Since I was 12, that’s how long this story has been on my heart.
Sometimes I’m hesitant to get too personal on here, because well, the internet. But if nothing else, I’m not much of a Buzz-Feed-numbered-list kind of blog. So here we go.
Do you believe that things in life happen for a reason? I do. I believe that every foot print, every breath and every outcome is pre ordained. And I believe that reactions and attitude are how we carve out space in this small fraction of history we call “our time.” That’s the free will part.
When I was 12 my sister got pregnant. At the time, she was 17 going on 18, still a high school kid, still just a bit awe-stuck by the cards we can be dealt. There was the usual reaction within our house – although admittedly that statement might be a bit of conjecture, because I was 12 and what did I know about a “usual” reaction? What I mean to say is, it seemed to me to be your generic case of “Your sister is pregnant and we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen next.”
But God bless my mother. My mother who is a rock and kind and always has the most comforting way of making you stand-up and get on with it because well, “If this is how it’s going to be, then this is how it’s going to be.”
From that point on I don’t think “we,” as in my family looked back. I’m sure my sister had months of thinking “I’m not ready for this” but then again, what new mother doesn’t? And while there may have been battles against deamons of fear and uncertainty on the inside, on the outside, we started to decorate a nursery. We ripped out my dad’s library one weekend while he was out of town and we painted the walls a bright yellow. And when my niece was born on April Fool’s Day, 17 years ago, “Where Have All The Cowboys Gone” by Paula Cole was playing in the hospital waiting room. My sister gave her my mother’s name when she was only minutes old.
Of course, people are unkind. This isn’t to say everyone is unkind – usually the closest people in your life are there because they will accept you as you are, but I can’t tell this story without touching on the fact that sometimes, some people are unkind (Why are people unkind?). Unfortunately, they can be the ones who stick out in your mind. They’re harsh and they judge. This despite the fact that everyone’s life at times can be so tiny, and there’s no one on this planet who has the right to cast judgement upon others.
But we’re human and that’s what we do – at least through this experience that’s what I learned at a pretty young age. One of the more unfortunate things is that’s also what we teach our kids to do. This explains why at school, a kid who was a year younger then me told me my sister was a slut. (Such an ugly, awful word, I doubt she even knew what she was saying, she’d probably only overheard it herself. ) And it’s why extended family members and other acquaintances had disapproving things to say as in “That would never happen in our family.” The unspoken thing you feel when people act this way is, “We feel sorry for you, because you don’t live your life the way we do.”
But the wonderful, most glorious thing about situations that try you; the people who we cast judgement on in moments like this, I believe they’re often the ones we should envy. Because deep down inside, whether they know it at that moment or not, they were born ready to handle whatever has been thrown at them. This is far more then the person perched on their pedestal would ever be capable of. In fact that’s why they’re talking from a position of comfort high up where none can touch them; they would probably crumble otherwise.
And the reason I can say this is because that’s what I’ve been watching unfold for the past 17 years of my life.
But here’s where the story gets good.
When my sister was only a girl in the hospital, the nurses, they judged her. They were unkind, not tender. They were harsh not attentive. And my sister, who’s a lot like my mom in how she handles things, she rose to the task. Not right away of course, but it was one of the many moments that shaped her. She didn’t become hardened towards people. Instead she tucked it away in her arsenal. And she turned those negative, ugly things into her army of “I can do this.” And slowly she started to show people what it means to be a strong, kind and determined woman.
Of course it didn’t happen all in an instant. There were years of scraping by. Of working two jobs. Of giving personal things up. Never sleeping in on weekends. Of putting the kids to bed and getting back up to use the quiet time because that’s the time she had.
And this isn’t to say she did it alone. My parents were always there. And there was of course my now brother-in-law, her confident and biggest fan, who was with her through it all from the beginning. And eventually there would be two more kids who added to the joy and raucous of a big-beautiful-busy (and not pottery barn) life.
And year after year you know where my sister ended up? In midwifery school. That’s right. That kid who had sub-par prenatal care… last week, she wrote her final exam which will make her a mid-wife. In Ontario, there’s a wait list to receive care from a mid-wife. And you know what? I bet she won’t judge. I bet she’ll give every women the right to a safe environment into which she can deliver a baby in peace. And not worry about the decisions she’s made, or whether or not she’s capable of being a mother, which I’m sure those of you who have already had a baby can attest, they’re the kind of things you want to keep out of your mind when you’re faced with delivering a baby. You can’t change the past, or everyone’s attitude or actions, but you can be a beacon of light yourself.
Last week, after five years of school, my sister wrote her final midwifery exam. It wasn’t just on any day, the exam happened to be scheduled the day after my niece’s birthday. That’s right, exactly 17 years after my sister was in the hospital giving birth, she wrote the test that would define a big part of her future. Isn’t it also just too uncanny that my my niece turned the exact same age my sister was the year got pregnant with her?
See? I told you everything happens for a reason.
Life is intentional. Don’t ever think it isn’t. The scenario you’ve been handed is a gift- to extend to the world lessons on how to love, understand others and be courageous with your actions. It’s up to you to decide how you would like to react.
*This one’s dedicated to my sister who quite clearly, I admire in a way that I’ll never be able to capture in words.*
(and that would be me and the little squidgy one circa 1997 ^^ I wouldn’t normally post such a obnoxiously large picture but this blog template sucks when it comes to media).