The answer to whether I chose this life as a young mother is a complicated one and one which is asked of me frequently when I meet someone new who learns I am 26 with a 2 and a 4 year old. Sometimes it is asked in a manner that I find presumptuous. Their eyes move in a way they must believe is discreet to my left hand. The word accident is often part of the question. Sometimes it is spoken out right and other times it lurks behind the phrasing. This used to cause my cheeks to burn hot with a combination of embarrassment and anger, but over the years I’ve learned to respond without the change in shade.
The truth of how I became an early mother begins on an ordinary day in November about five and a half years ago. You see, I was sitting in the bathroom of the somewhat rundown duplex my boyfriend and I were renting at the time and I was staring down at my toes, but it wasn’t my toes that had my attention on this particular day. It was what was sitting between them, a white, plastic stick with two pink lines. This wasn’t a problem, though, because this stick was clearly a liar, a dirty liar. I was in my final year of college pursuing a degree in chemistry. My head was filled with thoughts of graduate school, internships, and future career plans. Besides, I had a laboratory in two hours so there was no way I could be pregnant. Only, the four tests I took after a trip to the drug store and chugging a bottle of Gatorade were all dirty liars too and I was beginning to consider the possibility that something could have set up shop in my uterus. After all, my period was decidedly late and there was that time a few weeks ago… but surely the universe wouldn’t punish a girl for the careless things she does on quarter draft night.
I made an appointment at the student health center for that afternoon. The laboratory would have to wait. This time I peed in a cup, but it turned out cups and sticks were of the same opinion.
That evening my boyfriend and I sat quietly on the couch together, drained from delivering the news repeatedly to family members. The air in the room was thick with disappointment and I was glad we had told them over the phone. The tone of disappointment is much easier to bare without the accompanying facial expression. My boyfriend is a problem-solver. He is unshakeable and his response to this news was no different. He wanted the baby just like he wanted me and we would take this on together.
My thoughts were darker. I kept them to myself. I wasn’t sure which I wanted to be relieved of more, these thoughts which made me feel like a selfish monster or the cause of those two pink lines.
The weeks went by. We began to plan our life for three instead of two, a life which was different from my previous soft focus daydreams, but also one that I began to accept.
We lost the baby.
I tell you that abruptly and without warning because that is the way it happened to us. Two days before Christmas, in a room lit only by the glow from a sonogram screen, I learned the news that the heart which had diverted me from my promising career path had ceased to beat. My life could go back to normal now, only it was a life I no longer wanted anything to do with and certainly didn’t seem normal.
My boyfriend and I entered that room as parents and despite the news we were delivered, we left it as parents as well, two very heartbroken, devastated parents.
That Christmas was the darkest either of us ever experienced. We held each other. We cried. We mourned the loss of a being we never knew we wanted. But there was one thing we were both now certain of, this path we had been diverted to was not a detour. We could not simply resume our travels in our previous direction. This path to parenthood was the one we were determined to remain on.
Five months later we were married and three weeks after that we saw those two pink lines again. We finished our degrees. We found employment. My husband took a job as a correctional officer and I took a position as a scientist where on my first day I showed up six months pregnant. (The time between the interview and that first day had been three months. Surprise!)
Two days after Chrismas we welcomed our son.
As I said before, the answer to whether I chose this life as a young mother is a complicated one. It wasn’t forced upon me by an “accident.” Nor did I dream from an early age of becoming a mother at 22. In a way, motherhood chose me as much as I chose it. The decision to become a young mother was a mutual one.
About the author:
Amber Doty is a contributing author to Stories I've Only Told My Mom (now available on Amazon!). If you read the book (which you all did, right?), you'll remember her story "Mending Fences" as one of the most powerful, heart-aching stories of the bunch. Amber blogs at The Daily Doty.
Photos: Flickr/Kitty Sanchez, Amber Doty