Updated: Jan 15, 2021
It was late summer in Mississippi. The time of summer that is still and empty, when friends have gone their separate ways to visit family back home. When the once chaotic college town has suddenly turned into a small group of faces you sit next to in summer class and see later that night ordering a drink from across the bar. Once strangers, but now somehow bonded over being in the same small circle lingering in a town to take a class or hold onto the last strand of social life left on the Square. I didn't know it then, but that was the summer my world would turn upside down.
My college roommate left the month before to head back to Texas until fall. The empty, silent house brought a sort of dread with it, leaving me alone with my anxious thoughts and a lack of distraction from the reality stuffed away somewhere deep in the back of my mind. I packed my backpack for class and headed to campus, the sun shining through the trees as music played loudly in my car in hopes it would fill me any speck of energy for the day. I walked quickly past the row of cars in the parking lot to the building and sat down in the seat I had chosen on day one, understandably 'assigned' to me for the remainder of the summer session. I felt unusually empty, somehow full of emotions yet apathetic and calm. The unsettling pit in my gut had grown larger since the day I realized I was alone with no friends to join me on Thursday nights at my favorite bar. I threw myself into my work, giving more effort than necessary to keep myself busy and obsess over the only thing somewhat purposeful that allowed me to drown out the loneliness. Nights were the worst. The deadbolts on my door didn't seem to give me peace, although I knew the old ladies and families next to me were snug soundly in their beds after a long day of gossiping and parenting. I clicked on the next episode of the never-ending reality TV series that was momentarily entertaining. My thoughts still managed to creep in, and I began to replay every dreaded memory from the past five months over and over.
I flashed back to few months before that moment, when I sat in the bathroom with a realization that I was late. I picked up the phone to call my best friend, who I decided would laugh it off with me and tell me everything was fine. We lightheartedly hopped in her car with the sunroof down and headed to the Walgreens next to her house to buy a test. I had never stepped foot in a store to search the shelves for the little boxes full of answers waiting to change a girl's life, but here I was. I sat down at home and opened the box, not a drop of sweat on my forehead thanks to the convincing conversation and humorous "there's no way" comments tossed back and forth in the car. I watched intensely as the blank box on the mystery stick turned into a shaded pink line of fate. Negative. That night we celebrated with wine and laughed about how dramatic the situation was. The weeks following, I filled my head with every scenario possible to explain the mystery that was my missing that month. "It is probably just because you messed up your birth control." "You are always kind of sporadic and random." "It is probably just stress or because you have been exercising more." "The test was negative. Stop overthinking it. The test was negative." Each night after my shower, I would glance in the mirror at my perfectly flat stomach to validate the convincing thoughts. My friends and I would laugh as I put on my bikini to head to the nearest pool, my body as normal as usual and even an envy to some other girls.
As I sat alone for the first time in months remembering all the little moments, pieces of the puzzle in my head began to slowly form a horrifying picture that haunted me each night into the early morning hours. That night, I felt an overwhelming and strange urge to pull out the devotional book that had been collecting dust on my bookshelf. I don't remember the exact words on the page, but I'll never forget the way they made me feel. Tears poured down my face, letting out all the emotions and fears that had been so neatly manipulated under the surface of my poker face, the mask of denial ripped off so forcefully without any true preparation. I knew, but the panic inside me screamed for me to hit the denial button again, this time not doing its job to convince me this was all in my head.
I wiped my tears away and immediately clicked the remote to continue the reality TV marathon that played in the background. My phone lit up, and I hesitantly typed words into the tiny search box at the top of the screen - "signs of pregnancy", "when do you start showing during pregnancy", "how far along are you when the baby starts kicking". My face became hot and horror fell over me as I read through multiple search results. "Some people may feel their baby begin to kick at around 14 weeks." I swiped open my calendar app to the only moment I knew could have opened the door to this terrifying reality. In total shock, I counted 21 weeks. How was this possible? It had been 21 weeks? Surely this was a mistake. I pulled my shirt up to my chest and stared closely at my bare, flat stomach, looking for any sign that what I knew in my head to be likely was true. With steady breath, as to not make any movement, my eyes focused desperately on the surface of my skin. It had been months since my last period. Surely, I would know if there was a baby growing inside me at this point. I tapped and poked at my stomach and watched for any sort of movement in response. Suddenly, I saw the tiniest hint of movement a few inches below my belly button. It was so strange. I could barely feel it, but I could see it. Was it just my stomach complaining about the pizza I had ordered earlier? Again, I poked the spot on my skin where I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me. Again, the tiny movement fluttered in my stomach, this time more aware of how it felt although it was still barely visible. I stayed up all night, my eyes burning and tired from reading every source on the internet about pregnancy. I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my body. I cried and panicked until I was dizzy and so sleepy, I felt drugged.
