Young motherhood gets a bad rap.
It’s hardly celebrated.
I was 20 years old when I found out in a doctor’s office that I was expecting my first child. I thought I had mono. I was so unbelievably sick.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was cold and rainy. I woke up to a phone call from my Dad in my off campus housing. He was checking in on me. Probably not working that day due to the rain. He works in construction so you can pretty much plan for a checking in phone call on those days.
I remember being short with my roommates. Not feeling like myself, but also feeling awful.
I remember walking into the exam room and showing the doctor my glands. You could see how swollen they were on my neck.
And then she said those words that most 20-year-olds aren’t expecting, “Ok, first, I am going to have you take a pregnancy test.”
No way. I explained how I took my birth control at the same time everyday. I explained how I never missed a day because I had an alarm on my phone and I kept it with me at all times. I explained that I wasn’t on medications or any of the things you hear about that can cause it to be ineffective.
And she sat there. Waiting for my rambling to stop.
And I took the test.
And she came back to tell me the news that would forever change my life.
The thing about young motherhood is that it’s this hard moment of knowing how many women are out there wishing for a baby. Spending thousands of dollars and going through treatments in hopes that they “might” end up with their little miracle. You feel the guilt. Why me and not her? Her, who was ready, her who prayed and prayed.
The thing about young motherhood is that it’s viewed as a mistake. A disappointment. It’s treated more like a funeral than a celebration.
I was raised in a home with Catholic education and the façade of Catholic values, but the first words out of my mouth when the doctor told me the results was, “I cannot tell my mother. I have to get an abortion.”
I knew how this news would be received at home.
But my doctor, who also sees the other members of my family, encouraged me to go home and talk to my family.
And I did.
And I went to get the pamphlets about abortions and prolife.
And I sat with myself.
Could I have a baby at 21 years old? I wasn’t finished with my degree, would I make it? What would become of my life?
And I chose to have my baby.
Not because it was easy. Not because I thought it was going to be easy. Not because I had literally anything figured out.
But because for me, it was the right choice. Against all odds this baby found their way to me. I wasn’t a stranger to hard things. I knew I would rise despite the uncertainty.
When the news circulated, it was like I said, attending the funeral for the life people expected for me.
My parent stopped talking to me for months.
My boss told me I would never finish my schooling or do anything with my life.
My friends stopped hanging out with me.
There were Facebook shaming statuses posted about me.
People called me the names you would expect.
But I kept it moving.
My baby showers were awkward. My family meant well, but the disappointment and feelings were there. I could feel them.
I barely took pictures of myself throughout that pregnancy.
And my Dad was the only person my entire pregnancy that asked me how I was feeling. How I was doing.
I remember being so weirded out by the constant question. He had never asked me how I was feeling before. He was definitely consistent with his checking in to see how I was phone calls, but these were different. They made me feel defensive or like I was doing something wrong.
It wasn’t until years later when I experienced new motherhood on more normal terms and I learned that asking expecting mothers how they are doing and feeling is common and supportive.
But I didn’t have other moms to lean into during that time. I had no idea what was normal or common. I didn’t have a single mom friend. There weren’t Facebook mom groups. Instagram wasn’t created yet. There was no way to plug in to learn about motherhood or join a community.
Despite the rough start, the uncertainty, the disappointment I created… I kept going.
I never did as well in school until I became a mother.
My baby was a summer baby so I didn’t miss any time during my undergraduate degree. I made Dean’s List each quarter, worked, volunteered in a research lab, and interned. My baby was 2 when I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree. He was 4 when I began my graduate program. He was 5 when I met my husband. He was 6 when I got married and had his sister. He was nearly 7 when I graduated with my Master’s Degree, first in my class. He was 8 when we welcomed his second sister. He was 9 when we welcomed his brother.
He is 10 now.
And our life is beautiful and whole.
It’s a life full of celebration and joyful moments.
Becoming a mother at a young age… it wasn’t the death of the life I was supposed to have.
It was the birth of the life that was intended for me.
It pushed me to do more and be more.
So, if ever a young person in your life finds themself on this journey…
· Support them
· Congratulate them
· Ask them if they are ok
· Help them find community and resources
Life is not always about the plans we make or the timeline society tells us that’s normal. Sometimes, life is what happens to us. Sometimes, life is in the unexpected. Sometimes, life is in the people who believe in you when everyone else doubts you. Sometimes, life is when you start believing in yourself and choose the hard thing because it is the right thing.