Does a Ring Make It Real?

“I’m pregnant.” I said in a nervous, crackling whisper.

“Crap! Really…? Dang.” he said. “How in the world”?

Then he left.

I was scared out of my mind. I had been raised by a single mom, and I have never met my father. Crying on the bathroom floor, I thought I knew exactly what lay ahead of me in life. What lies ahead for this baby is all too real to me. The heartache and confusion are old enemies of mine.

Dale and I met through mutual friends. We had known each other for less than a year and we had dated off and on for only a few months.

He and I both wanted different things out of life and out of our relationship, and I knew it.

My girlfriends are saying, “We’re here for you,” and “You won’t have to do this alone,” but I know they have careers to pursue, boys to chase, and lives of their own. This is my burden to bear. Not theirs. Other people offered unsettling advice, things like, “You don’t have to keep it,” “You have options,” “Don’t forget your options,” and the worst, “You could miscarry–you never know.” People actually said these things to me. Hearing them is where I found my strength.

Voices of these mere passersby spun in a sickening motion in my head for days. Finally, I had to ponder where my own voice was among the mess. I said, “Listen to your own voice, Mina. Listen to that thump of a heart in your chest. Listen to that thump of a heart in your belly.” And suddenly, I knew. I couldn’t let anything happen to this baby. It was mine. I wouldn’t be able to provide lavish, material possessions. We would live in a small apartment and eat ramen noodles.

I couldn’t provide much, but I would give him/her all the love in the world. I could do that. Alone.

I shared my decision with Dale, to keep the baby and to simply love it and provide for it the best that I could. I anxiously awaited his response and when it came, I fell to the floor. “Whatever you need, I am going to be here,” he returned.

That statement was not just a slur of words muttered to appease me. It was a promise to me and one that has been completely upheld.

Unmarried couple

We agreed right away to not get married. We felt the pressure of parenthood, and we knew the uncertainty of a new relationship. The financial strain of having a baby would only add to the stress. We didn’t want to add pressures that would contribute to the stress we were already under.

We chose not to get married because we felt it was the most responsible, rational way to approach the situation.

Truthfully, we had a rough start. Shortly after discovering the pregnancy, Dale accepted a job offer and moved to Iowa City while I was still living in Des Moines. When I moved to Iowa City several months later, we had to adjust to living together for the first time in a city where we didn’t know anyone. I was frantically preparing myself to be a mother and Dale was getting into the swing of a new job. In the midst of all the changes, our daughter decided to push her due date ahead three weeks. She arrived just in time for football season, the busiest time for Dale at work.

Unmarried newborn

Suddenly, we were new parents in a fairly new relationship living in a new city with new jobs and no nearby support system. We were exhausted and stressed to the max. We found ways to lean on each other in such a difficult time, mostly because each other was all we had. Eventually, football season ended. Our daughter, Eisley, started sleeping through the night. The storm calmed and we survived it! In fact, we came out of it stronger than ever.

People have inquired if I wish we would have gotten married before getting pregnant. Honestly, we never would have stayed a couple if it weren’t for Eisley. Not to say we stay together solely because of her, because that’s not it at all. I never would have seen how incredible Dale is without seeing him care for his family the way he does, and vice versa. We had always had fun with each other, but we never would have guessed we could stand together when things got too serious or too hard. Another one of life’s sweet surprises!

I have seen the way people turn their noses up at single parents most of my life.

I understand the way it must seem to others when I tote around a baby and no ring. Honestly, I know people scoff to themselves, “How irresponsible.” I cringe when receptionists ask if it is still okay to have Dale listed as a contact. I get that saying “my boyfriend” sounds more temporary than saying “my husband.” Husband and wives stick together; boyfriends and girlfriends don’t. At least, not until they become husband and wife, right?

In our lives we have each other. We have our little ray of sunshine, Eisley. Together we are an incredibly happy family! All three of us play an important role on the team.

We spend our days laughing, dancing, building each other up, and making memories! We live in a sweet, little house. As it turns out, we rarely eat ramen. We are thankful for the careless moment that landed us here. Some days we laugh until we cry, and other times we throw in the towel and cry until we laugh.  We have seen each other at our best and our worst. There have been good times and bad. We have promised to one another that we would always be here, and we look forward to tomorrow, trusting that promise. The love between us grows each and every single day alongside our daughter.  Dale and I can give Eisley all of the love in the world. Together.

I am an unmarried parent, but I have never had to do it alone. I cannot provide a ring or a document to prove our family isn’t temporary, but do I really need one?

Unmarried family

*Special thanks to our Guest Blogger, Mina Tannehill, for sharing her perspective with us!



  1. You have a child together. That will bind you two together for life, regardless if you’re married or not or stay together or break up. So many people who marry also end up getting divorced eventually and for some reason that seems to be more acceptable than not getting married, at least here in the US. I guess I don’t get the whole pressure to get married but I’m also not from here and there is no pressure to get married where I’m from. Your love for your baby is so much more important than a ring and a piece of paper. And uf you some day change your mind and decide that you want to get married, because it’s something rhan feels right to you, you can always do so later.


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