While supermom is an honorable credit, I made a choice for my life that many women make everyday.
In the summer of 2015, what I thought was food poisoning was actually the signs of early pregnancy and the timing couldn’t have been worse. Me and the dude I was involved with weren’t even on good terms. We argued, fussed and fought about the pettiest things. Nonetheless, when I shared the news of what I thought was “our” pregnancy, he proved to be an asshole by showing me pics of himself and his fiancée. Him standing next to another woman, and claiming her as his future wife, while I was the one who was carrying his seed was a straight blow to my ego and dagger through my heart. He reached a new low and I was totally blindsided. Beyond that devastating news, I was looking forward to my final year in the nursing program which in and of itself demanded my time, attention and nothing less than a B average. I didn’t believe I could withstand heartache of bearing a child for a man who cancelled me for another woman and the hard work necessary to get through a rigorous course. I thought long and heavy about it, but terminating the pregnancy was the clear choice.
At nine weeks, I scheduled an appointment at a local abortion clinic. On the day of the termination, I was sure I made a sound decision for my life. When I arrived at the facility, I filled out paperwork and signed waivers, confirming my decision. A nurse explained the process and lead me into a room to disrobe. Right before the procedure, I received a thorough examination and an ultrasound sonogram. I wasn’t ready for what I heard or saw across the monitor — my baby’s heartbeat thumped through the speakers and its tiny body floating inside my belly. I could see her itty-bitty fingers and toes moving as I gazed in amazement at the screen. I reneged. With tears streaming down my face, I told the clinician I had a change of heart. I gathered my clothing, got dressed and got the hell outta there. I couldn’t justify getting rid of an innocent part of myself in a selfish effort to remain emotionally and mentally whole. I decided to keep my baby and push through hell and high water for the two of us.
My expected child’s father was worthless and an even greater jerk than I thought. He refused to participate in my pregnancy, citing that we were no longer together. When it came to prenatal appointments, he compared me to his ex-wife and sang her praises for going to hers alone. He basically “encouraged” me to handle any and all doctor’s visits on my own. I did. I wasn’t going to allow him or anyone else break me, but they tried — especially in school. As I made my way through classes and clinicals, my patience and endurance was tested regularly by students and faculty. The looks and stares I got was enough to let me know they didn’t think I belonged there, getting my education alongside them. One professor would act as if I wasn’t in the classroom, ignoring my participation during discussion, and another would mark me absent if I showed up more than three minutes late to class, knowing I was carrying load. At one point, the Dean of Nursing made me retake a class I had already successfully completed. When I challenged her on it, her response was “Be there or be dropped from the program.” I was a pregnant Black girl, attending a private white institution and they were trying to sabotage my efforts to better my life. They wanted to see me fail — but not more than I was determined to succeed. I sat myself in those classes and did the work regardless — big belly and all — right up to my due date and prayed my water didn’t break in class.
I wasn’t going to allow him or anyone else break me
The morning I went into active labor, I held off rushing to the hospital to complete homework assignments and submit licensing forms. The contractions were kicking my butt, but I couldn’t chance missing deadlines; not having made it that far. My hospital bag included clothing for me and the baby and two textbooks. The nurses were impressed that I was studying in my hospital bed as I awaited my child’s arrival. As my labor increased, the medical staff grew concerned. My body had not responded well to the pitocin used to induce my labor. They wanted to perform a c-section delivery. I convinced my doctor to at least give me an opportunity to try and push my baby out because I could not afford to miss class, recovering from major surgery.
In the 11th hour, I was exhausted and ready to give in to getting cut, but my mother, who was a God-fearing woman, prayed over me. Minutes later, my body complied. With my mother by my side, coaching and encouraging me to breathe, I pushed my baby girl into the world zero complications. When the nurse placed her in my arms, I felt the heartbeat I was introduced to six months earlier in that abortion clinic. I counted those itty-bitty fingers and toes I first saw on that sonogram screen. Her tiny breaths were proof I had made the right decision even when her father, my schooling and naysayers believed I did not. She was totally worth it. We were discharged from the hospital on a Wednesday and there I was sitting on a pillow in a classroom that Friday. My mom, who took maternity leave from her job, was sitting in the car outside the school with my newborn in tow just so I could breastfeed on schedule. She took the time-off to help me in the final weeks of class. Being a new mom myself, it was in those moments, that I understood a mother’s sacrifices cannot be overstated.
As I made my way to the finishline, my biggest challenge was in front of me: The exit exam. I had to make a 97% or risk not graduating. I failed on my first try, but I had another crack at it; my last try and final opportunity. So I took extra classes to ensure I would pass. I was present for every class — breast pump in hand. The night before the final exit exam was a true test. My daughter Trinity must have felt my anxiety. She kept me up, crying the entire night when she usually slept through most nights. I showed up to my exam, at 8 in the morning, sleep deprived. I pushed through. As I completed the last question on the test, I was overcome by fear. I was scared to press submit. Up to that point, I was operating solely on determination, and now my future rest on the final click of a mouse. When I hit submit, my final score appeared on the screen. It read 98%, but throughout this journey I put in 100% in blood, sweat tears, prayers and breast milk — literally.
My mom was the real MVP
I was in a daze and one step closer to completing my dreams: The state board — which turned out to be a breeze for me. I passed on the first try.
My mom was in the crowd with my baby girl, cheering me on as I walked across the stage at my graduation. Choosing to have a child in the face of adversity turned my life upside down, but also made me a better woman. Staying the course was worth it. This feat wasn’t easy, but I did it y’all. I did it.
** Editor’s note: this story was submitted by Brandy Holmes and edited by Ida Harris