I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a mother. My mother was a superhero in my eyes, so it goes without saying that at the age of 17, I became pregnant with my first child. As a normal 17-year old, I did my fair share of shenanigans, but for the most part, I was a very tame teenager. I didn’t do any drugs, drink, party, or even smoke cigarettes. The only thing I did do too young was fall in love easily and because I am a people pleaser, sex went along with it.
Around Halloween of 2002, I was working as a cashier at the local grocery store, County Market (later bought out by Giant Eagle). We were told that year that we were allowed to dress up for Halloween during our shift. That year, because of my similar hair and clothing style, I decided to dress as Avril Lavigne. For this, I decided to buy clothes from my local Hot Topic, my favorite store even to this day. I was particularly interested in a pair of huge black pants with adorned with zippers and chains.
As I walked around the store, I noticed that I was being watched by one of the workers. I struck up a conversation with him, mentioning that I recognized him as a friend of my older sister. (We liked to look at our yearbooks a lot back then, pointing out our friends and crushes and such.) I purchased the pants and left without realizing that he had left an ink tag on them. I don’t know whether it was intentional or if maybe the stars had truly aligned and fate wanted us back together. I realized the mistake before leaving the mall and when I returned to his store, he told me his band would be playing a show soon and I should check them out.
Later that night, I surprised him by having remembered his screenname (Frozen182) from him having spoken with my sister, and I sent him a message saying that I really wanted to hear his band play and asking where I would need to go. We flirted back and forth, but ultimately ended our conversation with a plan for me to see his band play at the Public Library, in the basement that coming weekend. Originally, my cousin Marisa had planned to go with me, but she ended up having other plans and her sister, Ashley, offered to go in her stead.
The day of the show, I made myself as pretty as possible, and Ashley and I walked from her downtown apartment to the library. I was really impressed with how the band sounded, despite there not being a drummer, but in hindsight, it probably wasn’t even that great and I was blinded by my crush on the singer. For the majority of my time at the show, Kyle awkwardly avoided me until I cornered him in the hallway during a brief intermission and yelled at him for inviting me just to ignore me the whole time. It was obvious that he wasn’t expecting me to be so outspoken and confrontational and he stuttered as he apologized and explained to me that he was just really nervous and that he would meet with me after the show to hang out a bit before we both left.
After the show ended, he told me he’d be right back and walked outside with a group of girls, leaving me and my cousin alone in the library’s basement. I waited about 15-20 minutes before deciding that he obviously wasn’t interested in me and leaving, making it a point to walk past him as I went.
Later that day, he messaged me and asked me what happened and I told him that clearly he was more interested in the other girl and I was sorry I had even made the effort to get his attention. He apologized profusely and said that he would make it up to me. I then used that opportunity to ask him to go to homecoming with me. He told me that he usually worked on Saturdays, but if he happened to be off that weekend, he would go. I later found out that he told me this assuming that he wouldn’t get the day off, because he really didn’t want to go. It wasn’t because he didn’t like me, but his severe social anxiety made it difficult for him to be around large crowds of people.
The universe decided again to work in our favor and for the first time ever, he was given that Saturday off, without even asking. I had waited so long to decide whether or not I had wanted to go to homecoming at all, so I had to hurriedly buy a dress for the occasion. I ended up purchasing a short brown, asymmetrical dress for $12 on clearance, and a pair of matching brown platform heels for about $40. The most money that was spent for the dance was to get my hair and makeup done at one of the town’s salons.
Kyle picked me up that Saturday for the first time in his ridiculous blue Pontiac Sunbird covered in bumper stickers inside and out. The car was in such bad shape, that you could hear it squealing from a mile away. I grew to love that junker because it was just one of the many weird things that made him who he was. When he arrived, he was wearing a black flannel shirt, khaki pants, a pair of black loafers, and his signature “spider” hairstyle. What I love most about my memory of Kyle back then is that he was the epitome of emo before the word “emo” even existed.
We showed up at homecoming and realized fairly quickly that neither of us wanted to be there. He convinced me to let him take me to the City Park, but not before I made him pose for the official homecoming picture, so I could at least prove to my mother that we had been there.
