I was 19 years old, and I found myself in the most frightening situation I had ever known. There I was, still a child by many means, trying to figure out how to tell my parents that I was having one of my own. Just imagining what they would say or think broke my heart; I had been the model child in my family and was afraid of disappointing them. Despite fearing how they would react to the news, I found the strength to speak. What happened next came as a surprise; my parents took a deep breath, and my dad pulled me closer to him. He asked me to promise him one thing and one thing only – that no matter how difficult things got and what life sent my way, I would not give up on my academic & career goals. Without hesitation I made that promise to my dad because I knew that come what may, I would not stop until I achieved them.
Although it was almost 8 years ago the memory is vivid in my mind. All of it. I contemplated on whether to sort of sensor my feelings & opinions so that I wouldn’t seem to be bashing on Zoey’s father, but I did not create this space to be censored or afraid to be myself. I promised to share the beautiful, the UGLY, & the messiness of my life. So, I am going to be honest, & I am going to share it all with you. Because, every little emotion and decision made me the person I am.
I found out I was pregnant in August of 2009 at a mere 19 years old. I was a child and knew very little about life, but the one thing I did know was that I was going to take responsibility for my actions & work as hard as I could to make the life of this little person the best it could be. Her dad and I had been dating for just a couple of months prior to us finding out about Zoey. The days following were a blur, I remember rushing over to his home to tell him thinking I would have his support. What I found of course was a 19 year old boy afraid of fatherhood. I handled this new challenge the only way I knew how – head on. His reaction was to tell me I needed to have an abortion. We told my mom and I distinctly remember him telling her about how we each had these goals (law school & film school for himself) and how it would not be possible. My mom’s response to that was, “Yes I understand it will be difficult but I will not tell you to get an abortion.” The moment I heard those words everything changed and I did not care what he had to say because I had the support of my family.
He then went on to tell his family, ½ of who was supportive & the other ½ who wanted to continue to push the abortion issue-down the point of having us meet with a “life coach” who’s only answer to everything was “See then you can’t have a baby right now”. Following that life coach meeting I had no idea what to think. His family organized a dinner where he told them that “We were going to have the baby as long as the baby was healthy (this still makes me laugh) and we were dating but decided to stay just friends.” Yes, he ended things with me in front of his family. But oh well I shrugged and thought okay cool I guess that’s what is happening, it is probably better this way. Following a couple of other hurtful comments and actions on his part and a very dramatic visit from my mother where she let out all her anger and hurt towards them I changed my phone number and made my plans. I decided if he wanted to be involved we would be adults and he knew where we lived.
A few months later my best friend, my mom, & I found out I was expecting a girl. My pregnancy was filled with nights I would cry myself to sleep. Not because I wanted to be with him, but because I felt so hurt that someone could do this and act this way-as if I was not important or valuable. I would go to my doctor appointments and shopping for the baby and I would always see the couples filled with so much joy and love for their baby. I was blessed with a loving family and my best friend Jasmin who we sat there with me through numerous doctor appointments and Babies R Us visits! Thanks to them I was never alone. I decided that I was going to be the bigger person and would rather us get along for her sake, so I called him and from then on kept him and his family involved. They were there for her birth and would come to visit her when we left the hospital. First these visits seemed long and frequent and slowly they began to decrease all around.
Now if you are thinking that this is not that bad, well it always needs to get worst before it gets better. A month after Zoey was born he told me “I am taking Zoey starting next month and you have a month to swallow it”. Frantic and still very emotional I began to cry, not cry actually I bawled. My mom made me realize that in due time he would be given visitation and that I needed to be strong, so I did some research and found what was best for children that young and drafted up a schedule. Which of course not to my surprise, he did not care for and told me “we could not plan months in advance he did not know when he was going to be able to get her.” Now imagine being 1 month post partum and you are being told by someone that they are going to start taking your baby away from you and you had no choice. Some might think, but it is her father & he had the right to be with her too. And yes, in some sense he did, but to me I could not let go of the fact that he did not want her like I had and he did not love her like I did or prepare for her like I did. He asked for a paternity test even though he was being involved. Now what did I do after that you might be asking yourself, I found an attorney and filed for custody and visitation. I was not opposed to her going and I knew it was the way of life, but I did want a set schedule. I still had goals and plans of my own and a promise to keep to my dad, I needed a schedule and he was not willing to give it to me.
Let me tell you, I do not wish a custody battle on anyone! It is the most emotionally draining experience of my life. I was tested so much throughout the process and felt so helpless so much of the time. For starters I beat myself up for not breastfeeding Zoey, since that would have meant she could not leave my side until 6months-1 year. I was angry at myself because I felt I could have prevented it. I had absolutely no money that year as I was paying for an attorney. I beat myself up thinking maybe if I had not told him I was pregnant it would have been better. BUT as a mother I did it all for her, because she deserved to have her father involved. And because I would not be the one to deny her of all that. Her father tried to pressure me various times to agreeing to what he wanted and my attorney would always remind me to be strong and that I did not have to agree to something I did not want. My case was handled in LA and every time I had to go to court I would get there early and go pray at Our City of Angels Cathedral. My child’s fate was in the hands of a stranger and I needed to have faith that all would be well. Despite being a nervous wreck it all went well and we had a very understanding judge. We began what they call a “step-up plan” and gradually visitation increased. By the time she was 2 we decided that she would be okay going alternate weekends for the full weekend and that is where we are today.
It still isn’t easy to know she isn’t home, specially with the baby now. When she leaves she reminds her sister she will be back and will miss her. I still get frustrated when dealing with her father, I guess men don’t mature until they are 30 or something like that. Reading doesn’t get done, clothing never comes back, and library books get lost. I feel as if I am the only “parent” she has, like I am the only one being responsible and taking on all that is parenthood-the fun and the mean parts of it. Various times Zoey says things “Its because over there we only do fun things.” It drives me crazy, but I can’t change him. Of course, all these thoughts are kept to myself or shared with my parents & Marcos, let’s just say we all share the frustration. If there is one thing I will never do is try to place my views upon her. She loves her dad and things its all fun and games, but when she needs things for school or projects done she comes to me because she knows I am MOM.
Zoey is under the idea that her dad and I were friends and decided hey lets have a baby! Although mature for her age I won’t be sharing her any details any time soon. She is loved now and cared for & I never want her to feel rejection. I still carry some resentment towards him & his family because engraved in my mind and in my heart is the rejection they showed for Zoey. I still remember the constant talks where abortion seemed to be the only option for them. I am not sure if I will ever truly forget. It no longer is something I always think about but some times I want to just say, “you didn’t even want her”. And maybe one day I need to just say it-to let it out.
For many years I carried pain with me constantly. Pain from my experience. Pain from the custody battle. Pain from having to watch my baby go. Pain from feeling like I was parenting her alone. Despite it all I pushed through, I found strength when I did not think I had anymore and I kept on going. It took me 7 years to finish my degree, but I did it. There were times I worked two jobs and went to school, nights I did not sleep, but it was all worth it. I do not think I would be where I am today, have my little family or the goals and life I have now had I not experienced all that ugliness. If I had not felt all that pain I would not be able to appreciate what I have been blessed with now. It was a difficult journey but one I had to take in order to get to where I am & if I had to do it again I would, because I wouldn’t want my life any other way.