“A baby?” I gaped at the nurse in blue scrubs and slid into the chair, almost missing the edge of the seat. My stomach flip-flopped into my throat. I swallowed hard, fighting against the physical push to vomit.
The last week of bowing over the ceramic toilet seat hadn’t been the flu after all.
Pregnant? Pregnant? Pregnant? The word spun on repeat, distorting the more times I said it in my head.
I stared at the sign on the wall imploring me to Choose Life. Of course I would choose life—and relinquish mine in the process. Not a choice I would have made had someone asked.
A baby confused the decisions I struggled to make—decisions like staying married to a husband I wasn’t so sure I loved and starting graduate school in the fall. I’d already deferred a year. Would they let me back in if I took off more time?
Running away suddenly became a viable option, but dissolved as fast as it appeared. How did I run from my own body?
The nurse slid a box of tissue across the table. “We’ll write you a prescription for pre-natal vitamins.”
Sweat poured down my back, pooling at the top of the waistband of my gray sweatpants. I patted my eyes with yet another tissue, soaking up the tears that drenched my face, sure the nurse pegged me for single motherhood the way I carried on.
Why would I come here if I wasn’t on the road to unwed motherhood? Married, respectable women had real doctors and didn’t cry when the test came back positive. Married, respectable women ran home to knit booties to give their husbands over a romantic candlelit dinner.
Pat and I were 2,000 miles from home and I hadn’t known where to go. We had no doctors. No family. No friends. So I’d gone to the local pregnancy crisis center—after all, this was a crisis, wasn’t it?
“Do you need help finding a doctor?” The nurse patted my hand, her fingers warm against my cool, clammy skin.
I needed help with a lot of things—but right now, the need to get out of here and go home and fall apart more completely ruled over all of them.
“I’m fine.” I stumbled over the words. “Just surprised.” I grabbed a few more tissues and forced my body out of the chair. Please stand up, I begged my legs.
She placed a folder in my hands and squeezed my arm. “Call us. We’re here to help. Whatever you need.”
I was pretty sure no one could help me now. I was having a baby. That wasn’t just going to disappear like the flu.
A mirror hung in the waiting room by the exit door. My face matched the deep gray of my sweatshirt.
For the next few hours, I sat on the floor of our tiny apartment, head on the couch, and cried. I didn’t choose to get pregnant. I didn’t choose to be a mom at twenty-four. I didn’t choose to start a family and give up a career. I worked hard to get into graduate school. Pat gave up his job to move here. This pregnancy—this baby—had not entered into my plans.
And I hated kids. They were loud and whiny and snotty and dirty and everything that made my skin prickle. Babysitting was the worst job I ever held. How could I babysit for eighteen years?
Pat walked in after work and found me still on the floor, head buried in my arms on the couch cushions. Three empty tissue boxes sat next to me.
He rushed over to kneel by my side. Put his hand on my back. “What’s wrong?” Panic laced the edge of his voice.
My head was heavy. My throat ached. I couldn’t form the words, so I pushed the folder toward his hand.
He picked it up. “Choosing life.” Confusion swam in his eyes. “Are you sick? How bad is it?”
“I’m pregnant.” I whispered it like a confession.
Relief fell across his face and he relaxed beside me. “I thought you had cancer.”
No, I didn’t have cancer, but I did have something growing inside me that would alter my life forever.
I cried for the next eight months, certain I would be the worst mother in the world. A mother who didn’t cook or clean. A mother who screwed up the laundry. A mother who didn’t have a nurturing bone in her body.
The night I went into labor, we barely made it to the hospital in time for me to deliver. I was full of anxiety. I wasn’t worried about giving birth in the car, or the pain, or what would happen to my body. I was terrified I’d be the worst mother in the world—a mother who didn’t love her baby.
Thirty minutes later, my doctor—a stand-in for Bill Cosby—set my Kyle in my arms.
I held my breath and waited to hate my son and to wish to be anywhere but here. Instead, an unspeakable joy filled me—invading every crack and crevice of my heart with overwhelming love. Love I could never have imagined.
This wasn’t just any baby. This was my baby. Part of me. Part of Pat. A bond between us forever. This was my son.
Eighteen years ago, I celebrated my first mother’s day. A mother’s day I would have chosen to do without. But God had a better plan. He had the best plan. And that best plan is about to graduate from high school. And I wouldn’t trade one moment of being his mom.
In fact, it worked out so well, I decided to do it again. Twice. With Alek and Maddy, I’m a mother times three. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’m still working on the cooking. But I can clean and do laundry and love on my kids right up there with the best moms in the world.
God knew my heart. He knew what I needed. He gave me a gift that I never would have chosen for myself.
What gift has God given you that came unwanted and unsuspected and turned out to be a miracle?
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About Lori Freeland
Lori Freeland, a freelance writer from the Dallas area, holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In her other life, the one BK—before kids—she has worked as a social worker and a certified dyslexic reading tutor. Currently, she embraces her status as full-time homeschool mom to three awesome children. Her big dream? Becoming a Young Adult novelist, a goal she diligently pursues during the wee hours of the morning with help from a very large mug of coffee and occasionally some chocolate-covered peanuts. In addition to blogging and contributing regular inspirational articles to Crosswalk.com, The Christian Pulse, and Believe.com, she loves to mentor new writers and encourage people to share their life stories. As a member of the Cancer Mom club, she desires to connect with others in hopes of giving support to those struggling down the messy paths of life. You can find her hanging with the North Texas Christian Writers as a Critique Group Leader and Writing Coach or cheering on her writers on the Faith Team at The Christian Pulse where she recently took on the role of editor. She also loves to attend Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators meetings where she has begun a critique workshop for new writers. You can visit her website at LAFREELAND.COM.
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