It was already dark by the time we arrived at the park and it was clear by the fact that we were the only ones there, that we probably shouldn’t even have been there. While walking along the paths, he awkwardly asked if he could hold my hand. I gladly acquiesced and grabbed his hand in mine. Eventually, we made our way to the seats in front of the stage in the middle of the park. We sat in the front row, talking about any- and everything and staring at the stars.
At one point, later in the evening, I lamented to him that I hadn’t even gotten one slow dance with him. He stood up, put his hand out and asked me if I wanted to dance. Beaming from ear to ear, I took his hand and we slow danced in the darkness despite there being no music. I think that was the first time I felt something resembling love for him, and my obsession had begun. He took me home by curfew and went home to get online and continue talking to me.
The next few weeks were a whirlwind of emotions. We would spend time together and then he would decide that he didn’t want a girlfriend because his “fans” might not like him as much if he was seen as taken and unobtainable. I was heartbroken every time he changed his mind, but went right back every time he expressed his regret in letting me go.
Eventually I made the choice to end the relationship because I was sick of the back and forth. I’d begun to see another guy named Ryan and made it a point to brag about it on my away message. I had succeeded in my attempt to make him jealous because after I returned from my second date with Ryan, I was met with a slew of messages from Kyle, begging me to take him back and telling me that he had cut himself pretty badly because of how upset he was that I was out with someone else. I had already known he had a habit of self-harm and my emo little heart saw it as a sign that he must really have loved me to take it that far. However, I made him promise to try to stop the self-harm or get professional help in doing so. He did make an honest effort, but had yet to completely stop for some weeks after.
At this point, we had made our relationship official in many ways. We talked about our future together and I told him of my desire to have children early and soon after graduating. Originally he wasn’t fond of the idea but eventually his love for me grew bigger than his apprehension and we stopped making any effort towards using birth control. Obviously at the ages of 17 and 20, this wasn’t an entirely wise decision, but he wanted to give me everything I desired and stupidly I desired a baby.
Our relationship was one you’d see in movies. We were truly in love and we spent the majority of our time together after he began the routine of picking me up from the elementary school where I had been a student aide. He would write me songs and I would swoon as I watched him practice those along with his bands’ other songs. When I looked at him, I saw stars. We celebrated Christmas and New Years together and by that time he had met my parents and I had met his. He had told his mother that I was 19, which I didn’t agree with and was not happy about.
In February, I had begun to feel noticeably different and I told Kyle that I thought that I might be pregnant. I don’t really remember his reaction being anything other than nervous, but it certainly wasn’t negative. My mother had also noticed a change in me and began drinking nightly, coming into my room begging, “Please don’t be…” I hadn’t missed my period yet or taken a test, so this should give you a pretty good idea of how incredibly intuitive my mother truly was. Since I wasn’t sure at that point, I continued to play it off like I had no idea what she was talking about.
One day, after I was sure I had missed my period, Kyle picked me up from school, took me to the store, and we bought a pregnancy test together. I had made a plan to take it at my friend Elise’s apartment. She had had a child that previous November and I knew that she wouldn’t judge me. I took the test in her bathroom and told her to wait with me in the living room and NOT to go in the bathroom to look without me. However, as I was busy cooing over her daughter Haily, she had gone behind my back and snuck back into the bathroom. My babbling was interrupted by her scream of “OH MY GOD, CASSIE!” and I knew instantly what that had meant. I looked at Kyle anxiously and you could tell he looked like he was about to vomit, but we both made our way to the bathroom only to have Elise run into the living room, pregnancy test in hand, shouting “My best friend is going to have a baby!” I remember feeling queasy and wondering whether it was morning sickness or the anxiety of having to tell my heartbroken mother that her fears were in fact true.
I didn’t tell her right away, but I soon realized that morning sickness was a real thing and I wouldn’t be able to hide it for much longer. I also knew that my mother had previously made an appointment for me to get birth control and realized I would have to tell her before that date came. So I sucked it up, gathered all my courage and approached my mother one day before my father had returned home from work. I knew telling him would be significantly worse. She took it better than I had expected but probably mostly because she had already convinced herself that I had been. She made me wait with her as she called my father at work to tell him. I could hear his anger through the receiver, but he told my mother that he would talk to me later and that he wanted Kyle to call him at work immediately. I messaged Kyle and gave him my dad’s work phone number, and told him that he needed to call my dad right away. We both knew there was no escaping this and abortion was NOT an option. I think both of us had already grown to love the life growing inside me, so without hesitation, he made the call.
