I was 19 years old and wrapping up my last final exam of my freshman year of college in May 2008. I was working two part time jobs, studying, and my free time was spent with my new boyfriend and friends. Just the summer before, I had broken up with my boyfriend of 3.5 years. That summer and fall, I enjoyed dating, making new friends, and seeing old ones. By Halloween I reconnected with a friend from high school I hadn’t seen in years (he was a senior when I was a freshman) and we started dating exclusively. In May 2008, I was in love, enjoyed my freshman year, and was looking into the studying abroad program for the next year. I was excited for the summer, but something felt “off” and I was exhausted.
My best friend Bri, the entire month of April had kept checking in on me asking if I was okay since I was unusually tired. I would sleep through my alarms in the morning, fall asleep in my astronomy class frequently, and would nap in the afternoon. On occasion, I would nap and not wake up until the middle of the night, which caused me to miss planned things with friends. I am a very punctual and never miss-a-commitment-type of person, and she noticed I was not myself. We thought that I may have mono and she finally convinced me after a month of asking to see my doctor and told me to also take a pregnancy test just in case. I made an appointment with my doctor and bought a test to humor her. I took the test that evening without a worry in my mind, since my boyfriend and I had started to go to church and stopped sleeping together in December. The test was positive.
Nothing Short of Thorough
I stood there in complete disbelief- there was no way this test was accurate! I went to the store and bought 6 more tests in a variety of brands. It was May! I start recounting the past months. I had my period in January and spotting (that I thought was my period) in February. March and April I couldn’t remember, but it was not abnormal for me to be irregular and skip a month or two. Usually every year since I could remember I’ve missed my period entirely some months, started early, or started a week or two late. There HAD to be a mistake since we hadn’t slept together in FIVE months, right?!
I took all 6 tests. Some had two pink lines and others had PREGNANT showing immediately. Thank God for my best friend, Bri. She was the first person I called. She was not surprised and answered the phone with, “You’re pregnant, aren’t you?”. She just knew I was, when oblivious me clearly didn’t. I was shocked which was surprising to her (and we laugh about how unaware I was at the time now). She kept me calm, told me I didn’t need to make any life decisions or plans in one day, and I was allowed to just process it for a bit. We talked for a while, she helped me process the initial shock and then said she would check on me tomorrow after I told my boyfriend.
No Matter What
What a wonderful blessing it is to have a friend that is there for you in the highs and lows and that is steady and calm in crisis. One thing she said that I will never forget, that has gotten me through every tough time since is “don’t confuse a season for a lifetime”. She told me that I am capable to handle any option I chose, that I was brave and strong, and that she would be there, no matter what.
I met up with my boyfriend and told him. We both freaked out a little bit together also. I took ANOTHER test (test number 8 if anyone is counting) and showed him. We both were raised in Christian homes, attended private Christian schools growing up, and lived in small towns. My parents are involved and respected in the community, and they are just all-around awesome people. I worried that my unexpected pregnancy would be a scandal, that people would judge me and also them as parents, and I was afraid of what it would do to their reputations at our local church.
My boyfriend and I talked about all of our options: abortion, adoption, and keeping the baby. Neither of us wanted an abortion. I am adopted and my parents are the absolute best, and we did discuss that option. Ultimately, we both felt that for us, the best and only option was to get married and start our family. At that moment, I realized that I became a mother. Now to tell our parents…
I was terrified. We had just found out we were pregnant, and we weren’t exactly sure how far along I was. My boyfriend’s mom was a nurse on the postpartum floor of the local hospital. We decided to start with his parents first and see their reaction, figure out what I was supposed to do doctor wise (I didn’t have an OB/GYN), and go from there. We planned to do it together and set a date a couple of days later for me to come over and tell them. He ended up calling me later that night and said he told his parents. They knew something was up with him (he had moved back home from college for the summer) and he told them everything that we found out a few days before. His parents told us they loved us and were there to support us. His mom also called the doctor and got me an appointment later in the week so we could get a better idea of where exactly we were in the pregnancy journey.
Cool as a Cucumber
My mom was out of town and of course, I was too scared to tell her. I went over to the house and told my dad. He is the kindest man you will ever meet and is cool as a cucumber in crisis. Time and time again in my life, my parents show their unconditional love for me. I don’t know why I was so surprised at his reaction. He told me he loved me, he would be there for me, and that we would figure things out together (And here I lost a week of sleep thinking he would banish me to some unknown land and never speak to me again).
My mom got home and my dad, boyfriend, and I were waiting in the family room. She knew something was up because I normally talk non-stop and instead, I was dead quiet and very clearly uncomfortable (either that or she already knew). I started telling her about the week and then stopped and made my boyfriend tell them. I couldn’t bring myself to tell my mom, one of my best friends, that I was pregnant at 19. She was calm, asked a few questions, and told us she loved us. I don’t know why I ever thought that my parents love was conditional and would end at a moment’s notice.
Throughout the week countless conversations were had. My dad took me to the pregnancy center to discuss options as well, my parents met my boyfriend’s parents, and I went to my first doctor’s appointment. We had also decided that we wanted to be married before the baby came. My parents said that we could live in their large finished basement and they could help us with the baby while my boyfriend went to school full time and worked part time. I could take a semester off and then start back mostly online in the spring. We could save our money, get on our feet, and have the help and support from my parents while we figured things out.
It was now end of May/early June at my first doctor’s appointment and we learned that I got pregnant between December 7th-15th. I was almost 6 months along already. I was barely showing and had only gained about 7lbs. I had an ultrasound right away and found out my baby boy was healthy and growing just fine even though I had no prenatal care. My doctor was so sweet, spent a long time talking with me, and answered all of my questions. Every appointment she encouraged me and kept saying “You can do this!”.
