I had a hunch that I was pregnant, but seeing that I was a young, unwed college student, I just wanted to live in a state of denial. Once the morning sickness really hit hard, there was no denying it anymore and I took a pregnancy test. Sure enough, it was positive. I was beyond scared. Here I was in my last year of college, I wasn’t married, and I had no true income coming in to support a baby. And what would my parents say? I walked out of the bathroom and showed the pregnancy test to my then boyfriend. A smile started to stretch across his face and all I could do was cry.
“Why are you smiling?” I asked him.
“I know you are scared, but I can’t be sad over a baby.” Then he hugged me and I bawled.
I do not condone the lifestyle I was living at the time. My boyfriend and I knew better. I would never prop up my story as one chalk full of moral character, but thankfully, Dustin and I were an anomaly in this circumstance. He didn’t leave me and, scared though we were, we never thought for one second that we wouldn’t bring this baby into the world.
It wasn’t easy being a pregnant college student. When I was about 5 months pregnant, my cousin invited us over to her house for a party. I felt odd going, but she insisted that everything would be fine. I found my most non-assuming maternity shirt and Dustin and I headed over. It was apparent pretty soon after arriving that it wasn’t cool to bring the pregnant lady to a college party. I was like the poster child of what could happen that night if you weren’t careful. There I was with my maternity shirt and my bottle of water and I’m pretty sure for everyone else it was like having a mom in the house. That was the last party we went to in college. Awkward.
Then one day in late April, when I was really pregnant, I was home by myself because Dustin had to go to an all-day ROTC field day. It was such a nice day that I decided to set myself up a little lounge chair in the front yard, catch a few rays, and read a good book. I put on some of Dustin’s shorts and a maternity shirt and settled myself in for a good read. As I was sitting there soaking up the sun, across the street, a group of college girls came filing out of the house. They were clad in their cute bikinis, while I was beached on a chair across the street. They laid out their towels and proceeded to enjoy their day. I watched them across the street and just couldn’t take it anymore. The tears started flowing and I waddled inside to feel sorry for myself. When Dustin got home from training, he saw that I’d been crying for hours and thought it was because he had been gone too long.
“I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry you had to be here all by yourself all day.” he said as he tried to soothe me.
“No, no, it’s not you! It’s the girls across the street! They were laying outside in bikinis!” I stammered out.
A look of confusion went across his face. “The girls across the street were laying out in bikinis? Did they say something mean to you?”
“No! I’m just the blob across the street and they get to look all cute and not have a care in the world!”
He then understood and hugged me close reassuring me that I was beautiful and that I was carrying a baby and I didn’t look like a blob.
Then June 21, 2001 came. We didn’t know what we were having, but I was positive it was a boy. All my dreams had been about boys and I just had this feeling. My labor went relatively quickly and when I pushed for the last time, out came my Rhianna. My own beautiful baby girl. They laid her on my chest with all her dark hair and she raised her head up as if to look at me really well. I finally looked into the eyes of the little person that had been jabbing my ribs in all my classes and hiccuping late at night. My life was never the same.
Dustin and I were so young. I look at pictures of us with Rhianna after she was born and we were such babies. I had graduated, but Dustin still had one more year of school left. After we married, we moved into a slightly nicer apartment instead of living in the basement of someone else’s house. I didn’t want to put Rhianna in day care, so during the day I stayed home with her while Dustin went to school. Three nights a week, I worked as a waitress at a smokey steakhouse to make money for diapers and food. We lived literally on nothing. But, we were so happy and we were together.
A child will change you in many positive ways. They have this amazing capacity to grow your ability to love and sacrifice. They put into perspective what really matters. Rhianna had hand-me-down everything, but she didn’t care. We had no money to entertain her or ourselves, so we took lots of walks and visited lots of parks. I would take her on campus some days to visit her dad for lunch and it seemed as if we were the only married couple with a kid there, but I didn’t care anymore.
In many ways, I’m so thankful that we had Rhianna so young. I’m not happy we had her out of wedlock, but choices we make in this life are not always the best. Through our commitment to her we grew up and matured a lot. We had a new responsibility that was counting on us, yet on the other hand, she kept us young at heart.
Often times, when people hear that we had Rhianna so young, they scoff or make some off-handed remark about how they would never have been able to have a kid so young. They ask if we feel like we missed out on the “golden” years of marriage, because we had a kid in tow from the get-go. They wonder if we regret not having just “us” time at the beginning of our marriage. My answer without hesitation is always “no.”
I remember one night when I was up nursing Rhianna. I was sitting in the chair by the full bed Dustin and I shared and the moonlight was shining on her. I remember thinking to myself, “Never forget this moment.” I was holding my sweet baby in my arms while her dad slept on and it was perfect. I had no money in the bank that amounted to anything, I didn’t eat fancy meals or go on fancy trips, I bought clothes at the thrift store, and I didn’t get a honeymoon, but nothing could beat the feeling of how much my heart swelled with love for both her and her dad.
I write this, because our culture is so wrapped up in having everything just perfect before we move to the next step in our lives. However, lives are messy and things don’t always go as planned. I didn’t write this to tell everyone that they have to have a kid when they are young or to have kids immediately after they get married, but, I guess, I wrote to encourage those that maybe don’t have their chicks all in a row. I never planned to be a pregnant unwed mother in college, but it happened and everything turned out okay–better than okay.
I also write this, because we all have planned in our mind how our child rearing days will go. We plan to have the first kid after we’ve had 2 and a half years together as a free married couple. We will make sure there is the right amount of money in the bank to support this child and we will buy all the best of the best. Then we will have our second kid once the first one is out of diapers. Then if we feel up to it, we’ll have a third. But, life just doesn’t go this way and we should be open to the ride. It can be scary to have kids when funds are low or when we have other young ones. It can be scary to have kids when you’re young and it can be scary to have kids when you’re older. Kids will come when you are ready and when you’re not. Or they may not come at all and it will be heart-breakingly hard to be patient and wait, hoping to hear the pitter patter of feet soon.
Life throws us curveballs sometimes and it is up to us how we handle the situation. We can meet it with courage and a positive attitude which embraces the hard or we can take an easy, yet more destructive path. I’ve found in my life that learning to navigate through difficult circumstances seems to bring about the most understanding and growth in my life. I’m not saying having a child so young was easy, but she sure did make me a better person–and she continues to do so. The amount of love and joy she has brought to our lives makes every sacrifice, struggle, and hardship completely worth it.
In a way, Rhianna has a unique experience with her dad and I. She was there from the very start and she grew up while we were growing up. She was with us through the meager years and in many ways, it shows in her character. She’s a very strong, resilient young lady that has a deep devotion to her faith, family, and friends; all those things that truly matter. Her dad and I have made our fair share of blunders raising her, but that’s parenthood and nobody gets it perfect. She’s also, thankfully, a pretty forgiving kid. She wasn’t in my plan at the time, but she was in God’s plan and I’ve thanked Him numerous times for the gift of her life and how she changed me for the better.