Community Advocacy and Support by and for Young Mothers

Ordinary Angels by Tovi McCoy

Ordinary Angels by Tovi McCoy Four years back.

Sitting locked inside a bathroom stall trying to control the tears. In this high school I knew well. I had gone there almost two full semesters, a long time for someone whowent to nine different high schools before actually graduating. I decided I would not come out of the stall until my eyes were no longer red. Don't cry, I told myself. Stop crying. I am not weak, I will not cry, anymore.

First week of my supposed-to-be junior year I finally admitted to myself that I was pregnant. By Halloween I could not hide it, physically, anymore. November, got called down to the principals office of my high school to be told that I was no longer welcome. "For the safety of all pregnant teenagers we recommend that they go to an alternative school just a few miles away", my counselor explained. I didn't want to go. This was an arts-magnet school. I didn't want to go to some virtually non-funded 'pregnancy academy'. I needed orchestra. I needed my violin, my last remaining breath of youth. Then I understood that what my counselor really meant to say went something along the lines of, "please realize that with every pregnant girl our funding decreases and our school looks bad, statistics, ya know? Look around, child! There are no pregnant girls in this school, couldn't you see that before?? They are all sent away to a school that will teach you things like sewing and cooking You no longer need an education, remember? You have ruined your life."

I walked out of that office feeling lower than ever before in my life. Though tears swelled in my eyes I managed to find the nearest bathroom before anyone could see me, red faced and broken. Now sitting inside a bathroom stall trying to control the tears. When I thought the tears had finally subsided I stumbled out to the closest sink and was horrified to find a girl standing only feet away. I hadn't heard anyone enter the bathroom and I was embarrassed that she had perhaps heard me crying. As she stood there looking in the mirror, I noticed she didn't look familiar. Odd, for a school of less than 500 students. She turned to me and smiled. Looking down at my barely showing pregnant stomach, she told me that I shouldn't cry and that I would soon have an angel of my own. She said that she had a child and although being a young mother was challenging, it was a blessing as well. As she left, I thought she looked too young to have a child. I didn't believe her that I could possibly ever be happy about what I was going through. Then I looked up into the mirror and really saw myself for the first time. That young girl, so ordinary, was like an angel.

Four years later. Today. Standing in a long line, last minute Christmas shopping. My son is lying on the floor below me pulling at my legs. He is frustrated. He hates waiting for anything. I give my son a map of the United States of America to keep him entertained while we wait. A woman is standing behind me, she looks to be in her late twenties. She eyes my son and then asks me his age. "Three and a half", I reply. "Where's Minnesota?", my son shouts. "Near Wisconsin," I tell him. I ask him where New Mexico is, where Texas is, Arizona, Hawaii. "Remember, beautiful, it is in the ocean, I say. He finds them all. The woman behind me is amazed, though she decides not to talk to me but instead addresses my son. "You are so lucky to have such a wonderful mother to teach you so many things", she says and smiles. He looks up, curious. And I realized I had met another ordinary angel.

In the midst of the stares, the stereotypes, the statistics, we find rare instances of love and compassion. This one act, in itself, washed away the pain of the hurtful words from countless strangers. Everyday we encounter those who look to hurt, yet there are those who aim to comfort. Whether or not we search for kindness, it eventually finds us. We find each other.

At my work, in a retail store I make an effort to complement every young mother and their child that comes through. I never question whether the child is theirs, I just know the beauty of a child in the presence of it's mother. I tell them how beautiful they both are. I do this because I want to be just like an ordinary angel.