then there were my grand-parents who I adore and look up to. I couldn’t imagine the diappointment I was going to bring them. Things were rough. There were also the changes in my body that I didn’t quite understand and I didn’t know who to talk to. All of my friends were still out partying and nobody but Ashley knew my secret.
The next few weeks before I moved out, I virtually lived at my friend’s house. I was worried that my parents would notice the unmistakable bloating in my abdomen and my strange aversions to eggs and hamburger. Not to mention I was sleeping nearly 14 hours a day and crying over the animal abuse commercials. It was August of 2008, and I was getting ready to move into the apartment in Eau Claire with Josh, who still wasn’t speaking to me. Finally he started talking to me again and told me that he wasn’t going to move in with me. I cried. How could he do this? We had already signed the lease. There was no way I could afford 765.00 / month on my own. If I broke the lease I would lose my security deposit and first month’s rent. I had used up the rest of my savings to get this place. I had nothing left. All of my money... and he was backing out? Not to mention classes started in a few weeks. I NEEDED this place. I told him that if he didn’t move in with me that I was going to tell his parents that I was pregnant. It worked. He agreed.
CHAPTER THREE: TELLING THE FAMILY
It was the final night before I left and I was packing up the last of my things. My mom came by my room to give me a hug and unwanted motherly advice when she spotted it. How could I be so stupid?! There it was in plain sight; laying in the top of my suitcase: my bottle of prenatal vitamins. She just picked them up and looked at me; then asked in a quiet voice, “Sara……….are you pregnant?” I panicked. This was it. I took the bottle and started to leave the room as I said, “No Mom. I’m just taking them because I heard they were good for your hair and nails.” NO! I couldn’t keep with it. Finally. This was my chance to get it out. To take some of the heavy weight off of my shoulders. “YES!” I blurted it out. “Ugh. Yes I’m pregnant”. She sat down and didn’t say anything. Then to my surprise she was actually excited! She told me it was going to be hard…but, she was excited. "I'm going to be a Grandma!" My mother didn’t kick me out. I was still alive. Maybe -- just maybe -- things were going to be ok.
Hiding this massive secret was starting to take it’s toll on me. I was becoming stressed, and my usually casual and open relationship with my dad and other family members was strained. Josh and I lived together; but, we were more like roommates as we had separate rooms and basically lived separate lives. He never once asked about my pregnancy and I never brought it up. In fact, he still wanted me to have an abortion (Up until three weeks before I had Christopher. Then it was adoption...which he wanted and brought up even until Christopher was a couple months old). Things were awkward. I started my classes and it was hard to keep up with schoolwork because I was getting frequent and terrible headaches. In September, I went home again to visit and that’s when my Dad confronted me. See -- one of the joys of living in a small town is that everybody talks and makes it their business to know what other people are doing. Some blabbermouth (who shall remain unnamed) called my family members to tell them I was pregnant. I was furious. My dad was disappointed. But, he didn’t kill me either. He just said I was going to have it really hard...
Then we went to my grandparents. I couldn’t tell them. I knew that in order to tell them I would have to do it over the phone or through a letter. I was really upset with my Dad that day; he tried to force me to tell them. It was not the right thing to do on his part. It was my decision and my situation and to this day it still angers me how he handled it. He was upset because I hadn’t told him sooner…but, what he doesn’t understand is the depth of how hard it was for me. Most people don’t even reveal their pregnancy until after the 12th week, anyways, because that’s when the risk of miscarriages drop. I think my Dad just felt betrayed… or something. He acted the way a normal parent would. I went back to Eau Claire with a little bit more of the burden taken away.
While writing a letter to my grandparents to let them know of my pregnancy, my Grandma P. called me. Somebody had told her. She wasn’t mad, either. Disappointed…but, I think she knew I’d gotten enough from other people. I got it from everyone. Mostly I cried. She assured me that everything would be ok. I am forever grateful at how my family handled it. I know some other families aren’t as accepting. After I told my family, things got a little easier in that department. However, things with Josh continued to decline.
It was like living with a total stranger. My body was changing every day and yet we couldn’t talk about it because he would get upset or tell me to give the baby up for adoption. I went to all of my appointments alone, because the 'day of' something would “come up” for him. He had better things to do--like sleep for twelve hours straight. The tears ended and eventually I just stopped asking. My best friend went with me to the ultrasound appointment. It was a weird experience. I was happy and yet sad at the same time. I knew that every day of my pregnancy brought me further away from college. Further away from the life I was used to and so much more into the unknown. I loved Christopher before I ever met him. But -- at the time -- I hated the direction my life was going. I felt like everything was falling to pieces around me. I tried to pretend everything was alright between Josh and I. I wanted to believe it. I wanted to be like the other boyfriend / girlfriend couples that got pregnant. The boyfriend was ok with it and he loved her and stood up for her and they were all happy! But that’s not how my life was at all.
