“It’s crazy to me there was a point in my life when I didn’t want kids, or to ever be married.
My parents had my sister at just 17 years old, and me a couple years later. To no surprise, it didn’t work out. Long story short, my dad ended up with full custody of us when he was barely 20 years old. My family does not come from money, in fact, just the opposite. My dad single-handedly worked his butt off to provide us a life we deserved and to get us away from bad people and bad environments.
As you can imagine, that’s a difficult task for anyone — especially at such a young age. My mom was a drug addict for the majority of my childhood, and was not around to nurture in the way a mother should. She spent a lot of years in and out of my life; only popping in when it was convenient for her (AKA when she was clean for a couple of weeks), then she would disappear again. As a child, I didn’t realize the long-term impacts this would have on my views as an adult.
The little girl in me just yearned for her mother to be there, soaking in every moment I could get, even though I knew it wouldn’t last. One summer when I was around 6 or 7 years old, I remember staying in a hotel with her because she didn’t have a permanent place of her own. We didn’t do much of anything but watch tv and eat fast food. It was the best part of my entire summer.
She promised, ‘I will move closer and you will be seeing a lot more of me, because I finally want to be the mother you deserve.’ I couldn’t wait to tell all of my classmates about the awesome summer I had with my mom.
Seven years went by before I heard from her again.
During that time, she had two more daughters, both with men who were not involved in their lives. I felt helpless for them, because I knew the agony they would feel growing up just as I did. I could never grasp how a mother, someone who is biologically programmed to love and nurture, could up and abandon her own kids.
Meanwhile, mine was just out in the world getting high and having more babies she wouldn’t take care of. I hated her for so long. I would never forgive her.
She sobered up when I was 13 and started to come around a little more often. As much as I wanted to keep hating her… I just couldn’t. The desperate little girl still longed for her mother’s love. When I was 14, she was killed in a car accident, which somehow felt worse because we were only given that short year. I had so many questions and unresolved feelings towards her, which now had nowhere to go. I felt stuck with all of this anger and overwhelming sadness at the same time.
Being raised by a single dad who worked so much, I felt robbed of that relationship as well. My dad is the strongest person I know and did beyond what any man in his position would have done. He would leave for work before the sun came up and get home long after the sun went down. I remember him dating women just for the sake of having childcare for me and my sister.
Did he do it perfectly? Absolutely not, but he made sacrifice after sacrifice and I witnessed what it means to have true character. With this being said, as a child I had very few examples of what a long-term, healthy relationship looked like. Let alone seeing a functioning marriage with children involved.
Obviously, as a young woman, this shaped my viewpoint of relationships and life in general. I suffered from severe trust and abandonment issues. At 14, I dated a guy who was 18—I had no clue how disgusting that was. At 16, I dated a guy who was a complete narcissist and was verbally abusive, but I didn’t have the emotional intelligence to know any better.
After graduating high school, I took my first big steps out into the world. I had a cute little apartment, I was working at a tanning salon, paying my bills, and making new friends. My life was MINE. After moving in with a serious boyfriend, I realized I was pulling the majority of the weight…maintaining the bills, working long hours, keeping up with housework, and so on. It created a lot of arguments in the relationship and further proved my theory all relationships will eventually fail.
It wasn’t until I met my husband my viewpoint changed. I was 20 years old and he was 23 when we first met. I was just getting out of a two-year relationship and he was a regular at the bar I worked at. I was getting back on track with trying to do things on my own and he just happened to drop into my life right in the middle of all that. Funny how things work out, right?
When I met my husband, one of the first things out of his mouth was, ‘I have a two-year-old daughter.’ I was only 20 but I knew the responsibility of dating someone with a kid. I appreciated his honesty and as we started to date for a longer period of time, he opened up about the toxic on/off relationship with his ex and the estranged relationship he had with his daughter because of it.
He was going through a lot of big changes in his life and we clicked on those things. As most 20 somethin’ year olds do, we lived for the weekends. We’d work hard all week and drink on the weekends. We were living fast and enjoying every second of it.
Then, I got pregnant. THREE months in.
Holy sh*t, what a game changer this was for me. I was scared, nervous and I had no clue what the future was going to hold, or any idea of how to be a mom — a good one at that. All of those feelings I’d spent so much time bottling up about my own mother came flooding to the surface and it paralyzed me. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider an abortion.
A few weeks after finding out, I made the decision to carry out the pregnancy, regardless if that meant doing it alone. I refused to be put in the category of a sinking ship – the same boat that so many single parents are put in. When I was confident in my decision, I came forward that I was pregnant and I was keeping it.
He said all of the right things, ‘I love you, I’m here for you no matter what, I’m going to support you’… and so on. Me, being raised by a guy, I knew those trigger words and didn’t take them to heart. I always put pressure on him to see if he would cave. I never gave him the easy way out, because I was determined to have a strong man raise my children; as my father raised his.
