My son sat burbling happily in his Exersaucer - the same one I'd spent weeks upon weeks carefully selecting as he rolled this way and that inside me. I'd spent months painstakingly researching each baby item I bought with the same feverish intensity I'd once brought to my Overachieving Scholastic Career. While it might sound like a particularly nefarious torture, I'd never been more blissful.

It wasn't always like this.

Only a few short years before, I was a single 20-year-old due to give birth to my first son, while everyone around me fussed and worried and gnashed their teeth, removing any bits of joy I might have felt. I relied on the kindness of strangers, all thrusting baby accessories at me as they clucked at my burgeoning belly, the pity in their eyes evident. I wasn't sorry about my son. How could I be sorry? The “I'm pregnant,” statement followed by “I'm sorry” both confused and saddened me.

After my baby shower, my then-boyfriend and father of the child I was carrying suggested we take back the few things I'd actually picked out for my new son. We should take them back and buy diapers and formula, he insisted, instead of the crap people had lovingly picked out for our son. I simply looked out the window -- I couldn't believe this was my life.

When my son was 2, I met the man I would marry, and a year after our wedding, I found myself once again pregnant. Only this time, everything was different. I was only a couple years older than my first pregnancy, but this time, people smiled at my growing belly, touching it and wishing the baby and I well. Not a soul said, “I'm sorry,” when I announced my pregnancy.

While my ex and my mother fought over me even as I labored with my first child, the first grandson, and the boy who would forever alter the course of my life, as I labored with his brother, his father and I sat calmly in a quiet dark room, waiting for two to become three. When we did, there were no remarks from the doctors, shocked that I loved my baby. No nurses looked at me as though I was quite possibly the world's stupidest person when I begged for help changing the diaper of a freshly circumcised little boy. To them, I was just another new mom.

It couldn't have been more different the second time around. This time around, I was respected as a mother, my abilities (mostly) unquestioned, my role -- “Mom” -- clearly defined. My second son came home to a house I owned, a room I'd painstakingly furnished, and a family that couldn't have been happier to have him. The very same way I felt about his cherished older brother.

There is not a day that goes by that I don't remember how lucky I am – and how far I've come.