In the U.S., teen pregnancy rates have hit all-time lows. When I read this latest report, my mind went straight to two people: Gloria Malone, a blogger and young parent advocate who wrote this great post for MMM about sex, straight-talk, and teen moms.The other person was Donna Worrell. Donna was one of my best friends in elementary school. We went to different high schools and grew apart. But I always remember the day I heard the news that Donna, then just 16, was pregnant and on her way to becoming a teenage mother.
Donna and I have reconnected, thanks to Facebook, and I after seeing a new photo of her gorgeous and now incredibly grown-up daughter, I asked my old friend if she would like to share her story, her journey. I’m thankful that she said yes.
I was recently asked to talk about my journey through teenage motherhood. At first, I thought, “I have no story. What’s there to say?” I got pregnant, had a baby, and moved forward with my life. But on second thought, after I allowed myself to let go of my need to minimize both my struggles and accomplishments, I was able to admit that I do have a story worth telling: I went from being a high school honor student living in Montreal’s suburbia to being 16, black and pregnant.
Teens mothers sadden and frustrate the masses. Often this is due to real ideas about poverty, emotional instability, lack of education, broken families, and social welfare dependency. The very same problems that face adults are magnified when “babies are having babies.”
The fact is, the Teenager’s decision to have a baby is void of foresight. The still-developing teenage brain cannot even begin to image the life-altering reality of motherhood. I could have never predicted how that decision to have a baby would continue to affect me even 25 years later.
I was a hurt girl. I was so broken that I did not even have the good sense to find a boy who I believed liked me. I developed a relationship with an individual whose own self-hatred matched mine. Some days he was nice and that was good enough for me. Hell, my sister thought he was cute. That counted for something!
I slipped on those rose-colored glasses over my adolescent eyes. My view became distorted, warped. The glasses made issues and situations appear bigger, move faster, and often presented me with sunflowers, when before me actually stood weeds. These invisible, slanted specks actually enabled me to plan my pregnancy. Yes, I planned my teenage pregnancy! I chose to “get knocked up.” My vision for how it would all play out was: finish high school, have a baby, give love, and get love. I actually believed that this was magnificent idea, a smart plan. I figured that the worse part would be in the telling my parents.
I decided that I would break this news to them right away, straight to the jugular, quick and … painless?
No one could have ever prepared me for the contempt that came from the adults in my parents’ social circles. I could never tell if it was my actual pregnancy or the un-neighborly talk that would frequently bring my mother to tears. She never said anything unkind, never an angry word towards me, although her tears confirmed her anguish and disappointment. You see, my mother was the child of a teenage mother, and she knew all too well how this situation would play out for everyone involved. She understood the difficulties that I would face and, stifling the pain of her own experiences, my mother supported me.
After awhile, I grew immune to the sound of my mother‘s tears. I became immune to the unkind adults who would keep their daughters away from me, afraid that I somehow my “fastness” would rub off on their innocent girls. I was immune to the woman, who used to call on me to babysit her children, now hustling by, pretending not to see me that day in the park. I was immune to the venomous words and rough actions that spewed from the Black nurse assigned to care for me during the birth of my child. I understood that in her eyes I was a statistic, another little Black girl destined to poverty and despair. She was disgusted by me and in that moment, I was vulnerable, so I blocked her. I focused all of my energy on delivering my baby.
Most teenage girls don’t have babies because they are “fast.” On some level, there is a genuine need to feel like they matter. Something is broken and the baby represents the possibility of repair.
I left home shortly before my eighteenth birthday. I had finished high school on time and then enrolled in nursing school. By the time I was 21, I was the young mother of two children. Today I am an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, with a soft spot for the adolescent population and the mentally ill (go figure!), and have three beautiful children.
I’ve since apologized to my mother for making her cry. And I’ve apologized to my daughter for being her mother as a teenager. I believe that her life would have been very different if I had mothered her at my strongest, smartest, best self. My daughter often assures me that I did well, I was a good mom to her, no matter my age.
A couple of years ago at my son’s high school graduation, I experienced tears of joy for him, mixed with tears of sadness for the adolescent me. In that moment, I became my mother, weeping for the loss of my own childhood to teen pregnancy. I was surprised by my reaction that day, but those emotions consequently brought me to a place where I could apologize and forgive myself.
Today, I am using this guest blog post as a forum, a celebratory space for the teen mom who made it! With kindest regards, I say to those of you, who might be inclined to have preconceived notions: Don’t count every teen mother out. Here I stand, living proof that a woman’s life does not begin the moment that you meet her, nor does it end with the sound of her baby’s cry. Without regret, I believe that through this difficult journey came my deliverance.
Last week, The Youngster and I made a quick trip to Toronto. It was a press junket for Amazon Studios’ new live-action kids’ series, Annedroids, and I was invited to cover it for Cool Mom Tech. (I’ve shared the news on MMM’s FB page that I’ve officially joined the Cool Mom Picks gang.)
