4 scratches, 2 holes, and green diagonal striped wallpaper I still remember all the flaws in the wall across from me like I had just stared at it this afternoon. Hands on my stomach, feeling a bit queasy, scared and completely alone all I could do was stare ahead at the wall. 4 scratches, 2 holes and green diagonal striped wall paper.

      Faded distant voices, a tight squeeze on my arm, high pitch beeps ringing in my ears as a blue cotton shirt with shapes of stars and hearts became my view as I continued to stare forward. I kept trying to take deep breaths, but was just gasping for air with each sharp intake. I felt my chest moving but I was froze in my seat, hands on my knees, eyes locked ahead searching for 4 scratches, 2 holes and green diagonal striped wallpaper.

      I was still slightly hungover from the night before, black mascara and eyeliner had become a permanent shadow around my eyes and the raccoon look along with disheveled hair I’m sure made me look homeless. I just wanted to have a night with my friends having a late celebration of my 19th birthday. My stomach growled from lack of food and I needed more water but I kept staring ahead, 4 scratches, 2 holes and green diagonal striped wallpaper.

      I felt a cold hand on mine and a soft voice that startled me out of gargoyle state. “Sara, sweetie, you ok?” I slowly moved my head up and down in a nod waiting for what the soft voice would say….

      It was silence for a few seconds, I could catch my breath, maybe none of this is real, maybe I’m not really here…

      “Sara, You’re pregnant”

      4 scratches, 2 holes, green diagonal striped wallpaper. That’s all I could see, that’s all I could focus on, not the words from that soft voice, not the depth of knowing that I was going to be a moth…no I can’t even say it. Not yet, this isn’t real. Oh that’s right Sara you need to breathe this is important.

      I heard a faint sound of the voice again and finally my brain began to catch up, “we aren’t really sure the age of the baby, it’s more mature than what we usually see, we are sending the doctor in to talk to you.”

      The green diagonal stripes weren’t even, whoever applied this wallpaper didn’t make sure it was even before they glued it on. The scratches must have been from a chair that was there before, did a hammer make those holes and why would you choose a puke green to go in a doctors office?

      “Sara, this is doctor mel, she’s going to take a look and I’ll come back in when she’s done and we can talk about everything.” It was that voice again, and her scrubs had teddy bears on them too, oh that’s cute with the stars and hearts.

      I somehow was able to peel myself off that chair and lay down on the table. 4 rectangular tiles: 1,2,3,4 one white and 3 beige, 1,2,3,4. I felt a pinch and a breeze was that soft voice right? How is this even possible, it’s been months since Jason and I broke up. So now? How? 1,2,3,4 one white and 3 beige.

      “Okay Sara you can get dressed and come back to the seat. The nurse will be back in in a few minutes.”

      I slowly began putting back on my black sweatpants and nirvana T-shirt and sat back down and kept my eyes ahead, 4 scratches 2 holes and green diagonal wallpaper. Okay so I’m going to have a baby, a child, I’m going to be a moth…nope not yet I can’t say it yet. What about school? What do I tell my parents? How do I tell my parents? And Jason? What about Jason? We haven’t spoken in months, last time I saw him he left that mark on my arm. The last thing he said to me, no this isn’t possible.

      I heard the creaking of the door and the blue cotton scrubs with teddy bears hearts and stars was back.

      “It seems that you’re about 20 weeks along. At this point we need to start talking about nutrition and planning for you and the baby.”

      The baby. A baby. My baby. I was going to be a mother. Me a mom. I’m still a kid, I still have dreams and goals and now a mother to this baby? My baby? Is that possible? what would that even look like?

      Another creak and the door closed. 4 scratches, 2 holes and green diagonal striped wallpaper. It was there in that room that the course of my life changed, it was there in that room the first time I thought my dreams had to die.

      Pantene pro v, baby powder and lemons. I took a sharp inhale between each sob, carefully trying to labor my breaths between tears as I was curled up on my moms lap for the past 3 hours, crying together, I was her daughter and now she was going to be a grandmother. Pantene pro-v, baby powder, and lemons, a scent that always brings me comfort of my mom, her presence, and her hugs.

