9 years ago at this very moment, I was in a hospital room preparing to give birth to my first child.
My husband and I were young - I was 20 and he was 23 - I was scared. I imagine he was too actually, although we never talked about it much. We knew our lives would be transformed even more than it already had for the past 9 months.
You see, our story starts as so many do - we met at college. We were young and in love! I met him when I was 18 years old. He was the older college student and so smart and so cute! I could hardly believe we were even dating. And yet, we were. We started dating in June of 1998. It was bliss and wonderful and I was in love.
And in March of 1999 we found ourselves in a place that so many do. I went to the doctor thinking I had the flu. Clueless as to what was about to hit me, I went the university health services and was told they needed to run tests. I was pretty nervous - I didn't know what "test" they were running, just that they took some blood from me and told me to come back in a few hours.
A few hours later, terrified I would be told I had cancer or some other serious illness, I was told I was pregnant. By a nurse. In a tiny little room, that I imagine was probably only really used for students like me. I won't lie - my first reaction was that I wished it was cancer instead. I shed many, many tears. I asked the nurse how I was supposed to tell my parents? Her response was "You don't have to" as she handed me a sheet on where to call to get an abortion. Then she told me I didn't have to tell anyone. That it was my body and no one needed to know what was going on. I cried even harder. I never imagined in a million years that I would be in this position. As the tears fell harder she then said to me "You need to calm down. There is a baby inside of you that needs you to take care of yourself."
I had never felt more confused in my life - one minute she was (in my mind) telling me to go and get an abortion and in the next she was talking about a baby in me? I left. Scared. Worried. Nervous. Confused. Upset.
I went back to my dorm room where I told a friend I knew I could lean on. And then I called my boyfriend. That was one of the hardest phone calls I had to make. He came out to me as soon as he could (you see, he had graduated and was working full time by that point). And as soon as he got there he held me and told me it would be okay. Then he ordered me a credit card from his account with name on it. Nope. I didn't even have a credit card and had a checking account with about 100 dollars in it. Now, I knew he was fabulous before, but that cemented how wonderful he was in my mind. For some, it does work out that way at all. But I am blessed that he was there for me and for the baby right from the start. We talked a lot. Or maybe he talked and I cried. Or maybe we didn't talk that much at all. Honestly, the night was a blur. All I can tell you is at the end of the night we decided 2 things: 1. No one needed to know and 2. I would call and make an appointment for an abortion. Spring break was coming soon and so we'd have the perfect chance. I did not go to classes for a week. And the next week I only went to a couple. I was a mess. Falling apart. And I was also nauseous and getting dizzy and walking around feeling absolute terror.
Per chance I met with a professor to get caught up in a class. She asked what was going on and I told her I was sick but I'd be better soon. She looked right at me and said "Really, what is going on?" And right there I burst into tears and told her everything. She immediately took me to campus counselors. Where I talked to an amazing young women whose name I can no longer remember, but I can picture her clearly in my head. We met quite a few times and talked about so many things. My (now) husband even came with a few times. Because of her I got the courage to call my parents and tell them. Again, I am blessed. They embraced me and told me they would help in any way possible. Eric and I though, we were firm in our decision. My parents were accepting of what was going to happen. In reality only one person said anything hurtful to us at that point.
A few days before I was to report to the clinic I knew in my heart I couldn't do that. I just couldn't. I called and canceled the appointment and then called and told him what I had done. He was so happy. He was with a friend at the time and I still remember hearing him say to his friend at that moment "I'm going to be a dad!" already his voice filled with pride!
All of that happened in less than a month and yet it feels like it took years. And I spent most of the time crying or sleeping and feeling overwhelmed. I won't lie, it was hard. It was so incredibly hard. We were so young and didn't really know what to expect. Oh, we got lots of advice from people, we took the hospital baby classes and lamaze classes. We set up the nursery.
But none of that, none of that can prepare you 100%. It just doesn't. You can't know the sheer joy and happiness holding your precious child for the first time can bring to you. You can't know how it feels to not have slept for 3 days because the baby is colicky and won't sleep and is just crying and crying and crying. It can't prepare you for the awe you feel when your baby is nursing - or the pain nursing can bring for those first few weeks. You don't know how quickly you can forget labor pains as you are staring into your little babies eyes. Or the way your heart will melt when the doctor says "It's a girl!" and you see your husband with tears in his eyes. No one can adequately describe the immense pride you feel as you watch your child grow up and develop a personality of their own and have likes and dislikes. And no one can tell you how much your heart breaks as they fight you for their independence or tell you for the first time to not hold their hand in public. You can't put into words how even when you are in the middle of fighting with them you love them even more!
Parenting is wonderful. And hard. And awesome. And painful. And full of lots of laughter. And full of lots of tears. And full of moments you will want to last forever. And full of moments you will want to never remember. But all of that, all of that is worth it in the end. Even on the days when you are ready to send out the kids to grandma's for the weekend because you just need a break! Even on the worst of days, parenting is still awesome and wonderful!
And it hard for me to look back and realize my little baby, that precious little girl who so completely rocked my world, turned it upside down, and put me on a roller coaster of emotion even before she was born is going to be 9 years old today! I am amazed at the little person she is becoming. And she is fiercely independent and so strong-willed and can be quite bossy at times! But her heart, her heart is full of gold. And is filled with goodness. And is a person I am so grateful for every moment of every day. And today. Today she is 9. We will celebrate and make her queen for a day. But for now, at 3:30 in the morning, I sit her with tears in my eyes. Amazed at where our relationship started - at university health services! - and just how far we have come today. And I am so thankful for every moment of it.
So, to my darling A, to my sweet baby, happy birthday!
And to God, thank you, thank you for blessing me with this absolutely wonderful child. Thank you!