My boyfriend proposed, and we set a date only four and a half weeks away. I was in school to be an Event Planner so the time crunch was no big deal. I was working part time at a local wedding venue and they were extremely supportive and fit us in on a Sunday in July. It was set. I accepted the fact that I was pregnant (even though I tried at one point to convince my doctor that I wasn’t going to have this baby), I had a plan for school, and I had a plan for our life for the next year.
Did that Seriously Just Happen?
They gave me a due date of September 12th. I signed up for birthing classes, went to one, and was so scared I refused to go again. I had a small wedding, put together a nursery, and before I knew it, it was September. On the 11th around 10am I started feeling crampy and went for a walk. Around noon my mom thought I was in labor. I was around 6-7 minutes apart for my contractions regularly for hours and eventually that evening decided to head to the hospital. I got there and after a little while, the labor stopped. I was so frustrated and ended up walking the halls. They gave me some Pitocin and labor picked up again.
After 23 hours of labor, an epidural that stopped working, two hours of pushing, and countless “I hate you for doing this to me” comments, I gave birth to a healthy baby boy at 6lbs 13oz. Even when I was given him to hold, I still couldn’t believe it was actually MY child. I birthed him and he was mine to be responsible for. after a couple days, I was sent on my way and the entire drive home with him I was thinking “Did that seriously just happen? Wow. I’m going to do everything I can to be the best mom for you. Wait, how the heck am I a mom right now?! Oh my gosh you are absolutely perfect”.
Finding out you’re a mom at 19 is hard. I had to grow and be responsible in a three-month period. I had a great deal to process in a short amount of time, even though I had help and support. Even though I had support, I had a lot of people that didn’t understand. One of the biggest misconceptions that I faced as a teen mom, was people thinking that teen parents are irresponsible. Many teen moms are actually very responsible, and just like me (hardworking, capable, and determined). Teen parents often have jobs, are going to school, and are also taking care of their children. Because of that misconception, I felt pressured to be a super mom to prove to everyone else that I can do this just like they could even though I was young. I suffered many years of feelings of inadequacy, doubting myself, and I faced some serious burnout.
I wish I had more people telling me that a teen pregnancy was not the end of the world. Many friends first reactions when finding out was, “Oh my gosh what are you going to do!? You are so young to have a baby. How are you going to finish college? You’re going to have to give up so much!”. Having a good support system is key, or else the naysayers become the louder voice in your life.
Support Comes in Many Forms
When most people think of support, they think of financial. Yes, there were times I was broke as a joke, but the biggest ways I was blessed with support had nothing to do with finances. One way to support a teen mom is being non-judgmental and encourage them to keep pressing on. Many teen moms lose “friends” and their circle becomes exceedingly small very quickly, as they no longer have anything in common with their friends. I invited a handful of my close friends to the wedding, but once I wasn’t able to go out or hang out last minute, they quickly stopped calling or checking in. over the years we’ve reconnected as they are now mom’s themselves, but it took many years to find common ground again. There of course was also gossip I was constantly being told about, but overall I had a close-knit group of people that really protected me from the brunt of it. I did get calls by restricted numbers calling me some pretty awful names and saying hurtful things that kept me up crying at night, but once I stopped answering, the voicemails eventually stopped. I started surrounding myself with other mother’s and had a wonderful role models to look up to. Encouraging words and stepping in and putting a stop to gossip goes a long way.
I found that my college professors were some of the most supportive of all. I still have three that I keep in touch with that supported me in the classroom, in internships, and even have been references on my resume. They saw the hard work, had grace when a babysitter cancelled or I was at the hospital with a sick baby. They worked WITH me instead of against me. Their efforts and support assisted me in eventually earning my Bachelor’s degree in 2013 and now having a wonderful career that I love. I found that communication was key, and just about every Professor I had would encourage me to keep pressing on to set a positive example for my son by furthering my education.
I’ve had friends babysit, drop off meals, and just sit with me over a cup of coffee holding my baby so I could sit and rest. I’ve had friends pick my son up and taken him to the park or to get ice cream so I could have an hour to myself. They’ve thrown a load of laundry in and did the dishes when I tucked the baby in bed. The best ones show up with Chinese takeout in their sweatpants, and spend the evening watching stupid kid tv shows and sing and laugh with your toddler for hours on end every week for years, because they love you AND they love your kiddo. There are so many ways to support a teen mom, and I’ve been blessed with an amazing community of people around me.
Grateful for the Struggle
Being a teen mom is tough. You worry about telling your family. You lose friends. The plans you made in your head for your future are changed. You are judged and feel like a failure.
But there was good in there too, it just took a few years before I was able to see the good in a hard chapter of my life. I learned that my parents love was unconditional. I learned that I can accomplish big dreams and overcome huge obstacles with a lot of determination and hard work. I learned that the best friends are ones that are loyal, full of integrity, and remind you that seasons changes and they don’t last forever. Showing up with Chinese takeout can indeed heal the soul when you’ve had a few hours of sleep and a really tough day.
Now, coming up on 13 years later, I am finally able to be grateful for the struggle. It made me the woman and mother I am today. I’ve grown and matured, and time has given me perspective. I learned that I was always good enough, strong enough, and capable. I created a home, nurtured and comforted, and was everything to my baby. If you know a teen mom out there, support her, encourage her, and remind her that seasons don’t last a lifetime. And if you are a teen mom with little to no support system, the Toledo Mom’s community has some amazing resources. Please reach out and we would love to connect you to this amazing community of other moms in the area.