I Grew Up to be a Mommy
By Tiffany Larabee

I was so nervous I could barely breathe. My mom and I were in her old VW van in the drive- through of a local chicken place where she worked. She had been talking about her co-worker, Danny, for weeks. She thought I might like him and she knew he would like me. He was 21, which made him irresistible to a 17-year-old girl.

"Hey," is all I could manage to say as he leaned out the drive-through window to shake my hand. He wore a black leather jacket and tight jeans, apparently on his way to a pool hall. That's what he did -- played pool -- and he was damn good at it. His hair was dark blonde and his eyes a cool gray blue. I was instantly smitten with him.

I didn't think I'd hear from him again, but he called the next day to ask me out. Me, going out with a 21-year-old. I was ecstatic! We went out for the first time the next night, and were joined at the hip from then on. We were in love.

Of course, never does a 21-year-old guy want to date a 17-year-old girl when sex is not involved. At least, not in my experience. I was to visit my aunt over the summer and had an appointment at a clinic to get on birth control when I got home.

Well, the best-laid plans...

I was at my aunt's house when my period was late. They were always like clockwork, almost down to the hour, so I knew what it was. I was pregnant. The funny thing is, I was elated. I wanted nothing more than to have a baby right then. I didn't care about being young with no money. I loved that little person inside me and that's all that mattered.

My cousin took me to get a test and made me take it at her friend's house before we went out to party the night away. So, there in a stranger's bathroom, I learned I was to be a mommy. And I danced with joy. Really. Finger-wagging critics be damned!

I didn't tell anyone else during my trip, so only my cousin knew. It was hard to explain away falling asleep at four in the afternoon and going through 13 yogurt cups a day, but somehow I managed. I called Danny from my aunt's house and told him. He didn't' seem interested in having another baby (yes, another -- he already had two -- hindsight, huh?), so I told him he could leave if he wanted but I was keeping this baby. He eventually decided to stick around. Don't give him any medals just yet, though.

When I went home, Danny and I moved in with my older brother and sister-in-law. I didn't tell my dad I was pregnant until I was five months along -- and 18 years old. That way he wouldn't press charges against Danny (I thought I was smart). Each person I told about the baby had a different reason why I shouldn't keep it. I was too young to be a mommy. I still had my whole life ahead of me. I was still a kid myself. I heard it all, but I loved my baby already so none of it mattered.

I found a great midwife and had a wonderful pregnancy. My due date was March 15 and I planned my entire life around that day. Life was good. I went to every prenatal visit, even if I had to walk there. I cried when I saw my baby on the ultrasound and heard the first heartbeat. How could anyone say I was too young to love a baby? I hadn't even met him yet and I was more in love than I had ever been.

The day I was due came and went, and I climbed into bed that evening disappointed. I was supposed to have a baby that day and nothing had happened. I settled myself into bed around 11:30 and started to doze, but woke a couple of hours later to some nasty cramps. I timed them at two minutes apart. This was it. I woke Danny around 5:00 a.m. and called my mom and best friend to come. We got to the hospital around 5:30 and I was checked by a grumpy nurse who didn't bother to hook me up to the contraction monitors (if she had, she would have seen I was in hard labor). By this point, I was in enough pain that I couldn't get onto the table on my own, let alone walk. She checked my cervix and informed me that I was only three centimeters dilated and that I had at least another ten hours before I would be ready to deliver. I was sent home even though I was sure I could not endure another second of that pain.

Danny and I climbed into the backseat of my friend's car and she started toward my house. About two blocks up the street, I screamed that I needed to push NOW and she whirled the car around and sped back to the hospital. This time, Danny had to carry me to the exam table. The same snotty nurse checked my cervix and looked up at me, shocked. It had only been 45 minutes since she last checked me and I was 9.5 centimeters. They quickly got me into a room and prepped. My midwife arrived at 7:15 a.m. and apologized for the "confusion," as she called it. By 7:45 I was holding my baby boy in my arms.

The moment a baby is placed in your arms, your whole world changes. I don't care who you were before that moment; you will be different after it. It doesn't matter how old you are, how much money you have or what your social standing is. Doesn't matter if you're married or alone. Rich mommies and welfare mommies, educated mommies and high school drop-out mommies. We are all the same in that moment. The world stops spinning for a while. The nurses and doctors and monitors and noise all fade into a surreal background. Two beautiful, perfect little eyes blink back at you, confused and excited as you feel. No other thing in life can touch the realization that this perfect little person is yours. No other gift will ever be as real, and nothing will ever -- ever -- be the same again.

Having Jordan was, by far, the most important turning point of my entire life. It was in that moment that I learned to live for someone other than myself. In a matter of minutes -- seconds even -- I grew up to be a mommy.

And the good news is, it all worked out okay. Even with all odds stacked against me, I am a success story, if ever there was one.


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