This is a post I wrote two years ago and am re-posting today as my son turns 21 years old. The story and the love I have for him are the same.
A while back I asked my son for anything I could write about that would interest him in reading my blog. He responded by asking me to write about when I discovered I was pregnant with him and I was immediately sorry I had asked the question of him as it is not a fairy tale story. Today is his nineteenth birthday. I am full of the memories of his birth and am going to finally respond to his request. Here is a picture of me, at the age of twenty for less than three months, with my newborn baby.
This is for you my sweet boy.
I was nineteen years old and living “in sin” on Long Island with my son’s father. Look how young I look in that picture. My son is now the same age as when I found out I was pregnant and I fear him losing his precious twenties and the time of selfish self-discovery as I once did. I had ended up with this man after a traumatic breakup with my first serious boyfriend of three years, along with the eighteen years of my abusive father and traumatic home life. My sons’ father was a means of escape from a bad living situation to a not much better living situation, but one I had more freedom and control over. I lived with him for a little over a year of being finally free of my father and moved to New York before getting pregnant with my son. (I was too young to yet realize I had already seriously dated my father in the form of a narcissistic abuser twice.) I was not happy with the man I was with but I guess I figured it was the price to pay for the ability to be in a relationship where I felt less abused (initially), and more independent. I certainly was never going to live with my parents again if I had anything to say about it. Drinking and drugs were a standard way of life for the crowd of save-the-Earth-hippies we worked and played with. I stayed in the hazy bubble as long as I was able and any time I was able. Again, I was just a child of nineteen years old myself; clueless to the severity of the emotional distress I carried, and the impact it had on my (lack of) well-being and (horrible) decision making.
I remember when I first realized I may be pregnant and shared it with a friend before going to buy a home pregnancy test. I decided to take the test one evening and remember sitting in the bathroom already knowing what result the stick was going to show me. I numbly took in the positive result and wandered out of the bathroom and said; “I’m pregnant”. My sons’ father was happy, as he was about eight years older than I am and always dreamed of replicating himself for the wonder and amazement of the world. (I am not joking.) He said; “Alright, well then do you want to marry me and have my baby?”
Oh. Every girls' dream proposal.
This was a guy who I had caught talking to his ex-girlfriend long-distance every night for the two weeks I had gone on a trip for work during the first few months after I had moved in with him. The dumbass forgot that I paid the bills and can read. The guy who once left me to go on a camping vacation (in one tent), with this same ex-girlfriend before he could decide to ask me to move in with him but got angry because I went to the beach on my own during that time. The guy who, after I (stupidly and desperately), agreed to move in with, took me to the house he lived in and left me alone there to pack up his things while he went to this same girl’s house to drop off a washer and dryer for her. The guy who I had tried to interpret as 'a lost soul I could help' in place of the asshole he really is. I was obviously an insecure and damaged mess to end up with someone like him. And I was pregnant with his baby. It was a total nightmare and I had no idea what to do. All of my old friends were off at college, I was living in another state than I had grown up in, I did not really have anyone to be there for me, and I felt very alone and unsure.
I told him I didn’t know what I was going to do and spent more than a few days trying to figure it out. I came from a “Christian” home where living in sin (not-married) was already bad enough. I had been the black sheep of the family my entire life as the only one who ever fought back against the extreme unhappiness in our home and the abuse of my father, and if I was going to have a baby I felt I was going to have to marry someone I honestly did not like very much at all in order to “do the right thing”. I went and saw a doctor who confirmed that I was indeed pregnant and gave me some information for an abortion clinic and a women’s health clinic. I was working as an educator and fundraiser for one of the biggest Non-Profit Environmental groups in the country and was quite passionate about the work we did and my part in making positive change. I did not know how I could still go door-to-door or travel if I had a baby. I had no college education, no money, no health insurance, and no real support from my family, as well as a bunch of good people (who were societal misfits), as friends. I decided I had to keep the baby and agreed to get married.
My mother was excited about my (finally) deciding to stop living in sin, and of course the thought of a grandchild made her happy. I agreed to go along with the speedy wedding plans and keep quiet about the pregnancy (we didn’t want anyone embarrassed after all). I had a couple of wedding, (and then baby), showers and suffered through the wedding wondering if I felt morning sickness or just plain fear and nausea. I wanted so desperately to try to do the right thing and do right by my baby. My pregnancy was very difficult and my ex-husband was horribly un-supportive. He yelled at me when I was too sick and tired (literally) to perform my job going door-to-door, and complained if I did not make a dinner to his liking after a long day of my “not working”. We had a quite memorable fight about some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches paired up with clam chowder. Who cared if I was so sick I couldn't stand up all day without puking? I had not provided the proper dinner and must be punished!
I switched from the door-to-door part of the office staff to the phone canvassing office staff and did my best, in spite of hating it. I was now stuck in a booth on the phone and had lost all face-to-face contact and outdoor activity I had so enjoyed. I lasted a little while and then got a job at the local mall in a retail clothing chain. I had to take a bus to a train to another bus to get to the mall, and vice-verse, every time I worked. I was on my feet long hours waiting on wealthy women and their offspring who had no idea of hardship and bought clothes without even waiting for the sales! The girls I worked with were nice enough and I made the most of it.
I mentioned I had no insurance, and had to go on Medicaid (welfare). I learned as much as I was able to about the system and did everything that I was supposed to do in order to receive health care for my baby. "People" get so upset about 'people like me', (a lost nineteen year old trying to do the right thing- because abortion is wrong after all, right????), having babies on assistance. These same people who get upset and go to an OBGYN with a fancy office, like I was fortunate enough to see with my daughter, have no idea of the quality of care (or lack of), that comes with being on public assistance. This is the place I went for my pre-natal, and post-natal, visits with my son; Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center. It is located in what was one of the most low-income and high-crime areas of the county I lived in.
