Chad would be the first to admit that he never had the easiest time. He was never the smartest student. Or most punctual. He never completely had his act together. He had no direct path in his life. He was pretty much a take-it-as-it-comes kind of guy. So he had little care in the world.
That is, until his girlfriend got pregnant.
It wasn’t a pretty time. She was insistent on giving the baby up for adoption. They were only in college; how could they afford to take care of a baby? She wanted to travel the world; that was next to impossible with a baby. She had all these hopes and dreams for herself that would have to be put on hold if they had a child now. But Chad didn’t see it that way. For him, something just clicked. He’d take care of the baby. He’d raise it. Feed it. Play with it. Do everything every other parent was supposed to do. Of course, with his track record it was difficult to believe him. So she gave him a deadline – if he didn’t have his act together by the time she was seven months pregnant, she was going to give it up.
Chad would be the first to admit that he struggled. Between school and searching for jobs, he was overwhelmed. There was no way he could find and hold down a job when he had such a heavy workload. Not to mention all the research and money that went into babies. Chad had never studied so hard in his life! He borrowed every parenting book he could find in the library and copied as much as he could. He made lists of things that he would need. He came up with design ideas for the nursery. He had to figure out how to balance his funds, what to do about school, not to mention come up with names. The worst part of it all was, he had to give his girlfriend – or rather at that point, ex-girlfriend – proof that he was doing everything right and getting everything in place. When she was five and a half months pregnant, Chad realized he couldn’t stay in school. He had to drop out and search for whatever full-time job he could find. It wasn’t an easy decision. His parents were pissed. Though he couldn’t say the ex was so thrilled either. ‘How are you going to give her everything she needs without a degree?’ she would question. She even revealed she was already looking at couples to adopt the baby. Chad swore not to count him out; he still had time. He snagged the first thing he could find – working part time at a gym. It wasn’t much, but there was a daycare for employees’ and members’ kids. The ex acknowledged that it was a start, but Chad still needed to do more.
So Chad gave the gym specific hours that he could work. And he looked at every place he could in that area. He wound up having to settle for a cashier position just down the street. He planned out the schedules so he could be at the gym during the day, retail in the evening, same thing for Saturday, and be at the gym all day Friday. As much as he hated the idea, he’d have to leave the baby in the gym’s daycare until they closed. The girl wasn’t happy either. How was Chad going to have any time for the baby if he was working constantly? But with no family to support him, Chad had no other choice.
As soon as he told his parents about the pregnancy and that he was keeping the baby, a huge fight erupted. They insisted that Chad was throwing away everything he worked for. What about paying off those few college classes he took? What place would hire him full time without a degree? How did he expect to raise a child on his own when he knew nothing about the real world? They said the girl either had to abort the fetus or Chad would have to agree with the adoption. When he refused, they disowned him. In Chad’s mind their exact words were, ‘we are not going to have a failure or dropout for a son’.
But it wasn’t going to stop him. He looked into every option and did everything he had to do. Even if it meant going on WIC or food stamps. No, he wasn’t proud of it. But Chad was the kind of guy who, when he believed in something, went for it. With a little assistance he was able to get a tiny studio apartment. No, it wasn’t much. Most of the baby stuff was crammed in there and a lot of Chad’s things had to stay in the storage basement. He’d sleep on the couch and the baby’s crib would be right next to him. He’d have to save up to get something more spacious. The final hurdle after that was medical coverage for his daughter. When he didn’t have that by the seventh month mark, he insisted that his ex give him two more weeks. That was all he needed. They had a fight about that, too. She already had five couples lined up to meet. She told her adoption counselor when to set up meetings with them. She was going to make her decision when she was eight months along. Chad gave in and said, ‘fine, go meet with them’. But only on the condition that as soon as he showed her he had coverage and insurance for the baby, she’d let go of the adoption idea. Two weeks and one day later he gave her the proof.
When it was time to give birth, Chad was there. He stayed through the whole process. He cut the umbilical chord. Signed the birth certificate. Even asked his ex if she had any name ideas – it seemed like the right thing to do, even if it’d only be her middle name. All she said was to, in some way, name the baby after her brother. He was away a lot, but he always called. He was the only one that tried to keep the peace when everyone was fighting. Chad easily agreed.
And when it was time to dismiss mother and daughter from the hospital, she signed over her rights and left. Chad heard she was on the plane to New York by the end of the month. Chad took his daughter back to the tiny studio apartment and it’s been the two of them since. Sure, he managed to maintain a couple of friends; just none he’d really trust around his daughter. And his ex’s brother attempted to keep in touch when he could. But it felt weird for her to have this connection to her mother’s family that the mother didn’t even really want. She’d know that man was Uncle. But that was it. Chad would never try to keep his daughter away from any family. But when he spent so much time and effort dealing with this alone, going through the whole process alone, it was difficult to let anyone in. Even family.
Chad wasn’t going to lie; it was fucking hard. So fucking hard. Late nights. Diapers. Constant crying. Sometimes not even knowing what to do. But when he started finally understanding her cries and getting into the swing of everything, it wasn’t horrible. Chad didn’t question what he was missing out on. Well, except for the occasional companionship. But he couldn’t date; how could he?
Reagan was the most important girl in his life.