Making the decision to become a mother is the bravest and most selfless choice any woman can make. You sacrifice your life (and body) to help raise another human being. It's a choice I've grown to understand over these past eleven months, and one that has helped me to realize what a true gift motherhood can be. But if you had asked me a couple of months ago if I imagined myself holding my beautiful baby boy, Mateo, in my arms, I would've told you no.
In fact, I had every intent on giving my baby up for adoption.
I never imagined that at 23 I would be a single mom juggling a full time job and raising a child who is just over a month old. When I graduated from college in Chicago, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. Like many graduates, I struggled with the post-grad blues. I couldn't find a job, and after hunting all summer for something to pay the bills, I ended up working at a Pizzeria before I received the job offer I've been waiting for. I was nervous, but excited. Finally, I was getting my big break! I was going to get started on my career path to being a news producer. I packed my bags, left my Baltimore home behind, and relocated to a city in Illinois. But two weeks into my new life in journalism, I was hit with my own breaking news:
I was pregnant.
The news hit me like a wrecking ball. My first thought was how, at 23 and just fresh out of college, was I going to raise a child? Better yet, would I even still have a job after they find out that I was pregnant? I spent all of college preparing for my dream career, and because of a careless decision it no longer felt like it was within reach.
In the midst of my anxieties, I knew the obvious—the father would not be in the picture. At 32, he had his mind focused on his own struggles: raising his six-year-old daughter while trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his own life. Two months before when we first met he seemed like just the man I needed. I was fresh out of a “situationship" with the guy I dated in college, who caused me so much pain that I started to question myself and lost my self-esteem. I was looking for something new, and at the time, my child's father seemed to be the antidote to my broken heart. He won me over with sweet words and deep laughs, and a shared interest in video games. He was taking care of his daughter and taking care of home. Him being older made me feel as if he would be more mature, able to handle any situation thrown his way. But when I broke the news that I was having his child, he immediately suggested that I get an abortion.
I wasn't surprised by his lack of enthusiasm for being a father the second time around, but I didn't expect him to not want to be around period. An abortion was out of the question, as I had been through it before with my last guy, and had no desire to repeat history. I wasn't ready to provide for a child, and I knew I wasn't going to get the support that I needed from my child's father. Not to mention that I was ashamed to tell my family for fear of being judged. So I decided that adoption was the best route for both my baby and me.
In my line of work, a week doesn't go by where a report of a young woman involved in the murder of her child pops up. Most recently, we've been introduced to Mubashra Uddin, a Pakistani 19-year-old who allegedly dropped her newborn out of the window of her family's Chicago apartment. A close friend told the media, she may have been overwhelmed by the pressures coming from her strict immigrant family. I grieve for her little girl; but I also mourn for Mubashra, too.
So often, we see young women take on the task of motherhood when they're not ready or don't have the proper support. At it's lowest, it ends up with social media posts about chasing their baby's father for child support and at it's worst, it ends up like Mubashra's situation.
I had no desire to fall victim to either outcome.
As soon as I found out I was pregnant, I contacted the adoption agency to start the process. I informed them that I wanted an open adoption, in which I would still be able to see my child regularly and be involved in his life. Months later I was matched with a few potential families. Although I was hoping for an African-American couple to raise my son in a world that would devalue his worth, I found that there were a lack of Black families who looked to adopt, despite the fact that there are over 100,000 children waiting to be adopted in the United States, with more than half are minorities.
[Tweet "We see young women take on the task of motherhood when they're not ready."]
When I met the Chow's—an interracial couple with a Chinese husband and Mexican wife—I was drawn to their fun-loving nature and love for travel and good food. They had a six-year-old daughter who was also adopted at birth, and she was a sweetheart who seemed just a bit spoiled. They were also in Chicago, which was just over two hours from where I would be.
Over the course of the few months I would go through the pregnancy process alone. I stayed in contact with my child's father, sending him pictures of sonograms and keeping him informed about the adoption process, but he remained relatively cold and distant—never offering to assist in any way.
A week after my November due date I found out I needed to have a c-section. I didn't have anybody to call, since at this point I still hadn't informed my family. I had even gotten into a disagreement with one of the friends that I did tell because she felt that I should've informed my mother and not put my child up for adoption. I couldn't rely on my child's father, so the only people I could turn to were the Chow's. I called Mrs. Chow to let her know that I was going to have my baby later that day, and she offered to come by the hospital and be there for me during my c-section.
As I lay on the operating table, a thousand thoughts crossed my mind. The child who I had carried for over nine months managed to make it through healthy and beautiful.
Mrs. Chow and the adoption agency representative came by the next day to see Mateo and I, but it wasn't until the following day after realizing that this was real--this was my baby--that I decided that I couldn't let him go.
I informed the agency that I wouldn't be following through with the adoption. I also had no idea how I was going to break the news to Mrs. Chow. I knew that what I had done was horrible, and I couldn't bare to see the pain in her eyes once she realized that the months she spent preparing for a new addition to the family--all of the time and emotion invested--was in vain. I proceeded to block her on social media to prevent any further pain. I planned to send them cards apologizing for any pain that I may have caused; I certainly didn't want them to feel like I had taken advantage of the kindness and generosity that they had shown me over the last few months.
To help get me started on my road to motherhood, the social worker at the hospital told me about an organization called the Women's Choice Center. They provided me with diapers, a car seat, a crib, and other donations to get me started as a new mom, which I'm truly grateful for.
[Tweet "I never imagined that bringing in a new life into this world would change mine."]
It's been over a month and I've never been happier about keeping Mateo. I finally told my mom about his birth, and instead of judging me she was there for me. Even my grandmother flew out to help me as I balanced motherhood with working the night shift at my job. Although Mateo's father hasn't been involved, he's at least shown signs of interest of wanting to be a part of his life, and I can only pray that he sees his son for the blessing that he is. I never imagined that bringing in a new life into this world would change mine. Where there were once tears of sorrow has now been replaced with feelings of warmth and joy. As he grows, I'm growing—even the depression that I battled with for years has turned into feelings of positivity in which I now look at myself in an entirely different way. I'm no longer the broken, college graduate who struggled to find her self-worth, but I am now a mother who is strong enough physically, mentally, and emotionally to overcome any opposition that comes my way.
Thanks to Mateo, I can confidently say that I am truly a better woman.
And I am so glad I did not give my child up for adoption.
As told to Kiah McBride.