My Biggest Mistake

By: Leddy Harper

When you’re young, you always think about how life will be when you grow up. What you’ll do for a living, what your Price Charming will be like, the kind of house you’ll live in. I know that when I was young, I had everything planned out.

I’d sit in the backseat of my mom’s car and look at the scenery as we passed. I’d watch the people walk by and imagine doing that myself, walking the streets of the city with my husband and children. I’d spot a minivan next to us at a stoplight and picture myself driving one, taking my kids to school or to soccer practice. I’d see a man in a suit and tie and think that one day, my husband would look just like that.

And it pretty much happened just as I’d pictured it. I had married my high school sweetheart six months after graduation. I worked part time and helped him with his schoolwork at nights when I was home. I loved to do his laundry, cook his meals, and see him off in the mornings as he left for his college classes. His friends used to joke that I was the perfect wife. And I was. I had loved every moment of it.

Weeks before the end of his final year of college, we welcomed our first child, a beautiful and healthy baby girl. She was the sweetest thing in the world and I doted on her hand and foot. Nothing was ever good enough for my princess except my love. My life was perfect—Donovan was about to graduate and had planned to work with his father, we’d recently purchased a beautiful brick home five miles away from his parents, and we had a perfect baby. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

But I didn’t have to ask for more to get it.

When Livvy was six months old—two months shy of our fourth wedding anniversary—I found out I was pregnant again. I had been a little nervous, but Donnie was elated. He wanted a houseful of kids, as did I, only I hadn’t anticipated having them so close. But the more I thought about it, the more I grew to like the idea. They would be best friends. I just knew it.

“Looks like we have two heartbeats,” the ultrasound tech had said with a smile.

Two heartbeats. As in more than one. Not more than one heart inside one body, no…two separate babies. Inside of me. At once. Twins. Could I do it? Of course I could. That only meant I wouldn’t have to be pregnant as many times to fulfill our dreams of having a soccer team in our family.

It was a good thing.

Donnie bought me a van—the exact one I’d been looking at since finding out I was pregnant with Livvy. He’d been doing exceptionally well at work, which meant I didn’t need that part-time job anymore. That was good, because I faced a full-time job at home with Livvy and two babies on the way.

But I was happy. Stressed…but happy.

“I see two hot dogs in there,” the ultrasound tech had exclaimed as we stared at the monitor in front of us.

Hot dogs—the creative terminology the ultrasound technicians at the doctor’s office coined for boys. Two boys. I’d been so in love with my baby girl that the idea of having boys scared me. But Donnie was excited, and eventually, it began to rub off on me.

There I was, twenty-two years old, mother of one baby, and pregnant with two more. I had the house of my dreams, my real life Prince Charming, and even the minivan. I walked the streets of town with my family and kissed my husband goodbye after fixing his tie and tucking it into his suit coat.

I had it all.

But it didn’t take long before I found myself in the passenger seat of the car, staring out the window as my husband drove, watching the scenery pass by. I’d watch as the people that appeared to be my age would laugh and have a good time without the presence of young children pulling on their arms or interrupting their conversations. I wanted to be them. I’d see the small apartments with enough room for one and maybe a cat and I’d wonder what it would be like to live there without the worry of stepping on something sharp on my way to the bathroom at nighttime. I’d notice the young couple that looked as if they were on their first date, and I’d try hard to remember what those butterflies felt like, and I’d fail miserably.

Yes, I had it all.

But I decided to walk away.

The one thing I didn’t think of as I packed my bags that morning was what would happen when I looked back and realized the mistake I had made. What would happen to the life I had when I had decided to come back?

Would I be able to come back?

I’d left on a Friday—September twenty-first to be exact. I’d never forget it. The sun had been blazing down, causing the muggy air to stick to my skin and sweat beads to form on my forehead. A frightening contrast to the storm that brewed in my mind.

On a cool, Saturday morning, seven hundred seventy-eight days later, I came back to a very different temperature and with a different temperament. Long gone were the storms that seemed to suffocate me—if only I could protect myself against the other one developing in the distance.

I sat in my car for close to forty-five minutes, doing nothing but watching the house and waiting for some kind of movement. I took in the scenery as I waited, noticing how it all still looked eerily the same as when I’d left. The same drapes hung in the windows, the same pink and purple flowers adorned the boxes beneath the sills, and the same broken mailbox sat cockeyed to the left of the driveway. Nothing had changed in the two years I was gone. I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.