One of the reasons I love my blog is because I can say all the things I want. This blog has been more of an online, anonymous diary of sorts. I get to confess most (some) of my thoughts. The really private ones I still hold for only a precious few. Honestly… there is maybe two people on the planet that hear my most internal and personal thoughts. Mainly because thoughts that are that private are also very deep and personal. Sometimes so deep they frighten me. So, I only tell a couple of people who know my heart, and know how to protect me when I need it, and when to encourage me because I need it.
Today I have been thinking about how I got where I am. Because, if you must know – it wasn’t supposed to be this way. I had plans for my life. Don’t mistake me – I am not saying that I regret my choices, or that I don’t like the life I have. I love my life. Sure, there are things I’d change – and I am working on that. It isn’t easy. There are too many ways that my life is interwoven with other things and that makes change very slow and sometimes very challenging.
So… how did I get to this place?
We were both 16. And, of course, riddled with
desire hormones. We used a condom, but… well. You know how they say abstinence is the only thing that is 100%? Well, yeah. They were right. The truth is that I would have rather had cancer than been pregnant. That isn’t a dig at anyone who has/had cancer. It was my perspective. And my opinion that at least with cancer, I had a chance at beating it. With a baby, you always have it. There’s no cure for a child.
I planned on an abortion. But God has a funny way of changing your mind. It just didn’t work out. I could have pushed to do it, but the closer I got to making the choice (do it or don’t), I realized that I just couldn’t do it.
I had my daughter almost 2 months to the day past my 17th birthday. I was terrified. I felt alone. I had my boyfriend there, as well as several friends. But here it was: the rest of my life. As excited as I was to meet my child, I was so afraid of what her future would look like. I was convinced that I would be another statistic: teen mom ruins child’s life.
I brought her home, and spent the first few weeks of her life in a constant state of anxiety. And it wasn’t like I was great with her; I wasn’t. Thank God for her daddy, who could manage to get her to take a pacifier, or eat, or sleep. She would cry and I would panic. Truth be told, I was never cut out to have a baby.
People gave us all sorts of looks. And believe me, I have heard it all:
- Babies having babies.
- How can you provide for that baby when you are still a child?
- What could you possibly know about parenthood?
- When are you going to drop out?
- You must be uneducated.
- You don’t even know what you are going to be when you grow up.
- How are you going to be able to enjoy your life now?
- Just wait until you have to raise the child alone.
- If he’s smart, he’ll leave you so he can have a real life.
- Did you get pregnant so he would marry you?
- How could you be so stupid?
I could go on and on. Some of the things people said were hurtful, some were helpful. More than anything, what hurt the most were the looks people gave me.
Fast forward. She’s 15 now. My boyfriend and I got married, but before you jump to a conclusion, no. I didn’t get pregnant to “snag a man.” I didn’t marry him until she was 5 years old. Now, that whole dynamic is the topic of another post. But suffice it to say that we’ve beaten the odds.
We’ve raised a lovely human being. So, to all of those people who knew for sure we’d fail, fuck you! She is a well-rounded, polite, sweet, smart, funny, compassionate, pretty, fantastic young lady. And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have a child as wonderful as mine.
So, what are my confessions? Here they are in no particular order:
- I almost believed the naysayers. I didn’t think I could do it, either.
- The adults who were in my life, giving me the tools and resources I needed to be successful, probably saved my life and my child’s.
- Yes, I hated knowing that my friends were out enjoying college and I was changing diapers.
- Sometimes, I cried because I felt shame for missing out on my goals.
- It wasn’t anyone’s fault, and I knew that. Not my absent, druggie mother, not my alcoholic father, not their divorce, not my difficult childhood. It was *our* fault.
- I still bristle when people automatically assume that a teenage parent will fail. Just imagine how empowering it could be if you just encouraged them?
- I believe in a woman’s right to choose – even if it isn’t/wasn’t the choice I would make.
- Having a child that young ruined me for more. I’ll never have another baby.
- Yes, I graduated high school.
- No, I haven’t gone to college yet. But you know what? I’m more successful than some of those people who did go to college and have nothing to show for it but a fancy piece of paper.
- I had no idea it would be as hard as it is. But I get the feeling that there is no real preparation for parenthood.
- I’ve made so many mistakes that I lost count. Thank God children are resilient.
- I knew the day I had her that God blessed me with an angel.
- I haven’t EVER regretted having my child. I sometimes regretted my timing.
If every young adult has a destination in life, having a child just changes the path that gets us there. Rather than being straight and mapped out, it’s like climbing into a cavernous valley, trudging through a river, climbing up a mountain and then down again. Only without shoes or a map.
I still got there. Talking with people who had children much later than I did, their challenges are no different.
Keep in mind that for every ONE person who has something constructive and helpful to offer, these teen parents are hearing nine other people who don’t have anything nice to say. To those nine people, shut the hell up. Guess what? We know we are young and we don’t need you to remind us. Try opening your mouth when you have something helpful to offer. (I know… I’m kinda bitter still.)
My goal is to give back. I’d like to work with teen moms/parents and help give them the support they need to be successful. Once my daughter is close to graduation, I’ll consider it. Maybe sooner, if the opportunity presents itself. (Hint, hint to the universe genie.)
Today is January 16th. And today I am thankful for the journey. I’m thankful for my daughter, I’m thankful for my husband, and I am thankful for my family. I wouldn’t trade her, or him, for anything, any person, any experience.
If you are a teen mom and you’re looking for help, visit this website for some support. And keep your eyes looking up. You can make it. Leave me a comment. Tell me your story.