Reprinted from "Having a Baby" issue of Visions Journal, 2012, 7 (3), pp. 10-11
It was May 9, 2010, when I kept thinking, "Why don’t I want to drink?" Finally, at the end of May I found out I was pregnant! If I hadn’t been pregnant I would have ended up drinking and partying. I was really hooked on drinking, beating up my boyfriend PJ’s exes and not giving a damn. It was hard having those cravings to pick up a bottle, but every time I’d want to give up I’d say, "You’re not a baby; you don’t need a bottle, Sara."
All I could think when I found out I was pregnant was, "I’m going to be a mom." I chose to have this baby and I wanted to give him the safest and most secure welcome in this world. Through my pregnancy I’d have moments of wondering: What if I’m not good enough? Will he be healthy? Am I capable of this? The thoughts running through my head overwhelmed me, and it made it much worse knowing that I didn’t have any family here in Vancouver.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) wanted me to live in a home for mothers for the first two years of my child’s life, without my baby’s father. I was a permanent ward of the province, which means I was supposed to be cared for by MCFD until I was 19 years old. They said I was still too young and threatened to take my baby away at birth if I chose not to live at the mothers’ home.
They should have been proud that my baby’s father, PJ, wanted to support his family. Instead, they tried to separate us. We fought for our rights at meeting after meeting with the social workers before our baby was born.
They can’t just assume because of past precedent that I’m not dedicated to what I want. Sure I got sent to school after school when I was growing up, both before and after I became a ward of the ministry. I was beaten from age three and a half to 14; I was used to whatever came at me: wooden spoons, shoes, chairs, books and, most famously, hands. One day, my sister and I got called to the principal’s office, and there were two cops, smiling, telling us our stuff was packed and we were leaving. My sister Paula and I said our last words to each other at a giant building with a flag bigger than our school. I spent the next hour with a random person in a random car going to a random place. I went from foster home to foster home, getting kicked out of school after school. I got into scraps and a whole lot of not caring—until Christmas Eve 2009 when I got the news that my real mom had passed away. Until I met PJ a few months later, I didn’t care about anything.
Eventually PJ and I convinced the social workers to let us live together, and they opened a support file. They were surprised once they saw we were in love and showed the two main things needed to raise a child: support and respect. PJ worked all through my pregnancy, we got a house and we were happy we got to live together. I saw my midwife and other support workers regularly.
I believed I’d give birth naturally, with no pain medication, but when I was eight months pregnant my midwife told me my baby was breech. All the stress of my past—the drinking, my family, the living situations—came to the surface . . . and now a breech baby! I weighed out my pros and cons. Pretty much having a natural birth with the breech position could risk my baby dying. I was so mad and scared. But I knew it was better for my son if I got a Caesarean section. I thought to myself, "You’re not a child anymore, Sara. You need to grow up from drinking, not caring and being foolish, even though there will be drama and obstacles."
On March 4, 2011, at 9:30 a.m., I was crying in the lobby of BC Women’s Hospital. I had woken up the night before with tears in my eyes and I knew I must have been thinking about my baby. Just like my baby would always move to songs I played when I was pregnant. The song that stuck out at that moment was "Sweet Dreams" by Beyoncé, because she says "you can be a sweet dream or beautiful nightmare." When I dreamt of holding my baby it was a sweet dream; yet when I realized he was still inside me I froze, knowing I’d have to get a C-section, and that was a beautiful nightmare.
I jumped up, closed my eyes and took deep breaths, then said, "Okay, let’s go." It was 9:40 a.m. PJ and my midwife Marijke were right by my side the whole time and kept reassuring me and telling me to breathe. Just when having surgery started to get weird, it was over. I started to ask, "Is he okay?" when I heard our baby cry. At 9:55 a.m. our beautiful baby boy was born: Robbie Joseph Levy-Mccurdy!!!
Robbie looked just like PJ when he was born, the same ears, nose, lips and eyebrows. I knew he would have my cheeks, hair and eyes, but it was too early to see his eyes then. When I finally got to hold and feed him, it felt so magical.
I had a mother’s instinct and I knew it would be hard for a few months, but I also knew PJ and I could be the best parents. All those times watching PJ kiss and listen to my stomach had paid off. As PJ, Robbie and I left the hospital three days later, I kept thinking how far PJ and I had both come.
One night when Robbie was about three months old I was up breastfeeding him at 2 a.m. There wasn’t much PJ could do to help (LOL).I had to feed Robbie three times, change his pukey clothes and change his butt. He waited until I was done changing him to do another poop. Then, when I laid him down after burping and feeding he got the hiccups! I tried to relax and do my deep breathing, but that night it wasn’t working for me. It was the first time I really struggled to deal with all this parenting stuff and it was difficult. But it was well worth it.
My son is now 18 months old and I am now 20. When I look back I realize it was quite the journey. I breastfed Robbie until he was 10 months. He started sitting up at five and a half months, crawling and walking along things at eight months. When he was 14 months, he started walking fully, and now he is learning to talk. I have a baby album where I record everything he does. Right when you get used to them doing one thing, it changes.
When Robbie was eight months, part of me I was like, "I can’t wait to drink." But I got so attached to my son that I didn’t want anybody else watching him. I’d have sick thoughts of somebody hurting him, so instead of going out drinking I’d stay home with him.
Before my son was born, I would come across haters and I’d do what everyone else does: mean-mouth them. But it gets old after a while. I catch myself caring less and less about what others talk about and am more focused on my son as he grows. Just the other week I was squatting down by Robbie’s stroller when I noticed a couple of girls. All I could do was look away and smile at my son, knowing he feeds off my energy. I was completely surprised that I didn’t have a pissed off nerve in my body.
Some people say I’m missing out on life, but I say I have my whole life in front of me, with my son Robbie and my best friend, my support, my love of all time, PJ. Even though PJ and I only have Robbie as family here in Vancouver, it is enough to be fully satisfied for a lifetime. Robbie can be a real brat some days, but we are learning to work it out. As PJ often says, "We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.
About the author
Sara is a young mother, busy with raising Robbie, loving PJ and pursuing her education to enrich the future of them all
Acknowledgement: Marijke de Zwager, a midwife who loves working with moms and babies in East Vancouver, provided logistical support so Sara could tell her story