My dad was surprisingly calm with Kyle as he questioned him about his intentions as far as his relationship with me and what would be his grandchild. Kyle explained to him that he had every intention of marrying me and caring for the baby as a family. Despite my fear of our parents’ reactions, I was starting to feel overjoyed by the fact that I would finally be what I had always wanted to be…a mother.
The next few weeks were tense, to say the least. My dad was obviously quite angry with me and had no problem showing it. We had gotten into a pretty intense fight, unlike any we had ever had because he was making every excuse for me to see Kyle as little as possible and it didn’t make sense to me as the proverbial damage had already been done. My mom had called and changed the birth control appointment to my first prenatal appointment. She was not happy about it and it was rare that we even talked about it for the first few months.
In the following months, she would accompany me to all of my appointments. She had gone into my school and signed papers giving me permission to graduate early and obtaining resources for me to get health insurance through the state for me and the baby. Eventually, after hearing the heartbeat of her grandchild for the first time and subsequently attending the ultrasound, her anger began to change into a hesitant joy at the thought of having another baby in her life to shower with love.
The date of the ultrasound had quickly approached and I was ecstatic at the thought of finding out whether I would be having a boy or a girl. We watched as all the measurements were taken, switching between the regular view, and the 3D view, but every attempt to view between the baby’s legs was futile. I left the office in tears, knowing that I would not know the gender of my baby until it was born. My mom, on the other hand, was not bothered by the mystery and it certainly didn’t hinder her from buying an entire wardrobe in unisex yellow and duck patterns.
Kyle and I spent as much time as we could together as his dad’s cluttered downtown apartment. We would either lay in his bed listening to music and cuddling or lay together on the couch watching tv in the living room, when neither of us happened to be working. One day in particular, I had chosen to lay on my back on the floor in front of the couch, while he lay above me on the couch with his arm draped over the edge and his hand firmly placed on my belly. Suddenly, we both felt a jolt of movement where his hand had been pressed against my skin. Startled, he jumped up and looked at me excitedly, and asked, “Was that…”
“I think so!” I interrupted. It was a moment, I will never forget because it was the first time I truly felt in love with the little human growing inside me.
We had attended prom together that May. I was only just recently starting to show and was devastated to find the day of prom that the dress I had bought to wear, no longer fit. Before I could completely freak out, my mom brought out the dress I had worn to my previous prom which was made out of a stretchier material and I was able to attend prom without anyone knowing of my condition and surprisingly looking thinner than the majority of the girls there, despite my little bump.
We both continued to work full time, he at Hot Topic, and me at the grocery store. We had eventually received an offer from my sister to rent a few rooms in her large home so we could live together and begin to prepare for the arrival of our little one. Leaving home was incredibly difficult for me, because I had never spent so much time away from my mother.
That Summer, when I was about six months pregnant and finally really beginning to show, we took a vacation to Ocean City. I remember being incredibly miserable for a number of reasons. One being the intense heat, and another being that we had unfortunately chosen to take our vacation the same week as my school’s designated senior week. We spent the majority of our vacation in our hotel room sleeping with the air conditioning on full blast.
I had started to feel an intense need to care for something as I got closer to my due date and I convinced my sister to allow me to get a pet. Originally, I had wanted to get a chinchilla, but when I went to the pet store, I fell in love with a ferret and brought her home, naming her Zara, which meant princess. All of my motherly instincts were being put into caring for this fuzzy little creature and I fell in love with her hard, spending a majority of my time playing with her and caring for her while Kyle worked more and I started to work a little less once hitting my third trimester.
I had come up with a name for a boy already at that point. I knew immediately I wanted to use the name Joseph as a middle name, after my best friend. I then decided on the name Ayden as a first name. At the time, it wasn’t nearly as popular as it soon became. Picking a girl’s name, however hadn’t been nearly as easy. I stood at work nearly every day reading a small baby name book that had been next to the register. One day, I came upon a name that I instantly fell in love with. That name would ultimately be the one we chose to use. “Nova”…the book stated the meaning as “new” and since Kyle had finally succeeded in quitting his self harm after finding out I was pregnant, it only seemed fitting to give her the middle name “Hope”. She was his new hope and the name couldn’t have been more perfect.
