My interview with Cathy was punctuated with a crazy amount of laughter and smiling. Hell, I laughed so hard taking the photo you see above that it took me multiple tries to get, due to my shaking the camera.
In fact, if you've read any of her pieces here on this site, you've probably detected a certain mirth in her words -- even in the most bittersweet of them. Clearly, she finds the brightness and the joy even in darker situations, and it made for a fun and interesting chat as we explored her journey as a mother.
Cathy lived a life that many would describe as the start to a darker story. She and her older brother were adopted at a young age, and in her sophomore year in high school, she became pregnant with her daughter. Generally, when one hears a story like this one, they expect to hear a follow-up detailing dropping out, family fights, and other assorted hardships.
In Cathy's case, this is where you learn you shouldn't jump to conclusions.
She finished high school. Not only did she do that, but she also got married (a marriage that is still going strong after 13 years), went on to raise her daughter --and later -- her son, and became a successful associate business consultant. She maintains a wonderful relationship with her entire family, including her parents, who live across the street from her. In fact, when asked to describe herself, both then and now, she does so using the words "well-adjusted" probably more than any other term.
Through all of this, Cathy credits her support system for helping to keep her steady, and for making sure she was "always confident about [who she is]." Their guidance, she says, helped her to make it through what is usually a turbulent, make-or-break time for anyone, much less a pregnant teen. It's also instilled in her a passion for helping others in this same situation, and for educating others about the dangers of making assumptions too early in the game.
"People are quick to judge," she says in a rare somber moment, "and it stops these girls from realizing that they don't have to 'amount to nothing.' Having a child doesn't mean that you can't do what you want to do with your life."
She's also laser-focused on getting this across to her two teen-aged children. In fact, Cathy tells me that she worked harder when the children were much younger to ensure that she'd be present more when they were older. She tells me that "this is the time when they're really coming in to who they are, and this is when the drama at school can potentially take a hold of their life and how they feel about themselves." In that moment, it's clear that she's made the brilliant choice to pay forward the guidance given by her own steady support system; rock, she's realized, begets more rock.
Cathy serves as a memory to us all that we do not have to consider motherhood an end to who we are; in fact, we still can dedicate ourselves to becoming a full person, just with a few add-ons. And that full person can then become the steadiest of foundations for our children. That, in itself, is a gift we can give them far beyond anything else we can offer.
I smile just thinking about it.