When I was 19, I was madly in love. It was typical and irresponsible and unwise. Neither of us were the type to consider our choices very deeply, and when you’re 19 and madly in love, nothing seems less important than the future. We were contented lusting after each other and giggling about it, never wanting to leave each other’s side. We lost friends and skipped work just so we could sit in my crappy one-bedroom apartment and tell each other stories about our lives and stare deeply into each other’s eyes.
It was a whirlwind of a time when I suddenly believed, regardless of common sense or past experience, that this person was all I would ever need again. Of course he wasn’t. I saw red flags from the get-go, and knew, deep down in my gut, that I was not ready for the life long commitment I was setting myself up for. Yet quickly he moved in and we got a dog, and the next thing I knew I was pregnant.
I didn’t mean to get pregnant; I was just on a roll of irresponsibility. I had spent the last two months smoking a lot of weed, being angry at my parents, skipping work, and quickly closing myself off from everyone else that I knew, riding the tide of this complete bliss that suddenly came to an abrupt end and a harsh reality check.
When my period wasn’t coming, I would tell myself, “Any day now, it’ll come any day.” When my nipples changed, I would stare at them in the mirror and tell myself that they always looked that way, right? When I started getting stabbing pains in my pelvis I told myself it was period cramps, until finally the doctor came into the tiny clinic room at told me I was pregnant. I felt that I had known all along. I burst into tears.
The pain was coming from a cyst on my uterus, which eventually went away as the fetus grew, only to be replaced by nausea, weakness, and sporadic emotions. When I came home and told him, he had already known as well, but didn’t want to tell me for fear of admitting reality. We sat in the stairs, tears in our eyes, with the weight of the world suddenly resting on our shoulders.
Big questions were falling into our laps. What were we doing with our lives? Did I want to work in a nursing home forever? Did he want to work as a groundskeeper forever? Yesterday we’d had opportunities to take advantage of when we felt like it; today our opportunities were slipping through our fingers. How much could we give a child? Would we be good parents? Do we want to spend the rest of our lives together?
I daydreamed about holding my baby. I thought about how she would smell, what color her big eyes would be, and how she would listen to my heartbeat when I held her to my breast. I thought about carrying her with me for nine months and about her waddling around our living room in a diaper. I thought about working every day so that my baby could grow up and live her dreams, hoping that she wouldn’t get pregnant young, and then I thought about my parents and how they had dreams for me too. I thought about the dreams that I had for myself, the things I wanted to accomplish in life. And mostly I thought about the person I was with and those red flags that I had so blindly ignored. I thought about the unease I felt when we fought, about how I felt smothered and controlled. Then I asked him what he wanted.
The conversation went on for a few days, sometimes landing on keeping it, where we’d swoon over the thought of welcoming our child into the world, selfishly feeling all the things capable and responsible parents feel. Other times we’d land on an abortion because we both had aspirations, and we probably couldn’t afford a baby. We reached out for advice, asking family members what they thought, which helped me come to the conclusion that I did.
The person who helped me through the most was my aunt, who I asked to come chat because she’d decided to have a baby when she was 18. She sat in our messy living room and told us about her struggles raising a baby so young, about how her parents reacted and about the little things that make parenting so rewarding, those little things that I was daydreaming about. She said that she didn’t mind struggling, she could have struggled all along if she could have always given her son the things he’d wanted. But saying no to him and worrying about providing for him was the hardest part.
My parents would probably help me, although they’d resent me. He would love the happy moments but he doesn’t even know how to fold his clothes, I’d be taking care of both of them and I’d resent him. My baby would be beautiful and I’d love her, but she’d be the reason for my unhappiness, and I’d resent her too.
The longer I daydreamed about those big eyes, the farther away they seemed. I sat, eyes shut, holding my tummy, nearly feeling the tiny heartbeat beating beneath my palm. My arms ached from longing to hold my little one, and my heart broke knowing that I would never be able to give her what she needed; that I’d never be able to live the life I’d dreamed about. There I was, heartbroken, knowing that life would be easiest if I could do the hard thing.
And so I told him that we shouldn’t have a baby, I told him we’d end up angry, we’d end up struggling, we’d all end up unhappy. We both had so many hopes and dreams that cutting our life short and settling for this would leave us wanting. It wasn’t idealistic or romantic, it wasn’t pretty or selfless or kind, but it was the truth and it needed to be said, and he was relieved that I’d said it. Although he’d hold it against me when he was upset after the procedure was done, I forgave him, because I knew his heart was broken too, and he’d wanted to hold her as much as I did.
After that February, we both applied for school and started new career paths in the fall. We both decided, without saying so, that we wouldn’t take our opportunities for granted; we owed her that much. A little over a year later we realized that we weren’t well-suited for each other, that we didn’t communicate well, and we ended our relationship.
I still daydream about her big eyes and her tiny fingers, and my heart still aches for her. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but it’s given me an appreciation for every blessing I have in my life. It isn’t pretty or fair that I chose my life over hers. Some people can sit on their high horses and look down on me for doing so, claiming that I should deal with the consequences of my irresponsibility, but the reality is that I made a mistake. Rectifying it broke my heart, left me longing and hurt, but it was still a mistake, and I chose what was right for everyone involved. I learned an important lesson and now I take nothing for granted, I push myself to take advantage of my life, because now it means that much more.
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