My little boy turned three a few days ago. I look at him in wonder and disbelief, and a line from a book we have comes to mind: “Then you were my baby; now you are my child.” Where has the time gone? It seems only yesterday that I woke from a nap, a few short hours after giving birth, and stumbled down the hallway of my apartment to see my new baby with refreshed eyes. He lay on the couch, swaddled tightly with a tiny hat covering his bright red hair, blue eyes wide open. He stared intensely at me, assessing this new mother of his whom he only knew from the inside. “Hello,” I whispered. Then he started to wail — and didn’t stop for eight months.
He was a surprise, the biggest surprise of my life. He exploded into our world after an embarrassingly short time that I’d been dating his father. Ahh, nothing like pregnancy to help air out one’s dirty laundry! Getting pregnant in the middle of university and belonging to a fairly conservative Christian family is not exactly a recipe for success. Throw in the fact that my boyfriend’s family was even more traditional, ethnically tight-knit, and horrified even at the thought of a non-Croatian girlfriend, let alone pregnant girlfriend. Talk about shaming the family.
Those nine months were a hellish ride I still hate thinking about. Most of it I spent sobbing on the phone with my mother, praying with a desperate faith I’d never had, plugging away at a full course load, working a part-time job, trying to cook proper meals late at night when I got home from my long days, watching former friends distance themselves from my new anti-social behaviour, and struggling to make a relationship work with my boyfriend. Funny how fetuses can destroy romance, isn’t it?
Somehow, miraculously, it all worked out. My boyfriend got on board, sadly losing his mother in the process, who has refused to speak or see us ever since. Our baby was born, delivered by my midwife aunt in a glorious home birth, and as he flourished, the romance returned. A year later, we got married, had another baby, and are happier than I ever thought possible. Despite our success story, I don’t recommend pursuing this path for marital happiness; I’m still pinching myself with gratefulness at how lucky we were that it just so happened this way.
Now he’s three – the most opinionated, talkative, energetic, beautiful little three-year-old I’ve ever seen in my life (not that I ever paid much attention to three-year-olds before he came along!). Yesterday, he started caressing his father’s eyebrows: “Daddy, your eyebrows are so beautiful!” he exclaimed in total sincerity. He makes us laugh with his fresh, unsullied, and always humourous view of the world. My mom was right when she told me that wonderful things can come out of dark, tough times. My little boy is the greatest blessing in my life, and certainly the most unexpected one of all.