The story of a young mother’s adjustment to motherhood is depicted. Learn how she was able to cope with parenting on a dare.
Changes in the Agenda
When I agreed to become her father, my daughter was just four days old. In the front passenger seat was my father. When I said, “Let’s go get her,” I was 16-year-old dripping milk in the backseat of my parent’s station wagon.
My father remarked, “We’re going to retrieve the baby,” and I swerved over a pile of cones in the turn lane, where he waited for me. And with that, I conclude: To figure out what to do with a newborn infant, we’d left with my mother’s single friend, my parents, my younger brother, and I all went on this crazy trip to pick her up. I have no idea how my father made it there without killing us. All of us were in tears.
When we started discussing it, we knew it was a horrible idea. At the very least, we were aware that we were putting at least two people’s lives at risk. We were confident that a perfect adoptive couple with a home, a mortgage, two cars, and a nursery was just waiting for that little one. As if that wasn’t enough, we all ran into the condo and snatched our baby girl, who had been sleeping in a crib that had formerly contained my baby dolls just a few years earlier.
We all made a vow to that little girl. For the following eight years, my 10-year-old brother vowed to donate all of his money and a new pair of Bugle Boy jeans if we agreed to keep our new baby in our home, which we did. Even though we haven’t gotten around to collecting on that portion of the arrangement, I remind him every few years of the importance of delivering at least the Bugle Boys. For my whole high school career, my parents assured me that they would provide me with everything I would need to succeed as an adult, including a place to live and health insurance, and free child care provided by my stay-at-home mother.
My pledge was the most difficult to fulfill. My doctor visited me the morning before my daughter’s birth to discuss things with me. He was aware of my chronological age. It seemed to him that she would be placed in a new family (the bouquet they sent was on my nightstand.) As far as he was concerned, I had not yet made up my mind.
He explained that he was equally worried about his patients’ mental well-being as their physical health. He responded that, of course, adoption would be the best option for my daughter. He opined that I might not be strong enough to make that decision on my own.
“F you,” was my retort.
My Time Has Finally Arrived.
All the people who had stated the same thing throughout my pregnancy were sincere, and my doctor was no exception. When it came to parenting my daughter as a teenager, everyone thought I was the type of girl who would know better.
But I viewed it as a challenge. I had a delusional sense of invincibility that was typical of a 16-year-old. Nothing had been complicated until that point. The only dangers I faced as a child were those I created for myself, such as taking the family car at night or engaging in sex. I
When I thought my doctor implied that keeping my child would be a sentimental decision made out of emotional weakness, I was enraged. The challenge presented itself as a chance for me to show the world just how tough I am. I, like many other aspirational youngsters, though I could pick between being president and winning the Pulitzer Prize.
In addition to winning a literary award, the winner may also become a movie star or another celebrity. With a child, I would carry out all of the plans I had made. Breaking from the typical college, career, dating, marriage, and children trajectory expected of ladies like me was my opportunity to be extraordinary.
Putting Them in Their Place
So I vowed to myself and my daughter that we would disprove everyone’s assumptions. In my mind, I was going to have a kid who was just as brilliant, capable, and fabulous as I imagined. In addition, I was going to do exactly what I would have done on my own, and even better than that. It was the Enjoli ad with the baby in it, I believe.
Is it possible for me to raise a child on my own?
My mother and I would engage in lengthy talks about why adolescent mothers often failed. Almost none of them were familiar faces to us. Theories of all kinds were generated, some more ridiculous than others. We drew inspiration from books, friends, and popular psychology. There was, of course, the issue of finances and the issue of education.
The psychology of teen parenthood was something we wanted to learn more about. Teenage mothers, since they haven’t “gone through all their developmental stages,” tend to be emotionally stunted when they become pregnant. An arrogant proclamation was made by the two of us, revealing our lack of exposure to anything beyond the traditional family life we had just decided upon.
I interpreted this to indicate that I should behave as if I were 16 years old, 18 years old, 25 years old, etc. If I gave up too much of my own identity to be a mother at an early age, the risk was that I would become resentful of my child, which would be a negative thing.
A good mother’s ability to care for her children relied exclusively on how well she cared for herself. Instead of merely allowing myself permission to be self-centered, I turned it into an ethical imperative to act selfishly.
The three of us: Mom, Dad, and I
Teen motherhood has its downsides, but throughout the first two years of my daughter’s existence, my parents shielded me from them. My daughter did not doubt that I was her mother or father, but I was by no means an alone parent. My mother took care of the kids from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. while my father worked.
My responsibilities were to achieve well in school and enjoy my new baby. In addition, because my employment required that I act like a “regular” high school girl, I spent weekends after my daughter went to bed with friends to punk rock concerts, and I attended poetry club at a local coffeehouse every two weeks. Because we are deprived of time, I was unable to date until my senior year, but I could have.