CHAPTER FOUR: LIVING WITH A STRANGER
Josh blamed me for the pregnancy; like it was my fault that I was part of the 5% that birth control "backfired" for. He hated it. He wouldn’t hug me because of my belly. It was like a huge reminder of how much I screwed up. How much he was going to have to change. He still hadn’t told his parents (and never actually did. They found out through other means when Christopher was nearly 4 months old.) Much of my pregnancy was spent in tears and solitude. I felt so alone. My family members were there for me; but it wasn’t the same. None of my friends knew what I was going through, and they just couldn’t relate no matter how hard they tried. The one person who was supposed to be there? Wasn’t. He resented me. Which, in turn, made me resent myself. I went to the parenting classes alone and managed to finish out the rest of the semester with mediocre grades.
The next few months of my pregnancy flew by and yet dragged on at the same time. My parents got divorced and Josh was out partying on the weekends and coming home completely drunk. Often-times I would get a call in the middle of the night to pick him up. When he stayed home, he would often drink until he puked. I think it was because then he didn’t have to face reality. I tried to put on a happy face about having the baby; everyone else seemed to think it was a good thing. But secretly? I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know whether or not I was going to be a good mom. What was going to happen to me? I looked into adoption. I even had a wonderful family picked out. But again -- I couldn’t do it. I knew I couldn’t. Josh wanted me to and I wanted to make him happy. Then I thought about it: why would I want to do anything for him? He wasn’t even there for me when I needed him most…..No. He isn’t thinking about what’s best for me or the baby. He’s thinking about himself. He just wants to forget this ever happened. No way.
As the end of my pregnancy drew near, tensions soared even higher between Josh and I. Not once during my pregnancy did he ever ask about how I felt, how big the baby was, anything. It was never brought up. I was scared about labor and what I would do afterwards or if it would hurt? I walked at least 4 miles every day. I had the nursery ready to go and all I was waiting for was Christopher. Despite being a week away from my due date, Josh STILL tried to convince me to give Christopher up for adoption. I can't tell you how much my heart broke whenever he said it. I just wanted him to stop.
Finally -- on March 21st, 2009 -- after 9 hours of labor I met my whole world. That moment forever changed my life and I fell in love. Real love. Seeing him for the first time was the most wonderful experience in the world. For the first few months, every time I closed my eyes, I saw that moment. Nothing with Josh mattered any more. It didn’t matter that he had made me wait for 4 hours before going to the hospital after the contractions got bad. It didn’t matter that he sat on the computer while I was in labor. I didn’t care about him anymore. I knew the only thing that mattered to me was this 10 pound 3 ounce little boy with beautiful blue eyes and the biggest smile.
CHAPTER FIVE: 10 POUNDS THAT CHANGED MY WORLD
Needless to say -- things with Josh didn’t "pan out". After I brought Christopher home, Josh continued his partying habits and my suspicions were confirmed: he had been cheating on me. I let him stay in the apartment. He never changed Christopher’s diaper, he fed him maybe five times total, and he held him for less than thirty minutes (and always with an xbox controller in his hand.) To this day it breaks my heart and I will never know how someone could look at their own child and not feel anything but immense love. My breaking point was the one morning when I went to get Christopher -- barely a few weeks old -- a bottle and had left him in the room with Josh. After 10 minutes, I went back in the room to find Christopher was still crying and covered with blankets... and there, in the bed, was Josh with pillows over his head...trying to block out the noise and sleep off his hangover. That was enough for me.
Josh moved out shortly after that in late April. He still hadn’t told his parents about my pregnancy, much less Christopher. He wanted nothing to do with Christopher. It broke my heart; but, I knew my decision to end things had his best interest and I knew things would work out. I didn’t know how -- but I trusted God that they would. In June, I started taking online courses through Penn Foster. It worked perfectly for me because I was still getting up with Christopher at night every 3 hours and now I could do homework, too! It was really hard because I was exclusively breastfeeding / pumping. My sleep was limited. I loved Christopher more than anything in the world; yet I was heartbroken at the same time. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to be alone. Someone was supposed to be there for me saying, “Honey -- you go back to sleep. I’ll get this one.” But there wasn’t anyone there. I was supposed to fall asleep in someone’s arms, knowing that our beautiful baby was lying in the room next door. I cried myself to sleep for a couple of months.
