Moving Past What Once Defined You - Amber Hurdle | Brand Strategy & Leadership

Moving Past What Once Defined You

July 24, 2013

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Seventeen years ago today I was in labor for 17 1/2 hours, followed by an emergency c-section. My daughter was born Smurf-blue as the pediatrician on-call, who is her physician to this day, breathed life back into her limp body as I lie comatose in the surgical room. During labor she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck twice and I had choked her with every push. The waiting room was overflowing with teenage and adult friends alike, along with people I didn’t even know from churches I didn’t attend praying that our day would not end in tragedy. Getting to touch her hand through an incubator for less than three minutes, I told my new baby goodbye knowing the Angel Mobile was going to take her to a NICU that could help her recover from the trauma.

At 16-years-old that was not your typical wrap up to summer vacation. In fact, just weeks before I discovered I was pregnant  I was featured on the local Nashville news every night for a week at 6 and 10 as one of a handful “great kids” in the greater Nashville area. I was an officer in almost every club I could be in at school and was a leader in my youth group. This kind of stuff didn’t happen to girls like me.

I have story after story after story of tough times, hard decisions and moments where I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it all happen for us. Teenage motherhood and single motherhood defined me. I mean, it is an unavoidable, obvious reality when you look at me and then look at my daughter. Either I’m her aunt or her sister or I got knocked up as a teenager. I prefer to reference the last option when people say, “you don’t look old enough to have a senior in high school.” Well, no kidding. No one’s Botox is this good. Yes, I’m a highly accomplished professional with a totally functional, incredibly loving family, a beautiful home, a new car and an amazing life…and I was also a teen mom. I got knocked up. And while I had many people who were there for me emotionally and spiritually, financially I was on my own. I’m not being snarky here, I truly enjoy messing with people these days now that we’re out of the woods. It’s all in good fun.

Anyway, the next reaction, when it all clicks for people that I “overcame the odds” and worked my ass off to provide my daughter with every opportunity she could have had if she was born to an adult, is to start praising me for all that it took. Which is nice. And years ago that would have been fuel to keep me going. But it wasn’t just me. OODLES of people were there for me in so many ways; however,  TODAY I want to give credit to my birthday girl, whose commitment to our success is too often overlooked.

If my daughter hadn’t been on board to work harder than everyone else, expect more than everyone else and dream bigger than everyone else WITH ME this could have turned out vastly different! I have always said that Brittany and I are a team. Make no mistake, I’m her mom first, not her friend first (just ask her…I’m sure you’ll hear about the fact she is the only senior in the entire universe with a curfew), but we had to stay aligned and show each other grace. If you think you can screw up as a parent in your thirties or forties, I could have taught you a few things about royal blunders at age 19. Brittany had to endure my immature mistakes, my ignorance to things in which I simply couldn’t know any better, and she had to be honest with her thoughts and feelings so I could make the best decisions for US, as I had no other partner.

Further, Brittany watched me seek out mentors, go back to college and prioritize education (even attending class with me during her spring and fall breaks because I couldn’t afford child care). She watched me work as many hours as it took to get us not only caught up, but ahead. She watched me tackle a debt snowball for years, saw me save mere coins to buy gifts and afford gas for meager vacations. And while that all sounds like I’m patting myself on the back, I’m not.  That is what I SHOULD HAVE done. No accolades needed! I’m not looking for a cookie. Don’t look at irresponsible teen moms and then hold me up because they aren’t accepting the basic requirements of parenting!

On the other hand, Brittany, a mere child, does deserve recognition. She didn’t choose to enter the world under the circumstances created for her. However, she did choose to learn from those experiences instead of acting like we just magically made it one day. (Don’t get me wrong, there are days she thinks that same money tree is real that other teens think exists.) She has leveraged the knowledge gained and the hard lessons I had to learn to become the amazing young lady she is today. She works diligently at school and at her job. She budgets well (albeit all for clothes and fun, but whatever). She is respectful of adults and understands that your reputation and your network are among your most important assets. She is keenly aware of the cost of college and what she must do to be successful in transitioning. Education has always been among her top priorities. She saw what completing my PR degree did for my career and my confidence and she understands that while the paper might not mean a whole lot, the experience is critical.

So I sit here in my happy home, with my son, my dog and a bunch of Brittany’s childhood friends playing Band Hero in the bonus room, now married to a wonderfully supportive man who adopted my daughter as his own and embraced my career and independance. I have realized that having a child at 16 was an event in my life. The journey I’ve been on includes many ramifications from that event. But today, that doesn’t define me. It doesn’t define Brittany. I am Amber, an executive and leadership coach, a trainer, a writer, a mom, a wife, a daughter, sister, friend and more. She is Brittany, a fahionista, a super student, editor of the newspaper, an amazing writer, a leader and a butt-kicker. No age requirements needed for those labels! Nothing about my age at her birth is involved with those defining words.

Now I realize you can’t look at us and not suspect I’m a young mom. And I won’t lie–there are times that I think, “Oh my gosh, we totally made it.” Nor will I ever be offended if someone tells me good job or recognizes that it was very difficult. Those realities won’t go away. But the many agonizing memories I once had and the pain that felt still so raw have been totally eclipsed by the life she and I have made for ourselves, along with our loved ones; most notably my husband, who has mended much in her life and mine.

Yet all that I associate with “teen mom” feels like a lifetime ago. What is and what is to come all falls under our new paradigm. We have truly moved past what once defined us, and I encourage my readers who have that “thing” that defines you to do the same.

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