I still remember the day like it was yesterday. I was 22 and drinking margaritas at home with my boyfriend and a crew of our friends. I didn't drink a ton, but we were celebrating that night. I woke up feeling a little off and figured I was hungover even though I didn't get drunk. I moved through the day normally, feeling more myself as it went on. Then finally, as I was looking at my calendar to see what the plan for the week was, I noticed the date of my period from the last month (yes, I write it on my calendar). My cycle was always a consistent 28 days. I started counting . . . 38 days since my last period? That couldn't be right. My boyfriend and I were almost always safe about sex and contraception.
I bought a couple of pregnancy tests just to be sure. I hadn't mentioned anything to my boyfriend. He sat in the living room watching a football game on an ugly maroon reclining chair that he'd brought into our shared home. I peed on the stick. My German Shepherd sat on the floor in front of me staring in my eyes. Maybe she sensed my anxiety; she didn't usually follow me so calmly. Mostly she just sprinted around the house. I set the pee stick down on the bathroom counter and went about my business. "There's no way it could be positive," I thought. "Absolutely no way." I know, I know. Some cliché foreshadowing there.
Baldly, with no preparation, I quietly blurted out, "I'm pregnant." And then I ran down the hallway and flung myself on our bed and started sobbing.
Finally, I decided it was time to look at the test. I took a deep breath and glanced down. Two pink lines. I began a whispered chant. "Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god." The dog cocked her head sideways and pushed her nose into me. "What the f*ck is wrong with you, woman?!" she must have been thinking. I stared at the lines. Double checked the box to make sure two lines actually meant a positive pregnancy test. It did. Crap. I was holding it together. I stood up and walked out of the bathroom and went and stood next to that maroon chair, looking at my boyfriend. I stared at him until he looked at me because I didn't know where my voice had gone. Finally he glanced up, probably after a second, although it felt like 15 minutes. "Are you OK?" he asked.
Baldly, with no preparation, I quietly blurted out, "I'm pregnant." And then I ran down the hallway and flung myself on our bed and started sobbing. What had I done? How could I be pregnant? I was only 22. My mum was going to kill me. Oh my god oh my god oh my god oh my god.
We hid the pregnancy for quite some time, probably until I was about six months pregnant and the hair tie that I used to button my jeans no longer sufficed. I started reading baby books; some resonated, some didn't. I started reading about labour, about natural births, about breastfeeding. Family and friends thought pregnancy was a good time to share every birth horror story they could think of because that is so very comforting when birth is imminent.
And then he arrived and my world flipped upside down. The birth was not a great experience beyond getting a baby out of it, although I did learn what I didn't want to happen during a birth. But one good thing came of it. (Well, a few more than one.) In my hospital goody bag, where you find the formula coupons and things, I found a tiny, plainly printed sheet of paper. On it read, "The benefits of co-sleeping." I had no idea what co-sleeping was. But I did know that I was tired as hell and my baby only wanted to sleep lying on my chest. I also knew that every person that I had encountered during pregnancy told me to never let my baby sleep in my bed or they would never leave.
That tiny pamphlet and a high-needs baby led me down a path that would shape the next eight-and-a-half years of my life.
Before I had a baby, I was lost. I didn't know who I was. I didn't know my purpose, what I was good at, how to stand up for myself, how to set boundaries. What I knew was that I desperately sought out unconditional love, both to give and receive. When that baby came, I had somewhere to channel that love. I was able to fall and fail and mess up all the time and have the opportunity to try again, to learn, to grow, and to put in the work to make myself a better mother and a better human.
Having my son was the best thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to heal and find myself in the process.
If I hadn't gotten pregnant at 22, I might not have found that path of attachment parenting — a no-punishment way of doing things that is focussed on empathy and communication to encourage good behaviour, rather than punishment and reward. If my son hadn't been as special as he was — as he is — I might not have needed to search for alternative solutions to maintaining our sanity and meeting his needs in a way that didn't feel like it was ripping my heart out of my body (like listening to him cry in a crib — an experiment that we attempted for all of five minutes and never tried again). Having my son was the best thing that ever happened to me because it allowed me to heal and find myself in the process. Having my son showed me that I could be anything I wanted to be. I had to do things my way so I could be home with him and so I could show him that he, too, can be anyone he wants to be.
Life has that funny way of throwing curveballs at us when we least expect them. The moment I found out I was pregnant, I was devastated. I mourned losing early adulthood, losing opportunities to travel and "find myself." But then I realised that I could still travel. I could still find myself in the most challenging and beautiful ways possible. I learned that I was meant to be on that journey of being a mother so I could move into true adulthood. I could grow up alongside my son. He would see my journey of becoming and develop the tools to travel his own path of becoming — in his own way, in his own time.