Every February 17th (the day before my son’s birthday) my telephone rings at approximately 11:45pm. It is an expected, happy, and very emotional call from my now 27 year old son Joshua. I answer smiling and say “hello”. The voice says “Mom, thank you for giving me life and having me. Thank you for having God and faith in your life, and for not having an abortion.” My husband is usually right next to me, knowing exactly who it is. We both tear up and smile.
My Catholic-Italian upbringing was very strict with stringent rules and an instillation of high morals. I dated my husband Jeff during our junior and senior years in high school. I was abstinent my whole life, including these two years of courtship with Jeff. When Jeff went to Alabama for college on a scholarship for wrestling, we intended to stay together, but words from a friend told me Jeff was dating others in Alabama. I started going out with my friends and met a new guy. He was very different than Jeff. I let my guard down and for the first time in my life had sex. I really can’t tell you why. Even though we used a condom, I became pregnant.
I first shared this nightmare (at the time) with my sister Teri, and we decided to tell my mom’s good friend Mary. Mary was very wealthy and had a condo in Florida where she would take us all the time for vacation. She suggested that if I wanted to, we would go on one of our spontaneous trips to Florida and have an abortion without anyone ever knowing I was pregnant. Ironically, at the time my job at a health spa was folding, leaving me with severance pay, full insurance coverage, and eligibility to receive unemployment. I never thought seriously about having an abortion, so I declined Mary’s offer right away. I told Mary that all my life all I wanted was to get married and have babies. I thought that it would be with Jeff, but now my plans had changed and I was certain I would never be with Jeff again. I felt that God was giving me this baby as a test to see what I would do with such a gift. I decided that I was going to fight for this baby and keep it.
Teri and I told my parents next. It was very hard as I was so scared, ashamed, and felt like I had failed them. Seeing them hug each other and cry was very difficult, but I felt I had to be strong and fight for the life inside me. My mother started hyperventilating and we called 911 for fear she was having a heart attack. That night most of my family members came to my house, giving me disapproving looks that hurt so badly. It was an emotional night to say the least. I remember walking by my 12-year-old brother’s room, seeing him with his head in his arms sobbing at the news. My grandpa came to me and offered me $500 to have an abortion. I now realize he was not thinking clearly and was simply worried about what my family and friends would think of me. My mother told me that if it was a boy, she would never love him because he would remind her of his biological father (whom she didn’t care for). Shortly after finding out I was pregnant, I realized what my family was saying about the biological father. He was not what I wanted in a husband or father. I asked him to stay away.
My father, the last person I would ever think would come to me that night came into my room. He could have said, “I told you so,” or could have kicked me out of the house, but instead he told me he would be there for me and the baby and we could live with him forever. He said he could never turn his back on me. Jeff also stopped by my house that night to see if the news that traveled around so fast was true. I went to bed that night feeling so scared and alone, except for the life inside me. I prayed to God like I had never prayed before. I thought I had a good relationship with God all those years, going to Mass every Sunday and praying, but something hit me like a ton of bricks that night. I had never felt God as much as I did that night. I cried and asked God to give me strength. I asked Him to help me fight for this life inside me. I felt like God, my baby, and I were doing this together.
Things got better with every month of my pregnancy. My family was becoming supportive and was getting excited about the new baby. Jeff and I continued to talk every now and then and he would visit me when he came home from Alabama. It was New Years Eve, I was seven months pregnant, and Jeff cancelled his original date for that night to take me out to dinner. When he came to pick me up, the first thing he told me was how beautiful I looked. Before he returned to Alabama the next day, he came over to tell me he could not get me off his mind. He said he’d dated a lot of other girls, but it was me and my baby that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He asked me to marry him. Eight months later we were married and moved to Alabama for his last year of college. Taking six-month-old baby Joshua away from my family was very hard as they now absolutely adored him. Jeff and I will be celebrating our 27th wedding anniversary this August 13th.
God has done a lot of things in my life and I feel has tested me so many times. I remember wondering if Jeff could ever love Joshua as much as I did. I was convinced that he could when Joshua was two years old, completely dehydrated with the flu. When we went to Children’s Hospital the doctors could not get an IV started anywhere due to his collapsing veins. Joshua was hysterically crying as we held him down. The doctors wanted to take Joshua to a room by himself to try to get the IV in. Jeff told the doctors with tears running down his face that there was no way they would take his son in a room without him. He never left Joshua’s side during that stay. I have never doubted Jeff’s love for Joshua from that point forward.
This year on February 17, I called my son before he could call me. I thanked him for being in my life and for being such a good son and brother to his two younger sisters, Talia and Jenna. Joshua is getting married on July 31 to a wonderful girl named Camille, another blessing. Joshua has asked Jeff to be his best man in his wedding. Joshua told me that if he could be half the man and father Jeff has been, he would be happy. Now, 27 years later, God is still guiding me. He has led me to the Pregnancy Decision Health Center for which I have volunteered, seeing and talking to clients for 1 ½ years. I know when I go to sleep at night that I am making a difference in others’ lives and helping young girls who remind me so much of myself 27 years ago.