Faced with an unplanned pregnancy late in college, making the decision to parent my child without a partner was a terrifying and emotional journey. The unthinkably tough choices and turmoil that come with facing life as a single parent have led me to where I am today. God’s assurance and moment-by-moment faithfulness convinced me to carry on to the next step and the next after that. The greatest gift in my unplanned pregnancy was the loving and accepting response from my family and faith community. I know not every mom walking through an unplanned pregnancy experiences that, so I don’t take it for granted.
I’d already wrapped up school for the semester when my baby was due, but she wasn’t born for two more weeks! For 13 long days, I had nothing to do but wait. Finally, at 6:00 am, I awoke to a puddle in the bed and called out, “Mom! I think my water just broke!” She came running in and helped me up. As she cleaned up the mess, I called my doctor and got the dreaded advice:
All day long I walked and walked up and down the street where I’d grown up. I remembered happy times like roller skating in the cul-de-sac with friends, and not-so-happy times with police cars and shouting… At one point I checked the mailbox and discovered a large envelope from my nursing school of choice. I waddled into the house yelling, “I got in! I’m in! I start in June! I’m going to be a nurse!” It was my acceptance letter to an accelerated nursing program. How divine. Isn’t it just like Jesus to bring us reassurance in our most vulnerable moments?
That evening, I went to the hospital to be admitted and monitored. Between the excitement of finally getting the 42 week fetus out of my body and watching every move the nurses made, imagining myself in their shoes in a couple of years, I didn’t have brain space for fear. I’d committed to an unassisted, unmedicated delivery, but as a single 21-year-old, I hadn’t really done a ton of research. I was just very granola and it seemed the crunchy thing to do.
After 28 hours of labor, including three-and-a-half hours of pushing with no epidural and only one teeny tiny shot of Nubain, I had a vacuum-assisted delivery resulting in a third degree laceration. My nurses were incredible. By the time I left the hospital, I had decided that I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse. As hard and long as it was, I fell in love with the labor room that night.
While I waited on paperwork and gathered my things to go home, the neonatal team came into the room. They explained in great detail why my baby was going to have to stay in the NICU for few days. She was jaundiced and needed UV therapy to help her recover. I was devastated. Leaving that hospital empty-handed was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I thought to myself how brave the mamas must be who recognize that adoption is the most loving choice for their child. Had it not been for the love and sacrifice from my mother, and acceptance from my church community, I’d be leaving empty-handed permanently.
My daughter only spent one night in the NICU. Thanks be to God that her little body flushed out the bilirubin so quickly. No one saw that coming, and with only 10 days until Christmas, the nurses planned to surprise me when I went back to visit the next day. As soon as I left to go pump, they schemed with my mom and got my daughter all dressed and in her carseat for her final oxygen test before we could be discharged. When I walked back in, feeling defeated with my tiny drops of colostrum, I saw her there with a crowd of proud nurses excited to send us home! Best gift ever! Again, between the joy of my own experience and the anticipation of helping others in my same situation as a labor and delivery nurse in the future, I was completely naive to the reality I was about to encounter at home.
(More of Tia’s story will be shared in November. Stay tuned!)
Tia McNelly lives in North Carolina with her husband and two daughters. Her little piece of the internet can be found at tiamcnelly.com where she blogs. Tia is also the featured speaker at Collected workshops. These events empower communities of women all over the world to walk in the fullness of their identity with purpose and passion. With a background in maternity nursing and non-profit management, Tia is honored to have a seat on the board of Flourish Kenya, a non-profit organization that prevents and supports unplanned adolescent pregnancy in rural Kenya. (photo by http://allisonkeel.com/)