I look around whenever I attend baby showers and smile at the efforts friends and family go to — making fancy cakes and beautiful decorations to show the new mother how amazing motherhood is. I bring a gift packaged with a lovely bow, and I make the effort to show the new mother that she is loved. Motherhood is a community of women with a vast library of information. Everything she needs to know about childbirth, nursing and raising a tiny human into adulthood can be found within the community.
However, my introduction into motherhood was quite the opposite and very much unwelcome.
I knew what was happening — I was tired and feeling sick. I fought back tears every morning as I struggled to brush my teeth without vomiting the tiny breakfast I managed to scrape together. Every morning was a nightmare that I never dreamed would have happened to me. This wasn't supposed to be my story.
I sat on the table looking at the old doctor and shook my head. "No, I'm not pregnant." But he knew otherwise. In fact, he'd ran the test and already told my mother, who was in the waiting room, before he told me. The room swam around me as he quickly rushed through the exam and handed me a list of abortion clinics in the area to take care of my "problem" since he was no longer doing it.
I was 17 with no boyfriend and no hope.
When I asked why this was happening to me, gasping through my tears, the answer was cold and uncaring. "You made the bed; now you can lie in it."
Those were the words of wisdom I was given about my pregnancy.
A few days later, I looked at the monitor left on, turned my way so I could see the tiny body in black and white as I waited for them to come in and prep me for the abortion. I was told it was my only option and the best way to get on with my life. I looked at it and I saw this tiny amazing baby, and I felt this overpowering emotion overcome me, and it was both confusing and terrifying. The nurse left the machine on and turned it toward me and then went to prep the abortion room.
I left. I cried. I really freaked out. I didn't know what I was supposed to do. But nothing was making sense about what was happening.
I made the choice to be a mother. The fact is, I wanted to be a mother. I wanted to have children and be their everything. I wanted to be exactly who I was becoming, and even though it was coming much earlier than I ever expected, I wasn't going to run.
However, I was still only 17. There were no girls' days out, no special craving lunches. There was no loving father-to-be rubbing my feet or even maternity clothes. I made do with baggy, oversized sweatshirts and tried to avoid the disgusted looks given to me when I would sit in the same room with the other expecting mothers waiting for their doctor appointments. I would keep my eyes down, trying not to hear the not-so-quiet whispers about "babies having babies" and how the moral fiber of our country was lost in the backseat of cars.
Nobody was asking why I didn't have anyone there with me because teen pregnancy isn't seen as welcoming a new life: It is seen as a girl who doesn't know how to keep her legs closed and who is obviously someone who is a failure to her own family. I took the hits, knowing his life was more important than this moment.
Unlike the excited doctor appointments where the expectant couple asks tons of questions about their little bundle of joy, my appointments were abrupt, and I was usually handed packets about adoption groups who would take my baby to a family who could love my baby and give it everything I would never be able to give him. My due date was loaded with terrifying thoughts of pain and how I was supposed to manage to finish high school with a baby.
There was no baby shower, no words of wisdom or happy photos of my pregnancy from week to week.
When I went into labor I was sent to the back of the maternity ward, cold and alone. There were no happy nurses coming in to see what I needed. I was the "teenager" in the back and they would occasionally peek their heads in to see what the monitors said. I wasn't a part of any birthing group, no push training or doula in the room whispering encouraging worlds. Only me, fighting through the pain and the drugs to become a mother. Each surge of pain was more proof that I was stronger than I thought. I could actually make a good mother and I could do this.
When I held my son, I cried. I cried for the end of my childhood and for the beginning of a new life we were going to make together.
I heard the comments, the laughing and pointing when I went out with my son. The worst of it coming from other mothers who loudly rejected my request to join their motherhood club. I wasn't asked to join any Mommy and Me classes or stroller romps. I was met with obvious disapproval because somehow I managed to get myself pregnant, and I owned up to my new life and chose to be a mother instead of giving him away or, worse, killing him before he was born.
I was going to be a good mother. I didn't have any idea of how to keep a baby alive, but I learned. Who knew babies could get pimples or their heads could go bald in spots?! I learned how to be a mother by watching TV and really through making mistakes.
Twenty-five years later, I look back at those years of trying to be the best mother while learning at the same time how to be an adult, and I am not ashamed. I am really proud of myself for the hard work and the crap that I went through. I lived through the glares of women struggling with infertility asking why it was fair that a kid could get "knocked up" while a good woman who could actually love a baby was without one. I lived through being asked not to come back to school because my pregnancy was "contagious" and they didn't want other girls thinking it was all right to get pregnant.
Those days made me more sensitive to the feelings of others. When I see a young mother, I always smile and welcome her into my circle of motherhood. Through the years, I have hoped to change the way people react to teen mothers. I have spoken to pregnant teens and given talks to other women about my experiences. I write a lot about how my life went in a different direction because I chose to become a mother at a young age.
My oldest is all grown up, but I still get a little teary when I think of how amazing my life has been because I fought to be his mother and didn't give up. He made me a mother, and for that I am grateful.
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