Tina Donnaloia

“Congratulations!” said the nurse on the other end of the line. My heart stopped beating for a moment and then I replied, “Maybe you should look at the date of birth on my records.” She apologized and said that I should schedule an appointment for an ultrasound because I was already more than eight weeks along. I complied, finished getting dressed for school, and made a phone call to my boyfriend. I told him I was pregnant and that I really cared about him and wanted him to be a part of this, but that I would not be upset if he chose to go another direction. I did not need time to make my decision: it took me exactly seven seconds to decide what I would do when I heard my results. I was going to take responsibility for the little life that had begun to grow inside me. I knew that I would be surrounded by loving, supportive people and that I would finish school, get us our own place, go to college, get a good job and be a great mother, even if I had to do it solo. It was the middle of December 1993 and I was 17 years old.

The first adult I encountered was my beloved teacher and mentor. He knew something was wrong right away. We sat down and I told him I had just found out I was pregnant. He was very gentle and supportive. We discussed what my plans were and that I had no intention of leaving school early. It happened to be the day that we had to order our graduation gowns so the silly but well-meaning secretary ordered me an extra extra large. I was 5 feet 1 inch tall and weighed 99 pounds. Needless to say, when graduation came around that following June, I was eight months pregnant, 120 pounds and could wrap that gown around myself three times. My one blurry graduation picture, with a finger blocking most of it, was pretty ridiculous. 

I worked at a medical clinic in Northwest Portland and everyone there was very supportive. So supportive, in fact, that when I told them I was pregnant, they offered to adopt the baby. I smiled and thanked them, but that it would not be necessary.  My teacher found a program for me called Continuing Education for Young Parents, that would allow me to attend school two hours a day to get my last needed credits. I said I would only switch programs if I was allowed to graduate from my current school, walk with my peers, and have my diploma represent the place I had been for the majority of my high school years. They agreed. I graduated with a perfect grade-point average and said goodbye to all my friends as they went off to party. I went home, my parents made my favorite dinner, and I was in bed by 10 p.m. After graduation I continued to work until the day I went into labor, saving every penny.

Even with all that comes with being pregnant, let alone a pregnant teen and the stigma that came with it, I did not let it get to me. I was happy and healthy and couldn’t ask for better parents. Even my boyfriend’s parents were extremely kind and supportive. I had a wonderful pregnancy that just happened to take place much earlier than I expected. I kept busy with work and school, stayed active and spent a lot of time with friends and family. Everything seemed to have more meaning. I looked at life differently, as if I was seeing it with a fresh new set of eyes. I knew that how I felt, how I acted, and what I put out into the world would directly impact this little being. I was nothing but positive.

This little man of mine arrived exactly one week after his Dad’s 18th birthday and exactly one week before my 18th birthday on August 14th, 1994.  I had wanted a natural birth but after 30 hours of labor they told me I would be too exhausted to push when the time came and that I should get an epidural. I didn’t argue. Once I had it the pain was gone, I slept for two hours, and they softly woke me up and told me that the baby’s head was right there and that I just needed to push. I signaled his Dad to push play and I gave three good pushes to “Here Comes Sunshine” by the Grateful Dead. My birth plan stated that no family member should be denied entrance to my room: I was surrounded by 12 family members including my parents, my boyfriend’s parents, my aunts, my cousins and my little brothers. I looked down after that third push and my little man was looking right at me, sunny side up. His eyes were wide open and full of light. I knew in an instant we were meant for each other. Zarin Solomon would change the world, for certainly he had already changed mine.

It has been 23 years and I could write an entire book about what happened from that moment until now. Things were not always easy. Countless experiences have shaped us both into who we are today. The two of us grew up together, learning together and from each other. No one tells you that you will learn more from your children than they will learn from you, but it’s true. And the plans that I made? I managed to do all the things I said I would. I got us our own little place, I went to college and got a degree, and I got a great job that I stayed with for 15 years. For more than eight years I have owned my own store, Hoot-n-Annie, a boutique focusing on new and used items for maternity through childhood. I think I may have even accomplished being a great mom. I am honored to have been chosen by the universe to be Zarin’s mother and I would not change the events of my life for anything.