Parenting is not for wimps

al rieger

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We were at Chili’s when Lilly’s fate was laid out. I had the Buffalo wings and a beer. Angie, my girlfriend, had the fish tacos with a Sprite.

It was either a Friday or Saturday — I don’t remember which — but the place was hopping. I have no idea why we chose an over-packed restaurant chain to discuss whether we would have this baby — a quiet diner would have been more fitting, but there we were, discussing our drastically changing futures while pop culture trivia questions interrupted us over the speakers.

One day earlier, we made an appointment at an abortion clinic in Chicago. That was the obvious choice at the time. We had been dating less than three months, not married, both in college, without money, immature and horribly irresponsible.

We went to class and played Frisbee. We went to places like The Forum and drank Keystone Light like it was Gatorade — and we were going to have a kid?

The night we made the appointment, Angela called me and expressed her newfound desire to keep it, when Lilly was just a little multicellular sprout in her mommy’s tummy. Just the thought of having a baby made my stomach churn. I had recently played zombies on my Xbox in my underwear for the entire week of Thanksgiving break (I got to level 40). And I was going to be a dad?

Anyway, we began discussing the alternative. She said she couldn’t get an abortion — not that she felt immoral about it — just that she couldn’t do it. She said we should embrace the challenge, that we would have support from our friends and family, that it was fate, and we should “step up to the plate.”

So, we both decided, there at Chili’s, to push forward with nature’s plan, and nine months later she’s here. Baby Lilly, 9 pounds, 10 ounces, was born on Aug. 22, and she brought with her nothing but joy. In some alternate universe, our counterparts went through with the appointment, still childless and directionless. I’m playing video games in my drawers (wait, I still do that) but in this reality, I am now a proud father.  

Although the statistics don’t account for college students, college-aged women account for 46 percent of the abortions in America (ages 20-29), according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute. Women in their early 20s have the highest rate of any age group.

The non-profit organization Students for Life recently introduced their new Resident Advisor Kits to help RAs handle situations like ours — to effectively help pregnant students seeking guidance.

Although Director of Residence Life Tera Monroe has not received these kits yet, she said RAs are “trained to appropriately handle a myriad of issues students might have.”

“We are currently working with other departments to extend our resources to students seeking help with their pregnancies,” she said. “In those cases, we can also send them to the Women’s Center (located at the Multicultural center) should they want to explore a more anonymous approach.”

Students should also take advantage of the University Counseling Center located in Memorial Hall. They have the personnel and resources to help students deal with the complex emotions and thoughts that inevitably arise when these situations occur.

“We do our best to offer supportive services to anybody who needs help,” Assistant Director Christopher Corbett said. “Any student can come here and we will provide a neutral and open environment. Often in cases of student pregnancies, we would make a referral to the Beu (Health Center) for medical care.”

The answer does not always lie in the controversial issue of abortion. It is within. In our situation, the right choice was to be parents, and it was by far the most impactful, rewarding decision of my life.

That’s not to say it was an easy one. As Lilly enters her fourth week in the world, we have both endured bouts of hot tempers and sleepless nights. But we look at this as an adventure — the never-ending challenge of parenthood. It gives me a sense of purpose and a motivation to succeed. In the game of life, maybe some people like their wings mild, but I like them spicy.

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