God, did he surprise me. I came to find out I am the worst pregnant person. Morning sickness, migraines, extreme fatigue…basically every bad symptom a pregnant person can have, I had them all times ten. I had to quit my job because I literally couldn’t make it through a shift without getting sick. It was completely overwhelming I had lost all of my independence. Let me tell ya, he stepped up. Big time.
He went to school in the mornings and worked late into the evenings. He kicked out the roommate he had in his two bedroom apartment so we would have the space to ourselves to prepare for the baby. He never complained about me not contributing or being ‘lazy’ while I was pregnant. He fought for the relationship with his youngest daughter. Even though his ex refused to let him see her or be a real dad in her life, he paid her over $1,000 a month in child support.
He was doing everything he was supposed to be doing. We struggled so bad during this time. After paying bills, I remember only having $32 to make it until the next paycheck and we hadn’t even bought groceries yet. I was so scared we weren’t going to make it, we were going to fail as parents, fail in a relationship, and I would have to bring a child into a broken home before he or she even got the chance to experience real love.
He never stopped trying to convince me we were going to be okay. After working long shifts, he would come home and do research on different career paths to see which ones made the most money. Even through all of the hard days, he would come with me to every doctor’s appointment so I didn’t feel alone. Finally, he found a great job opportunity, but it was based in Washington state. I was 6 months pregnant when we made the move and we left with nothing, just whatever we could fit in the Jeep, which was mostly clothes.
I had family nearby and we were able to stay with them for a short amount of time until we got on our feet. As a new mom, I didn’t get to enjoy the ‘nesting’ phase because I had no place of my own to nest. We had set up a bassinet in the corner of our room and had prepared for our baby’s arrival with clothes and diapers and such, but that was pretty much all I got.
I was terrified to bring my baby home to a place that wasn’t mine. His job started to pick up shortly after having our daughter and we were able to get into our own place again. It was cute and it was ours. I was able to go back to work which alleviated a lot of our financial stress, and we were finally in a place where we had extra money after paying for all the necessities and bills. It wasn’t much, but it was ours and I was proud.
Then his job came to an abrupt end and there wasn’t any work left in Washington for him. We were headed back to Arizona. Just like that. We stayed with my dad for a while, living out of a bedroom again, and having to give up all we’d previously worked for. It sucked. My husband found a job he was going to apply for, working at the prison where most of his friends worked. I was back to working at the bar. I felt like the last year had been wasted.
My dad saw that we were struggling and didn’t want us to have the same life he had while trying to raise kids, just barely making it through each day. He took my husband to lunch one day and spelled out the two different career paths before him. One, work at the prison and maximize your salary within a year or two, truck driving, where your salary options are self-motivated.
That same day, my husband enrolled in school and got his CDL a month later. That first year of him getting his foot in the door was rough on our family, our relationship, our finances, everything. But at the end of it, we finally moved into our own house. And we did it all on our own. We didn’t have to struggle anymore.
In the last year, we’ve expanded our family and continue to fight the nastiest court battle for my husband’s oldest daughter. I have been lucky enough to feel the love of three girls, and not just the two I gave birth to. I have been tested, twisted, and pulled and have learned so much about who I am capable of being— as a person, but more importantly, as a mother.
I’ve been able to go back to school to start a career path I’m passionate about as a paralegal, soon to be a future lawyer. Without having the experience of fighting for my family and those I love, I would have never found my strength in it. Every trial and tribulation which was meant to break me has only fueled the fire that much more. Despite where my story started, or how I could have gone down a horribly different road than the one I’m on, I figured it out.
My husband and I have always been in it together and want to see each other win individually, so that we can win as a whole. Through all of this, we’ve been teammates. He loves me for me, not what I bring to the table. He’s always supported me in the weaker moments and applauded me during the successful ones.
Marriage is about finding a partner who can work through life’s challenges WITH you, not against you, and realizing that the low moments only make the high one’s worth celebrating. My marriage is only successful because we both want it to be. We both put in the work every day to ensure we have the same goals for our future. It’s not him against me, it’s US against THEM.
It’s crazy that at some point in my life, I didn’t want kids or to ever be married. What a foolish way for me to think. This family and home of ours is all I’ve ever wanted and more. It’s love and honesty and strength. It is exactly what I never knew I needed to heal my inner child, who was broken and closed off to the idea of love and happiness and family.
It’s in the little moments: having a silent conversation with my husband across the room, catching him cuddled up with our daughter for a morning nap, sitting around the dinner table at the end of a long day, that I realize I have everything I need to be happy.
Life’s pretty crazy, huh?”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sarah Saxon of Goodyear, AZ. You can follow her journey on Instagram and on her website. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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