One Friday night over Christmas break, he got me some chicken for dinner, and it made me throw up. I told him that I was late, so we thought we should take a test. Finally, four positive results later, I realized that I was pregnant, and I just cried. And he cried. That night, I looked him in the eyes and made him promise me that, no matter what, he’d stay with me and we’d get through it together. He was all for it.
I decided to tell my mom three or four days later. I was on my way to the color guard Christmas party, and I just sent her a text that said, “I’m late.” She responded, “Is there any way you could be pregnant?” And then, I said, “I don’t know.” Finally, she told me she wasn’t going to discuss anything more via text message, but I was too scared to face her alone, so I waited for my boyfriend to meet up with me. Then, she made me take another test, cried a little, and asked to be alone. After that, though, she was so supportive, and I’m lucky for that.
My dad, though, was a different story. My mom asked me not to tell him until after Christmas so I wouldn’t ruin the holiday. It was just so hard. When he first found out, he was in shock. We had a lot of hard conversations and played out a lot of scenarios. He kept telling me that I was giving up my college experience, that I would have to go to community college, and I’d never finish, so I should wait to have kids later in life when I could support them.
I don’t know what was going on with me, but at that point, I kind of felt like I was in love and I was going to have my happy family. It was naive, obviously, and I wasn’t thinking clearly about how hard it was going to be. But I couldn’t bring myself to ever think about having an abortion.
The thing was, I wasn’t on birth control and we weren’t using condoms. We actually had this crazy thought that one of us was probably infertile because I never got pregnant. We were teenagers and we didn’t know any better. We lived in the Bible Belt, so sexual education was completely optional in high school, and almost nobody took it. They just thought we should know better. We didn’t.
Before break was over, I told my two “best friends” that I was pregnant. One of them told her boyfriend who ended up telling his sister, and just like that, it spread everywhere. When I got back to school, the teachers looked down on me. It’s a small town, so when one person found out, everyone did. It was just like The Scarlet Letter.
As for the rest of my friends, it was a scene from a movie: I got pregnant, and they ran away. I only had two people who stuck by me, my friends Tyler and Holly. Actually, when I really think about it, my mom became my true best friend. I guess I just wasn’t as fun when I was pregnant, maybe; I couldn’t keep up with them, especially with their being seniors. Eventually, they all stopped calling. It was hard, emotionally, because I had to go through all of these physical changes and doctor’s appointments, and they were out having fun. I felt like an outcast, which was not me at all. I was used to being one of them.
Five months in, it became clear that I wasn’t just putting on weight anymore, and that I was definitely pregnant. I was so swollen. I actually had tomia, and I gained 53 pounds’ worth of fluid. The worst part of it all was, the more I started to show, the more my boyfriend would pull away. I couldn’t really see it at the time, but slowly he would stop calling me after practice, and he eventually stopped coming over.
One day, he called me up at school and asked me to come eat lunch with him. He took me to the McDonald’s where we met, because all I ate during my pregnancy was chicken nuggets. And right there over our food, he said, “I think it’d be better for both of us if we took a break from each other for a while. We might get back tomorrow, you never know, I just think we should take a break.” That was three days before prom.
So, I didn’t have a date to my senior prom and I was five months pregnant. Luckily, Tyler rented a tudo so I wouldn’t have to go by myself. Prom was miserable because my feet and face were so swollen, but I guess I’m still happy I went. I got to show everybody that I wasn’t ashamed of my baby and I wasn’t going to give up my life just because I was pregnant. But, God, my feet hurt so much! My heels were cute, though…I remember that much.
And then I graduated, six months pregnant, but with honors! I had even taken a college course. I was embarrassed because there were so many people watching me, but I was proud of myself for making it. Then, it was summer, and I could hardly move. I tried walking, but I didn’t get very far.
Finally, on August 1st, I had Tavin. By that point, I was so ready to get him out of me-I basically got off the elevator at the hospital and asked for the epidural right away. My whole family and my two best friends came and they stayed with me the whole time. He was born at 7:23 that night, weighing seven pounds, eleven ounces. The first thing out of my mouth when I saw him was, “I wasn’t expecting a real baby!” I don’t know what I was thinking, but here was this huge, living, breathing, beautiful creature lying on me. He had these chubby cheeks, huge lips, and my nose. He was so beautiful.
A lot of moms get maternity leave, but I didn’t want to fall behind, so I enrolled right away in nursing school and started two weeks after I had Tavin. My mom was a teacher, but she quit her job so I wouldn’t have to pay for child care. My family supported me throughout all of that, and I graduated in 2013 when Tavin was two years old. I’ve been a pulmonary oncology nurse at a hospital ever since. I am so glad I didn’t have to do it alone, and I’m so grateful my mom taught me everything from feeding him to changing his diaper. She’s been my greatest support system throughout everything.
Tavin has actually taught me, too. I never knew I could love somebody the way I love him. I thought I knew what love was before, but…I can’t even explain it. My whole life revolves around him. I can’t plan anything without making sure I have a tee-ball game organized, or something to do for his pre-school. I think of him before myself. I work crazy shifts at my job so I can be with him, but it’s all so worth it.
At the same time, though, I wish I would have known how hard it would be to go to school and have a baby at home. Even more, I wish I knew how hard it’d be for Tavin not to have a dad around. My ex-boyfriend hasn’t seen him in months. He came to see him on Christmas, but that was the first time in two years. Tavin calls him by his first name, not dad. But, that’s the norm: Guys don’t have to carry the child or give birth, so they can just walk away. Girls don’t have that option. But I wanted my baby, even after he left me.
And that’s how I learned my own strength. I discovered how wonderful it is to be a mom. I do wish I had him later on in life, and I do feel like it’s my fault that his dad isn’t here. But, we’re doing just fine without him, and Tavin has my dad and my brother. I think sometimes about going even further in school, because I work at a teaching hospital with residents, and it makes me think about the future. I feel now that I’ve had this baby and become a nurse, so I can do anything. Hopefully, I’ll find a nice guy to be a dad and help raise him, because he’s a handful and super outgoing. He just loves people, and he recently became obsessed with The Avengers. And, of course, he loves Dierks Bentley because I’ve forced him to listen.
I started realizing over these years that all those things in high school were worth giving up, because I have Tavin now. He’s a happy kid, and I’m so very lucky. I’m a better person because of him.
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