‘What Now?’ I survived the first 18 years of parenting without going crazy

Yesha Callahan, The Root | 6/5/2017, 12:48 p.m.
These next few years tho . . . SMH . . .
(iStock photo/The Root)

I’m not going to lie and sugarcoat how I feel about parenting. When I describe it to friends who don’t have kids, my parenting spiel usually goes something like this: “It can be the best of times, it can be the worse of times.” And as my son graduated from high school this past weekend, I couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief that we both survived the first 18 years of each other.

In every group of friends, there’s always that one who’s adamant about not having children. I was that friend. I vowed that children were not going to be a part of my equation. Changing diapers, late night feedings, tugging around strollers? Yeah, I had better things to do with my time, until the time came and I realized, yup, those were things I was going to have to deal with. My pregnancy wasn’t planned and if reality TV was big back then, I’d fit right in with those people on Discovery’s I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant series.

The TL;DR version of my story goes something like this: I passed out on the train platform in Elizabeth, N.J. Once I got to the hospital and woke up, the doctor asked, “How far along are you?” I replied, “I was only a few stops from Penn Station.” Unfortunately, he wasn’t asking about my work commute. To my surprise, I passed out because my iron levels were drastically low because I was pregnant. And eventually, they estimated that I was six months along.

Six months. I was that friend who always said they weren’t going to have children. And here I was, about to pop one out any minute now. My brain didn’t panic, I just knew that I had to have a plan in place. But it seemed that the only concern the doctor had was with my weight and the fact that I didn’t have any prenatal care. I was sent home with prenatal pills and told to start gaining weight or I’d have a low-birthweight baby.

Fast forward three months later, I only managed to gain about 10 pounds and my son was two weeks late, so they decided to induce my labor. Then came the meconium aspiration. Meconium is the first stool that an infant releases, and is normally stored in infant’s intestines until after birth. However, sometimes (often in response to fetal distress and hypoxia), it is expelled into the amniotic fluid prior to birth or during labor. The doctors needed to act fast, and being that I wasn’t dilating fast enough, they had to do an emergency c-section. My doctor warned me that not only could my son spend a few extra days in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but he’d probably not weigh more than 5 pounds.

Fast forward 24 hours: I’m being cut open, and shortly after, the doctor pulls out this big-a baby. And his first question was, “Where were you hiding all of this kid?” My son was 8 pounds 10 ounces and 23 inches long. Yeah, he was probably hiding somewhere under my lungs, because during my last three weeks of pregnancy I couldn’t breathe at all. My son did spend three extra days in the NICU, but once I had him home, I remember staring at him and asking myself, “What now?”