“‘Focus on school. It’s just puppy love and it’ll never last.’ ‘You guys are no good for each other.’ ‘You don’t know what love is.’
These are all just a few of the things I heard as a 14-year-old who had just discovered love for the first time. The circumstances in which I met Tony weren’t the best. I was 14, he was 16, and I snuck out of my house to meet him. A friend of mine was dating his brother and asked me to come along to their house because she knew Tony and I would hit it off. I knew I’d get in trouble, but something in me told me to go, so I did. And to be honest, I can’t imagine where my life would be right now if I hadn’t.
We hit it off right away. We spent hours in conversation talking about everything from our siblings and childhoods to dream jobs and what parts of the world we wanted to see. We were inseparable from day one, and nobody but us was excited about it. We never cared what anyone said, though. We were in love and didn’t care what anyone said about it. We knew in our hearts what we had was special.
However, seven months into our relationship, I fell pregnant at 15. Staring at a positive pregnancy test in the bathroom, my heart sank. I didn’t know how to process what I was seeing. I remember just giving Tony the test to see, unable to find the right words for what was happening. He was just as shaken as I was, and that’s when the real challenges began.
I didn’t know how to feel. I was numb. I knew I was keeping my baby, but I had no idea what motherhood entailed (do any of us though?). Tony was on the same page as me and told me we would figure this out together, but it felt like the world was against us. Our friends slowly stopped talking to us. My distant father drove from Maryland to New York to talk me into terminating the pregnancy. My mom kept threatening me with appointments to terminate. But despite it all, we just kept going, and 9 months later, I gave birth to a beautiful 7lb 5oz little boy.
This is the part where I’d like to say everything was amazing, and we all lived happily ever after, however, that was the furthest thing from what happened. We spent the first year of our son’s life like most teenagers do… immaturely. We relied on both of our moms to babysit often and would disappear for hours at a time to go out and party. We both had difficulties trying to balance school into our lives, and we both ended up dropping out.
Motherhood was nothing like I expected it to be. You have all of these ideas pre-children of the type of parent you want to be, what you will do, and how you will raise them…but it never turns out like you plan. My son ended up having a febrile seizure at one year old, and I honestly think that was the point when I knew I needed to do better. My world was shaken and nothing else mattered as I held him in the hospital, and that was the day I knew my world revolved around him and I had to step up to be the best mom I could be for him.
Tony and I got married shortly after, with a wedding that had a $1,500 budget. We were living in a small apartment doing everything we could to get by. Tony was working 12-hour shifts 7 days a week, and I picked up a job at the local deli making minimum wage. It never seemed like enough. We had $60 weekly grocery budgets, I was walking to work to save on gas, we bought only hand-me-down clothes for our son and ourselves. I honestly felt ashamed. Like I was working so hard for so little. Tony was working so much overtime trying to support our little family, and nothing seemed like enough. At one point, I had to borrow a $3 bottle of medicine off the shelves at my work when my son was sick because we couldn’t even afford that.
We could never get ahead and arguments between us happened almost daily while things just kept getting worse. Between working, parenting, and trying to live a somewhat normal life, Tony and I began to get distant. We were so wrapped up in making a life that we forgot to live it. We separated for a few months but always remained civil for our son. We both continued to work and provide for our son, but he stayed with his brother, and I bounced around between our apartment and staying with friends.
You know that old saying ‘If you love someone, let them go, and if they return it was meant to be?’ I’m here to tell you it’s true. There’s just no way to describe the ache in your heart when you’re missing someone you know you’re meant to spend your life with. We get angry, overwhelmed, and frustrated, and it’s easy to act out of our emotions, but we realized we were wrong. The only way for us to overcome anything was to do it together, again. We were getting pretty good at it by this point.
Shortly after, Tony accepted a position at his work which paid for his schooling to advance his career. He was bringing in more money for our family, and I was able to stay home with our son. It was a dream come true, and 3 months later, I was pregnant again with our second son, who came into this world almost as quickly as he can now run through this house from top to bottom.
Things were perfect for our family for a short time, then the postpartum depression set in. I remember feeling so defeated. I just had a new baby and should have been ecstatic, right? I should have been soaking up every minute with my kids and enjoying the life we all had, but I just couldn’t. I felt distant from everyone. I fought with myself almost every day to get up off the couch and get dressed. I cried all the time. I felt like nobody noticed my silent cries for help, but when I tell you Tony saved my life, I mean it… literally.
I remember he came into the bathroom one day, and I was on the floor crying and telling him over and over again I didn’t want to be here anymore. I couldn’t even be a good mom to my kids, and therefore I had no purpose. Thankfully, we have a family friend, Joanie, who is a social worker that helped me through a lot of my harder years as a child, and Tony pushed me to call her to work through my feelings. She knows me better than anyone and has been my saving grace more times than I can count.
During that time, Tony attended every one of our oldest son’s baseball games, helped with the baby as often as he could, kept the house clean, and tried his best to cook dinner. Through months of counseling, I was able to overcome a majority of those feelings, and today, though life still throws obstacles at us, we have learned enough from our past to know we are better as one. We are stronger together. We have a purpose. Every single one of us was placed on this earth for a reason, and it’s so important we stay. It doesn’t always feel that way, but I’ve learned how true it really is.
Only 15 months after our second son was born, we welcomed our daughter, and she has Tony wrapped around her little fingers. We purchased our first home together, get to travel the world often, to give back to those who once struggled like we did, and to show our kids every single day to never give up on what you know in your heart is right for you. I get to encourage other young moms who struggle with anxiety and depression. I get to use my social media platform for good and use my voice to speak up for those too afraid to use their own voice. I encourage people every day to speak their truths, even if their voice trembles.
Now, over a decade later, I get to look at my husband every day and see 12 years of love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and understanding. I see a man who vowed himself to his wife and meant for better or worse when he said it. I’m not perfect, and I’ll never claim to be. He’s my rock. He’s the reason our family is what it is today, and I only pray he knows how special he is to me. I’m thankful every day we followed our hearts and didn’t listen to the outside chatter. My relationship with my husband is truly one I can’t imagine my life without.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Muntz of New York. You can follow her 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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