The city makes me ashamed of my kids. Probably not intentionally, and probably not anyone in particular, but they do it every time. And it’s the kind of shame I’m ashamed to feel. With each pregnancy, I’ve been thrilled, ecstatic, and proud to be called into parenting. I hold my protruding belly with pride. I waddle with satisfaction. I own my 40+ lbs of gut and rear. Knowing my calling is great and my time is being well spent. Since Graham was born, I haven’t woken up a day and thought “what am I doing with my life?!” But today, as I shuffled my 8 month pregnant self out the door of the loft, and maneuvered the stroller with my 16 month old toddler onto the elevator and out to the street, everything felt different. I get the “oh, poor thing” glances from every encounter on the sidewalk. Single women walk past me in their designer jeans and leather bags. I’m suddenly very aware of my ill-fitting maternity pants and my second hand purse, filled to the brim with diapers, toys and Kleenexes. My hair isn’t washed and my makeup is probably smudged. My preparation for going out was washing the smear of snot off my shirt. Then there is the difficult task of getting the stroller into the restaurant, and with men’s new found lack of chivalry, no one offers to hold the door. This resulted in me propping the door open with my ever growing rear end, whilst trying to manipulate the stroller past by belly into the door opening. Every patron who was once enjoying their lunch, stopped to stare at me. Still, mind you, no one offers to help. I feel like our very presence is a nuisance. Everyone panics that I may sit next to them. Graham might scream or spill his drink or throw his plate of food on the ground. He may choke or throw up, and more likely both. He may uncontrollably whine until he forces me to leave. The fears start welling up inside me, and I questioned my decision of leaving the confines of our one bedroom sanctuary. After ordering, I chose a safe seat outside on the sidewalk patio. Easy exit and easy clean up. Graham was completely enamored by the cars, trucks, and buses whirring by on the street. He points and gawks, but hardly made a sound. Eyes wide and ears listening to every horn “beep beep” ing. A woman walks past and comments on how quiet he is. I’m not sure if she is complimenting us, or if this is a slam about how I’m obviously not interacting with him enough, or that he isn’t talking enough for his age, or that he seems to have autism. I’m terrified of seeing someone I know from high school or college. I’m sure they would think “what a flop… a kid at her age and another on the way. What is she doing with her life? Just popping out babies?” You see, our generation was told that being married before you are 30 is absurd, having babies before you’re 35 is insane, and doing both before 25 is just plain dumb. I’m feeling smaller and less meaningful with every bite. But Graham was perfect. My pants didn’t reveal my crack at any time. And my healthy growing girl was kicking happily inside me. And I remembered being the girl with the designer jeans and the perfect strappy sandals. I wore those things to try and attract the perfect husband. And I remember looking at the mom with the stroller and the diaper bag and yearning to be her someday, hoping it would be sooner rather than later. And now I found my perfect husband, and he didn’t choose me because of anything I wore. He is my best friend. And I have my healthy and wild toddler who runs to me when he falls down and points to everything he’s seeing to make sure I see it too. And I’m being the most feminine I can be by carrying this child within my womb. And I’m reminded of the overabundance of blessing in my life. And that my shame should never be present, because I should be radiating with joy and love. So, the city makes me ashamed. But it also made me grateful. My life is not what I thought it would be. It’s better. And I may not have a proper education, but I am seeing the world through a one year olds eyes everyday. I’ve forgotten how beautiful and inviting that world is. And I may never get hit on by a random guy again, but I have the most handsome man come home to me every night, and he kisses me with all he is. I own this life. It is a gift from God and I wouldn’t change one stretch mark if I could.