Because no two paths to parenthood look the same, the Cut’s How I Got This Baby invites parents to share their stories. Want to share yours? Email email@example.com and tell us a bit about how you became a parent.
Silvia* got married at 24, to a man she’d been with since she was a teenager. She was 25, fresh out of school and with a hard-won job lined up, when she became pregnant despite taking precautions. Because the timing wasn’t right for her to become a mom, she chose not to continue her pregnancy. Later that same year, Silvia got pregnant a second time — again while using birth control. But this time, becoming a parent seemed much more feasible. She and her husband were eagerly anticipating the birth of their daughter when, during Silvia’s sixth month, her husband died unexpectedly.
Over a decade later, Silvia is raising her daughter, now 12, with her second husband, with whom she also has a 3-year-old son. Silvia describes how her husband’s death swiftly altered her visions of parenthood, how much an online group of strangers helped her, why she never told her friends, family, or first husband about her abortion, and how, in certain ways, caring for a young child was easier when she was single.
On the day “the worst happened.” My first husband and I had been together since I was 17. We used protection even after we got married, but having kids was always an endgame for us. After I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, I sat on the news for a few days, until our anniversary. He was ecstatic. He said it was the best gift I could give him.
When I was about six months along I was driving him to work one day; we had the one car then. I dropped him off, then went to my job. A few hours later I get a call from my sister asking if I’d heard from him. I asked her what was going on, but she wouldn’t say. Then my dad called and said there’d been an accident at work, but that my husband was all right. I didn’t feel okay to drive, so my sister picked me up at work. When I saw my phone — I’d left it in the car — I knew there were too many missed calls. And when we pulled up to my house, there were too many people there, family members waiting outside.
Once my dad got me inside, he just looked me full in the face and said, “I’m sorry. The worst happened.”
And I think now, I almost feel worse for him than anyone — I can’t imagine telling my child something like that.
On being widowed and pregnant. You get pregnant thinking, Oh, this is how it’s gonna go. We’re gonna bumble our way through — together. You have an image in your mind of what it’s gonna be like, and then it totally isn’t. After his death, I had to come to terms with that. I wanted children, but what I really wanted was children with him.
The rest of my pregnancy was a blur. I took 2.5 weeks off of work. My home then was right next door to my parents’ house. I just took all my stuff and moved over with them; there was no way I wanted to be alone. But even if I had wanted that, I don’t think my mom would have let me. She made sure I was eating and sleeping and taking care of myself. The next eight weeks, until my daughter was born, went by very, very quickly.
I thank the lord my mom had the foresight to say I needed a private hospital room. That way I didn’t have to see someone else — not that I’d begrudge them, but it would be hard to see someone else’s parental bliss, together.
On being a first-time parent in the throes of grief. There were a lot of conflicting feelings — you have this child, you love her. But the person I was supposed to share this child with wasn’t around. I felt like God or the fates or the cosmos gave me one but took the other way. There were a few times where I’d think, This is not what I wanted. Please take this one back and give me my husband back.
And of course, this is all irrational, but it definitely creeped into my mind a couple times. I look at my daughter now, and I’m amazed at how fast she’s grown, and all that she’s become. But I really wish my first husband were here and could see how he would fit into all this.
On a previous pregnancy. At the beginning of the same year I got pregnant with my daughter, I missed a period. We were using protection, but my period was precise — I knew something was off as soon as I was late. A test showed me I was right.
I already had my job offer, and after seven years of school, I didn’t want to jeopardize that, to start off my career while trying to juggle a family with my workload. So I did go and get an abortion. I was able to have a medical abortion, and I’m grateful it was all I had to endure — the process itself was simple. The mental pain of the decision, for me at least, was already difficult enough.
To this day, I think about it — I’ve spoken to therapists and members of the clergy about how I feel like my husband’s death was God’s punishment. It’s been hard to reconcile that I went and did that, and then he passed away. And knowing if I had kept that pregnancy, he would’ve at least met that child. I would have been due a month before he died.
On sharing the decision to terminate a pregnancy. My first husband was vehemently against abortion; to him, it was about the sanctity of life. He died not knowing about my first pregnancy. And, since I was married, I didn’t think my friends or family would understand my decision. I’ve told almost no one. My second husband is pro-choice, and he does know about my abortion. But he doesn’t know I chose not to disclose it to my first husband.
The thing I found most comforting after my first husband’s death was an online forum for widows, broken down into different categories of widhowhood — widowed after 55, widowed while divorced, something for everyone. One of our mottoes was, we don’t judge. I did share my story there once and received a lot of support.
It’s not that I’m looking for people to say “that’s fine,” but I don’t want to put it out there and receive negative criticism. Because I do enough of that myself.
On a second marriage and parenting with a stepfather. My second husband was at my first wedding. When my daughter was about a year and a half old, I was looking at dating sites but my heart wasn’t really in it. My dad, actually, was like, “What about … ?” I told him he was crazy — we were just good friends. A few months later, though, my now-husband told me how he felt about me. We started a relationship, keeping it quiet at first, and have been together almost ten years now.
He’s known my daughter since she was born. When we started dating, he was seeing her a lot more often — he’s very hands-on. I have an aunt who was widowed with four kids and then remarried; her husband has made it pretty clear he doesn’t want much to do with the kids. I knew in my heart I didn’t want that.
I know he struggles with deciding how far to go as a parent with her, because it’s such a difficult balance to reach — he’s been in her life now for all these years. But he also knows that, deep in the heart of it, he’s not her father.
On the emotions stirred up by being pregnant again. If my husband is late or I’m not able to reach him — still but even more while I was pregnant with our son — I start to get panicky. And he’ll say, Oh my phone died, or that he was at work. I tell him that I don’t think he’s doing something wrong, but if it’s nine at night and he’s not home, I think something bad’s happened. It got especially hard as I approached the sixth and seventh months of my pregnancy. Like, what if the same thing happens again through some freak of nature? I do know people who’ve been widowed more than once. It can happen.
On the prospect of “one more, maybe two.” I know that getting together with me, getting a stepkid in the process, definitely wasn’t what my husband was picturing. We got married when my daughter was 6. I knew he wanted children, and I wanted one more at least. It’s actually a conversation we have now, because I used to say I wanted “one more, maybe two.” We do have the one more, our son, and now my husband says, “Where’s the ‘maybe two’?” And I’m like, Well, that “maybe” turned into a hard no.
If my son had been a girl, I would be more open to a third. But we have the girl and the boy; there’s two of them, two of us. We’ll see where that gets us — he’s still campaigning.
On having very different infant-raising experiences. It was hard not to compare the two. Because this time it was me and my husband, dealing with this baby together. There were times I had to tell him, Look, this is difficult for me because the first time I did it alone.
When we’d go out, I’d grab everything we needed and he’d be like, I’m here to help! But I felt like, I did this once, I can do it again, I’m comfortable doing this. It would be something as simple as decisions at the pediatrician. He’d have questions and want to find out all the facts, and I’d take it as an insult, like he was doubting my parenting decisions — because I was used to making all those decisions by myself.
There were times when he really wouldn’t understand. In his mind, why wouldn’t you want someone helping out as much as they can? It was hard on his end too. You try to understand a person’s perspective but even if you’ve been through the exact same thing, everyone’s read is different. My husband and I just try to understand each other the best we can, as parents and as people.
*Name has been changed.