“Call me when your toes curl from the pain,” The doctor had told me. I was doubled over. Time to call. It was coming. I was 15 and about to have my first child.
Although I could sense a change within me as she grew in my belly, it wasn’t until the moment I held her that my world ended and our world began; as if I too had been squeezed through a place of femininity into a bright, new, unfamiliar world.
The fear of responsibility for another human was overwhelming. The self-pressure to be perfect was suffocating. But an overwhelming warmth of love flowing through my body made me strive for it. Every movement we shared, every sound she made was intoxicating. All I wanted to do was stop time and nurture this tiny human….but the world kept getting in the way.
I wasn’t allowed to stay in my high school while I was pregnant; I was shuffled to some isolated classroom in another town with other pregnant girls. Removed from the world. The education was weak so my return to “the norm” two weeks after her birth was a struggle. I was behind in everything, I could barely stay awake in class, I couldn’t bare the separation of daycare and I never had time to study. I finally dropped out.
One thing that had not changed was my desire to go to college. I received my GED then studied hard for, and scored rather well on, my SAT’s. I was accepted into a few colleges. One in upstate VT even offered me senior housing for the both of us. It was perfect! Except I couldn’t afford it.
I was still a dependent myself and could not secure the financial aid without a $2,000 PLUS loan that my father, whom I’ve mentioned in other blogs, refused to sign; his tough love about my choice to keep her. I still sigh deeply thinking about what a difference that $2,000 would have made. I watched my friends go off to college in the fall while I found a job at the mall.
For several years I struggled to take a class or two at a community college while working full time. We were always bouncing homes; sometimes a few times a year. We went from one family member to another or a sketchy apartment I could never afford for long. I worked long hours six days a week yet barely made enough to cover daycare, gas, food and her basics.
She was a caring, spunky, funny, quick-witted girl who loved everything and could find something to talk about with anyone. One of our favorite things to do was crank the Dirty Dancing soundtrack and dance; Tiny on the coffee table so we were almost the same height. When she had a bad dream we would raid the fridge then watch Beauty and the Beast until she fell back to sleep.
I would watch her. Her tiny hands cupped under her cheek. A little blonde ponytail peaked up over her head. Her tiny feet at my knees. So much love. I would imagine all the amazing things she would do someday.
But she had a mother who was never home with no way up in the world, no stable home, and lacked everything but the necessities. It was always just me and her. We weren’t close with my family who never got along. My parents were divorced and hated each other. My father wrote me off not only for being a girl, but now for being a mother. Everyone had chosen a side and the war was endless. I couldn’t give her the stability she deserved. This was my reality.
Her father’s family was well off. They were a very close, loving family. His parents built their house when they were married and were still there 20 years later raising their family. The school district was excellent. His parents adored Tiny as their own. It was a no-brainer. So the summer before she was to start school I asked her father to take her. She was excited to stay with her Grandma and Pa. She had her own room. Her Daddy was in another and her favorite aunt was right down the hall. It was the right thing to do for her and time has proven me right.
I had always maintained a close relationship with Tiny but I was never her mother again. By the time I could bring her back she had a happy, secure life and I couldn’t bear to make that change for her again. Her grandmother cared and nurtured her. She made her lunch and bathed her at night. Tiny went to her now when she had a bad dream or to kiss boo-boos. She was her mother. Publicly it was tough at first. There were sometimes looks from other parents at school functions and awkward questions I didn’t want to answer but it made Tiny happy to see me and that was all that mattered.
Tiny is now 25. She has her own life now and we rarely speak. She has never said it, but I know she doesn’t understand my choice and doesn’t forgive me for it. I completely understand and have come to accept that her feelings may never change. This is my albatross to bear.
The truth is, for her to truly understand what I did, she would need to love someone dearly, let them go and bear the excruciating pain of losing her heart and soul for the sake of that love. So, no, I hope she never understands.