I was just your average teenager. Then I got pregnant.
In the next set of pictures, it was a bit easier to distinguish the head from the body, yet for the most part the baby still resembled a tiny blob. As the nurse labeled certain body parts, she inquired if I'd like her to type, "Hi Mom and Dad!" next to the head. I explained it was entirely too soon for that type of talk. We wrapped up the appointment in a hurry as I noticed that it was just about time for me to head to work. My mother and I thanked them profusely, and I promised to return another time to finish the counseling portion.
My six-hour shift at the Barnes and Noble cafe crawled by. Angie came to visit me during my dinner break and inquired about my day. I began to tear up again, but considering that I was eating my sandwich in public, I decided to hold back. Some of my co-workers could tell something was wrong, and I ended up confiding in one close friend, but no one could really understand.
By the time I got home and called my dad to tell him the news, my entire body was drained. As I lay in bed, the conversation with my father echoed in my head, but one sentence resonated louder than anything else: "I'm disappointed in you." Parents don't need to yell. They don't need to curse. They don't need to spank. Those four words hit harder than anything else.
My father said a lot of emotional things, and I knew it was a natural reaction. He believed I was too young to be "sexually active." He believed I was careless. He believed I made a horrible mistake. I listened and understood, even if I didn't agree with everything he said. It wasn't time for arguing.
I do feel, however, like things happen for a reason, and even from the beginning I didn't think of it as a mistake. My father knows I'm not a stupid, senseless girl. He loves me and I love him. He wants the best for me. He wants me to have a normal life, but regardless of what I decide, I don't know if "normal" is possible. And that's okay with me.
When I saw my brother for the first time that day, he hugged me tight and reassured me that we'd get through this. He was still in shock, but he insisted that he'd be there for me no matter what I decided. The connection between siblings is another that I never fully appreciated until that day. We talked for a while and he stared at my ultrasounds in disbelief, but we also just sat. It's all we could do. Just sit and stare.
I stayed up for hours looking over all the brochures, pamphlets and booklets from Life Choices. My eyes felt heavy, but I couldn't sleep. I had been reading the information for hours, yet I still felt like I knew absolutely nothing. The one image I kept going back to was the image of an embryo at eight weeks. It was accompanied by these words:
"The baby is now about half of an inch long from head to bottom. The elbows and fingers can be seen. Some reports show that the embryo can move its trunk and limbs and can respond to touch by reflex. Lungs begin to develop. Taste buds are forming on the tongue, tooth buds for 'baby teeth' are taking shape in the jaw, and eyelids begin to form."
"That's it," I thought. "That's my baby. It's living, breathing and growing. It doesn't matter what I'm ready for, because it's happening." I could barely read the pamphlet about abortion; the most common form of abortion, which occurs between weeks six and 14, involves a suction that "pulls the fetus' body apart and out of the uterus." Just the thought made me shudder.
I knew my baby deserved to live, whether with me or with an adoptive family. Already, those maternal instincts were kicking in, and I felt an innate connection to the being in my stomach.
Yes, it was unplanned, and yes, I'm young, but that doesn't mean I didn't already love this baby with all of my heart. Somehow, I was finally able to fall asleep.
It's been several months since I wrote the above. I'm 19 now. A lot has happened these past few months, but one thing has stayed the same: I love my baby, and will do whatever it takes to ensure that she--yes, it's a girl!--has the best life possible.
It's been difficult, and there are certainly days when I just want to break down and cry. There are days when I break down and cry.
As I continue to weigh the pros and cons of adoption and parenting, I pray that my baby won't hate me. I know it probably seems crazy that a 19-year-old girl could think she was capable of raising a child--or even want to raise a child--but it's a reality for me. I know I would be a wonderful mother and I already love her more than anything else in the world. But I must explore whether I have the resources--especially economically--to raise her. It's no longer all about me.
Day in and day out I judge every aspect imaginable and wonder: Is there enough room in our house for a baby and all the material items that go with it? How much can I expect my family to pitch in and help out? Is that fair to them? Am I organized enough? Am I gentle enough? Does the dog bark too much? Am I a good driver? Is most of my music acceptable for a young child to hear? Would she be embarrassed when her barely able-to-drink-alcohol mother comes to pick her up on the first day of school?
I've put myself under intense scrutiny, but I'm also realizing you can't expect yourself to feel fully prepared for a child. Has any parent ever gotten home from the hospital and felt completely adequate? I mean, even the author of What to Expect When You're Expecting couldn't have expected everything. It's not that I lead a dangerous lifestyle or that I'm barely able to take care of myself. In fact, I consider myself rather mature for my age. I keep reminding myself that I'm not always going to be 19. Situations change.
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Dinner with Luke Palladino