There are times when I worry if I’m being totally unrealistic about this whole unplanned pregnancy and young motherhood thing.
Do I really know what I’m talking about? I will think. Am I giving young women a false impression of what motherhood will look for them?
It should be noted, that in particular, I often have these thoughts in the middle of the night, when my son is up screaming or when my daughter is throwing some sass my way that I thought were reserved for the teenage years or when I want to do nothing but fling myself on the couch and watch mindless movies all day.
But I digress.
The point is, with my book out, I’m working to promote it (I guess that makes sense–to write a book and want to sell it, right?) and I even booked a speech recently at Seattle University, but in the middle of it all, I find myself stopping and evaluating,
Do I really think young motherhood is possible? Do I really think that young women facing unplanned pregnancy can have it all? Do I really think that having kids won’t hold them back in any way?
The truth is, yes.
I believe it with my whole heart.
It’s not to say that I think every mother’s journey will be the same or that it’s a road filled with pure bliss and happiness. A 20-year-old without a supportive partner in sight, for example, might have a completely different journey than I did, 21 with a great boyfriend-turned-husband.
It’s one thing to talk about the beauty and the hope in becoming a mother; the good days when it seems like an inspiring walk with your baby at your side (or strapped in a fashionable carrier). But there are definitely hard places along the way–nights when I’ve cried, days when I’ve felt like giving up. My husband and I still fight about our “free time,” our most precious resource right now. I’ve got half of a Master’s degree under my belt, left unfinished after my second child came along, so I get it. It is hard to find the time and the money and the child care.
But I still think it’s worth it.
I’ve asked myself honesty if I’m looking at it all through rose-tinted glasses. Do I really think motherhood is that great and my kids are just oh, so precious? I mean, lots of people have kids. Do we just extoll the virtues of having them so we can justify the hard work it takes to raise them?
But the truth is, the hard parts about parenting are there at any age. Hungry babies and sick kids and temper tantrums don’t care how old you are.
The nitty-gritty of unplanned pregnancy; the parents who kick you out, the boyfriend who leaves you, the final exam that falls on your due date–I don’t want to hide those things or pretend they don’t exist and that having babies at 21 is a guaranteed sure way of living a successful life.
Because it’s not. Like anything else in life, I do think that succeeding as a young parent takes hard work, determination, lots of support, and a few lucky breaks.
But I do think that there is something extraordinary that can happen when we open our hearts to the life that will change ours forever.
I really do believe that making the decision to welcome the girl who made me a mother–the daughter who now has her first loose tooth–was the most empowering of my life.
I know, without a doubt, that having her changed my life for the better.
I’ve never experienced the clear, laser-like focus that becoming a young mother gave me. She gave me a belief in myself that I didn’t know I needed.
So, I think, in a way, it’s that incredible sense of wonder and awe in yourself–and this little being you have created–that is what makes young motherhood so unique and special. The truth about unplanned pregnancy is that it can challenge everything you have ever known about your life and you come out on the other side as a stronger, balanced, and whole individual. If you can have a baby when the world tells you absolutely not to, it feels like you can do anything.
And that belief in yourself can carry you so far. The world is literally at your fingertips, in terms of time and opportunity. Want to go back to school? Sure! You’re only 23! Want to get into politics? Why not? Everyone loves a good bootstraps story. Want to work full-time or stay home or write a book? You do what you gotta do, lady! You know it’s possible to take on that world at your fingertips, because you’ve already held your entire world in your arms.
It’s an incredible spot to be in, and I do believe that even for young mothers in tough situations, the children they may welcome into their lives are not the problem or the means to an end.
They are just the beginning.