      This wasn’t the plan we made together, the one we so carefully mapped out. You go to college get a degree and a great teaching job. Then you get married and have babies. Not now, not before “teen” isn’t attached to your age anymore. “Why? What about our plan?” She sobbed for the first hour, trying to understand how her good Christian daughter could possibly be pregnant, I mean after all she’s a virgin, right? By hour 2 she was in full prep mode, the path has changed the course has changed, we will just redirect, and hour 3 her and my dad were brainstorming potential partners and fathers for their grandchild. Pantene pro-v, baby powder, lemons. On a worn out recliner, covered in tears, shame and fear is the first time I knew my dreams had to die.

      A mother. I’ve now said it in my head over and over, quietly whispered it out loud as I slowly moved my hand in a circular motion over my belly.

      A baby, my baby. A boy or girl? What color eyes will he have? How big will he be? Will he look like Jason or me? My other hand rubbing my belly in the same circular motion around that faded Nirvana logo. There it was my first flutter. My hands stop, was that the baby, my baby? Oh do it again baby let me know you’re okay. It’s okay. Continuous circles over and over, I close my wet eyes just hoping for another flutter another sign that the baby, my baby is okay. Again the flutter. My baby, this flutter is my baby, and I’m his mother. In that room on my childhood bed was the first time I knew the dreams I had didn’t matter, what mattered was that I could build a life for him, my baby.

      15 weeks later, my beautiful baby Ian Michael entered this world with a scream and my heart was overflowing with love for this tiny 5 pound baby. Nothing else mattered, just him.

      4 scratches, 2 holes and green diagonal wallpaper, the scent of Pantene pro v, baby powder and lemons were replaced with that glorious baby smell. As my baby and I sat in the stillness of the hospital bed I stared down at him telling him of all my hopes and dreams for him. I would do anything to give him what he needed, to give him a life where his dreams mattered, I was going to let him be him exactly as he was, just him. I would show him the world, and each day he would know and feel just how much he was loved. There in that hospital room, I gave life to one of my greatest blessings, my baby.  But along with it I believed in order to care for that blessing, my dreams had to die there.

      It was no longer sensible for me to have these goals and dreams if I was to raise a baby on my own, my baby. I began my journey into retail management still feeling this emptiness in my soul that there was something more for me in my career. I climbed that corporate ladder and landed a job managing one of the biggest stores in the state, an accomplishment I worked my ass off for as a single mom, but still something was missing.

      Ian is now 12 years old and has a 5 year old brother and 3 year old sister. We’ve been through 11 moves, 3 school districts, 2 marriages, and an adoption, all the while I was his biggest cheerleader and he was mine. As I watched him grow, supported his aspirations, and love him endlessly, he was watching me grow too.  For 7 years I was fueled by the belief that moms can’t dream, that being a mother means you let go and give up on that fire burning passion in your soul. After years of pursuing and pushing myself to chase someone else’s dream, I knew it was time I began chasing my own.

      Today as I stand before you as an owner of not 1 but 2 successful businesses that I built from my belief and strong conviction that the nagging insistence in my soul is what I was made for. By pursing my dreams would not only build a better life for my family, but show my baby that you can be ANYTHING you want to be, it just takes heart and hustle.

      Last fall Ian and I sat in our spots on the couch where we had many of our big talks before and I told him how sad I was to be missing most of his field band shows because I had weddings to shoot. After a deep breath and a gentle pat on my shoulder, “mama, it’s okay. I understand you have to work, I’m not upset, I know you love being a photographer and you doing that means you can help pay bills and its cool that it’s all yours. Please don’t be sad that you aren’t there, I know you will be when you can.” It was there on that tattered blue couch sitting with my first baby, that each moment from that green diagonal striped wallpaper room when I first learned that I would be a mama, my dreams weren’t on hold, they had only just begun. Yes the path was different, it was longer and had many more obstacles, but each one led me to a bigger goal, a better dream, and a richer life. Becoming a mother and being his mama is one of the greatest pieces of my story.