I was a teen mum. I made decent grades, I had a long term boyfriend, and I had plans and aspirations for my future. These plans didn’t exactly involve having a baby, and boy were people quick to point out that all of my plans would never come to fruition.
This is one of the things that really grates my cheese looking back on it all now. I am sure I am not alone in this, and it is not just teen mothers who were on the suffering end of falling pregnant in less than ideal circumstances. It seems that pregnancy is a joyous and miraculous occasion, but only if you do it right.
To be entitled to share in the joy of becoming pregnant, you first must do it at an optimal age, and after you are married, and after you have travelled and obtained a degree, and then after you have bought a house and renovated that house and then sold that house and bought a better house, and then only after you have firmly established yourself in a career, and then only if you planned it.
Don’t get me wrong, being a teen mother is tough, it isn’t ideal, it is a hard journey. My decision to keep my baby was not an easy one; it wasn’t made lightly or through rose coloured glasses. This isn’t the case just for young mums, anyone who has happened to fall pregnant in less than ideal circumstances would agree.
The discovery of my pregnancy didn’t fill me with joy, wonder and excitement. It was filled with fear, anxiety, decisions and a fight or flight response that doesn’t normally accompany such a joyous occasion. Announcing my pregnancy didn’t involve planning a cute and unique Facebook picture, it involved more fear and disappointment.
In between the fear and emotions felt after finding out I was pregnant, and then making a decision regarding the pregnancy and before the struggle of what was to come after the baby was born I found myself with a new battle. You see as my pregnancy was not planned, it was not optimal timing, nor were my circumstances ideal, this apparently excluded me from being on the receiving end of normal social niceties regarding my pregnancy.
When my bump grew, I found myself on the receiving end of dirty looks, rumours, disappointed sighs and smirks. People were absolutely busting to inform me of all the things I was giving up, all of the things I would never be able to do, all the things that were not ideal about my situation as though I had not spent enough heart ache, sleepless nights, tears and time already considering this before I had made my decision. This news was delivered to me through disappointed tones and patronising facial expressions.
Apparently I would never finish my HSC, I would never travel, I would never buy a house or obtain decent gainful employment. The father of my baby would never stick around; I would be alone because it is difficult to find another partner willing to take on another man’s baby. I should seriously consider the feelings of infertile couples who were far more deserving of the life growing inside me, I should feel so very lucky that I wasn’t locked away to have my baby away from judgmental eyes like people in my situation before me. I was a baby myself, what would I know about raising a baby? I was now a bourdon on society, and it was everybody’s job to remind me of this. People in baby shops, in the supermarket, at Drs visits, pre-natal classes and at the gym. Ha!!! Just kidding, I have never been to the gym.
I stopped going to my pre-natal classes, because I was judged, the medical staff were politically correct, but patronising none the less. The other parents in the classes gave me wary side eyes and excluded me from discussions as though I was not entirely qualified to share in their age appropriate joy. I stopped going out much at all really, I stayed in with the family and friends I was lucky enough to have that supported me, where I could learn to become excited and to bond with the new life inside me. I stayed only in the company and very few places that allowed me to chatter about baby movements, wee little onesies and the many other tiny joys that come with bringing a new life into the world.
I was tired of almost everyone else speaking of my pregnancy as though it was simply an unfortunate situation. Those who didn’t acknowledge my pregnancy with a smile, or an excitement but with a polite “Oh, well, these things happen”
I was tired of my battle already and it had not yet really begun.
I would like to say to those who have been through the heartache, fear, anxiety and many sleepless nights and made the decision to have a baby in less than ideal circumstances, that my baby is now sweet sixteen. He is and always has been a constant joy. He never saw the less than ideal circumstances we were in, he didn’t see a young mother, he simply saw his mother. We had it tough, we grew together, we had so much love just like any other parent and child. Exactly the same! He is a typical teenage boy, in school, with a part time job at Maccas, saving for a car. He plays sports, tries to keep out of trouble just like any other teenage boy. He makes his father and I so proud every day, he is a superb big brother, he volunteers to referee junior basketball during the week, he has great morals and a cheeky sense of humour. I may have been a baby myself, but it turns out I knew enough to raise a pretty decent person.
I have travelled. I recently completed my HSC equivalency and am enrolled at one of the greatest universities in the country, I have married my sons father, who did actually stick around and we have been together for almost eighteen years now, I am not alone, I have decent gainful employment and have managed to buy a house, but I have still not yet ever joined a gym.
Your journey although not beginning under ‘ideal’ circumstances will be the same as any other parent. The joy, the love and fulfilment you will feel is the same, your struggles may differ, you may do things differently, but your destination is still exactly the same as any other parent, and that is what you make it. You are entitled and deserving of the life you have growing within you.
Hold your head up high; know that other than the reactions of some other, very insignificant people in your journey, are none of your business. Just like your decision is none of theirs. The only part of my young mama journey that in any way reflected the disappointment I received from others , was that I didn’t get my own MTV show.
You’re doing OK mama, you will be OK.