When I woke up Wednesday morning, I could barely see. My right eye was completely puffed up and red; I had to go to the emergency room.

    The doctor diagnosed me with a sty on my eye and stuck a needle in the puffy area to drain the fluid, and then instructed me to keep the infected region covered.

    My body had been feeling weak. Since I was already at the hospital, I decided to visit the women's clinic on the fourth floor. I felt dizzy. My stomach was turning flips. I felt more tired than usual. Even though I hated chocolate, I was craving a Snickers bar.

    I needed to make sure everything was OK. Three weeks earlier, I had ended a tumultuous relationship with my boyfriend. He had become disrespectful and emotionally abusive. He said things like, "Shut the hell up, you stupid b*@#%!" and constantly took his anger out on me. I did not want anything to do with him.

"I'm sorry, honey, but I can't lie to you. The pregnancy test is positive."

    The nurse at the clinic was very polite. She smiled and asked, "How may I help you?" I told her my body did not feel normal; I felt weak and wanted a doctor to examine me. She said that would be no problem.

    The nurse gave me a plastic cup and directed me to the restroom for a mandatory urine sample before the doctor could see me. After I returned she told me to have a seat in the waiting room until my name was called. Five minutes later, the nurse called loudly, "Beverly Thymes."

    I entered the room. The nurse had a straight, serious face. I had butterflies in my stomach and felt even queasier; I had no idea what she was about to say. She took a deep breath, paused and said, "You're pregnant."

    My head started spinning, and I thought I was going to faint after hearing her speak those two simple words.

"What the hell?" I screamed. "You're lying!" I glared at the nurse with my mouth wide open in disbelief.

The nurse held the pregnancy test up for me to see. "I'm sorry, honey, but I can't lie to you," she said. "The pregnancy test is positive."

    Negative thoughts raced through my mind. I hated my ex-boyfriend. I was too young. My mom and the rest of my family were going to be very disappointed in me. "I even took the Plan B birth control pill to make sure this wouldn't happen!"

    This couldn't be happening. I was angry and breathing heavily. I wanted someone to blame, but I knew it was my fault. The nurse interrupted my thoughts with her soft voice. Only two minutes had gone by, but it felt like 30. I had forgotten I was even in a hospital. She must have noticed I had checked out mentally.

"I'm sorry," she said, "but if you decide not to keep the baby, an abortion would cost $20 because your insurance covers it."

    That was the first thing I heard that made me smile. The only thought on my mind was that I did not want a baby right now!

I laughed and asked, "Where do I pay?"

    The nurse answered with a straight, serious face, "You will have to call an abortion clinic and set an appointment. The clinic will take care of everything."

    For a week, I slept as if I had a fat man snoring in my bed. I tossed and turned all night. I kept thinking of reasons why I did not need to kill the baby. I wasn't a teenager; I was capable of finding a job. There were plenty of single mothers. Most importantly, I'm a Christian. But all of those choices seemed way too hard; I wanted to take the easy road.

    I called my older cousin to get advice, and she told me that "Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it's the right choice for you." I knew then that life was not about the easy road. It was unfair to kill a baby just because I didn't want the responsibility.

I was going to keep the baby. I was due on Christmas Day.

    The relationship with my ex-boyfriend had become easier. He asked me to move in with him and his family, and I agreed. The first three months of my pregnancy were agonizing for me. I vomited every 15 minutes. Saltine crackers, chicken noodle soup or popsicles... it didn't matter. I even vomited water. I lost 17 pounds. My body was very weak, and I was in bed all day. The only place I felt comfortable was on the bathroom floor. I was miserable.

    In my second trimester, the doctor was finally able to give me some small tablets that helped stop the vomiting. "Thank you God!"

I started to feel better.

    I went back to work as a customer service rep for a law firm. I sat from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and answered phones. Though I was working and smiling on the outside, I was weak and miserable emotionally on the inside. I was living with my child's father, but the situation did not make me feel good. He was never home. He had even slightly reverted to his old ways. Through turmoil, arguments and tears, I managed to make it to December, healthy and on a countdown to my due date.

    On December 13, I ate spicy nachos from Taco Bell, and then went to lie down. Soon after, at 11:30 p.m., my water broke. I was given a hospital room immediately, and a receptionist told me to wait for a nurse. I was anxious. The nurse stuck me five times, searching for a vein to put an IV in my hand. "Ouch! Ouch!" I screamed. "That hurts."

    I'd had enough; I requested a different nurse. I became more nervous as the hours ticked by and the contractions got stronger. The nurse asked me if I wanted an epidural, an anesthesia doctors administer in your lower back between the spinal cord and dura with a long needle to significantly reduce the pain of contractions.

    I hesitated. I have a strong fear of needles, but I also have zero tolerance for pain. Since I knew a baby with a huge head would be coming out my body, my pain threshold outweighed my phobia. I called the nurse to give me an epidural.

    My body instantly relaxed; I was floating on cloud nine. A nurse inserting her hand into my vagina to check how much my cervix had stretched awakened me.

"Oh my gosh! You're ready!" she squealed. I was dilated 10 centimeters. Anxiety filled my entire body as the doctor instructed me to push as hard as I could. He encouraged me to push five more times. When I looked down, I saw an actual human being emerging from my body.

Dec. 14, 2008, 9:18 p.m. Rodney Deon Smith came into the world. He weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.

"Is he cute?" I asked immediately.

When I think back, I laugh hysterically. I should have asked, "Is he healthy?"

    The doctor cleaned him and placed the 22.5-inch bundle in my arms. I looked at my baby with amazement. I had no idea I could feel this way about a person I didn't even know. The thought of raising another life terrified me.

    Caring for my newborn son wasn't the easiest. It was difficult adjusting to waking up every two hours to feed him, change his diaper, listen to him cry, teethe, and even get ear infections. I started to get the hang of things after a few months. I was still extremely exhausted, but caring for my baby made me want more out of life.

    I knew working customer service at the law firm was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I wanted to be successful and give my son a secure and happy future since I now needed to not only provide for myself but for my son as well.

I attended three community colleges, taking eight classes in one semester, in order to transfer to a university. I transferred to Cal State Fullerton in Spring 2011 and set a goal to graduate in Fall 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Broadcast Journalism.

    Now I watch my son play outside and roll around in the dirt. I couldn't ask for a better blessing. I cannot believe he is already 3 years old.

    Rodney's father is also a changed person. He is no longer disrespectful or emotionally abusive. He always praises and supports me in everything I do. We have our ups and downs with our personal relationship, but I couldn't ask for a better dad to my son. We both want to raise a happy, smart and successful child.

    Before my pregnancy, I was partying, hanging out, and unsure what I really wanted for my future. My son's birth propelled me to make a complete change. Success is my only option. He gives me strength and courage to take charge of my life and follow my dreams.

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