“I was 18 years old, a recent college dropout, unemployed, and living at my parents’ house with my boyfriend when I found out I was pregnant.
We had both just failed and proceeded to drop out after our first semester at University. Neither of us even received any credits from our courses and we had no idea what we were doing with our lives. A pregnancy was definitely not on my agenda at the time. Alas, one day those two little pink lines decided to show up on a pregnancy test. Just to be sure, we walked to the store to buy 6 more tests. Even though every single one of them were positive, it still didn’t even seem real.
I ended up contacting my sister who has always been my confidant and protector. She came over, helped me set up an appointment with a doctor, and eventually break the news to our parents.
My sister, my boyfriend, and I all sat down with my mom a few days later. I was too nervous to even muster up the courage to get the words out – my sister had to break the news to her. Much to our confusion, she was undeniably excited. My mom was looking for a reason to retire and she had always wanted grandchildren so she could care for them while her kids worked. This was her moment, she was elated. So elated, that she dropped the news on my dad right after he got home from a 16 hour work day. Needless to say, he wasn’t too thrilled about the whole thing.
We couldn’t avoid the topic forever, so my parents sat down with my boyfriend and me to discuss our options, why we were choosing to keep the baby, and how we were planning on taking care of it. I knew I had options and I considered them, but ever since I was a little girl I had always wanted to be a mother and I knew it could potentially never be possible for me. My mom had been diagnosed (at an early stage, luckily) with ovarian cancer in her late 30s. Knowing this and knowing how hard ovarian cancer is to detect, I never knew if my chance to carry a baby would ever happen again.
After multiple attempts to find a job, I realized it would be impossible as soon as my severe all day sickness kicked in – I couldn’t even hold water down. My boyfriend found a job and things started to look up for us. We made plans for the future. That’s when it all came crashing down.
I found out my boyfriend had been cheating on me, even throughout my pregnancy. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be in this type of relationship, so I immediately kicked him out of my parent’s house. He ended up moving 6 hours away for the remainder of my pregnancy.
This particular situation brought on a lot of emotions – anger, fear, sadness, and embarrassment. I questioned if I was doing the right thing by bringing a baby into an already broken home. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of financial, emotional, and physical help during my journey through young single parenthood, but I still didn’t feel like I was doing well enough. I felt like I had failed my child before she had even been born.
On a chilly October afternoon, we welcomed our baby girl into the world. She came in fiercely and without hesitation – she wanted out. Her dad was there for her birth and we managed to co-parent long enough to get through the next two days in the hospital together. After my daughter and I were discharged, her father moved back to his home 6 hours away. This is when the raw emotions really hit – now it was fear. I was terrified. What had I done? Was I going to be able to do this on my own? I was still highly dependent on my parents. I knew I had no other choice but to keep going and try to give her the best life possible despite the circumstances.
For three years we lived with my parents. Finding a job with little experience was difficult and I was only able to land a part time retail position. Working part time also allowed me to enroll in college courses. This gave me some hope, but I felt stuck. This job was not getting me anywhere and I needed to make more money if I was going to climb my way up from rock bottom.
I was fortunate enough to land a full time nanny position with a wonderful family. They let me bring my daughter whenever I wanted or needed to and they encouraged me to continue college. After building up my previously nonexistent credit, I was able to save up enough money from this job to buy my first car – because although my parents helped me tremendously, I still didn’t have a car of my own until I turned 21. I felt fantastic about this for a few months until I started seeing all of my peers graduating from college. Their posts on social media made me feel like a failure again. I still barely had enough credits to even finish my Associates degree while my high school classmates were well on their way to grad school and post college careers.
Eventually, my daughter’s dad was back in the picture and we were able to co-parent as best we could, but it still wasn’t perfect. Everything that was going on made me feel like I was a disappointment. I felt like I was a terrible role model for my daughter to look up to and just wanted to give up. Except, I didn’t. Instead, I worked really hard and moved on to another full time nanny position with another exceptional and supportive family. This new job was the puzzle piece missing from my life that I didn’t even know I was looking for.
With this job I was able to save up enough money to move out into an apartment with my best friend. We rented a beautiful apartment in a great neighborhood and although my parents were against the idea of me ‘wasting’ money on rent, I knew I had to get out of their house and learn true independence on my own.
Unfortunately, my roommate and I became another statistic – we stopped being friends after we lived together. I didn’t know what to do at this point because I knew I couldn’t afford rent on my own and my mental health was rapidly declining due to my severe anxiety and depression.
However, instead of giving up I kept trudging on. At this point I had stopped taking college courses and was at a standstill with my education, but I knew I had a secure job and could financially accomplish the one goal I had since I became pregnant: to buy a home in a great school district before my daughter started kindergarten. I did it! I bought my first home! My daughter would be going to a great school and we lived in a wonderful community! Why did I still feel like a failure? Why was I still putting myself down in my own head? Everyone around me was supportive while I dismissed their comments and figured they were just trying to be nice.
I mean, by this time my peers were graduating from graduate school, they were getting married, having kids, buying houses with their partners, and experiencing amazing career and travel opportunities. Not only that, but I would also think of the other single parents, the ones who defied the odds. You know them, the ones you see on social media who finished college with honors while working multiple jobs and were still able to care for their children. The ones who made me question myself constantly and wonder why I wasn’t able to do all of that. Why was I failing my daughter? How did they do this and why couldn’t I? No matter how much I accomplished or how many goals I achieved, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of being a disappointment and a terrible role model for my daughter.
Eventually, I will go back to college. Eventually, I will complete my courses and I will graduate. Eventually…
I won’t do it because everyone else is, I won’t do it because I think it’s what I have to do, but I will do it for myself and for my daughter. However long it may take, it will get done.
Time is a funny thing. The way we view the traditional way of living is shifting, but it still hasn’t gotten very far. I may have done things out of order and I may not be where I want to be, but I’m exactly where I need to be for now, and one day I will get to where I want.
I know, deep down, that my daughter does not see failure in me. She surprises me every day with her amazing kindness, compassion, generosity, and intelligence that I know she has only learned through me. That is what keeps me going on the days that I want so badly to give up.
While I did have a lot of help and support, it by no means negates the battles I’ve fought and hurdles I’ve jumped along the way. I have gotten this far because I worked hard and realized that giving up wasn’t an option.
I still struggle with those invasive thoughts and feelings of failure. I still want to give up some days. I still look at my daughter and wonder if I made the right decision to become her mother. I battle myself in my own head every single day, but I also know I can’t give up. I’ve seen rock bottom and I’ve already gotten this far, so I can only go up from here.
So, to anyone else out there struggling with similar feelings or thoughts, just remember that you’re not the only one. Just because you haven’t reached a point in life that many of your peers may have already reached doesn’t mean you’re any less than them. Take your time. Ask for help. Remind yourself that you can reach your goals. Remember that you are doing amazing no matter where you are in life or how backwards you may have approached the traditional way of living.
My life is not inspiring, my story does not transcend the ordinary, but that’s exactly why I am writing this – because I know there are many others out there like me feeling the exact same way. I want you to know that you are not alone. You will reach your goals one day. If you have no emotional support just remember me, the random person on the Internet, and tell yourself ‘she believes in me.'”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gabrielle Gunther, 24, of Chicago, Illinois. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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