By Cristina Cross
It was around 2 p.m. on a Sunday St. Patrick’s afternoon when life took on a sobering reality. I looked down at a stick and saw two bright red lines staring back at me. As I sat on my porcelain throne, thoughts throbbed through my head. Did I see this correctly? What did two lines mean again? No. NO. Can’t be. That’s impossible…
I was 26, an academic honor student in the middle of college transfer decisions, finishing up midterms and living the comeback-kid dream.
And then I found myself pregnant and in love.
I had the course of the next five years of my life mapped out and in progress. The plan was to transfer into a four-year university, do amazing work as a student and intern, network and graduate. Afterwards, it was grad school, travel or a career depending on the outcomes… starting a family was not a part of that plan. At least, not yet, and while I had my plans, life had other ideas.
Naturally, the experience weighed heavily on me. I sought advice from trusted friends and family and one conversation stood out in my mind. As I expressed my dilemma and my latest stance on it, I recall a confidante saying, Bbut you’ll be on welfare for the rest of your life! You’ll be one of those moms living in the struggle. And that’ll be your life.” At that moment, it became clear to me all of the social implications attached to disenfranchised mothers and welfare for that matter.
Then it hit me. Why is the topic of having a child amongst my millennial peers met with such disdain? Upon contemplating motherhood as an option, why is the “Your life is gonna be ruined!” spiel the immediate and at times the only response? Granted, it wasn’t necessarily a planned pregnancy that I was experiencing and yes, I was unmarried. However, I’m no longer a teenager dealing with the issue, but rather am mature and responsible enough to grow into the role.
So what’s going on?
Do our peers, schools and workplaces punish women for what our bodies are biologically designed for? If so, at what costs? Studies have proven that there is a wage gap for women with children under the age of 35. Somehow there’s an implicit message that devalues women and mothers systematically.
I too always thought that if I were ever in this situation, I would not have the child. It seemed like a no-brainer. I was never one to woo over other people’s babies nor did I have the fantasy of being married with a family by a certain age. None of my friends had children yet and I understood that motherhood was not a prerequisite for womanhood. However, once I was faced with the decision it was much more complex than that. For once in a long time, I was genuinely conflicted.
Equipped with this knowledge, I had a choice to make. After days of deliberating and planning, I pursued motherhood and the responsibilities that came with it. Of course there were many other factors that led to that decision, like the fact that I have a supportive man and family. We were in this together, which is something I understand not everyone has.
So here’s my journey… It’s been quite some time since I looked down at that test in shock. My son is now a year and a half old and I am finally in my senior year of college. My man and I have such a strong bond and my son is growing up in a home filled with love and laughter.
My life hardly looks like what it was pre-baby days. So how am I doing it? Simple.
One. Step. At. A. Time.
Juggling college and family responsibility is definitely not easy; however it becomes more manageable by the day. Though, my son came at a time when I least expected it, he is charismatic, bright, handsome and a plethora of other great adjectives. He exceeds my expectations far more than any child I could have asked for.
Yes, it would have been ideal for us to have met once I graduated, got married and had a secure job with benefits, but that’s not how it works. Plans go sideways. Surprises reroute the path of our visions. And we must adapt. My son’s existence shows me how much more I can grow, pushing me to build and discover the best parts of myself, allowing me to expand upon them.
Along the way, I continue to learn lessons and try to better myself through it all. Sure, life has changed, but I still enjoy my youth and many times do so with my child in tow. I look forward to living out this new chapter one adventure at a time.
Major changes like these challenge us to take a deep look into ourselves. I’m not in any way condemning the decision not to undertake motherhood or opting for an abortion. Those are some very personal decisions to make. The best choice looks different for everyone. I am saying however, that having a child does not have to be a death sentence for our goals and dreams. It is still possible to achieve them and live them out. I’m simply calling out the pattern of judgment and premature condemning and assumption of a life unfulfilled by our peers. Yes, life will change dramatically, but adjustments, a shift in perspective and support go a long way.
My story is not unique. There are many other positive ones out there, but they go untold or are overshadowed by the stigma of unplanned pregnancy. A supportive, patient ear can make a tough topic and decision much easier to digest. Regardless of the outcome, events like these are a growing process and can be equally empowering. Let’s not rob each other of that. I hope you’ll consider changing the narrative with me.
Cristina is an optimistic-realist navigating through life’s daily mishaps and adventures. She’s almost at the finish line with her undergraduate degree in Public Policy. If she’s not studying, she’s venturing out with her little family in the sunny Oakland-San Francisco Bay Area. She’s new to the blogosphere and working on launching her blog. In the mean time, welcome her and connect with her on and Instagram @cocoa_belle and Twitter @bronze_muse.