Home > Rayne > Shit Happens: On My Experience as a Teen Mom

Shit Happens: On My Experience as a Teen Mom

March 7th, 2014

Trigger warning: Nothing graphic, but there is mention of emotional and sexual abuse within this post.

One of the ads in a deplorable campaign meant to shame teens into not having babies. Because moms don't change the world every day, apparently.

Probably the most deplorable ad in a campaign meant to shame teens into not having babies. Because moms don’t change the world every day, apparently.

Generally speaking, I try to avoid talking about the fact that I was a teen mom.

Generally speaking, I try to avoid talking about the fact that I’m a mom at all because…well, this is an adult blog, but also because I feel like I am a complete failure in that area. I still have a hard time letting myself agree with the people who are privy to the entire situation, and say that I did everything I could to try to rectify that once I was in my right mind and was able, and before I was summarily dismissed from their lives by their father who still insists I abandoned them.

As if he has room to talk. After pushing me out of their lives, he left them with his ex-wife and moved to another state with another woman, then refused to speak with them for a year. So pretty much fuck him and his fucked up view on life.

Anyway…that’s neither here nor there. I didn’t come here today to write about how much of a waste of space my ex is. But because I know some of you are wondering, I’ll tell you the reason I haven’t flown to where the kids live and tried to take custody back from their stepmother is because she’s the only mother most of them have known and she’s more than capable. My youngest was still barely a toddler when the court decided criminal was better than crazy and sent them to live with their father. And the only memories my oldest has of me are from when I had a nervous breakdown.

Besides that, they’re doing well where they are. They’re all happy, and healthy. They’re doing well in school, and they’re into sports, and other extracurricular activities. And they’ve dealt with enough trauma. I’m not going to add to it by ripping them away from the one person who has been a positive constant in their lives.

I cannot express how grateful I am for this woman. But I won’t pretend it doesn’t rip me apart every time I think about it.

I try to avoid talking about the fact that I was a teen mom because:

a) my teen pregnancy went exactly the way everyone expects teen pregnancies to go. But it went that way because I had almost no support and was in and out of an abusive relationship, not because all teen pregnancies go that way. I know tons of teen moms who are great moms and have great careers. Some of them even went on to marry the father of their children. Their families were supportive, and no one in their support group treated them badly because they were teen moms.
b) there’s this stigma surrounding teen pregnancy, mostly due to the Christian ideal that people shouldn’t have children out of wedlock, but this is compounded by the fact that you’re not legally allowed to get married without parental permission in most states until age eighteen. Not married + have a baby + underage? You must be related to Satan.

I got pregnant with my son when I was sixteen. It was the second time I’d had penis-in-vagina sex.

I instantly knew I was pregnant. I don’t know how or why, but I knew. So when my mom and dad caught me and my boyfriend running away (for other reasons), and my mom screamed, “I will not have a pregnant sixteen-year-old living under my roof,” I pretty much abandoned what hope I had left of ever having a normal life, and began plotting my escape from my parents.

Of course, because my parents didn’t agree with my decision to keep my son, I didn’t have a whole lot of support. Part of that was because they didn’t feel like I was doing anything to better my situation. I was just skating through life by the edge of my teeth.

And I was. The very, very edge, and about to teeter over.

I was dealing with depression and anxiety before I got pregnant. The pregnancy was nothing but depression and anxiety because I was convinced my parents hated me, and they really didn’t do anything to make me believe any different. Another added factor was the fact that my ex had convinced me that I had no one but him, and then he raped me for the first time when I was pregnant with my son.

By the time I had the baby, I was mostly unable to function.

My doctor was great. He assured me that women start getting married at my age in his country, so I had nothing to be ashamed of. He helped me through the process of allowing another living thing to grow inside my body, and assured me that I’d be able to raise my son when I mentioned the fact that I’d scheduled a meeting with a potential family. So I decided to keep the baby and breastfeed as much as I was comfortable. Once upon a time, I used to be rather modest, and the idea of nursing in public at sixteen terrified me.

Then, after six months of being pretty much my only support through the pregnancy, my doctor became mostly unavailable to me because he’d committed some crime and was doing community service to pay for it. And the hospital staff was horrid.

It’s unclear whether my ex faked a panic attack for attention or actually had one the day I had my son. Either is possible. If all eyes aren’t on him, he acts out until they are. It’s at least half the reason he became a career criminal at fifteen.

The next day, we were told my son had jaundice. The nurse berated me for twenty minutes, telling me I was a bad mother, and I didn’t feed my son enough. I’d been a mother for less than 24 hours, and I had been feeding my son every time he cried since they brought him to me.

No one defended me. When she left, my ex told me she didn’t know what she was talking about, but there was doubt in his eyes, and a question in his voice. He looked at my mother for reassurance, and got none, so he changed the subject.

When I began asking the nursery to feed my son, and avoided bringing him into my room as long as possible, nobody mentioned postpartum depression. They just told me I was a bad mother, and that I needed to grow up.

I’d arranged with the school to take the semester off, so I could stay home with my son. At the time, my ex was working, but he wasn’t giving me any money, so instead of staying home with the baby, I was also working, and borrowing money from my parents when I could. And I was dealing with some serious postpartum depression and self-doubt.

