Alone and pregnant. Two words I never thought I would utter in the same sentence. But those were my circumstances the summer before my senior year of college. I had big dreams like everyone. I had just signed a lease to live in a house with five of my sorority sisters. I was busy making plans for what I wanted to do after college — where I wanted to move, what jobs I wanted to pursue, what my life would look like. And like every girl, of course I had always fantasized about meeting the man of my dreams, having a fairytale wedding, and starting a family — when I was ready. And suddenly, all those hopes and dreams ended with two pink lines.

I had only been in a relationship with my son’s father for about six months, and we had no plans to get married. I was 22 years old, and he was only 25. We were kids having a kid. It was not my fairytale. We tried to make it work, but ultimately it did not. The failed relationship was soul crushing — not because I was in love — but because I felt like everything else that I had planned for my life was ending after two pink lines. Then, there was the shame I felt — the shame and disappointment of having let down my parents and my family. There was never any question in my mind that I would have the baby. And even though my parents were surprised and disappointed, they were ultimately so supportive. I did not return to college my senior year; I stayed home — pregnant, alone, and living with my parents. My grandfather also lived with us, and we would soon have four generations living together under one roof. My pregnancy was not a happy time. There was so much loneliness and isolation. Friends were supportive and caring, but no one really understood. I was living back home while all my friends were off enjoying their senior year. I was lucky that I was able to stay enrolled in college and continue my senior year from home without having to transfer colleges or withdraw. So that’s what I did: for 9 months I focused on finishing school and embracing my unplanned pregnancy.

In February of 2010, at age 22, I gave birth to my son. Suddenly, all my fears and sadness seemed to be less important. Yes, things were still hard, but my life had a newfound purpose. I eventually moved out of my parents’ house and into a house just big enough for my son and me. I graduated from the University of Alabama in December 2010 with my parents and son present. I started my first job in January after graduation, and it felt like my life was moving in a new direction. My son’s father and I continued to have a rocky relationship for those first few years, but he was present and wanted to be involved in his son’s life. Looking back at that time now, it seems like my son and I almost raised one another. I needed him as much as he needed me. I eventually applied to graduate school and worked my way through, graduating with honors and a master’s degree in education in May of 2015 — again with my parents and son by my side. It was such a proud and defining moment for me and really gave me a feeling of validation for everything I had been through and what I had accomplished and overcome as a single mother. The days of loneliness and isolation seemed less present in my mind, and I was now filled with happiness and pride.

I did eventually meet the man of my dreams. I was always scared of dating because I thought, who would want to date someone with so much baggage? But he existed, and he welcomed me and my son with open arms, without judgement. We started dating when my son was five, and now my son doesn’t have many memories without him or really remember life before him. Sometimes we laugh and say how special our time was when it was “just us.” My husband and I got married when my son was seven, and as we walked out of the church after being pronounced “man and wife,” we walked down the aisle with my son by our side. We have gone on to have two children of our own, and it is so special to see the relationship that my son has now with his two younger siblings. What a blessing it is to have him as a big older brother. He is sweet, hands-on, and helpful. Throughout the years, my relationship with his father has truly evolved into a functional co-parenting relationship. We both share such a mutual love for our son and finally, a shared respect for one another. It took time, and was not always easy, but it is a beautiful thing now. And my son . . . my son is now thirteen years old and so special. I truly cannot imagine my life without him in it. We have a joke where I call him “my favorite first born,” but the truth is that he saved me. Yes, the trajectory of my life was forever changed because of him, but I know now it was forever changed for the better. All because of two pink lines.