In March, I got a call from my father. He said that my Mom wanted to talk to me about something that had been on her mind. He suggested I come over for a visit. Worried that she was sick or that something was wrong, I drove over that weekend, alone. When I got there, Dad said he was going to run some errands. My mother sat down with a cup of coffee and told me her news.
She explained that when she got pregnant with me, as a 17-year-old high school student, she had seriously thought about having an abortion. Like all children who were born fewer than nine months after their parents got married, I remember the moment I realized what that meant. I talked to my parents and they told me a very nice story about how they loved each other and had always wanted to marry and they just got their timing off a bit.
Their story made me feel loved and comforted. It almost made me feel like a favored child since I had played something of a role in our family formation.
So when my mother told me that she had seriously considered aborting me, my perspective changed. For some reason I hadn’t thought about what she had gone through until she sat me down a few months ago. She explained that she was hoping to go to college (even though that wasn’t something her family was known for). She had applied to state schools and been accepted. Then she found out she was pregnant.
She told me that I was in no way expected and that being pregnant had scared her. Her parents, including the Grandpa I mentioned above, thought the world of her and bragged about her all over town. She would be the first college student, a mark of pride for them. She was scared to tell her friends, who thought she was a perfect girl. She was scared for people to know at church. And she knew friends who had been in similar trouble who had “taken care of it,” as they put it.
The first person she told was my father. Even though they hadn’t really discussed marriage prior to getting pregnant, they agreed that the best course of action was to get married. Neither were able to go to college as a result of my father having to make some money to support a growing family. In my Dad’s case, this was a cause of shame for his family, in which college was expected. This early marriage and start to a family wasn’t their plan. But they made it work. They have been together long enough to have four children and 14 grandchildren. They put their kids through school and, now that they have passed the family business along to my younger brother, spend their days chasing after grandchildren.
I can’t believe how brave my mother was. I can’t believe that I never thought about how terrified she must have been when she found out she was having a most ill-timed pregnancy.
When my mother told me this news, I was shocked. I was of course happy that she chose to give birth to me. But I realized that my own children wouldn’t be here if she hadn’t given birth to me so many years ago. It’s been months since the big revelation but every time I look at my children, I think about how they came close to not being here. And I know that, since they are my greatest joy, that I owe my existence to her in more ways than one.
I love my life — my childhood, my adolescence, my young adulthood, and now my mature adulthood. I’m happily married to a wonderful woman and two daughters with another little girl on the way. Knowing now that it would not have happened if not for the courage of my mother makes me grateful. But I’d be lying if I said it hadn’t also preoccupied me. My easy narrative about my existence has been upended and I realize how much more thankful I should be for everything I have.
I guess that after the many years I lived under the old story, I should expect it will take some time to get used to the real story. I don’t quite know why my mother decided to tell me now — I asked her and she said she wasn’t sure, she just thought I should know. I’m glad to know and it makes me appreciate my mother even more. And I now realize we should all appreciate our mothers more, no matter what they went through to get us here.