Blessings In Disguise


You can open the newspaper on any given day and see names splashed across it of people committing a crime or a social taboo that earns them the humiliation and publication of their sins for all to see.  And while I'm a very firm believer in "You do the crime, you pay the time", sometimes I read it and I sympathize for that individual or their family.  Sometimes my cheeks blush in embarrassment for them in what they're going through.  Because sometimes it's not a lifestyle or a habit that earns them the spotlight but one little decision. 

And because it's a difficult thing to be the focus of public speculation.  It's hard being a topic of hot gossip.  While, on one hand, it gives you thicker skin than you had before...on the other, it also coats you in a layer of paranoia that you've never dealt with either.

I learned all too well as a small-town single woman who fell pregnant with a baby whose father she wouldn't publicly disclose.

Try that on for size and see how much gossip it'll get you. 

If you've read my life story I wrote in 2009 (Learning to Live With Me), then you know the general story of the hows and the whens and the whys.

But I've never--publicly or privately--been able to word some of the things I felt and thought and went through during that time.  And quite a bit of it I doubt I'll ever be able to bring back to the surface. 

When I found out I was pregnant with Ty, I knew I couldn't hide it.  I abhor abortion (as is my prerogative) and so the first thing I knew I needed to do was tell someone so that I wouldn't even be faced with the temptation to consider such a thing.  I might have made an unwise decision, but I had no right to make another living being suffer the consequences so that I could take the easy way out. 

I also made the choice that I needed to be the one to tell the people I cared about.  And with the exception of my parents--thank God my sister was willing to step in for me the second I squeezed her hand....the thought of hurting them with my news felt like it would shatter me (more on that later)--I sat face-to-face with those that deserved to hear it from me and owned up to everything myself.

The night after we told my parents, I told the guy that I'd only recently started seeing.  Not a fun conversation telling the guy you've been seeing for two weeks that you're six weeks pregnant.  But he obviously deserved to hear it from me.  

The next night I had planned to tell the biological father--which I had major reservations about--but my own father intervened and asked me to hold off long enough to think it through because once it's said, it's said and there's no taking it back.  I knew that as soon as he heard that I was pregnant, he would obviously know that he was the father, but it didn't have to come from my mouth and then he could make the decision on his own as to if he wanted to play any part in our lives.  (Note:  I know everyone's wondering, yes, it would later be discussed with him. He would eventually--and voluntarily--sign over his parental rights so that Jason could adopt Ty)

That night, instead, I went to church and then followed the pastor's family home afterwards so that I could talk to them about it before they found out elsewhere.  I was very involved in that church and honestly tried to live my life in a way that honors Christ which is why I would also stand before our church congregation the following Sunday and tell them myself, as well.

But even though I was--I felt--handling things as best as I could, I still felt this enormous...in all my command of the English language I can't even find a word for it. 

When you know what society expects and when you know how people talk about the failures, mistakes and misgivings of others, you become constantly aware of that when you're the one in the spotlight.  You know exactly who is saying what about you because #1--you've heard them say it about others, and because #2--people report it back to you as if it's something you actually want to know.  ("I just thought you should know...and I wanted you to hear it from me" is a literal translation of "I know this will upset you, but I wanted to see your face when you found out" in most cases)

And the more you hear those "I thought you should knows" the more and more that you believe people are talking about you--whether they are or not.

Since I didn't publicly disclose the father of my baby, that seems to have added fuel to the fire.  An individual cornered the parent of one of my high school boyfriends (I was out of college by this time and long ago split from that ex) to ask if the baby was her son's and demanding that she needed to know.  This individual had absolutely no connection to me, my family, my friends or even anyone that might be connected to the father's side.  They were just nosy and curious and thought they had the right to know my private business.

And they weren't the only one who felt that way.  If I could have avoided the public completely, I would have.  I got cornered in Walmart, the Courthouse, the gas station...numerous places and people would flat out ask me to my face who the daddy was.  I would tell them--as politely as I could--that since it wasn't a public matter, I had already told the people who needed to know and wasn't telling everyone else.  And yet they would press me even beyond that.  I had two instances where individuals got outright mad at me and one even told me that it was just as much their business as it was my own!

The politeness ended there, of course, and I walked away.  That individual wasn't friend or family and barely registered as an acquaintance, but to pregnant and hormonal me they just became Public Enemy No. 1 as far as I was concerned.

But these people weren't counted among my family and friends.  And had it just been contained to them, it probably wouldn't have hurt or humiliated me as much.

When I stood before my church to tell them myself that I was pregnant and that I wanted my church family to hear it from my mouth, the response was overwhelmingly supportive.  Many of them reassured me and even stated that they would never have been able to do what I did in standing before everyone and making a public admission.  They had my back, they loved me, and they would be there for me.

