I'm always hearing that children are supposed to give their parents a purpose to live. When I was little, I always would ask my Mom and Dad how they met. She told me she met him at a party, they dated for a year and then she got pregnant.
Mom had only been out of high school for 8 months and had started a new job. It was then she had learned that her "little surprise" was coming.
Her first reaction was, "Wow, we hadn't planned for this," then excitement as she had always loved kids; and then fear as every expectant parent worries that something will go wrong.
She married my Dad, not because she had to - but because she wanted to. She went on to have two more "little surprises" in the years to follow, and loved every moment of it.
As I got older, I always told myself that I would "plan" to have children. That didn't happen, either. That's how Emma came to be conceived.
My mom always told me if everybody waited until they could afford children then most of us wouldn't be here. You play things by ear as it's all a learning process.
At the time, I was living with my now fiance, Jeremy, in an apartment in Cresson and I wasn't really doing much with my life.
I worked at Fox's Pizza, made minimum wage and could barely afford to pay my utility bills. Sometimes Jeremy and I had to decide whether to buy food or to put money towards our heat - it's rather chilly in Cresson.
Then in January, I decided to move back home. I was a college graduate with a bachelor's degree and working at a pizza shop. I was miserable. At the rate I was going, I also couldn't afford to live in my apartment.
No more rent, no more utility bills and free food. Freedom was in sight, or so I thought. During the next month and half, I had become strangely ill. I began throwing up what seemed like every morning, afternoon and night.
At first it seemed like the flu, and then my sister suggested the unimaginable: "You could be pregnant." I remember laughing nervously at the thought.
One weekend, when I was visiting Jeremy, I decided to tell him that I might be pregnant. Of course he laughed as well. Yet, when I took the test, it came back positive. I remember showing Jeremy the test while he was showering. His reaction: "You're pregnant, sweetie?!" Jeremy was excited and I was bawling.
It took a total of three positive pregnancy tests and a blood test from the hospital for me to finally realize that I was, in fact, expecting.
My planning came to a halt and my life got thrown into perspective rather quickly. I now had that "little something" to look forward to just as my mom had 23 years ago.
Sure, I was nervous, but I had the best person in the world to ask for advice - my mom.
She said, "Sure, you will make mistakes along the way, Tara, but that's OK, we've all been there. Once your 'little surprise' arrives, your whole world changes. It's no longer about you as that little one depends on you for safety, food warmth and love."
When I'm lying in bed at night, desperately trying to get sleep, just as any new parent is, and I hear that little cry - sure, I want to go back to sleep. But I just remember what my mom told me long ago.
I really wasn't an accident, I was a "happy surprise," just as Emma was a blessing in disguise for me. I got my life in order because of her. I got a job at The Sentinel, got engaged and am looking forward to a wonderful future with my family.
She gave me a reason to live and I am grateful for that. I thank God every day I have her and I cherish every moment with her.
My mom now has a granddaughter and she is reliving that joy all over again. She wants to watch her grow and see all of her first everythings, whether it's her very first word, playing in the mud or making cookies with the family.
She just wants to enjoy my daughter every day because before she knows it, Emma will be all grown up and experiencing her own "little surprise."
Tara Maguire is a Sentinel reporter. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.