The show itself is pretty great. Read my review here.
The adventure of flying to Toronto for an overnight, and my son’s first-ever press trip with his working mama was fantastic.
It’s been about two, three years since The Youngster has been on a plane. The anticipation-build on that part alone was sweet to watch. He would ask me questions about planes and airports and pilots and clouds and altitude (yes.). And seeing him giddy with every step — from boarding to taxi ride to hotel check-in — warmed me top to toe. Just grinning me and giggly him, what a pair.
Now, on the topic of ritzy hotels and little kids … uh, yeah. They don’t usually blend well. I mean, kids like ritzy hotels. They like basically any ho-tel, mo-tel, Holiday Inn (say whaaaat?). That was the biggest thrill of traveling with my family when I was young.
No, it’s on the hotel’s side that the awkwardness can arise. Kids run around in the halls, they talk loud everywhere, they spill stuff, they cry, and they take four bites of the $26 chicken fingers. Plus, we won’t even get into the diapers in the garbage bin situation.
But this time around, at the Four Seasons Toronto, it was glorious. So much so, the kid didn’t want to leave the room to go to our event. Let’s be clear: no one is paying me to say this about this hotel chain. It’s just good ol’ honest props.
The Four Seasons T.O. made sure my son felt welcome at every turn. When we got to the room, there was a child-sized plush bathrobe folded on the bed with a stuffed toy beaver sitting on top of it and some his-size slippers as well. Then later that evening, they sent up gummy bears and chocolate chip cookies set out on a special, small tray just for him.
He really wanted breakfast in the room. Done. It’s a special trip, let’s have special treats.
There was a separate kids menu that made sense (not overly pricey or ridiculous) and the order arrived in 30 minutes. When he saw the table being wheeled in, complete with little succulent plant as decoration, the kid was totally wowed. “That was so nice of her,” he said, as the server left.
It really was nice, of everyone: the server, the hotel staff and the Four Seasons in general. Kid-friendly efforts in the service industry — and this means going beyond having mac & cheese on the menu — really count for a lot with parents. We are grateful for it. And more important, our kids never forget it.
Every morning it’s the same thing: Should I stay or should I go? This debate is about my running, but it’s not a question of do or don’t. I’ve been a dedicated runner for many years now, so there’s no wrangle around that. Come rain, shine or wretched wind chill, I will be hitting the open road and putting in my mile time. The choice factor has to do with another title I hold around here: mother.
My son is 5, and he’s grown up seeing his mama put on her tights (and hat and gloves and neck gaiter and breathable layers — listen, this is New England) and going for a run. And I like that. I like that he sees his mom being active and agile, committed to things outside of being his mother. The “issue” arrises when he wakes up in the morning and I’m not there. He does not like that, and he’s not shy about voicing his displeasure. “You’re not supposed to be wearing those run clothes, mom! You’re supposed to be still in pajamas!”How dare I make such bold moves?
Read the full essay on Mom.me.
With my husband away on a trip, it’s been high-impact hanging with The Youngster. He wasn’t feeling the best last week, so we’ve been spending A. LOT. of time together. And by together, I mean litchrally. The poor guy’s been draped on my arm, my side, my hip, just wanting to be close to Mama.
He woke up Saturday feeling much better, and I was grateful for it. Cabin fever is real, yo.
We hit the road in search of fresh adventure, and found with ease. But I think the best thing we did this weekend was go on a walk to the local Dunkin Donuts for a Peace-Out-Viral-Vagueness Treat.
I haven’t been able to go running these last two days because of solo parenting styles, so I floated the idea of walking to the DD by The Youngster. He was down for it, excited at the prospect, and even tossed this tidbit my way: “We should walk or take a bike because cars are not good for the environment.” Well, all right, sir.
So wet set out for our summer stroll rocking our straw fedoras. He stopped for old leaves and fallen baby acorns. He wondered aloud about certain cars and manhole covers and cracks in the street. He also did that balancing on the edge of the sidewalk thing kids like to do, and I all but melted. Watching him, walking and talking with him, it was all sweetness.
We made it to the cool, empty donut spot and chatted some more about beach balls and coffee and trees. Then we started back on our walk home. The rest of the afternoon leaned on lazy, and I have to say it was pretty perfect.
He also asked me to make him s’mores using some inventive ingredients. It worked — in his opinion. That’s what counts, yes?
Hope you had lovely weekend, too, and here’s to starting the week off on the right foot. Maybe even finding time to balance effortless on the slim beam of a sidewalk.
All photos above were shot by me using Samsung NX30 and NXMini cameras. Disclosure: I am a Samsung USA #Imagelogger, which means I’m an unpaid spokesperson and Samsung gave me the cameras to participate in the program.