Exploring the Boundaries
I became more confident because it was so simple. When I started applying to college, my parents’ generosity and my goals came to a head. Once upon a time, my parents, who had attended public schools, were glad to send me to a private school of my choice. However, they wanted me to stay near to home so that they could be there for me whenever I needed them. I didn’t see any need to lower my goals because I became a mother. In the end, I went with a school that was 3,000 miles away from home that was a lot more expensive than the others I had initially intended to go to.
Despite my parents’ disapproval, I went through with it. No one else could have done it, and I don’t think anyone else could either. Then I asked for their tax returns and advised ways to satisfy the anticipated parental contribution. The dean of my school stepped in when they were apprehensive about our living arrangements, and I came back to them with childcare, a two-bedroom apartment, and a food plan. Because of my family’s financial difficulties, I took a year out and returned to school as an independent student two years later. When I was 18, my daughter and I relocated to Connecticut, where we have lived ever since.
Reflecting on the Past
Every few years, I attempt to write an essay titled “Without You.” In my mind, it’s supposed to be a piece that follows the fictitious person in my thoughts, the version of myself who hasn’t taken the leap of faith and decided to have a child at the tender age of 16. That’s a story I’ve never been able to come up with. In part, having a child shapes a person’s identity so that it is impossible to envision a self that has not been shaped by taking care of the child. I’ve also never been able to write that novel because having a child didn’t enough alter my personality and outlook on life.
As a mother, a university graduate, and a professional
For the first time in my life, I’ll be a mother for half of my life. A few weeks from now, I’ll be 30 years old, and my daughter will be 14. By the time I was 30, if you had asked me what I envisioned myself doing, the answer would most likely be a writer in New York City. And I’m 30 years old, and I’ve been a full-time writer for over seven years now, living in Brooklyn. For me, English was a natural choice when I was 18.
When I was 23, I relocated to San Francisco so that I could live with the author of my dreams, a talented novelist I adored. my dream job as an editor for Salon at the age of 25 was a dream come true (which, yes, I also love). In addition, at the age of 29, I decided to go to New York, where I am still performing work that I genuinely enjoy. My life isn’t a one-size-fits-all story, and I’m not going to pretend that I can’t tell another version of it. Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine how my life would have been different if I’d had the opportunity to design it without considering my daughter.
Being a parent didn’t keep me from accomplishing what I wanted to do in the first place. My pledge to my daughter, of course, is the second component. So, now that she’s fifteen years old do I think I did the right thing by her?
What Is This?
Having older children is difficult because you can see the results of your actions. As with your parents, you are well aware of the harm you have inflicted on your child. It’s a balancing act between the two. I’m never sure what she thinks about me, but I know how I raise my children. I’m still immune to risk in a way that’s almost human. Few things can compare to having a child at 16 and deciding to raise them yourself. Nothing frightens me. I’m a good mom because I’m caring. It’s a great bond between me and my daughter.
However, I’m also a bit of a loose cannon. My house is a mess. I’m a lone wolf. We’ve never had enough money, space, or time to do what we wanted. As a result of my failures, I tend to think about you: whether it’s cleaning the flat, finding a job, or keeping a partner. 16-year-olds are trying to raise a kid independently (at 22, 25, 29). It’s just a ploy. My friends and family have tolerated its overuse much too often.
Inspiring Dreams of the Future
I’m in a strange situation since I know the people who would have cared for my child if I hadn’t chosen to. I visited their home, sat in their living room, and talked with them about their child-rearing philosophy while touring their property. In the fifteen years since our last communication, I’ve heard enough to understand how they are doing. My child would have grown up in the Pacific Northwest as the daughter of a social worker and a real estate agent in a parallel universe.
Having a four-bedroom home and a cottage in the mountains would be her dream lifestyle. There was a good chance she had a dog, a brother, and a sister to play with. She wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see as much of the world. Maybe she’s grown up to be more like the girl I was when I was her age: a suburban teen yearning for excitement and risk. She’d have been more grounded if she’d been there.
That girl doesn’t know me. In fact, she isn’t my child.
I’m Her Mother
My daughter has been told her entire life that we were on the verge of backing out because we were so scared. In our opinion, that was the right thing to do, and neither she nor we have tried to disguise it. My mother and I chat about what her life may have been like if she hadn’t been born. Of course, she can’t envision it any more than I can either. I’ve got a wacky one-liner that I like to use occasionally.
Her “accident” status doesn’t make her less of a wanted child, but it does make her feel that way. We wanted you, not a child, I said. Even though she didn’t arrive on schedule or according to plan, she significantly impacted all of our lives. We went ahead and did it.
“We” refers to the four of us in that station wagon, slamming into traffic cones on our way to do something everyone else knew was a bad idea. And what’s even better? We were correct.
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