These are some other pictures of the neighborhood;
Fortunately I did not have to go there alone at night as my appointments were during the daytime. I was treated like an uneducated piece of trash, even by some of the “doctors” (medical students fulfilling their mandatory “sentences” for the connected county hospital). It was a very cold and clinical place and I was often torn between indignation and shame as I went through my pregnancy. I'm not even talking about the WIC office and what I endured to get milk, cheese, and cereal for my baby. I often had to wait several hours to be seen for my appointments (before smart phones), and the crowd of other patients surrounding me in the dirty plastic chairs was disheartening, to say the least. I subscribed to Parent’s magazine, took as many pamphlets and magazines that were available through the clinic, and went to the library and learned everything I could about pregnancy and being a good mother. I was absolutely determined to be a good mommy.
My son was born in 1994, which was one of the worst winters in history for the Northeast. My Lamaze classes were chronically cancelled and I was terrified that I would go into labor in a basement apartment with only someone I detested there to help me.
Finally, in the dark of night on St. Patrick’s Day of ’94, after a dinner of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and green beans, (remember I had to make appropriately pleasing dinners), I went into labor. It was horrible and painful and we drove quickly to the hospital in the beginning of a blizzard as I screamed in pain and my ex-husband laughed. My labor was long and difficult and they would not give me an epidural as my son had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and was being strangled with each contraction. I was in hard labor but my water would not break so they broke it for me, which was quite painful. They did not tell me exactly what was going on but forced me to lie on my back (which made the pain even more horrific), with a heart-rate monitor strapped to my belly. (Sure, I had no idea something was wrong with my baby. I was just a dumb clinic patient after all.). I was throwing up violently and the nurses acted annoyed with me as they handed me tiny plastic trays to vomit in before understanding I needed a much larger bin. The labor and delivery staff would not even let my ex-husband into the room at first because we had not completed Lamaze classes (because they were snowed out every time!). They DID let my doctor leave his shift in the middle of my labor and allow the other clinic doctor to take over, as well as be joined by a handful of med students, since I was having a difficult time and my baby was being choked. It was awesome. One of the most terrifying moments of my life and a bunch of strangers were staring into my birth canal while I was treated like a lab specimen instead of a young woman in the greatest pain of her life. They didn’t give me anything for the severe pain I was in but they gave me Pitossin to hurry me along, and Demorall (an opiate), to calm me down as I was becoming quite frantic from the severe pain and lack of good care. The drug did not calm me down but rather made me so relaxed (I was tripping my ass off), that in my extreme fatigue from over thirteen hours of hard labor, I would fall asleep in between my contractions and was unable to push properly during the contractions. They finally got the baby out after cutting me and using forceps, quickly cut the cord from around his neck, and he was quiet and bluish for a small moment until they stuck a tube down his throat and he screamed. I was so relieved and they gave him to me to hold finally. The staff then whisked him away to be cleaned and checked out and I was rolled into the hallway and left there until a room was ready for me. I was so tired from the labor and the drugs that I did not even care they had left me in the hallway against a random wall, and I fell into a deep sleep.
There had been several stories of baby-snatching by nurses in New York State during the time of my pregnancy and it was one of my biggest fears. The first time they brought my little boy into my hospital room I felt unsure if it was really my baby or not. I think I may have been in shock from the whole experience. I cradled his little helpless body in my arms and was amazed he had come out of my body. My roommate was a typical Long Island girl with a huge diamond ring and a thick accent, who remembered to pack cute track suits and her hairdryer, while I lay looking like death in a hospital gown. My ex-husband showed up with some roses we definitely could not afford (but was one of the few nice gestures he ever made), and then proceeded to get some weed from a visiting friend of ours, right in front of me, and then tell me he was going home “to relax” because he was so tired from everything. (Oh have I cried for that girl and her baby). My hospital room looked out over the ocean and the earth was covered in snow, and that was the day my baby boy was born.
My dear son, a lot of people never thought I could, or would, be a good mom. I was admittedly a “mess” and a lot of people looked down on me, and judged me, and had no idea of all that I went through and fought for. I made a lot of mistakes and I wish I would (or could), have been better in so many ways but I loved you, and I still love you, fiercely. We both survived all the changes and obstacles we have been through, as well as sort of growing up together. We have a very close, if not typical, relationship and I treasure it dearly. I am so proud of you. You have seen good and bad and chosen to be good. You have a good heart and are generous -to a fault at times. I know you have your own troubles to sort out but I am confident that you will do it and find your way. You have a heart for helping and healing, and I will never forget all the kisses and hugs you gave your visibly hurting mommy when you were just a little boy. I am sorry for not having been able to give you more and been better for you. I am sorry for all that you had to witness and all the times I had to be apart from you. It truly broke my heart to ever have to part with you and is one of my greatest regrets.
Please know that you have made me better and given me so much. You were the sole ray of sunshine during the darkest years of my life and I take pride in the fact that you somehow still smiled and showed those dimples and big brown eyes in spite of what you endured. You changed my life, and in many ways, you saved my life. I am so grateful to God that you were the reason I had to go through so much and I know it was part of His plan for your life as well. You are one of my greatest accomplishments and I know there are many people who are amazed at what an incredible person you turned out to be! The odds were against us, but love was for us. I love you and I am so proud of the young man you have become and are still becoming. Happy Birthday! May we both embrace and treasure your final year as a “teenager” and enjoy many years to come as mother and son.