It was December 2006 and my period was late. I was 19. We were living in a 4 bedroom house in Barrie with a girl who routinely had various men over and was addicted to coke, and a guy who really liked to party. He would write cheques to my boyfriend, and then bounce them in my his account. We were broke. We couldn’t pay our bills. The rent was more than we could afford. I had no job. My mom was still in the psych ward. Life was just, messy.
I took a test and waited – the little blue plus sign popped up. Pregnant. I was pregnant. How would we do this? How would I afford a baby?
I stopped everything that day. All my habits. Gone. Cold turkey and out the window. I never even thought twice, nor did I look back.
We left the Barrie house and moved in with my at the time mother in law. We slept in the basement. It was an old farm house, so the ceilings were low and it was cold – it was January – I could see my breath sometimes in the morning. It smelled of mould. And the floor was concrete. I was sick. So nauseous during the first trimester. All I wanted to do was sleep or vomit. We hadn’t told anyone about the pregnancy yet, so I did my best to hide my symptoms.
I picked up a part time job as a dietary aid in a retirement home. I had no car so I would sleep on the couch at a friend’s house in town the night before my shifts so I could wake up early and walk to work for 6am. My back ached so much – some days I could barely move. I’d hobble around the dining room, serving residents. I remember one lady yelling up at me, “Are you lame!?” I later realized she was commenting on my hobble and relating me to a sick horse. The one girl I worked with completely had it out for me. She would complain if I was moving too slow, if I made a mistake (I was still learning the job), rolling her eyes and sighing loudly. She would literally trash talk me to coworkers while I was standing there. One Friday I got a letter at the end of my shift. My supervisor wished me a good weekend, handed me the envelope, and as I walked out the door I opened the letter. I got fired. It was the first and only job I was ever fired from.
Now I was pregnant, starting to show, and unemployed. Who would hire an uneducated pregnant girl at this point? I sunk to an all new low. I felt useless and saw no hope for mine and my baby’s future.
I did some part time work for my MIL around the house. Cleaning and office work. My boyfriend would fight with his mother so frequently that she kicked him out. I was now living at the age of 19, pregnant and in the home of my so-called “mother in law” without my boyfriend there. We would fight. I felt like I was a maid, but I understood that I needed to earn my keep. I did my best to maintain a relationship with her and keep on top of my daily chores. She did, after all, take me in when I was left with nothing. I also wanted to maintain a relationship with my boyfriend; a boyfriend who was couch surfing while I stayed with his mother.
We eventually decided that we needed to get out of there. After a few months there on my own, my mother’s alcoholic ex offered for us to stay with him. He was still in the apartment where my mother left her first suicide note, so I held on to a lot of emotions tied to this place. He moved to the spare room and offered us his bedroom. I wasn’t working so I spent a lot of time locked in there. I would do my best to stay on top of tidying, but he was a drinker and liked to party. He would get black out drunk and start fights with me. I would tel him how lousy he was while crying, and he would tell me that the only reason he let me stay there was so that he would “look good” – like the hero – and win my mom back. I was a pawn. One night he got so drunk that he passed out in the stairwell of the apartment building. I found him, soaked in his own urine at the door. I tried to drag him back in but he woke up mad, and called me a whore for locking him out. I went back to my room, put the TV on like usual, and tried to blur out the sound of him knocking things over as he stumbled into the living room.
We went to my dad who helped us out with first and last for an apartment rental across town. I couldn’t live with the drunk anymore. We started accumulating baby items, setting up a room, and getting established. I took a driver’s education course and got my license at 7 month pregnant. I spent two weeks at a summer school program, while staying with my nana, and finished high school, officially becoming a graduate at 8 months pregnant. I was hopeful that maybe I could finally make something of myself, for my daughter that was nearly here.
One morning, at nearly 9 months pregnant, I woke up to a trickle of black liquid, coming from the light fixture above my dining room table. My boyfriend poked at it and the ceiling came down. You could see clear blue sky through the hole (we were on the top floor of the apartment). We notified the landlord, they inspected, and discovered a ton of mould. They deemed the apartment dangerous and we went back to my MIL’s house. The repairs took forever and we ended up in a legal battle with the landlord. It never got repaired and we eventually just took our belongings and put them into storage while we continued to live with my boyfriend’s mother.
My due date was nearing. We accepted the cards we were dealt and decided to set up a nursery at my MIL’s. She pitied us and our situation, so she was ok with taking us in. My boyfriend was 4 years older than me – 24 years old – and wasn’t ready to give up the party life. It put a strain on our already tense and very difficult relationship. We would fight all the time. Anger and yelling and tears. So much stress.
On August 24th, 2007, I went into labour around 3am. I sat in bed, timing my contractions, writing down each time. At 6am I woke my boyfriend to tell him it was time. He asked if I was serious and just rolled back over to go to sleep. I tiptoed downstairs, but obviously not quiet enough, because the dogs started barking and down the stairs came my MIL screaming with excitement, “Is it time?? Is it time?!” We loaded up the car with our bags, and off to the hospital we went. They admitted me and checked my stats. My mother in law was my saving grace – she brought me juice, let me throw up on her, held my hand, made me laugh, and encouraged me. I don’t know that she realized the space she filled as my own mother wasn’t there for me. I laboured for about 11 hours before I gave in and took the epidural. It didn’t take and the back labour was intense. At 10pm I was ready to push, and at 10:30pm I gave birth to a 7lb10oz baby girl. My Avalon Mae. She was my light. My reason. My everything. She was spirited and cried all the time. One nurse came in to see if I was ok, and offered to take the baby for a walk down the hall, just to give me a break.
The second day in the hospital I had another nurse pop in. She was older, and seemed very judgemental of my age. “My daughter is about your age and she’s in University. God. I have no idea what I would do if she had a baby!” Slap. In. The. Face. This woman. She fuelled me. She pushed me to prove everyone wrong. To show the world that, yes, you CAN be a young mother and hit rock bottom, beat addiction and financial struggles and homelessness. And grow into a thriving, productive, and wonderful mother.
And I did.
I did all those things.
I am still fighting and thriving and pushing. There have been so many challenges and setbacks along the way. But I never gave up. I went back to work when she turned 6 months old and I haven’t stopped since. Banking my karma bucks and leveling up. But I don’t think I would be here, and as gracious for my current life, if it wasn’t for the things I had to go through to get here. My daughter was my beginning. A new chapter. And the start of an amazing, beautiful story.