But that only went so far because in successive weeks I was singled out in the sermons.  "Whoredome" was addressed many times while the preacher stared me down as if I were a demon trying to devour the blameless faithful of the congregation.  I stepped back from the level of involvement I previously had with the youth group, realizing that my example was compromised, but I left the church altogether when I was told (via email) that I should be glad that I wasn't born 2000 years ago because I would have been stoned to death.  When I realized that members (leaders) of that church would have been the ones casting the stones instead of intervening as Christ did, it was a very painful awakening for me.  Had I not been as strong in my Faith as I was and am, the leaders of that church (and their unloving, unforgiving example) would likely have turned me off from Christianity entirely.

Now, let me go back and take another road.  Let me explore the flip side of that coin.

Let's go back to the people who are family and friends.

After the initial surprise of my revelation to my sister, she kicked into excitement before I had really made it into accepting it as a reality.  I was still embarrassed by the situation and dreading telling our parents and she was already buying onesies and teddy bears!  But that's my sister, there's very little she does that she doesn't do with her whole heart.

Which is why I knew I needed her to be there when I told my parents.  I don't know why it was such a big deal to me because I knew I would have their love and their support no matter what I did.  Our relationship was based on love and respect and trust.  We never really had curfews in high school or college.  We had a relationship that where as long as they knew where I was and what I was doing and as long as I made it home by what they would consider a reasonable time, we were good to go.  I knew what behaviors they expected of me and what activities were acceptable and unacceptable.  And that was our relationship and it worked for us.  I respected them and they respected us and we just really didn't have that many problems (especially comparatively). 

But any girl who's ever been a Daddy's Girl can probably imagine why it was so hard for me to tell my parents.  It's a difficult conversation to have with parents, but throw in the level of admiration and respect that I have for mine...it seemed as impossible as climbing Everest when it should have seemed as simple as tying a bow.  I can't explain it and I can't explain why I can't explain it.

But the end result was a grin the size of the Grand Canyon on my dad's face.  I don't think he even had to process it, he just leapt blindly into the joy of "I'm going to be a Grandpa!"  And my mom did, too, but she's where I get my logic from.  I could see in her eyes that everything was going to be okay, and I could see that she was stepping through the logical steps of how everything was going to be okay. 

She helped me mark off the to-do list.

Insurance--check
Proper diet & vitamins--check
Exercise--check
Shopping sprees--checked that one several times! (this was her first grandchild, after all!)

The only thing they hated about my pregnancy was that I didn't have a husband to lay next to me at night and excitedly talk to my belly and make plans together about the future.  I wouldn't say they hated it (that's certainly not a word that anyone could link between them and my little boy that they so adore)...just that they wished for more for me.  Like good parents do.  They want the best for their kids.  A baby is a wonderful thing no matter how it happens, but they shared the joy and excitement of their pregnancies together and would have loved it if I could have had that experience then, too.

My friends were stunned by my news.  There's that small town stigma that the girls that get pregnant outside of marriage are sluts or girls who just give themselves to anyone.  My pregnancy wasn't consistent with that and so it was surprising and shocking to them that such a thing could happen to anyone.  (Funny how when you're young, you think you're immune to such things just because you're a good person with no bad habits.)

Family friends were the same as my parents.  I have good family friends that--to this day--still have not asked me who the father was or what I was thinking or how it happened.  It wasn't important.  I was important and the baby was important and all the trivial details just weren't.  They cared about what mattered and they helped to form the net of security and support that helped to fend off those who did care about the unimportant things.

In the end--just as I saw in my mom's eyes--everything was okay.  Everything was better than okay.  My sweet little baby Ty came into our lives at just the perfect time.  He was the joy needed to help us out of a period of sorrow.  He was laughter that helped dry our tears.  He is the catalyst of who I would become and who I currently am.

In that brief but memorable period of hurt or embarrassment, I learned who I was and who my true friends were.  Not only that, but the whole course of my life was changed.  What I did for fun, who I spent my time with, what I looked for in guys...it all drastically changed.  My priorities were rewritten almost from top to bottom.  I'm told that I became a more grounded and relateable person. 

I'd always assumed that I'd eventually be a mother because that's just how life happened, but I wasn't one of those women whose goal was to become a mother.  But you know how they say "Being a mother just changes you".  It changes you indeed!  I think my genetic makeup is sometimes the only thing that wasn't altered!

But because--for a short period of time--life got hard it had the opportunity to get better.  Because I was hurt, I got to heal.  Because of the friends I lost, I cherish the faithful ones all the more.  Because I was supported and loved, I know--by example--to be supporting and loving, myself.  Because I felt embarrassment for having done something wrong, I was given the opportunity to be proud of myself for owning up to it and doing something right.

And because I made a mistake, I learned that--in the end--the consequences of our actions typically result in an insurmountable blessing we would never have experienced otherwise.  We just have to persevere through the difficult period of "doing the time" to see it for the blessing it becomes.

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About The Author
Ashley Harris Wife & Mom

Ashley is a thirty-something wife and mother of two boys. She enjoys spending time with her family, as well as reading and decorating their home. Her blogging adventures began in 2006 as a single mother and have carried on through marriage and a new life with a husband, a teenager, and a pre-schooler.