We spent our nights talking to my belly and I would make Kyle read to her every night a book I had found at the maternity store. It was Dr. Seuss stories made into one story meant to be read to babies in utero. It was called “Oh Baby, the Places You’ll Go” and he read it so many times that eventually we had memorized it. On days he was at work, I would put on the songs that he had written and recorded for me, and put headphones on my belly for her to hear his voice. I was adamant about her knowing her daddy’s voice as much as she would know mine.
My pregnancy went as perfectly as possible and my due date had been set for October 24th. However, that date soon came and went. With each passing day, I grew more miserable and was ready for this child to come out.
Three days later, on October 27th, at about 10pm, I was chasing Zara around the house as she had been making a choking noise and I was worried that something was wrong. As I made my way through the door from the living room into the kitchen, I felt a rush of fluid and instantly knew what was happening.
I ran upstairs and woke my sister up telling her it felt like I had peed myself. She shot up out of bed instantly and told me to call my mother. Why she told me to call my mother and not my doctor, I’ll never know, but I did as she was told and called my mother, who excitedly told me to call my doctor and explained that my water had indeed broken. I took my mother’s advice and we were soon on our way to the hospital.
We arrived at Washington County Hospital about an hour later, and Kyle wheeled me into the emergency room in a wheelchair to be admitted. We met my mother there and I was enjoying my conversation with her, laughing, only to have Kyle ask me quite confused, “Aren’t you supposed to be in pain or something?”
Not long after that, we were taken upstairs to my room, and his question was soon answered by the intense pain of my contractions. I was not far enough along to receive an epidural, so I stood in the shower completely naked, holding the handheld shower head with a steady stream on my stomach whenever a particularly painful contraction hit me. Kyle stood in the doorway, half asleep, holding my hand and trying to be as present as possible, though he was obviously exhausted. I was asked if I wanted an epidural after having reached 4 centimeters, and I quickly agreed. Thankfully it went without a hitch, and I was soon snoozing in between contractions, giving Kyle a chance to get some rest as well.
Eventually I started to notice that the pain had come back in full force, and was told that it was time to push. I was terrified and I had repeatedly held my breath when being told to breathe while pushing. Eventually a smart nurse told me to “push like I was pooping” which was honestly the best way she could have explained it to me. Unfortunately, the push also caused me to poop which I didn’t find out until weeks later when Kyle had jokingly brought it up.
My mom did her best to be comforting, but I wasn’t having it and I told her pretty forcefully to stop with the words and just to hold my hand. After pushing for about a half hour, I was hit with a sudden rush of relief and a squirming little baby was pulled from me. They held the baby in the air and announced, “It’s a girl!” At 12:13pm, on October 28th, 2003, weighing 6lbs 13 oz and measuring 19 inches, my daughter was born. She started crying immediately after they cleared her mouth and she was placed into my arms as I began to cry seeing my beautiful daughter for the first time. She was perfect. All ten fingers and all ten toes, a perfectly round head full of dark brown hair and the biggest, prettiest blue eyes I had ever seen. They soon took her to be cleaned off completely and weighed and tested as they do with all newborns and I was left to deliver the placenta.
Fifteen minutes later, I was on the phone calling my oldest sister who had been there all night and only just an hour or so before left to go to work, that she was now the proud aunt to a new and beautiful little girl. My mother was ecstatic to be having another little girl, and even though she thought she would be disappointed not finally getting her boy, she found she had been wrong when the little girl was placed in her arms. Seeing the look on my mother’s face as she instantly fell in love with my first child, was one I will never forget and I’m in tears as I type this because the bond that they shared is one I will never be able to replicate.
My mom had brought the outfit that I was brought home in for Nova to go home in as well, after finding out that she would be a girl. I spent the next few nights in the hospital, learning how to feed, and bathe, and change this new little life that now depended on me for everything.
