At the age of 19, I found out I was pregnant. I was expecting a baby with my then boyfriend of six months, now husband of nine years. In shock and tears, I called my parents who were incredibly supportive. At the time I was entering my junior year of college. I was a typical young person focused on having fun, grinding through school, and really not much else. I didn’t plan on becoming a young mom.
Now I was part of a group that society often deemed a “failure.” I was an unwed mother, who had a baby at 20. Statistically speaking, I wasn’t going to be that successful (according to the experts, anyway).
Even with a supportive family and partner, I felt alone. In the baby classes the other mothers were sometimes 10+ years older. And it was tough to juggle the stress of pregnancy and birth while going to school. I even completed a biology exam online, at the hospital while I was in labor because my professor would not let me wait.
Things were weird, I was worried, scared, and often doubted my ability to be a good mother with such little time to prepare. I want to share my perspective of becoming a young mom, now 10 years out. If you’re reading this as a young mom or young mom-to-be, just know that as I replay the memories and experiences 10 years back, I would not change a thing. The greatest gift I received was through something I originally thought would be one of my biggest failures.
Identity Crisis as a Young Mom
After my son was born I went through a major identity crisis. Now I had a human to raise and care for while being young and unprepared. I lacked the structure, career, and financial means to feel like I could blend in with other moms. Their conversations felt like something I just couldn’t fit into. I lacked the life experience, and was even mistaken for the nanny many times.
I lost a lot of friends, too. Shortly after becoming pregnant I attended the fall semester of my junior year. I did fine overall but many of the people I partied with or were friends with before distanced themselves and really didn’t know how to treat me. I found myself eating lunch alone, studying alone, and even sitting in class alone. I’m not mad at them for the way they reacted; I’m sure it was odd, but in a time in my life when I could have really used some friends most of them walked away. On the other hand, the friends that stayed in touch and supported me are still in my life 11 years later.
The journey through pregnancy to birth was rocky and adding in the postpartum depression, I feel lucky to be as confident and successful as I am now. I would not believe I could be where I am today if someone had a “flash-forward button” in the summer of 2009.
Everything Is Going to Be Alright
Becoming a young mom didn’t ruin my life, it helped me start living it more intentionally. Responsibility and maturity came hand in hand with that newborn they placed in my arms. I had to embrace it. And yes, I did spend my twenties growing babies and raising them and not on Tinder or at the bar. Sometimes I felt like I was missing out, but now after 10 years of perspective and experiences, I realize it worked out just fine and I am incredibly happy and lucky to be given five sweet gifts and soak up all this extra time with them.
If you are reading this right now and worried how things will turn out, I promise it will be okay. Becoming a mother at an early age is tough because you are often still figuring out yourself and trying to raise a child, but I promise there is no perfect way to do anything. So regardless of the career, stability, finances, and support, no one does parenthood perfectly. Enjoy the persistence of love you show your little one and they can and will be just fine (and so will you, mama!).
Believe in Yourself
No one can believe more in your potential than you. If you are finding yourself becoming a mother at a young age, my advice is to believe in yourself. I had a lot of doubts coming into motherhood unexpectedly. I though I wasn’t as smart as others expected me to be. Often I felt that I was a failure to my family and myself for an unintentional event. I worried I couldn’t be the best mom because I was so unprepared and close to still being a child myself. My life looked so different than that of my peers. It seemed like I was watching all the “fun” everyone else was having while isolated with my newborn.
Listen, feel those feelings of doubt, fear, worry, whatever they are. Then remember that the only one who determines our paths and success is ourselves. Acknowledge the fear of the situation and work toward the pursuit of joy and happiness. Believe you can be anyone you want to be and this event does not define who you are.
Your baby is now your sidekick along for this ride with you. See them as your cheerleader, your mentee, and above all show them that you believe in yourself.
You got this, Mama.