‘I’m not enough for my son.’ Pregnant at 19, my relationship was a toxic monster. I didn’t recognize myself in the mirror.’: Mom details PPD and finding love, ‘Authentic love speaks volumes’

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This one is hard. ‘Me.’

What does that word mean, really? How can one word be so full of years? I was 19 when I got pregnant—my life story seems to start there. Whenever I think about telling my story, that’s where my mind goes first. Before then I was a nerdy kid. Always into art, bullied, and not very socially intelligent. High school was odd, I went to an art school and was able to dive into/sometimes rebel against my creativity. I went through some noteworthy phases and experimented with every style possible. From side swept bangs and overdone eye makeup to gel hair and unflattering low-cut jeans with rhinestones.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

I was awkward and didn’t have any attention (from boys) until I was about 16 and the braces came off. After that, it was all a big blur. I worked at American Apparel and was living my art school girl dreams in spandex and prescription-less glasses. The money I made working was used on alcohol, cigarettes, and shopping. I developed a pretty bad eating disorder, which I think is definitely a product of my environment living in Miami. My lifestyle led me into depression I wasn’t aware I even had. I felt like I was drowning. All the time. I remember searching for validation everywhere, but so were all of my friends. We were all trapped in a time warp existence that included chugging Colt 45’s, going to grimy bars, and dating guys who were obviously not meant for us.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

At some point, I started dating someone who caught my eye because of his long hair, excessive tattoos, large plug earrings, and bad-boy attitude. I was drawn to him because he seemed to represent rebellion, and disrupting the norm. Our relationship rapidly grew into a toxic monster neither of us could contain. We were both young (18 years old) and absolutely reckless. I remember us drinking until the early hours of the morning and losing balance between reality and our made-up world. Fighting seemed to become our love language. We downward spiraled into a never ending argument that in reality was our actual relationship. I no longer recognized myself in the mirror. I was alienated from my old friends. I was lost in a world I had created. I was miserable.

At some point I knew something was off. I wasn’t able to work my full shift without passing out. I started to feel hungry more often, and I started to sleep in—instead of staying up and losing myself in the night. Sure enough, in the bathroom of American Apparel on Washington Ave. in Miami Beach, I took a pregnancy test and found purpose. What’s funny is I had been feeling this odd exhaustion for weeks. I’ve always been the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of person. So the last thing I wanted to do was confirm my suspicion (and my family’s) I was pregnant. Looking back, I think I didn’t want to take a pregnancy test earlier because I knew 100% I would go through with having a baby if I indeed was pregnant. I grew up in the Catholic faith, and even though I had completely strayed from my morals, abortion was never an option for me.

I was terrified. I waited until the last moment to finally seek clarity. When I arrived home after work with my positive pregnancy test hiding in my purse, my mom already had one waiting. She somehow knew that her daughter was carrying life. She embraced me and the baby in my belly with open arms, and at that moment I knew I’d have my parents’ support. At 19 years old, I was pregnant. The truth is my memory of the past is as vague as the words above this paragraph. I don’t remember much. My life really did start after my first son was born.

Let’s fast forward—I name my son Zen, and he was born on September 15th, 2011. Zen gave me a sense of life I never had. He was mine, and he was in need of me. No one had ever needed me. No one had ever inspired me enough to care for myself. The first months were hard. I developed severe postpartum depression and had suicidal thoughts for some time. I had been in an extremely toxic relationship, and was now alone parenting a new baby. I was a 19-year-old single mother. I felt like I wasn’t capable of being the kind of mother Zen needed. My family supported me, but I was alone for hours every day. I had no outlet, no distraction. I had pretty much cut off communication with everyone in my life from before he was born. I was lucky enough to be supported financially, but I had no social interactions, no goals, no sense of hours, days, weeks. It was all a big cloud.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

I developed postpartum depression, and felt hopeless. I couldn’t understand why I felt so overwhelmed and sad all the time when I was living the dream for so many women. I was at home with my baby (for two whole years). How could I be so ungrateful? At one point my depression got so bad, I confessed my suicidal thoughts to my grandmother. I felt at that point, my mom would be better suited to care for Zen. I felt like I was not enough for him, not enough for myself. I felt my past crumble on top of me, and I had no hopes for the future.