We had gotten her all dressed up to leave in the outfit my mom had brought and took pictures. Luckily we had taken the pictures, because not long after finishing up, she had decided to vomit and poop all over the outfit before we were able to take her home in it. My friend Jill happened to be visiting when this happened and she ran down to the gift shop to try to find another outfit for us to put on her to bring her home because she had already made a mess in every other one we had brought. Eventually she came back up with a onesie that was not at all weather appropriate but we made it work by using the long-sleeved onesie the hospital had provided as pants and bundling her up in several blankets after buckling her into the carseat securely. We left to take her home, but of course our first stop upon leaving the hospital, was my mother’s house before going home. I spent the day with my mom, being taught again, in her way how to bathe and swaddle Nova perfectly because my mother was pretty perfect at doing everything a mother does.
Nova was indeed the perfect child. I spent a lot of my time staring at her, wondering how I had created something so beautiful. I stayed up a lot of nights worrying and watching her breathe because I was sure that something terrible would happen if I took my eyes off of her for even a second. I barely slept but not because she kept me up, because I had chosen to stay awake watching her.
On the few nights I had that she was difficult getting to sleep, my sister would hold her like a football and run through the house. It seemed silly but it seemed to calm her and I laughed in my exhaustion, watching my sister perform this ridiculous ritual.
When Nova was about four months old, I had gotten a job working at Citibank and we had gotten our own third floor, 2 bedroom apartment on Mesa Terrace. It was a brand new, never lived in apartment, and I was ecstatic to finally be living on our own. Nova was hitting every milestone with ease and when I finally started working fulltime, my mother became her babysitter while Kyle worked for his dad. My work schedule sucked, as I was working from either 2pm to midnight or 4pm to midnight, 5 days a week. Nova spent the time from when I left for work until about 9pm with my mother and went home to go to bed until Kyle had to wake her up to pick me up at midnight every night. It worked out, because even though she had taken to sleeping through the night, she wasn’t entirely bothered by having been woken up. I would spend about an hour with her after getting home, feeding, changing and rocking her back to sleep, and then I would go to sleep until she woke up the next morning.
Our life was ideal. Our bills were paid on time and we were quite happy. I had added another ferret to our family named Benji and both ferrets loved Nova and got along with her quite well. Nova was a hit at my work, I would print new pictures of her fairly often to post on my desk and showed her off to anyone who would look. I was so proud of her and proud of being a mother. She was honestly just the best thing in the whole world and I never once regretted becoming a mother so early.
Eventually Kyle and I had stopped getting along as well. I had sort of obtained an anger problem and had begun a habit of treating him pretty badly. I would never go so far as to be abusive, but there was often a time where it could have reached that point if I hadn’t controlled myself. To this day, I don’t know what made me so angry with him and I’ve since apologized many times for how I treated him throughout this time. He was never a bad father, but maybe I felt like he could have done more since he was working for home and still taking our daughter to my mother’s house to be cared for when he could have been doing it.
In March of 2005, when I was 19 years old, I bought my first home on Randolph Avenue in Hagerstown, MD. It was half of a duplex and had two bedrooms and one bathroom, a living room, den, and pretty decent sized kitchen, as well as a finished attic and a basement. I had searched for and purchased the home entirely on my own without Kyle’s input or income because I think I had known at that point that our relationship would not last much longer.
On May 12, 2005, I lost Zara. She had gone to the vet for surgery to remove a tumor from her gallbladder but when they had opened her up, they had found many more tumors than they had originally thought. That was the day I truly knew my relationship with Kyle was over because despite my devastation, he did nothing to comfort me. I decided that he could continue living with me until he found a place, but he would no longer sleep in the same bed as me. For the first few months after this decision, he would sleep on the floor in the same room as me.
In September of that year, I met what would eventually become my husband, John. Nova was about to turn 2 and my relationship with John moved pretty quickly, with my deciding to let him move in in December and our talk of getting married. Kyle stayed, living with both John and I, until April the following year, even though we had found out we were pregnant with our first child together, my second, on February 1st. Obviously that’s a story for the next blog introducing her.
Nova continued to hit all her milestones and it soon became evident that she was in fact advanced in most ways, both physically and intellectually. She started drawing at a very young age, as well as making pictures out of other materials such as the foam used to insulate the area around the air conditioner in her room*. She continued to be babysat by my mother and was soon joined there by her sister October after her birth in October of 2006.
I returned to work that following January, as I was given 13 weeks of paid maternity leave, but not long after returning, I would find out that I was pregnant again with what would be my son, Madden…again a story for a different time.
