Not 18. Not 17.
It’s a suckish age to be pregnant–especially in 1995, when having babies in high school was frowned upon and not celebrated. It goes without saying that for me–straight A, chorus, yearbook, track-and-cross-country, one-month-into-sophomore-year, goody-goody me–a pregnancy was the worst thing in the whole wide world that I thought could ever happen.
I came from an awesome family and an awesome home and after the initial shock of the big reveal wore off, my parents and sisters were actually very supportive. And so were my good friends and teachers and my baby daddy and his family–I’ll never complain about a lack of love and encouragement because my support network was as kickass as they came, given the circumstances.
But there’s a lot of guilt and fear that goes along with the territory of getting knocked up at such a young age (or there was before MTV made it a thing), so here are some truthitudes I wish would have gotten across to me during my daughter’s earliest years:
1. Your life is not over. I mean, no, you won’t have a normal high school experience but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. So you’ll stay home more than the average high-schooler. Big deal. It’s okay. You have a baby. A BABY. Not a giant black buffalo that devours pieces of your face. A beautiful bubbling blond baby girl, and you are her mother, and there’s no one in the world she would rather snuggle up to and coo at. No, your life is not over–in fact, it’s more precious and more meaningful now. Stop mourning the loss of a couple extra parties and start rocking that special new role.
2. People will always talk. And it’s rarely because they’re just plain hateful. Deep down, most of them are curious. Or confused. Or misinformed. Or scared it could happen to them. And they’re young, and naïve, just like you were. And they don’t know what to say to you or how to talk to you and so they talk amongst themselves and you? You just ignore them. Because you know what’s what and that’s all that matters.
3. It gets easier. Let’s face it–a crying red-faced newborn baby will push even the most mature 34-year-old mother of 4 over the edge (whatever you guys); but to a 15-year-old who still needs 10 hours of sleep herself and who has semester tests to worry about and who just wants to curl up in her own mommy’s arms, the crying is soul crushing, and scary. But it doesn’t last forever. It does get easier, not because it stops, but because you get stronger and smarter and pretty soon, you’ll be able to calm your baby down like a boss. (Unless her name is Arbor, whose aim it is to break you down smooth with her bloodcurdling screams.)
4. College, because–bless that baby daddy’s heart–at 18, he has no idea. He means well but he is a kid and so are you. It’s okay. You’ll both be alright. In the sense that no matter what happens, you’ll have God and family, and a beautiful little girl to love. Also go ahead and do college because you need to be able to support yourself and your kid. (Except maybe don’t be an art major, mkay?)
5. You won’t always be “the girl who had a baby in high school”. Your current circumstances won’t always define you. You’ll eventually stop thinking of yourself as “teen mom” and start thinking of yourself as “an artist” or “a writer” or “a runner”. Your friends will call you funny and caring. Your future husband will refer to you as “a hot chick with amazing legs” or “my crazy wife who tells hilarious jokes in a killer Scottish accent.” Your parents will be proud of you again. And your daughter will not call you “teen mom”–she will just call you “mom”.
6. The rest of your life will not revolve around this. It won’t. You haven’t ruined your life. Your daughter isn’t baggage. You’ll fall in love. You’ll have more kids. You’ll go to college eventually. True, you probably won’t live out your dream of becoming an undersea explorer/fighter pilot/architect, but guess what? You weren’t going to do those things anyway because of math and your extreme suckage at it.
7. THAT BABY. You have daydreams about her and what it’ll be like to be a mother; you cannot even imagine, you cannot. She’ll be beautiful, and so, so funny, and strong and determined and you will admire her beyond possibility. It’ll be straight crazy ape bananas how proud you are of her and you’ll be unable to functionally inhale and exhale without her. Shockingly, she does not stay a baby for long at all and in the blink of an eye, she’ll be moving across the country in high heels.
Well 7’s all I got. I never can make my numbered lists tie up nicely with 3, 5, or 10 talking points. But there you have it. And if you’re a teen mom and you’re reading this, I am praying for you and your sweet, sweet heart. May these words give you encouragement, and may God give you strength and courage and wisdom beyond your years.