The doctors tried to tell me I had post-partum depression. To me it was the stress of a new baby and raising him on my own while going through a break up. Who wouldn’t be a stressed? They gave me pills (which I stopped taking because they made me physically sick and my head felt like it was on fire) to help me “cope“. June was when I started to stand up again and shake myself off. I was better than this. There was no sense crying over somebody who wasn’t worth my time. I started taking confidence in myself again. I had to be strong for Christopher. Ironically, as soon as I started doing this, Josh started calling. Time had made me wiser. No more chances. I told him the only chance he had was to be a good father to Christopher. (I’m not meaning to bad-mouth him…if it seems like that’s what’s happening. I am trying to relay what happened without sugar-coating things, because what he did was NOT ok and for so long I pretended it was. Nobody should ever have to go through this. Everyone has a reason for doing the things that they do... I’m not going to play God and judge him. )
CHAPTER SIX: PRINCE CHARMING WEARS CUT-OFFS
Meanwhile, this entire time since graduating high school I had kept in contact with a friend of mine, Rob, who had gone into the Army and -- at the time -- was in Iraq. I remember when he was about to deploy -- I cried my eyes out for days! I prayed for him every day. Out of the blue one day, he called me and we talked for hours. Then in mid-July he came to visit me. Everyday after that we started to talk on the phone. He helped me through my roughest points -- the extent of which I’m not even sure he’s aware of to this day. In August of 2009, Christopher got sick. He stayed awake for days and had a fever; but no doctor would admit him. I was physically and mentally exhausted. Then, a lump on his neck swelled up to the size of a golf-ball within 15 minutes. Nobody knew what was the matter with him. He ended up going for emergency surgery. He had a necrotic (dead) lymph node that was infected and spreading to the rest of his lymph nodes. They had him on IV antibiotics. Because the infection was so severe, if the antibiotics didn't work he would have virtually no immune system and even the slightest of colds could've killed him. I didn’t leave the hospital room for 4 days.
Besides the scar on his neck -- Christopher was a brand new baby and totally healthy by the time we left. I, on the other hand, was exhausted. I am so grateful for Rob because he flew me down to Texas, where he was stationed, for 4 days. He took me to South Padre Island. It was the first time I had ever left Christopher and it wasn't easy for me. But that trip was one of the most welcomed experiences of my life. It helped me remember who I was. It rejuvenated me fully. I started dating my best friend on the Gulf of Mexico. I went back home and remember thinking to myself, “I think he might be the ‘one’”.
Never in a million years would I have pictured Rob and I together. In high school we were total opposites. He was the rebel, school-skipping, badass and I was the goody-goody, Miss Honor Society, choir girl. That being said -- he’s also everything I’ve ever wanted in a guy. I am certain that there is no other guy on this planet that I trust more than him. I look up to him in so many ways. I know for a fact that everything I went through.; all of the tears, had a purpose. They brought us together. Christopher now has a wonderful father. None of us are perfect; but, we accept each other’s imperfections as they are, and we love each other just the same. I don’t live a fairy tale. I live a reality. The reality of life is that sometimes it’s hard and it sucks and it seems like nothing is ever going to look up. And just in the moment when you lose all hope -- there’s a tiny glimmer of light, and you realize that everything is going to be just fine. Everything does NOT go according to plan...our plans. Thank God -- because often, even though it may seem terrible at first, things turn out even better than you could have ever imagined.
CHAPTER SEVEN: LOOKING IN THE MIRROR
I knew the choice to keep Christopher was one that I would have to live with for the rest of my life. It wasn't an easy decision. I was 19. I was going it alone. I wasn't sure what the next day would bring. But, I pictured myself down the road when I was 35. How would I feel...would I be relieved that I had given him up for adoption? That my life had gone back to 'normal'? Or would I feel ashamed and regret that I hadnt' done everything in my power to make it work. That's how I knew what the right decision was. That doesn't mean it's the right decision for everyone. I had to be able to look myself in the mirror.Being a teenager and a mom; having to tell your parents, having none of your friends understand what you're going through, trying to focus on school at the same time -- it's tough. You trade your fashionable purses for diaper bags. You favorite accessory is a pacifier. Insead of getting a spray tan? You get pooped (______insert bodily function here) on. Late nights due to partying are traded for late nights because somebody has an upset stomach. It's a lot harder when you're completely by yourself. Being a single parent is tough. There's nobody to share the sleepless nights with...or the first smile, first bananas, or first roll with.
You look back on the days when you were able to sleep and had mom and dad cooking, and laugh to remember that you thought you had it "rough". I raised Christopher by myself until he was 13 months old. Working, going to school and being a full-time mom. It was tough. But it is do-able and so worth it. Sure, some days he gets on my nerves with his whining and tantrums. He's your average toddler now! That's what kids are supposed to do: drive their parents nuts. Then there are those moments that make every-single-thing worthwhile; when he comes up to you and kisses your forehead and says "Pretty mommy". Moments like that are worth every poopy diaper and broken picture frame.
Rob and I ended up getting married in March of 2010. I can vouch for the saying, "When you know...you just know". I knew I didn't want to spend my life with anybody else. He makes me feel comfortable and we can be ourselves around each other. It also helps that we knew each other for a few years and had developed a strong friendship even before we started dating. We just had a small marriage ceremony with close family. Eventually (hopefully in 2015) we will have the wedding ceremony. Christopher will be old enough to understand what's going on and we will have enough money saved so that we can actually afford it! I look forward to that day! I moved down to Fort Riley, Kansas -- where he is stationed -- in April of 2010. I am loving being a wife and a mommy and looking forward to going through a pregnancy with him. If I hadn't gone through the experiences I have; I wouldn't be able to fully appreciate everything Rob does. Even the slightest gesture -- like touching my belly and saying "hi" to the baby -- mean the world...
christoph @ 2 weeks old :)