My life as a free-spirited and careless college freshman ended before it even started. I had graduated high school with the notion that I would attend a school far away from home and begin the next chapter of my life. Little did I know at the time that what I thought was a small decision I had made almost 4 years ago, would end up being life-altering. Sometimes it really is the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.
I had been dating my boyfriend Paul* for nearly two years since my junior year of high school. My parents weren’t so keen on the idea of me leaving home right after high school to attend college so far away, but ultimately left the decision up to me. I had gotten into a small college in Pittsburgh, eight hours away from my home in New York and eight hours away from Paul. At the time he was going to a commuter school nearby and still living at home. He told me then that if I decided to attend the school in Pittsburgh he was going to break up with me because he couldn’t handle a long distance relationship. Because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of what it would be like if he broke up with me, I opted to attend the same community college instead of going to school in Pittsburgh. I figured if I went to the community college, it might be a good way to not only continue to stay close with him, but also to raise my GPA and then transfer to an even better school than the one I originally thought I’d attend. It meant putting off my dream of living in a college dorm and having a typical college girl’s lifestyle right away, but I knew in time I would make it there anyway and I didn’t want to disappoint the person I loved.
On October 5, 2007, my life changed forever. Not only was it Paul and my second anniversary since we began dating, but it was also the day I discovered I was pregnant. I was still seeing a pediatrician at the time when I found out, and I went into the office that day to get a routine Gardasil shot. I had to follow procedure and urinate in a cup. The reason for this was if you happened to be pregnant, the doctor couldn’t administer the shot. I didn’t think much of it, so I did my business and handed the cup to the lab technician in the office. A few minutes later, my doctor walked into the room and slowly closed the door behind her. “I can’t give you your shot. Did you know that you’re pregnant?” Showing absolutely no symptoms at all or even thinking I was, this was the most shocking news I had ever heard and I immediately went numb. “Um, WHAT?!” I said in absolute disbelief. “Yeah, you’re about three weeks along,” she replied.
Paul knew I was planning on going to the doctor that day, but he expected for me to go in and get a Gardasil shot, not to find out I was pregnant. I called Paul right away in utter shock and disbelief as I left the office, my voice shaky. “Paul, I need to tell you something. Can I come over to your house and tell you? I don’t want to say it on the phone.” I said. “No, what is it, Mary? Tell me right now. What’s going on?” he responded. “I’m pregnant,” I answered. It all felt so surreal. I couldn’t believe just one month shy of my 19th birthday, I was pregnant. I never would have thought in a million years that something like this would ever happen to me so young, but it did. Perhaps this is something I guess I should have expected in a weird way to happen, even though I believed it wouldn’t. We hadn’t been using protection and my birth control use had been inconsistent since that summer. I was using YAZ and it was making me nauseous so I decided to take myself off the pill for a few days. I had informed Paul of this decision and he assured me that we would be fine anyway without needing to use a condom as back up.
What was even more of a surprise was how unsupportive Paul turned out to be about the whole situation that we had gotten ourselves into together. “Well, you’re going to go take care of it right?” he had asked me, indicating I would get an abortion. I was so confused about what I should do, I didn’t even know what to think. At that point, it still hadn’t even fully sunk in that I was really carrying a living person inside of me. When I broke the news to my family, my mother cried in disappointment and my father threatened to kick me out of the house. Ultimately, it would be them who would turn out to become my biggest supporters. When it came time sometime later to make a decision on whether or not I wanted to keep the baby, Paul said to me, “Well Mary, you can’t have both. You need to pick one. Your boyfriend of two years or this thing you’ve only known about for a few months.” A statement like that had said it all for me. It was the biggest decision I ever had to make, but I knew deep down that I could live without someone who clearly didn’t love me or support me. I knew I couldn’t live without someone who was physically a part of me. It was the first time I had ever stood up for myself when it came to Paul and I didn’t back down on my word when I made the decision to keep the baby. I was confident that in my heart, I knew I was doing the right thing. I just knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I had decided to take the abortion route. A decision to this day that he still doesn’t fully understand and I don’t regret.
For the first three and a half months or so of my pregnancy I was very nauseous all the time and morning sickness had taken over. Around early November, I had decided to take a medical leave of absence from community college. I couldn’t handle going to school on a daily basis anymore knowing that I always needed to run to the bathroom. As much as I was frustrated that I’d be a semester behind the rest of my class, I knew it wasn’t the worst thing in the world and I resumed my studies the following January when the morning sickness cleared up. My spring classes that semester ended in May and in an attempt to bring myself back up credit-wise, I chose to take a three-week intensive Marketing summer course at SUNY Purchase and finished it just five days before giving birth.
It wasn’t easy telling those around me that I was pregnant, especially my friends. Most were very supportive of me and my decision to keep the baby but others decided to distance themselves. I expected the judgment from people, but when it came time to sharing my news with friends, I realized who my true friends were and who were the ones that ran for the hills. However, I’m glad that most people at school didn’t judge me, including my professors. In fact, most I had met were really excited for me.
For the majority of my pregnancy Paul and I stayed together. I remember a few times when I had morning sickness, he used to stand in the doorway of the bathroom and laugh at me like it was a big joke, but he mainly distanced himself from me. We were attending the same school and he was embarrassed to have me around him with other people while I was pregnant. He told me that I made him feel uneasy when he was with other people and sometimes even ignored me. He was also verbally abusive, so abusive that on multiple occasions he had said things like, “If I pushed you down a flight of stairs, would it kill the baby?” Or, “If I punched you in the stomach, would it kill the baby?” Simply because he was so against me keeping it. It seemed like the only thing he was worried about was himself. On one occasion he had also said, “Well Mary, what am I supposed to tell the next girl?” In regards to dating other people and telling them that he had a child, while WE were still together. Paul never attended a single doctor’s appointment with me and always had adamantly refused to go whenever I’d ask. Instead, I would either go alone, with a friend, or sometimes my mother. Around late March/early April, when I was about six and a half months pregnant, Paul broke up with me via telephone telling me he didn’t want this and couldn’t be with me anymore. About a month later, he wasted no time finding a new girl to get drunk and make out with, proving how little he cared about me and his own child even if we were no longer together.
On June 11, 2008, I gave birth to a baby girl. Paul was not present for the birth, and had worked out the timing perfectly to go away to the Hamptons in Long Island for a few days around the time he knew I was due. In fact, he wasn’t really there for her much at all after. He wasn’t too thrilled on the name I had chosen for her either; Alexa Rose. “I thought you were going to name her Annie after my grandmother,” he said to me over the phone while I was still in the hospital. I told him that maybe if he had been there for me more and played a more active role during my pregnancy, I would have considered settling on that name instead. So there I had it, Alexa Rose Farucci. Perfect. I also settled on giving her my last name and not his because he said he didn’t want the baby to bear his last name.
Two days later, I brought my baby girl home to my parents’ house from the hospital where I was still living. At this point, my parents had really come around to the idea of me having a baby, and were elated to become grandparents once she arrived. Paul and his mother came by to meet her for the first time and it was quite clear then that he really didn’t know how to handle a baby since he held her like a football. I had hoped that in time Paul would change after seeing his daughter in person and finally accept the fact that he was a father and would start acting like one, but he didn’t. This was an enormous letdown for me but I knew it meant I needed to find the strength within myself to learn to move forward as a mother with or without him. Now it was time to put someone else before myself and do what was best for Alexa.