It’s the middle of the night the week before your 21st birthday and I can’t help but reflect back to back on the earlier years. The night you were born was the first major snowfall of the season. You were ready to come out and meet me and I was both excited and terrified of becoming a mom. Nine months prior I was living an adventurous life as a flamboyant twenty-year old who didn’t have a care in the world. The day I found out I was pregnant with you shook my world.
Some people might call you a mistake. I called you my miracle. I was on a path of self-destruction but the day I met you changed my life forever. We didn’t yet have a place to call our own and there were so many uncertainties, but somehow I knew that as long as we had each other we could make it through anything. So many questions played through my mind: How do you clothe, feed, and care for a baby when you can hardly take care of yourself? I sought out advice from family and friends and ended up at our Crisis Pregnancy center. I think I cried the entire meeting, but left with some amazing resources, and a few maternity clothes.
From the very beginning you had such a gentle spirit, and a sense of loyalty as if you knew exactly what I needed. You were perfect.
The night came and it was time for you to arrive. With my mom and my sister by my side, I gave birth to the most precious baby girl you could ever lay eyes on. You came into this world with a quick sense of urgency, as if you were waiting for an adventure to begin. From the very beginning you had such a gentle spirit and a sense of loyalty; it was like you knew exactly what I needed. You were perfect. The first several months brought about much uncertainty. It was a time I needed to give into my sense of pride and accept help. We were supported by the state early on and living on welfare. The shame and stigma that surrounded this was huge for me. It’s amazing how one piece of paper can carry so much judgement. I spent many nights rocking you to sleep with tear-stained cheeks, promising you a life much different than this.
Being raised in a conservative Christian family I knew right from wrong. The path I chose to live was much different than how I was raised. It was a path that promised a life full of endless fun and excitement, but I never knew the destruction it would ultimately lead to. My life had spiraled out of control. I drank day and night, and drugs had become a staple part of my everyday being. The life that had promised me abundance and happiness left me feeling desolate and alone. I never envisioned I would have to rely on others to help provide for our essential needs and I was emotionally and physically exhausted. Thankfully I wasn’t alone for long. I met the man you call dad when you were still in my belly and he was everything I had envisioned a father would be to you.
It was a rather unusual circumstance really, the first time I met him. Newly pregnant and alone, I was feeling deeply hurt by failed relationships. Still, I managed to muster up enough courage to go on a simple lunch with a friend at a restaurant where my future husband worked. She worked part time there and was certain her boss and I would have a love connection. There was one small detail… I wasn’t in the market for a new partner. I had a huge secret to reveal… the kind of secret that’s a life changer. Still, my friend had the confidence that this man she was to introduce me to would be trustworthy enough not to crush my spirit, and I reluctantly decided to go.
Who in their right mind would want to get to know a woman who was pregnant with someone else’s child?
We entered the restaurant and sat in a corner booth where my soon to be husband kept showing up with more water, his eyes dancing with life each time he approached our table. My confidence was null, and I wasn’t dressed to draw attention to myself. My slender body frame was straining to hide the fact that I was four and a half months pregnant, and I was wearing the biggest shirt I could find to conceal it. I made it through lunch and was relieved I wouldn’t have to have the conversation with this man. A few hours after lunch the phone rang. My friend was on the other end of the line and told me she told her boss my secret and he wanted to get to know me anyway. Even as I’m typing this it sounds ridiculous. Who in their right mind would want to get to know a woman who was pregnant with someone else’s child? Who was this man? A crazy lunatic? Still, there was something about him… his warm smile and contagious spirit that made me want to give this friendship a chance.
As my belly grew, so did our friendship. We would sit and watch movies together and talk on the phone into the wee hours of the night. My heart was guarded, but he was patient… never forcing a romantic relationship, but offering a friendship that meant more to me than he may ever know. From the moment he laid eyes on you, a tiny, perfect newborn, he fell in love. It was then that I knew he was the real deal. Any man who could love my baby even though his DNA didn’t match had the character of a man I wanted to love. A love so genuine and unimaginable to me. When you were thirteen months old I married your father. It changed our lives forever.
You’re a constant reminder of redemption, the power of forgiveness, and unending grace that was bestowed upon my life.
My dearest daughter, these 21 years have flown by and I need you to know something. You are one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given. As I think back to that snowy evening in November 1996, I smile. You’re a constant reminder of redemption, the power of forgiveness, and unending grace that was bestowed upon my life. I can hardly type the next sentence without being overcome by emotion. The precious baby girl, who I almost didn’t know, has grown up into this beautiful woman that continues to bless me every day. It seems like yesterday that I was struggling as I entered into adulthood sooner than I had planned. The years where the days seemed so long, and the future that was uncertain, are long gone. I need you to know I am so grateful for you. In one way, we grew up together and I am so lucky to be your mom. Happy 21st birthday sweet baby girl. Love, mom