After finding out I was pregnant with my third child, my mother had declared that she could no longer babysit for us because she had also taken on the care of my niece who was born with cerebral palsy, and 3 kids was hard enough. Four kids would be impossible. Against my parents’ wishes, I had decided to quit my job at Citibank and become a stay-at-home mother. Although they were quite unhappy with me for quitting, it ended up being the best thing for us because I had needed to be home to get custody of Nova when Kyle had eventually filed for joint custody of her.
Nova started pre-K at the age of 4 and it was soon clear that her intelligence far surpassed even what we had realized. She thrived in school, making friends, and doing well academically. She grew from a beautiful infant, to a beautiful toddler, into a gorgeous preschooler. We often got comments that she should have been a model, because she was just too beautiful not to be.
When Nova reached the second grade, we had received a phone call from her teacher advising us that she was just blowing through the curriculum and was probably best suited for the magnet program the following year, as she wasn’t being challenged in a regular classroom. We got her tested and were not entirely surprised when she was accepted into Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence. She attended that school from third grade until the middle of fifth grade, when we had to move to a home where she could no longer be driven to that school.
Nova’s relationship with my mother continued to be deep and profound. My mother was her biggest fan and advocate and in her eyes, Nova could do no wrong. Which made my mother becoming sick with lung cancer when Nova was only 8 even more difficult for her. My parents had asked me not to tell my children right away, but I knew that Nova could notice a difference in her grandmother and it killed me that the day was coming where Nova would have to say goodbye. I ended up telling her, along with my other 3 children earlier than my parents had hoped because I felt it was only fair to prepare them for losing her as early as possible.
Nova handled it surprisingly well, better than me for certain. On days when I felt like I couldn’t handle it, Nova was my pillar of strength. I soon realized that I would end up clinging to my relationship with Nova when my mother inevitably passed away. As I have written in previous blogs, Nova was the last of my children to see my mother before she passed. She spent that day attempting to behave as normal as possible for my mother, and when it came time to say goodbye for the last time, she refused to say goodbye, only saying, “I’ll see you later, I love you.” I’ve never seen such strength in such a little person.
The months following my mother’s death were very confusing and difficult for Nova. If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that my mental health was at it’s worst during that time and I was not being the mother Nova had become used to…and it’s one of my biggest regrets. I was still always there for her emotionally in every way, but that was probably the extent of my presence. I just couldn’t function and she had begun to become more of a friend than a daughter. I had unknowingly depended on her for a shoulder to cry on. Despite my ineptitude as a mother, we became closer emotionally and began spending the majority of our time together.
She started to feel like she couldn’t leave me alone and started missing a large amount of school because I couldn’t get her to stop crying and begging me to let her stay home. I later found out that this was mostly because she was worried that if she left me, she’d come home one day and I would be gone because of how depressed I had become. Eventually, I decided to homeschool her, taking her out of public school a few weeks before the end of 6th grade.
I homeschooled her for her entire 7th grade year and she had become as antisocial as I had. I noticed this and started to realize that her being homeschooled, while easier for her emotionally, was hindering her in other ways. She wasn’t getting the education she needed and she definitely wasn’t getting the socialization a child her age needed. So reluctantly, I enrolled her back in public school after my second failed suicide attempt.
Nova has since quite literally become my best friend. And while I get told often that I should be her mother, not her friend, I feel no problem being both. We have inside jokes like any other best friends and we genuinely enjoy spending most of our time together.
Even now, at the age of 15 and after going through a lot with her first boyfriend, she still remains my best friend and we still spend more time together than most teens spend with their mothers. She isn’t embarrassed of me in any way, and we have a very open relationship. One in which she can talk to me about anything and everything without fear of judgment.
I am by no means a girly girl, and Nova has used the internet to teach her how to do makeup and hairstyles that I would never have been able to teach her myself. She has grown into an incredibly mature and beautiful young woman. She has made her fair share of idiotic decisions already and I’m sure that she will continue to do so, because I recognize that this is normal and she is no different than I was at her age. She still continues to be incredibly talented artistically but has recently discovered her love for boys, one in particular, far exceeds her love for art and has taken a break from her creativity that I hope won’t last for much longer.
Either way, I can honestly say that I am incredibly proud to be her mother and her best friend. I often look at her (along with her siblings) and wonder how I was ever able to create something so beautiful and perfect.