I was seventeen years old when I found out that I was going to be a mother. It was life changing, terrifying, exciting, and brought a host of other profound emotions into a time in my life that was “supposed” to be going a lot differently, according to our society. With that, comes a lot of shame and worries that no one should have to deal with when they’re bringing a new life into the world. I was three months pregnant when I graduated from high school and, at that point, only a small handful of those closest to me were aware of what my life, six months from then, would actually look like. When I shared my news beyond my limited circle, I received support, for the most the part. I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions of many, though hurt by the retorts of a few people I cared about.
The pressure, from others, to have an abortion was an unforeseen obstacle. Though I am 100% pro-choice, it was not the choice for me. I lost friends over my decision and that is something I had to come to terms with. Once I began showing, I often received glares and repulsed looks from strangers. After I had my son, that got even worse. I constantly received comments from aghast strangers, along the lines of, “That isn’t your baby, is it?” and, “Are you babysitting him?” When he and I were with my mom, people would frequently talk to her about how cute Oliver was, rather than addressing me, as they assumed I was his (much older) sister.
I read tons of books on pregnancy and parenting, but not once did I read anything about teen mothers, outside of negative statistics. Sure, having a child when your life is more established is easier, but where are the books for those who are already one of those numbers? As a lover of literature, I read a lot. With that being said, I have yet to come across a good book that features a young mother or soon-to-be mother. I think that it would have been beneficial and comforting to gain insights from such characters and I’m sure many fellow young moms would agree. Being a mother or preparing to become a mother, when you’re young, can feel very lonely and trying. It can be difficult to feel happy or confident, as a mother, when people make you feel like you’re doing a disservice to the unborn baby that you love so much, by bringing them into the world.
On the eve of Oliver’s due date, I began having irregular contractions and went to the birth center, where my labor and delivery took place, alongside my mother, best friend, doula, and midwife. He was born right on his due date without any interventions, medications, or complications. I was considering going to the hospital after nearly 16 hours of contractions and only being dilated to 5 cm. While discussing that possibility, a choice I was only willing to make because of my severe exhaustion, I sat in a large bathtub, snacking on raspberries. My body gave me a brief break before I stood up to get out. In that moment, my water finally broke, I immediately dilated to 10 cm, pushed a few times, and Oliver made his way into the world. It was an intense final few minutes, but I’m grateful that I was able to let my body do what it was born to do in a supportive and empowering environment with incredible women at my side. Every birth is different, of course, but this was what I wanted and what worked for me.
During my pregnancy and a few months after Oliver arrived, I worked several part time jobs and went to school full time, online. Because we were low income, I was able to receive enough grants and scholarships to almost completely cover my education. I received my bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in Professional and Creative writing in July of 2017 and will be beginning my M.F.A. in Writing a few weeks from now. It has been a struggle to be so busy, but I was determined to keep a tight grasp on the goals I had, despite my becoming a young, single mother. I do not think that college is for everyone, but it was something that I wanted for myself. I think that all young mothers should do whatever it is that brings them joy, whether or not that includes college, a certain career path, or any other crooked societal norms that we’re all expected to fit into.
When Oliver was a year and a half old, I began picking up on red flags he was exhibiting that pointed to autism spectrum disorder. I made a diagnostic appointment and an early intervention center evaluation and was able to get Oliver diagnosed so that he could begin receiving the help he needed at an early age. With 1 in 68 children having autism spectrum disorder, it is a possibility that is necessary to keep in the back of your mind, along with other developmental disorders. Having a child with autism was not something that I planned for. Becoming of a mother at a young age was stressful enough, so it never crossed my mind that something else would be added into the mix. Now, two years later, he’s thriving. Though he still has and will always have autism, he has made an immense amount of progress and has the tools to continue to grow into a happy, healthy, independent adult.
My being a young mother has come with a ton of obstacles, as well as judgments, but there have been just as many moments of absolute joy and beauty. My son is unique and hilarious. We play and we laugh; we cuddle and we cry. He means everything and more to me and I am honored to be able to be his support system, mentor, best friend, and mother for the rest of my life. To other teen moms who feel alone during the more difficult times, please know that you’re not. It’s frustrating to hear that things work out or will get better in the future, but it’s more often than not the truth. I’ve grown up so much in the past four years, right alongside my sweet little boy. Let’s support each other and take life one day at a time, embracing it all—the good days and the bad.
If interested in keeping up with my writing, my portfolio is active and available for your reading here: http://www.savannahslonewriter.com.