Twenty-six years ago, I didn't plan on getting pregnant. Becoming a mother before I left high school was not the life I expected — or one I thought would make my family proud. No matter what generation, teen pregnancy is never welcomed. People will disagree with you and throw their opinions on you like you have committed a crime. But ultimately, my pregnancy and my child were my choice and one I've never regretted no matter how hard other people made it.
At 15 years old, I thought I was making worthy life choices. I got respectable grades, held a part-time job and didn't drink or do drugs. I was self-motivated to get a good education so that I could have a better chance to be successful.
The summer after I turned 16 years old, everything changed. My adopted mother, who was much older, couldn't care for me anymore. I was left with my birth mother, who struggled with many things including mental illnesses and addictions. I didn't know my birth father. I became introverted, depressed and struggled to connect with other people.
By the time that I climbed out of my well of depression and tried to start fighting my way back on track, I was pregnant. I felt like I was the biggest failure.
Everyone tried to talk me out of having my baby: from my doctor to my birth mother, to the school, who told me that if I stayed pregnant that I would be removed from classes and put into "Home & Hospital" classes away from other students who could be influenced by my "choice to become pregnant."
Even my birth mother said that I was a whore. I was driven to the Planned Parenthood to "solve my problem" and told to move on with my life. At the appointment, the nurse was told to give me an ultrasound to confirm the size of my baby for the abortion. She was called out of the room and left the monitor on, the blurry image of a tiny human burned into my brain.
I can still remember as if it were yesterday. I saw him there on the screen, and in that moment, I knew I couldn't ever harm him. He wasn't a "problem" or even a "choice" to me. I felt this overwhelming love come over me. None of the other conflicts mattered when I saw this tiny little person that my body was born to shelter and protect. Up until then, everyone had called this pregnancy a mistake.
When I saw him, all I felt was love.
For most first-time mothers, pregnancy is a time of wonders: first kicks, strange cravings and even a growing belly are all welcomed surprises shared excitedly with family and friends. Instead, I shared my thoughts from the outside with my little stranger. Every day I would talk to him and tell him what was happening, the good and the bad. Once I left the clinic and stated that I was choosing to see this through, I was met with critique and disapproval.
It didn't matter. The more I talked to my growing baby, the surer I was that I was doing the right thing. When I was afraid, upset or worried what the future held, he seemed to respond with reassuring twists and kicks, as if reminding me that we were in this together.
Because of him, I had someone to fight for, to love more than myself and to take responsibility for. I knew I could do this, and I did. Yes, I could have given him up for adoption, and for many, that is a great option. It wasn't the right one for my child and me. We needed each other. I knew that I wouldn't regret giving him the best of me, but I would have never stopped looking for him if I had let him go.
When he was born and I held him in my arms, I knew our journey would be hard, yet the way that he looked at me made that worth it. He didn't look at me like a whore, a failure or a burden. He looked at me like I was the most amazing person in the world.
I was asked not to tell my adoptive mother about my pregnancy because there was a fear that the shock of finding out that I was pregnant could give her a heart attack. She was always my rock, and I hadn't been able to tell her anything.
After my son was born, I bravely called my adoptive mother and told her everything. You know what? She loved me anyway. She didn't die of shock, and she accepted me for who I was. She adored my son and was the first person to tell me that I would make a wonderful mother. Every day since then, even when I struggled with motherhood, I asked myself what she would have done and what kind of mother she would be proud of.
Before she died, a few years later, she told me that she was proud of me for all that I'd done in my life and for who I had become. She didn't single out my "mistake." She taught me that motherhood is never, ever a mistake, and you might not expect where your children come from, but they are always a blessing.
I didn't plan on becoming a mother, but I am so glad I did.
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