Thirty Years Later...
Thirty years ago today, my life changed forever.
The change started several months before when I found out that I was pregnant. Unwed and less than a year out of high school, I felt shocked and scared at the prospect of becoming a mother.
I was in denial the first several weeks of my pregnancy and only shared the "truth" with a few select people. My parents were probably the last to know. It wasn't that hard for me to hide my pregnancy from them.
I was going to beauty school and working a full-time job. The baby's father knew of the pregnancy but for reasons unknown to me at the time, we suddenly lost contact.
I just assumed that he was not up for the responsibility. I wasn't going to force him into anything so I just decided I would go at it alone. It wasn't until nearly 17 years later that I found out the truth. His parents were concerned about his drug use and he had gone to rehab. I had no clue.
Meanwhile, I worked, went to school and was amazed at the guys who offered to help me through the pregnancy. While working a second shift job in a grocery warehouse cafeteria I met my future husband.
He knew I was pregnant and before I knew it, we were seeing each other. Next thing I knew, we were getting married and several weeks later, Jackie was born.
I adored his big Italian family who took me in as their own and I felt at home. I loved his mom so much that I agreed to name my daughter after her.
I think I pretty much knew that our marriage was not going to work but I gave it a shot anyway. All I ever wanted was to do right by my daughter. She deserved to have family that treasured her.
Fast forward two years later and my marriage failed. Being a single mom of now two daughters was difficult but thanks to my family we managed.
Soon I met husband #2 who insisted upon adopting both my daughters. I finally felt like they would have it all.
This lasted for most of their growing up years and in addition they were blessed with three more siblings. During this time my daughter met her biological father, reconnected with my first husband and his family and got to know her aunts, cousins and grandparents that never knew she existed. She also met her half-brothers. It was quite a lot for a teenager but this was her family too. She needed to meet them.
After almost 13 years, my 2nd marriage ended.
The good news is that along the way I have managed to be friendly with all my daughter's fathers and their families. I love them all because they are special people. I remarried four years ago and although it may sound like an episode of All My Children, it is all good.
Raising Jackie was not always easy maybe because at times it seemed we were growing up together. I would like to believe that I did the best that I could. She took dance lessons and competed in competitions. She did well in school, played on the high school soccer team and ran track. She was a popular girl who had lots of friends.
As a young adult she was diagnosed as bipolar. At first the news was heartbreaking but once I did the research I became confident that she will be able to live a good life in spite of bipolar disorder. She, like everyone, is a work in progress.
Sure, her upbringing was worthy of being a soap opera (and still continues to be) but I always tried to be honest with her. Her biological dad and I were young. He connected with her when she was a teen and they have been working on and off on their relationship.
It does get complicated for her at times to balance all the feelings for all the men who have been fathers to her but she knows that she is cared for by many people. She has had some really incredible men take on the responsibility of being her father. I do not want to downplay the role that the man who adopted her played in her life. He has really hung in there and been there for her through rough times.
I do wonder sometimes what if things had been different but there really is no sense in doing that. I cannot change the past. We were blessed with every "father" that came into my daughter's life.
Jackie has a very large extended family but I see it as she just has all the more people to love her. Love is never a bad thing.
Thirty years later and I never imagined where I would be today or where the road would take us.
It has been quite a journey and I look forward to see what is next. You never know.