When I was 25 and in my last year of grad school, I found out I was pregnant. It was not how I imagined it would happen, but there it was.
I remember clearly having to tell my father, afraid that he would be disappointed in me. I remember telling my friends, none of whom had even begun to contemplate parenthood amidst the university party scene.
I remember going to a graduate study group not long after my daughter was born with her and all the baby paraphernalia in tow, and looking down part way through to notice my shirt soaked through with breast milk. Luckily the guys in my study group pretended not to notice.
But even though life got a bit more exciting after she was born, I never, ever regretted having her come into my life. I always thought of her as my angel, sent to teach me what I needed to know. I had to work a little harder, be more focused, stay positive and push forward no matter what. Failure is not an option when you are solely responsible for another human being.
Not long ago, my baby girl, now all grown up delivered some similar news to me. Coincidentally her baby is due right around her birthday and I found out she was pregnant at the exact same time of year that I found out I was pregnant. Surprisingly, this brought up many emotions for me, not the least of which was a heavy feeling of shame. The shame I had felt 19 years ago for not following the socially accepted conventions, for having done it wrong, for having disappointed my family came bubbling to the surface after being buried deep down for all those years. Finally forcing me to look it in the eye and acknowledge it's ugly face.
One thing this has made me realize is that I don't want my daughter to have to carry around any of those emotions. I want her to hold her head up high and know that I am proud of the beautiful, intelligent, strong person that she has grown up to be. I want her to know that I feel blessed to be her mother, that I admire her courage and her tenacity and her faith that everything will turn out for the best. I want her to know that aside from teaching me to be a parent she has taught me some very important life lessons.
And so I am sharing this story, not only for her benefit, but to finally put my shame monster to bed. This is no longer something I chose to carry around with me. I am releasing it out into the world to hopefully save someone else the hassle of carrying it around with them.
Here are 8 important lessons that I learned from my daughter:
1) Life doesn't always go as planned.
2) Sometimes you don't even know what you want until it shows up on your doorstep.
3) We are stronger than we think we are.
4) We are all great parents in our minds, until we have a child and realize we don't know what the hell we're doing.
5) Sometimes dropping the ball is just not an option.
6) It is actually possible to love someone unconditionally.
7) Our kids bring out the best AND the worst in us.
8) No matter how deep we bury feelings, they will come bubbling up eventually.
Recently someone told me that our children express those emotions that we cannot express. This was a real eye opener for me. I hope that my child no longer has to express my shame. I hope she will look at this new phase in her life as an adventure to be treasured at every turn and I hope she will always see me as a safe place to fall.
My journey in life has made me who I am, the good, the bad and the ugly. This is part of what I bring to my work and part of what makes me do what I do and never give up. My daughter is a great source of strength and joy for me, and now thanks to her, my load is a little lighter. I am blessed.
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