Papa Don’t Preach
Don’t laugh, but one of my favorite Madonna songs is Papa Don’t Preach (my absolute favorite is Borderline). I was driving to work this morning and Papa Don’t Preach comes on the radio (yes, I still listen to radio). All of a sudden, my mind goes back to the summer before my freshman year in high school, when I first heard the song and saw the video – you know, the one where Madonna has a pixie cut, her boyfriend is an adorably cute mechanic, and her dad is played by Danny Aiello. I remember watching the video and thinking that I would never have to face the predicament of telling my dad that I was pregnant. First of all, I was pretty much convinced I would never have a boyfriend, and at the time I would try to do everything in my power to please my parents and live up to the standards of being a “good” Catholic girl.
Fast forward about 11 years to August of 1997, and this terrified Catholic girl was sitting in a friend’s bedroom making a call to Planned Parenthood. I made the appointment. It seemed way too easy. The operator on the other end of the line seemed rather nonchalant about the whole thing. I won’t tell you about the conversations that occurred before this phone call took place, but my mind was convinced I couldn’t keep this baby. My heart, though, told a different story.
My friend bought me the pregnancy test a few days before the call. She was there with me when I found out the news. She consoled me as I sobbed uncontrollably on my bed in the fetal position. “Why?” (well, I knew why), and “what am I going to do?” questions chaotically wove through my mind for days. Another thought that I wouldn’t admit to the few friends I shared the news with also entered my heart and mind – what if this is God’s divine intervention? This thought seemed to be wrapped in a blanket of peace.
I had been living a self-destructive existence for years and this relationship (3 month fling) I had gotten myself into was just another link in the chain. I had been running away from God for a long time. My life was all about partying and living it up.
The Devastating News
My dad had been having health problems for awhile before I got the news of my pregnancy. Dad had been walking on crutches because he was having severe back and hip pain. He was misdiagnosed for months and then four days after my positive pregnancy test, mom called with the news that dad had cancer. To say I was devastated is an understatement. Surely this was a nightmare.
Dad and I had taken a trip to Michigan a month before the nightmare. I worked as an American Airlines reservation agent, and was able to get us cheap tickets to go see family and friends up there (mom and Dad met in Michigan). Even though Dad had mobility problems due to his crutches, it was a wonderful vacation. We had some great conversations and the few days we spent on the 100 year old farm, where dad worked as a migrant worker as a kid, were rest for my weary soul (despite my fear of ghosts..I’m still convinced they roamed the halls of that house).
I was already suspecting that there was a chance I was pregnant (um, that of course didn’t come up in our conversations), but decided I was going to enjoy this time with dad. I threw up on the flight back from Dallas to San Antonio (dad was on a different flight back to McAllen), and in that moment I knew I was pregnant.
I didn’t keep the appointment. As soon as I hung up the phone that day on my friend’s bed, I knew in my heart that I wouldn’t follow through with it. I would like to say it was for godly reasons, that I had accepted that it was God’s divine intervention. Although I think that was part of it, I think it was mostly fear – fear of what my life would become if I ended my baby’s life and resumed life on the rocky path.
Mama I’m Coming Home
My life in San Antonio was pretty much falling apart in every possible way. So, a few weeks into my pregnancy I moved back home. At this point my pregnant state was still unbeknownst to my parents, and I didn’t plan to let them know for awhile. In a lot of ways I was still in denial, and I feared telling my parents the news because they were dealing with so much already – dad had a hip replacement, had completed radiation treatments, and was now starting chemotherapy. How could I hurt them like this?
Dad got me a job at the administration office at the school district as a clerk for the language arts department. I knew my first day that in a few weeks my new coworkers would be finding out the truth about me. I wondered what kind of treatment I would receive. Dad was still trying to work part-time. He was a Phys Ed teacher and track/cross country coach, but it was hard. As you can imagine, chemotherapy was brutal. Mom was a wonderful caregiver to my dad, but I knew it was taking a toll on her. She had taken a leave of absence from her job at the middle school and was caring for him full-time.
Papa Didn’t Preach
I was pretty sick those first few months of the pregnancy. I don’t know how I managed to keep it from my parents…I was living in the same house with them. I was sick every day. I also wasn’t seeing a doctor or getting pre-natal care. Foolish, I know. The denial was thick. I was going home for lunch nearly every day to eat with them. My heart yearned to tell them the truth. How could I hide this for so long? But how could I not hide it with everything they were already having to battle?
One day though, after eating lunch, I got so sick and ended up throwing up in the kitchen sink. Somehow they missed my little excursion to the sink and I managed to clean up the mess rather quickly, but I knew it was confession time. I walked into the living room, where dad was already sitting in the rocking chair about to watch one of his shows. Mom went to go do something in her bedroom. My mind was screaming “Don’t tell!” but my heart was crying out “Don’t hide anymore!” So, I mumbled, “Mom, Dad I have to tell you something.” Somehow my mom managed to hear me from her room and walked back into the living room. She sat down and I cried out, with crocodile tears streaming down my face, “I’m pregnant!” They stared at me for a moment, then Dad immediately got up from his chair, walked over to me and sobbing, held me for the longest time. Mom joined him. They told me they loved me, that would be there for me, and that this baby would be a blessing. Of course there were some hard discussions after my confession, but they loved me through them. They didn’t disown me. How could I have possibly thought they’d disown me? Read some of my other posts, and you’ll see why…I had caused them such heartache, so much pain.
Briana Nicole was born April 6, 1998. She is the youngest of four grandchildren. In just a few short weeks, she will be starting her senior year in high school. She has been the most tremendous gift God could ever have given me in addition to Jesus and my family. I’m convinced that she has taught me more than I could ever have taught her.
Dad was endearingly called “Papa” by the grandkids. Dad died June 7, 1999, just a few months after Briana’s first birthday. I’m grateful dad was able to see and spend a little time with my only child while he was still on this earth. Dad was loved by so many and impacted many lives.
I won’t know until Heaven what in the world God was doing. I don’t think I’ll care by then – I hope I’ll be running to Jesus, embracing my loved ones, and dancing. All I know is that God captured me with his abundant mercy and grace, and turned my trial into a gracious intervention.
Our trials are God’s platform to capture us with his grace…trials come as gracious interventions.