“I met my daughter’s father my junior year of high school. He was the cute new student from out of town, popular for his dance moves, and I was a cheerleader. We were introduced by a friend and started dating within a month. I have always struggled with low self-esteem due to my birthmark that covers nearly half my face, so it was nice receiving special attention from one of the popular boys. Unfortunately, the relationship further added to my self-esteem issues and I was too emotionally lost and broken to realize it and move on.
We broke up a lot and he would usually date other girls during our breaks while I anxiously waited, hoping we would get back together. We went to senior prom together in 2004, and when we graduated, I started taking classes at a local community college. I struggled with staying focused on school and eventually dropped out after a year and a half because I was overwhelmingly wrapped in our energy-draining relationship most of the time or having fun with my friends.
In 2006, I learned I was pregnant with his child. We were happy. I thought it was the beginning of building our solid little family. My parents were upset about the pregnancy but became very supportive, and eventually, they were the only support I had – financially and emotionally.
When I was four months into my pregnancy he moved back to his home state with a family member, hoping to find a good job to support me and our child. He wanted me to come along, but after weighing my options, I realized it would be best if I stayed with my family until he found a job and a place for just us. I already had a comfortable home and a job. My decision ended our relationship for good and about a month later he started a serious relationship with someone else.
It was a very tough time for me and I became depressed. I was ashamed of becoming a single mother and I felt rejected, insecure, and alone. I would cry at random times throughout the day, sometimes in my car during lunch breaks at work. I stopped taking care of myself. It wasn’t until I fainted at work, possibly due to dehydration, and woke up surrounded by EMTs preparing to transport me to the nearest ER, that I chose to get better for my unborn child. I wanted my baby to be as healthy as possible. I began to make sure I was eating 3 meals and day and snacks and staying hydrated. I began to heavily rely on my faith. I focused on my spiritual and emotional growth and spent more time with my family to help me through the moments I felt like I was too weak to go on.
The birth of my beautiful baby girl in September changed my life. She was a healthy 7lbs 6oz. I was fortunate to have my parents, my aunt, and my sister by my side during her birth. The first time I saw her, I fell in love – I knew I would do whatever it took to be a great mother and give her a good life. I felt whole.
Initially, upon hearing the news I was expecting, my mother gave me a, ‘I’m done raising kids, you’re on your own’ speech, but that tune changed quickly. She instantly fell in love with her granddaughter and became the biggest part of my support system, along with my father and stepmother. While I worked evenings, my mother babysat, and my father and bonus mom babysat nearly every single weekend. I had an amazing support team. I couldn’t be more grateful!
A month after my daughter was born, her father got married. This was difficult for me and almost triggered me back into a downward depression spiral, but my daughter gave me the energy and motivation I needed to work towards healing. I also had my parents and my sister to cry and vent to and they always gave me encouraging words and advice.
To support me and my daughter, I had a part-time job and received government assistance. I was able to afford a nice 2-bedroom 2-full bath apartment (with my own personal laundry area) five minutes from my mother and the assistance also helped with my food and childcare expenses. I paid a very low rent amount and was responsible for my own utilities. I only paid $50 out of a $250 weekly bill for my daughter to attend a brand new daycare facility in the area that taught her sign language.
When my daughter was about 4 months old, I received a message from a guy named Zach (a.k.a. Showcase) on MySpace, acknowledging our mutual friends, curious about how I knew them. He was very friendly, but after messaging back and forth for a day or two, I told him I had just had a baby and wasn’t interested in dating if that was his goal. He congratulated me and said he understood and that was that.
About seven months after my daughter was born I thought I was ready to date again. I had met someone, but my father was not pleased with my choice of a partner. These words (paraphrased) from my father led to another life-changing period, ‘Don’t you believe you deserve better? I can’t make you believe it, you have to believe it for yourself. Do you believe my granddaughter deserves better? If you don’t believe you deserve better, then love your child enough to believe she deserves better. You want more for her, right?’ We had a long talk about where I was at emotionally and where I needed to be. He shared so many nuggets of wisdom and encouragement and it really helped me put things into perspective. He gave me a personal assignment to make a list of all the qualities I wanted in my ideal man, who would eventually become my husband and be responsible for helping me raise my daughter.
After this discussion, I stopped dating and I became completely focused on my daughter and earning a college degree. It was important for me to be able to afford to take care of myself and my daughter comfortably without relying on government assistance. I mentally prepared myself to be single as long as it took for me to develop self-love to avoid dating out of loneliness or due to my self-esteem issues. I wasn’t going to settle for less than what I wanted or less than what my daughter deserved.
I enrolled in college again and started my classes in August 2007, excited about my new journey towards self-love and confidence as a single mother. I figured it would take approximately five years to get myself together before I was ready to date again.
In November, I received a MySpace message from the same guy that had messaged me back when my daughter was a baby – Zach. By then, I had posted a couple of photos of me and her together on the platform and he said something along the lines of, ‘How are you doing? Looks like motherhood is treating you well.’ I responded and we conversed online for a little while until he asked if he could call me. I was hesitant for a few reasons. One, because at the time internet dating wasn’t popular and the thought of meeting a stranger I met online in person made me feel uneasy. Two, I had never dated anyone outside my race. I always envisioned myself marrying a Black man. Three, I didn’t think I was ready to date. I had a plan and it involved being single for the next five years (haha).
