I got pregnant at age 25 and was completely devastated. I never wanted to be a mother. It just wasn’t in my plan. I became depressed and didn’t take care of myself—I went from 120 pounds to 250 pounds during my pregnancy.
When I saw my son Jacob for the first time, I felt nothing. I did not instantly love my son. But there’s a rule about becoming a parent—you’ve got to give up yourself. I didn’t want a kid, but I was committed to doing the right thing. I’ve always been one to rise to the occasion whether or not I wanted to.
Jacob was a quiet, easy baby. He never cried and he slept through the night—I had nothing to complain about. But for those first few months, I still didn’t feel anything. I told my son, “I’ll feed you. I’ll clothe you. I’ll put a roof over your head. But I cannot guarantee that I will love you.”
And then one day when he was about four months old, I remember he looked me right in the face and his eyes told me, “Mom, stop stressing. We’re cool. We’re going to be fine.”
And at that moment I lost it. I picked him up and started crying, and I knew then that I loved my son. I still get teary-eyed when I think about it, every time I tell the story.
Things were going great up to about grade seven. Jacob is a smart boy—he was on the honor roll and loved doing crossword puzzles with me—but he started to get bullied in middle school and decided he didn’t want to be a geek anymore. He went from getting top marks to all F’s. He became a good liar; I was working all the time, and when he said he did his homework I believed him. I didn’t understand why I was getting calls from school about his poor performance. This was a complete 180 from the sweet child I had known.
Those early teenage years were brutal for me. I didn’t know what to do; I tried to make him value himself. But nothing I did could convince him. I tried yelling, and he said awful things right back to me. He was miserable, and that made me miserable. I was so upset I’d go to work and cry in the bathroom. It was one of the most difficult times of my life.
High school isn’t for everybody; sometimes you have to step off the traditional path. There are many ways to learn, and you have to figure out what’s best for your child. I suggested that Jacob get his GED; I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier—I got my GED myself. Now, a few years later, he is going off to college with a bright future ahead of him. In the end, it was worth going through all of the ugliness if it meant that I could help Jacob rediscover and appreciate himself. There’s nothing more beautiful than that.
Parenting will always be bittersweet. My kid can bring out the best in me but also the parts of me that are so ugly I never knew they existed.
It’s not an easy journey.
Mothers shouldn’t feel guilty if the bond with their child isn’t instant. It took me a bit to love my son. You’re not going to feel an overwhelming sense of joy every day. It’s okay that you might not embrace motherhood at first, but the important thing to keep in mind is that if you want to, you will.