07.13.12 Truth & Wisdom
You Can Go Your Own Way
BY Elizabeth Fraser
I am 29 and it’s a perplexing time of my life. I can only describe it as standing with your feet at the edge of a precipice where you momentarily feel ageless. Behind you, you can still feel what it was like to be a teenager and a twenty-something. In front, you stare at your future self while the distance to becoming her is less and less.
What makes it an even more mystifying time of my life is the fact that I became a mother last fall to a great little girl. She will be turning one in September and it’s hard to believe that the better part of her first year of life is already behind us. It’s a slightly bitter reminder that my life isn’t slowing down, but that the days seem to pass ever more quickly. It also brings with it so much happiness because I was, in some ways, very unsure that I’d even make it through this first year with my wits intact.
You see, my daughter’s father left me when I was seven weeks pregnant.
I don’t want to get into a lot of the details about what happened between us. And it’s not because I am ashamed of the story. It’s mainly because I don’t feel it’s right for me to share the intimate details of such a crucial part of my daughter’s origin story without having discussed it with her first. We live in a digital world where one Google search could eventually furnish my daughter with her life’s story without her ever having to ask me about it first. I want her to cherish her privacy, and so I have to put up boundaries around it.
I will tell you this much about her father and I. He had come from a broken family where his mother had put a younger sibling of his up for adoption after his father left them for another woman. It’s a very sad story. And there was a lot of sadness in him. But I thought he had a good heart. Maybe he does. I’ll likely never know.
Now here I’ll digress for an instant to admit that our pregnancy was not planned. I wholeheartedly raise my hand to accept that I did not fulfill my half of the responsibilities to make sure an unplanned pregnancy did not occur. I made a massive mistake in that regard, and as an adult I was prepared to deal with the consequences of my actions – whatever they would be.
I knew that telling him I was pregnant wasn’t going to be easy. But there was part of me that expected his good-nature to be logical and think through all our options – would we co-parent? If we didn’t want to have the child, would we consider adoption or abortion as a better solution for our situations in life?
His reaction was swift and definite. He told me that I either was having an abortion or I was going it alone.
I knew immediately that there was no “we” in this situation. There was me and there was him. We were on separate sides of a street, and it appeared we were walking in different directions. I felt so numb and told him I needed a few days alone to think everything over.
Taking that time out was the best decision I have ever made, because for the first time in my whole life I was faced with making a life-changing decision without council from anyone. I knew I needed to listen to my gut before anyone else’s advice, or his ultimatums.
What came to me in that soul searching was this – that unplanned pregnancies, like a lot of mistakes made in life, have unintended consequences that we have to shoulder. No matter what we choose to do to, in these instances we must make selfless choices to do what will yield the best possible life for the children involved who cannot choose their own fates.
In the end, I obviously made the decision to have my child and raise her on my own. It was a really hard decision to come to and required a lot of self-examination.
While factors in my life such as my socioeconomic status and the emotional support of friends and family made it my best choice, it still hasn’t always been the easiest one. Nor should it be. Your true calling is seldom the easiest one. I had to trade away a lot to become a sole-parent and in some ways, I feel like I am just staring at the tip of the iceberg of my sacrifices. Even though I am comfortable with this, I still sometimes I worry about what the future will bring in on her gales.
But I can’t think about those things right now. All I can think of is how when I heard him pleading with me to not go through with the pregnancy, and then give me a litany of excuses as to why he couldn’t be involved – he wasn’t financially stable, he didn’t love me, he didn’t want to sacrifice his freedom – I stood firm in my conviction that I was doing the right thing. I’m still certain of it. At times he tried to manipulate my right to choose away from me, and I refused to let go of it.
That conviction doesn’t just evaporate. It’s so deep inside that I know it will always be there at my core; how I had never seen it all those years still escapes me. This type of strength and resolution helps to build strong, smart daughters. I know that it will be a large part of what helps me weather whatever storms may lay ahead.
I’m often asked if I hate her father for leaving. No, I don’t. I don’t even think he is a bad person. I think that he ultimately lent himself to making decisions out of fear and selfishness – but never out of malevolence.
I have not spoken with him since my first trimester. I made it clear that I was focusing on myself and my child and couldn’t concern myself with how he lives with the decisions he made about our pregnancy. I seriously doubt I will ever hear from him again, and I have made some measure peace with that.
My life goes on.
In that same breath, however, my “it is what it is” attitude about him must part long enough for me to be honest and admit that his decisions have hurt me immensely. I realize I cannot live in anger or hurt though because they take up valuable space in my heart that could be given in love to my daughter.
And so those moments of sadness seldom occur, because each time I look at my daughter I know that she is meant to be here and I am meant to be her mother.
If I get spiritual about all of this and try to think about the lesson that I can glean from my journey into parenthood, I must admit that I am not sure whether or not I have really discovered its complexity or depth yet. There is much to learn. For now I simply revel in the fervor of knowing I am being swept up into the years of my life that will, without doubt, hold the most challenge and wonder.
What the man who left me saw as a death sentence was, in its purest form, the start of my real life. No matter what I think of him on any given day, I am grateful for that gift.
Featured image via grubbenvorst on Flickr