The next morning, I walked to class with the same feeling you get when you walk down the hallway the Monday after your first kiss - different, wondering if anyone knew, weirdly guilty for no reason. I barely made it through the lecture as my heart raced and head was swimming with my next plan of action. I would leave and go to Walgreens for a more reliable test. At this point, I knew the fate of the situation was probably what I feared the most. Embarrassed, I held the box under my arm and handed it over to the cashier without looking her in the eyes. I ripped open the box as soon as I got home, just ready to have an answer and rid myself of the back and forth wondering panic. I sat both tests on the counter and watched the digital screen blink as the results pended. Finally - the tiny words on each screen read 'pregnant'. I sobbed and screamed as loud as I could on the bathroom floor for hours thinking to myself, "what have I done? what am I going to do?". There are no words to describe the anxiety that a girl feels in this situation - a mixture of completely desperation, anger, despair, fear, confusion, and complete helplessness. It was me. Just me. Alone. The only one carry this heavy weight that forever changed me as a person.
Once I gathered myself, I looked up the number to the only place I could think of that was free and would perform an ultrasound to see how far along I was in the pregnancy. I drove down the road to the Pregnancy Crisis Center, the place I never knew existed and certainly would have scoffed at prior to that afternoon. A nice, older woman greeted me and took me into a room with couches and chairs that had a softness to it. I was already slightly relieved just to be able to say the words out loud to another human. Anyone to talk to about how I... was pregnant. I felt like this was a dream. She confirmed the results with another test, and she sat down across from me in a lounge chair - her large, bright blue earrings staring back at me under her short, hair sprayed blonde hair. My options were abortion, adoption, or keep the baby. In desperation, I pondered what it would be like to have a child in the world who I didn't know, raised by someone else. The woman looked at me and told me she knew what it felt like to be in my situation. She shared that she had become pregnant with her fourth child and that her husband pressured her to abort it due to financial insecurity. She went through with the abortion. Not only did it traumatize her, but she also had major medical complications from it and almost died. She and I cried together - this strange woman I had never met, who worked at a pregnancy crisis center in the middle of nowhere. However strange it was, I truly believe she gave me the courage to handle everything that was to come.
I walked into a room that had an ultrasound machine and an examination chair in it. A tech opened a bottle of jelly and rubbed the cold substance all over my stomach. As I sat there watching the screen, it felt like an out of body experience. There it was. A full baby. With eyes, lips, a nose, one hand on its stomach, one hand up to its mouth sucking its thumb and legs that were crossed over one other with tiny little feet. I was in absolute shock. There was a human life, an innocent baby growing fully inside of me all along, and I had no idea. I felt guilt and sadness. All the months I could have cared for my body to ensure the health of the baby were long gone with no do-overs. The tech looked at me and asked me if I wanted to know the gender. Of course, I wanted to know, anything to clarify what it meant to be pregnant to more than just 'a baby'. And then I heard the words, "it is a little girl."
I experienced an emotion I have never felt before that moment - complete love for the little girl that would be my baby forever, a desperate desire to make sure that little girl was safe and healthy and happy, an overwhelming sadness because I hadn't known her little life was right beneath my skin while I lived my ignorant and chaotic life right around her, a change in maturity as I felt a deep concern and responsibility to be that little girl's mom every single day from then on out with all the effort I could give. MY precious, tiny, beautiful baby girl. God looked down on us that day and smiled the biggest smiling blessing on us, all while I was questioning Him yet desperately clinging to His plan - my only hope for making it in my new upside-down world. Before I met her, I was empty. The moment I knew she was inside of me; I was forever changed. But little did I know, that after I met her my life would become the most beautiful life I could have ever imagined - a life as that little girl's mom.