It was already becoming painfully obvious that I’d never be able to talk to my ex about these things, and I didn’t trust my mother or the therapist whose job it was to report to her. So I filed it in a cabinet in the recesses of my mind to be dealt with at a later date, like I did pretty much every negative experience I’d ever had. I pretended life was great, and everything was perfect, and all the while, I was failing at even simple tasks, and falling apart.

Instead of getting help, because I had been convinced there was no such thing, I ran into the arms of my ex and his clique, not realizing I was essentially standing in a pit of vipers. We applied for welfare benefits after our second child because we couldn’t afford daycare, and my ex’s job just barely covered our bills, let alone formula and diapers for two babies, but the lady told me I should have my babies taken away simply because I’d just turned eighteen, so we never went back.

Instead, we resorted to stealing what we needed when we couldn’t make the money other ways.

At every turn, I was treated like garbage. And eventually, my ex saw everyone else blaming me for our situation, so he figured it was okay for him to blame me, too.

No one ever asked me what was going on; they just told me how much I sucked. I guess they expected me to defend myself. Instead, I assumed nothing I said would change their minds, and avoided finding myself in the same situation in the future.

This could have all been avoided.

If just one person had tried to help me, instead of making it their mission to let me know they thought I was a terrible person simply because I had a baby, I might have gotten the help I so desperately needed before I broke when I could no longer withstand the pressure. My mother eventually made attempts but by then, it was too late. I didn’t trust her. I believed she was trying to separate me from my son so she could get rid of him.

This is why we need to stop shaming teen parents. Our bodies are ready to start having babies the second we hit puberty, and our instinct is to start humping as young as possible so our young will be viable and succeed. Of course teenagers have sex.

Teach them what their bodies can do. Teach them about responsibility. Teach them that life is much, much easier if you wait until you’re established (meaning your finances are stable, and you can provide everything a child needs), and teach them how to avoid pregnancy until that time.

But also teach them that shit happens. Teach them that they are not shitty people for getting pregnant before society says it’s okay for them to do so. Teach them that they deserve support just like every other human being on this planet. And then show them that you will be a part of that support.

Or, you know…don’t. And have your child go through the same sanity-busting emotional torture as I did, and start the cycle again. Personally, I prefer the first option. But who am I to tell you what’s right for you?

P.S. Judge me if you want to. I was a kid, and you weren’t there. I did what I could with the tools I had.

  1. March 7th, 2014 at 10:19 | #1

    I love your advice for what to do, both as a preventative and a “shit happens, now what”. Being a teenager in itself is a chaotic jumbled emotional roller coaster, add abuse, baby, babies, negativity, and it’s a recipe for a wreck.

  2. March 7th, 2014 at 10:37 | #2

    I wouldn’t judge you, now would silverdrop. We are strong supporters of teen sex ed and despise people who for religious or other reasons disown their teen kids if they get pregnant.

  3. March 7th, 2014 at 13:46 | #3

    I’m so sorry about your situation. We briefly talked one day about you being a mom, but the details were never filled in. Now, I understand the situation.

    You are absolutely right, a teen mom without a support system can’t be successful. They need support just like everyone else. Everyone shitting on them, telling them how irresponsible they were, etc doesn’t help nor change the situation. You were still pregnant, you were still going to keep that baby, and you needed someone to help you through this difficult time in your life. It’s sad that you weren’t given this chance. I know this must tear you up inside, because I know it would do that for me.

    Like I said yesterday, my sister was pregnant at 16. She had just started her 11th grade year when she had a party and everyone was invited over to sleep in tents. A condom ripped and they didn’t notice until it was too late. She found out she was pregnant about 2 weeks later because she was so sick. We all had some idea, but she was holding onto hope that it wasn’t the case. My sister had to deal with his family (babies father) hating her for not getting an abortion. My father even wanted her to get one. She spent the next months of her pregnancy depressed because her only support person was my mother. By this time I had already moved out of the house and was going through my own depression, miscarriage, and pregnancy, so I was no help to anyone because I needed help myself. When the day finally came that my niece was born – it was so nice how the baby was welcomed into the family. My father instantly changed his opinion and never belittled my sister again. However, the father of the babies family was a different story. She had to do DNA testing because she was called a whore. They refused to be a support system for her until the DNA testing came back. Thankfully for my sister, she had my parents and an awesome support system from the school who made sure that she would graduate. She did experience the snouty bitches like you did down at welfare and wic. One of them told her the same they told you… “you shouldn’t have custody of your daughter, you are still a child. It’s disgusting.” My sister is now 23, she has a new long term partner who cares for my niece more than her actual father. She works close to full time and she does to college full time. Her kids are perfectly fine and well taken care of. Teen moms can do it and make something out of themselves if people allow them to!

    I will be happy when the stigma of teen pregnancy completely goes away. Hell, even though I was 19, graduated, and with my SO for 2 years… I still got so much grief about how I was far too young to be a mom. I even had women in the store talk behind my back about how they’d be embarrassed to have their pregnant teenager in the store with them. Even though they were talking about my husband and I not my father.