When Zen was nine months old, I went on my first run, ever. YEAH, ever. Growing up I hated P.E. I remember (literally) peeing my pants during the second grade because my teacher was gonna pick on me to do some kickball thing. I never did any sports, and the closest thing to a workout I had was doing loser laps around the carnival or local mall. My first run lit a fire in me. It was like I realized I had control over my body. I was now 30 pounds heavier than pre-pregnancy. My body before Zen was mal-nutritioned and rotting. I had never understood what taking care of myself meant. It created a whole new respect for myself beyond being a mother. It was something that was fully mine. It was something that enhanced my abilities to deal with day to day stress.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

I became addicted to fitness and pushing boundaries. I went from barely surviving one mile, to running four in a couple weeks. Exercise is the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had. It’s like the best friend you can instantly connect with after years and feel so amazing hanging out with again. It saved me from postpartum depression and made me feel in control again. In fact, first job after having Zen was at a CrossFit gym. So where are we at…Big points that define ‘Me’ include Zen, the world of motherhood including the dark side, and fitness….

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I met my soulmate at that exact gym. When I least expected it. I was just starting to enjoy my life as a single mom. I never was promiscuous with men because I wasn’t emotionally capable. Yeah, I’m clingy. But I had just started casually dating men I felt had some future potential. Anyway, I met John at what we thought was the worst possible time for both of us. He had a newborn baby, and I was just stepping into my power as a single and dating mom. But we couldn’t care less. It’s like all of the fairy tale crap you’ve ever heard about ‘when you know, you know.’

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

It was undeniable we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together pretty early on. But it didn’t sit well with a lot of people in our social circles/families. There was a lot of tension and push back considering John was a new dad, and I was a single mother with a haunted past. Why in the world would we both decide to complicate our lives? Dating would mean having two kids from different parents. No one recommended we stay in a relationship.. There wasn’t a crowd of people cheering us on and wishing us well. It was quite the opposite. But when you KNOW you are meant for someone, outside factors are so irrelevant. You focus on the bigger picture. You found what people spend their whole lives searching for. Let them doubt your love, they’re entitled to their opinions—authentic love will eventually speak volumes without you even realizing it.

We clicked as if we were born to meet each other, and became a family instantly and almost effortlessly. John was a dad, I was a mom, and we just worked against all odds. Our love was like a beast that devoured us both. We’d talk for hours about light and darkness and all of the mystery that was the two of us. John held my hand through the process of developing as a woman. He accepted my past and my child as if he was his own. My son and his son (Aiden) bonded almost instantly, as if they were brothers who had strayed away from each other and finally reunited. We spoke for hours about our trauma, and we healed each other by just listening to one another. I buried all of the stories I had carried for years about my party days, my pregnancy, and my postpartum experience somewhere in between our endless conversations. I learned to let go of the past and be excited for the future.

He has always believed in me and even six years later, he SHOWS me everyday he loves me. He is the silver lining of every dark situation life has ever thrown at me. He was the first man I ever trusted, moved in with, and the first person I never wanted to change. Yes, re-read that, I’ve never wanted to change my partner… there’s never been a red flag. This kind of love exists people, I promise! In a way, I sometimes romanticize my own life knowing I came up from the depths of darkness, and found someone to walk through life with. I have something that is priceless, and yes, I waited and worked for it. Nowadays, you simply can’t know me without knowing him.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

Then there was Jaz. Six years, a proposal, and marriage later, we decided to have our own baby, Jaz. He represents the love our family has built, and he is the bloodline which unites our boys. He is the missing piece of our family’s story. Even down to his name, he symbolizes our story: JAZ stands for J-John, A-Aiden, Z-Zen. My pregnancy with him was the complete opposite of my pregnancy with Zen, and I’m so grateful to have learned a new side of pregnancy. My postpartum experience has been filled with joy, excitement, and support from my husband. My fairy tale ending may not be desirable to you—having a blended family, having to co-parent x2, but I really do believe it couldn’t be more perfect & fulfilling for me.

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

This story is meant for anyone who feels lost or confused about their life. I would have never seen myself here, but I always believed I’d find happiness. Listen to your intuition, and say no to what is not for you. Have hope. Your darkest days can be in preparation for your best years. Your toxic relationships can be homework for your most blessed relationships. Your trauma can become a full circle revelation. Miracles do happen—they can just take years to unfold.”

Courtesy of Elisa Gonzalez-Lara

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elisa Gonzalez-Lara of ElisaFace. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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