I didn’t want to turn him down twice, so decided to contact one of our mutual friends (whose opinion I trust) to gauge Zach’s character and determine whether or not I should give him my number. It turned out he was best friends with her cousin and they had recently driven her a few hours away, back to college. She had nothing but good things to say about him. She said she considered him family and encouraged me to give him my number.
To feel less uncomfortable about meeting someone online, I invited him to a small restaurant during my lunch break to officially meet in person before an actual date. The first time I saw him I was pleasantly surprised. Zach was tall and handsome, better looking than in the photos online. That day I gave him my number. We began to text and converse over the phone daily, or at the least every other day.
About a week later we had our first date. He picked me up from my parent’s home because I didn’t want him to know where my daughter and I resided alone. He introduced himself to my mother and stepdad, and then we left. We went out to see a movie, then spent some time conversing. He was respectful, funny, and charismatic; a gentleman. He expressed his joy in making kids laugh and smile as a basketball entertainer. That let me know he likes children, which was important to me for obvious reasons. That night, after our date, when my mom asked me how everything went I was so excited I told her and my sister, ‘I’m going to marry him.’
We went on our second date about a week later and ended up getting caught in an icy snowstorm. His house was the closest to our location, so my mother called and instructed me to stay there for the night. I texted her his address because I still didn’t know him well and I wanted her to know my whereabouts. I slept fully clothed and I was prepared to punch his lights out if he tried anything that made me feel uncomfortable. Thankfully, he kept to himself. We didn’t even cuddle or touch and I really admired him for respecting my boundaries without me having to ask.
Zach showed his nurturing side one evening when I was really sick. My daughter was with her dad and I was expecting my mother to come over and take care of me. My mother wasn’t able to make it over as soon as I had hoped so Zach assured me not to worry, he would bring me what I needed. After he got off work (a manual labor job), he drove nearly 30 minutes to bring me medicine and warm soup from one of my favorite restaurants and then drove another 30 minutes back to his home. This was his first time visiting my home and again, he showed respect for my boundaries by not inviting himself in or asking to stay over.
By this time, my daughter’s father had moved back into town and she spent every weekend with him and her stepmom, so I used this time to hang out with Zach or my friends if they weren’t busy. I wasn’t ready for him to meet my daughter just yet. Zach and I saw each other once or twice a week, as much as our busy schedules would allow, which was nice because it gave us time apart to miss each other.
During our conversations, we expressed our goals and desires to have a big family one day, own a home, and travel. Through conversations with his friends and family, I came to learn he had most of the qualities I had listed for my ideal man nearly a year earlier, and more importantly, how awesome he is with children. The two qualities he lacked were minimal; they weren’t deal-breakers.
A month or two later, Zach asked if we could add titles to our relationship – he was ready to introduce me as his girlfriend. I agreed and started introducing him as my boyfriend. About a month after this, I felt comfortable with him and my daughter meeting. They became instant best friends. He’s such a big kid, he always made her laugh. They got along so well.
The first time he told me he loved me was around the same time I introduced him to my daughter. He said, ‘I love you and I want to grow to love your daughter, too.’ This was a special moment. I recall feeling like I was floating on cloud 9. Things progressed quickly from there.
We became engaged in August 2008. I found out I was pregnant in September 2008. We got married and moved in together for the first time in March 2009. I graduated from college with my Associate’s Degree in April, and our first son was born in May 2009 – the day after my birthday. I ended the government assistance. It felt empowering to reach my goals.
We bought our first home in March 2010 and by this time, my daughter had started to call Zach ‘Daddy.’ Our youngest son was born in September 2011. Thanks to my father and stepmom, we have traveled as a family to Walt Disney World. We went on a family cruise to Jamaica. We added a dog to our family in 2016. We sold our first family home and bought a new one this year over the summer. Our family is happy and complete.
Back in 2006 when I was stressed and depressed, there’s no way I could’ve imagined the life I have now. Marriage and motherhood have had their challenges, but we continue to persevere and love each other through the trying times, building a stronger bond. Personal growth has always been major for me and Zach has consistently supported me through my growth as an individual and my roles as a wife and mother. Co-parenting could be going better, but my daughter is happy and she’s such a talented, amazing young lady.
Through social media mom groups, I noticed so many young mothers in similar positions as I was. They are usually hurting, struggling financially, and asking for advice. My heart goes out to them. I want them to know there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I often find myself using some of the same advice my father gave me – love yourself enough to do better for you and your child, and in some instances, I share a quick synopsis of my story. For me, it’s important for them to know even if the goal isn’t marriage or a relationship, they can still have a good life. They can be successful (whatever this means to them individually) and have love and peace within themselves if they prioritize it.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Britney F. of Kansas City, MO. You can follow her journey on Instagram, her YouTube channel here, and her and Zach’s YouTube channel here. 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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