  4. March 7th, 2014 at 14:09 | #4

    @ SilverDomUK That’s just one of the reasons I love you both. Thank you.

  5. March 7th, 2014 at 14:09 | #5

    @ Cammies on the Floor It really is. Thank you.

  6. March 7th, 2014 at 14:12 | #6

    @ Beck I avoid talking about it as much as possible. It’s still a major source of pain, pretty much daily, and most people don’t believe me, so I just don’t bring it up.

    Teens really need the room to be teens. And everyone makes mistakes. We need to stop teaching teens that mistakes are the end of the world, and start giving them the tools they need to make sure their mistakes don’t ruin their lives.

    Thanks for your comment.

  7. March 7th, 2014 at 20:27 | #7

    I am heartbroken for you after reading this!

    I found out I was pregnant with my first daughter only days before my 18th birthday. but our situations have been very different. My partner (who I married while I was pregnant, and divorced four years later) was supportive of me. He wanted to start a family with me, and we tried getting pregnant. I’m not saying it was the best choice I’ve ever made, but I always wanted to be a mother and knew I was mentally and physically able to handle the responsibility. My immaturity in the situation shines through when you consider the fact I didn’t graduate (or have a GED), didn’t have my license, and was living at home with my mother at the time.

    When my family found out they were all quite shocked. I had been the good Christian girl who was going to wait until I was married to have sex, and everyone’s opinions of me immediately changed. Anyone that knew me said I was going to be a great mom, but those that didn’t….they looked at me like I had done something wrong. Fortunately, though my mother was disappointed in me, I did have support. My partner’s family was thrilled, and that was enough to make up for the less than pleased reaction I got from mine.

    After my daughter was born, it didn’t seem to matter where we went, comments were said or faces were made. Even though I knew my partner had been the only person I’d had sex with, and even though I knew we tried to get pregnant, it felt like everyone looked at me like I must have slept around or we weren’t careful.

    I’m fortunate that the only thing I’ve really had to deal with is outsider comments and faces. I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like to not have that support. Last year my husband’s cousin found out she was pregnant. At the time she was 15 and she was terrified. She felt like she couldn’t talk to anyone, so she turned to me. She knew I wouldn’t judge her, and knew I would do everything I could to help, no matter what she decided. We looked into adoption because she didn’t want to have an abortion, but didn’t feel like she was stable enough to be a mom at that point. Her guardian ended up forcing her to have the abortion, saying if she didn’t than she wouldn’t have a place to live. That broke my heart! She wasn’t even really given a choice.

    I think the best thing we can do is educate, and support. Like you said, ‘shit happens’. Shaming someone because of a life experience doesn’t change it, it only harms the person. I now have three daughters, my oldest will be 8 in a few months. She already knows a lot of things about her body and how it works. When she’s older, I’ll teach her more about sex, birth control, etc. But if after all that, she came home telling me she was pregnant, I would take her in my arms and tell her that we’ll figure things out. Not, “I’m so disappointed in you”. Not, “You’re so stupid”. Changes are, she’d already be scared out of her mind.

    Support can make or break a person, and I’m so sorry you didn’t have enough of it. As difficult as it is, it sounds like you’re doing the right thing for your children. I think it takes an amazingly unselfish woman to do what you’re doing. You should feel proud of yourself for giving them stability. Thank you for sharing such an intimate post with everyone, I think a lot of people will benefit from reading it.

  8. Heaven
    March 7th, 2014 at 22:51 | #8

    I am sorry for all you have been through. I know it hurts and you are in a better place now. I don’t put shame on the teens out there I put it on their parents for not bringing them up and talking to them the right way. I have nieces of my friends who are like family that is why I call them my nieces and nephews, who have got pregnant young and it urks the hell out of me. Because their parents were not around and did not sit down and talk to them and all three of the girls had babies as teens except one she did wait till she was 20 but even still I did not think she would get pregnant. I even had friends in school who had babies as well and dropping out of school. I was not a teen mom myself I had my first child at 22 and my second at 33 years old. It is hard and I don’t have a support system either but I do what I have too to take care of mines.

  9. March 8th, 2014 at 12:20 | #9

    thank you for writing this and sharing…I know it must have been incredibly hard and painful to share this, but it is important to shed light on how we treat teen moms. I was well into my 20s when we had our first, but I have seen the disgust, the withdrawing of support and the judgement in my family when my cousin became a single parent. She knew she couldn’t abort, and she knew she’d hate herself for giving her baby up for adoption and walking away from a life she had helped create, and my family continues to berate her for her choices. She is about to have her second, and no longer a teen, but still, the same judgement and withdrawing of support is present…probably more so this time. It breaks my heart that we feel the need to pass judgement on others, whether they are teen parents or single parents, because it is so hard to be a parent and children should never suffer for the parent, or parents, trying to do their best, however they can.
    The way I see it, parenthood is heartbreak. In some way we are always giving of ourselves, or letting go when we want to hold on, so that our children can have what they need. No more heartbreak need be provided through judgement and withdrawing support.

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