Seven years ago God saw fit to bless me with a beautiful baby girl. However, he did not see fit to provide me the adequate amount of patience, calm demeanor, or unsharpened tongue I would need to get through those first few years. Nor did He send me a handbook on how to handle said new role.

I was only 23 when I gave birth to my daughter; I was in my senior year of college, halfway engaged (I had a ring and a wayward man) and needed to use the services of WIC to get by. I wasn’t prepared for the insolence I would have to endure in order to do so. Never will I forget the days when I had to sit in an office filled with a diverse group of mothers (many of them younger than I) and be talked down to by the female employees who were supposed to be supporting me. Days spent in public assistance offices answering questionnaire after questionnaire waned on my sanity. The daggers they threw at me each month while picked up vouchers for formula, the shocked look on their faces when I mentioned I was finishing my college degree…those were some of the most difficult days of my life. Still, I pressed on.

My sole focus during those early years, aside from caring for my daughter, was completing my education. I contemplated leaving the baby in the care of my mother to return to Howard University more than a few times. In the end I couldn’t bear to be away from her and I finished school in California, which brought its own set of challenges. When one professor questioned why I had left Howard for my new school, I held my tears in until I left his office. He had no idea that it wasn’t by choice and that I felt like a failure. Here I was, a middle class, young Christian woman who had fornicated without even knowing how to properly use contraception. I felt so stupid. 

That was the beginning of my journey as a mother. Not paved with days of 'mommy and me' classes at the local Gymboree, but the uphill battle of trying to secure reasonably affordable childcare that didn’t involve someone just stationing my daughter front of a television for hours. There was about a year and half when I never put my child to bed, because I was just getting out of class at 10pm. I worked diligently to complete what I had started at Howard and I was successful. Thankfully I had a support system who stepped in and so much praise goes to my mother for stepping up where I fell short.

Years later, I look at my little girl who is thriving in school, being awarded for her excellence regularly, loved by her classmates and I finally feel like I can pat myself on the back.

The idea of congratulating oneself is something that tends to be lost on mothers. So often we stare in the mirror picking apart our bodies, our child rearing skills, and our choices. Very rarely do we look at our children and think, “Wow, they’re still here, they’re still alive, and they’re okay.” For seven years, I have ensured that my baby is well taken care of and in doing that, I also made sure I took care of me. Starting with finishing my degree but continuing by setting goals. I knew I didn’t want to be a single mother forever. I knew I didn’t want to raise my daughter in the situation I unfortunately was brought up in: a divorced single mom who struggled. So, I dated, I hung out with friends, I traveled–not in an effort to get back to the carefree life I was supposedly missing as a mom, but to maintain who I was and not allow my womanhood to be lost in my motherhood. By doing that I met the man who recently became my husband, someone who welcomed my daughter into his life with open arms. 

At 30, I’m so far from the young woman that became a mother at 23. I have evolved from being nervous about being judged for my situation, to understanding that how I live my life or parent my child is my business. I am happily married to a man that some people may not have expected me to be with, but then they meet and see why it happened. I’m now expecting my second daughter and this pregnancy is so much different than my first. I am not burdened with thoughts of disappointment from God, in myself, or from others. I am relishing in the joy of being blessed to carry another life. This time around I am wearing a genuine smile, not one used to mask the pain of uncertainty. And never once have I regretted having my first daughter when I did, I believe she was meant to be mine even in a less than ideal situation. I’ve motherhood doesn’t have one look, one face, or one plan – motherhood is a vast array of experiences, truths, and discoveries. In the end when we get the opportunity to hear from our children that we didn’t let them down or scar them like we think may have, motherhood is really the biggest achievement and honor because you did your best was the best for them.