I was sitting on the sandy floor of a hotel bathtub when I admitted to myself that I thought I might be pregnant. That I might become a teen mom.
It was fall break and my parents wanted a family beach trip now that we were all a little older. The younger two weren’t preteens yet so they were excited. My older brother and I were very much feeling our 16 and 18 year old selves though. I was moody and sullen and I didn’t want to be away from and out of touch with my boyfriend for a whole week. I had been due to start my period a few days before, and while it had always run like clockwork, it still hadn’t made an appearance. Nevertheless, that morning as everyone else loaded up the van I loaded up my bag with tampons and forced one inside me because I was absolutely certain that it would choose to start on that long eight hour drive. It didn’t.
My boyfriend and I weren’t idiots, and we knew sex could lead to babies. So we took precautions.
My boyfriend and I weren’t idiots, and we knew sex could lead to babies. So we took precautions.
A Niggling Thought
The worm first wiggled into my brain as I sat reading the warning sign at the hot tub. I had gotten in, but hadn’t brought a book with me, and while it was nice and relaxing, I was bored. So I sat and people watched and read every sign within my eyesight. The hot tub sign said that pregnant women should not use the hot tub. I still hadn’t started my period. But neh… no way.
Back in the hotel room I sat out on the balcony trying to fall into my book while enjoying the warmth of the sun and the gulf breeze, but I was restless. I was sure a shower would help. I went into the bathroom, stripped off my bathing suit, pulled my hair down from its bun, got in the tub and just sat under the warm water feeling the sand under me and tasting the salty water run down my face. It took a while for me to realize that it was tears that I tasted and no longer the residue of the ocean breeze that coated my skin. Sitting there I admitted to myself that I could be pregnant. Very possibly I was. I might be a teen mom. My boyfriend and I weren’t idiots, and we knew sex could lead to babies. So we took precautions. I also knew that condoms weren’t 100%. My mom came in and stood over me and told me that I was either dying or I was pregnant.
My mom came in and stood over me and told me that I was either dying or I was pregnant.
I pulled my knees up to my chest, wrapped my arms around them, laid my head down and just let the tears come over me in waves. Thinking of what my boyfriend would say, I sat and cried I was sure that he would ditch me at the first chance. As I cried, I thought of what my parents would say, how they would react. My mom had been a teen mom. She was 18 when she had my brother. She was always very adamant that she would not have us ruining our lives that way. Mostly though, I sat and cried for my dreams. There would be no traveling America and Europe and drawing and painting. No special summer art programs. No studying art at some famous far from Tennessee art school and no exchange programs overseas. There would just be me and this baby. It was still early enough that I could have been wrong, but I just knew.
In that moment I knew, with total certainty, that I was pregnant.
Fast forward a few weeks. The only people who knew that I thought I was pregnant were my boyfriend and my best friend. It was all that my boyfriend and I talked to each other about. We kept a composition notebook that we passed back and forth for notes to each other. We filled up a half of a notebook in a month discussing it, worrying over it, obsessing over it.
My best friend mostly just ignored it or tried to convince me how I couldn’t possibly be pregnant. She finally believed me when I slept over one weekend and had to start each morning in the bathroom with the shower running so that the rest of her house wouldn’t hear me throwing my insides up. Her sister accused me of being bulimic or pregnant. At this point my friend kept telling me that I had to test, but I had no desire to. I knew and I wasn’t about to pee on anything for confirmation because eww.
My morning sickness expanded at the same rate as the cells of the hitchhiker growing in my body. It went from throwing up once or twice in the morning. To throwing up on and off for an hour or two each morning. To throwing up on and off until lunchtime. Then, it got so that I was throwing up on and off from about four in the morning to 2 or 3 in the afternoon at the worst of it.
A little before that point, after the third time my mom had to come and get me from school because I was unable to hide it from classmates or my teachers, my mom figured it out. I was laying in bed, feeling like this must be death and wondering why the heck it was called morning sickness when I was sick all day. My mom came in and stood over me and told me that I was either dying or I was pregnant. I weakly responded with how I certainly felt like I was dying. She said, okay, let’s take a pregnancy test and this will tell us if you need to go to the emergency room or the obstetrician. Of course it came back exactly how we both knew it would – positive. I was going to be a teen mom.
We spent about half of the pregnancy apart before getting back together. (And we’ve been together ever since.)
Life Began to Change
There really wasn’t any way to hide the pregnancy, there was no bump yet, but there were notes allowing me to leave class as needed to throw up and constant tardy slips for running late in the mornings because of it. It was all everybody was talking about. Me. Being a teen mom. My older brother actually found out when he heard two teachers discussing it, and to this day he resents finding out that way and not from me.
People started looking at me differently. At first it was just kids in the hall who I didn’t know who would whisper and point at me. The teen mom. Or maybe they called me other names in their heads. Random people I vaguely knew would stop me and ask how I was doing. Then it was friends. Suddenly some of the kids I had been friends with the last two years no longer wanted to sit near me. They didn’t want to talk to me and stopped returning my calls or notes.
Then one day in French class two girls that I thought were good friends just sort of lost it. I had done better than one of them on a test or a paper or some assignment. As they were sitting right next to me, one looked at the other and said it must have been rigged. Surely some stoner whore who had gotten herself pregnant couldn’t have done better than them. When I confronted her she just went off and started calling me all of these horrible things. She said over and over how I was just a whore, and it probably wasn’t even my now ex-boyfriend’s baby and he knew it. That was why we had broken up. She said she had never really liked me, but just tolerated me for the other girl. Since the other girl’s parents had said she couldn’t be friends with me anymore, she no longer had to pretend. The other girl had the grace to blush and try to stammer apologies and excuses. A few weeks later when I received my packets to take advanced classes the next year and that girl did not… well, then it was her turn to unload on me as well.
My Partner in Crime
When others said that maybe a baby shower wasn’t in good taste given the circumstances, my mother threw me one anyway.
Then there was my boyfriend, who was now my ex. Before the morning sickness had grown to full blown vomiting I spent about a week feeling sick all day long. Out of eight classes my boyfriend was in five of them and we were always together. I remembered a friend saying that she knew it was time to dump one guy after being near him made her nauseated. Here I was, nauseated, and there he was in the desk right next to me. So in a fit of hormones and morning sickness I wrote him a note saying that we should break up because he made me feel like puking. We spent about half of the pregnancy apart before getting back together. (And we’ve been together ever since.)
It Wasn’t Just My Peers
During all of this I also had teachers telling me that I should just go ahead and drop out and get my GED – that I wasn’t fit for college. I was just wasting their time. Or if I continued school after my baby was born, as a teen mom, that made me selfish. I should really be home raising my own child and not foisting him off on my mother. I also had the fun of the whole meltdown that was going on in our church over my pregnancy. The public unfriending at school didn’t even begin to hold a candle to the way others in my youth group were treating me. Or worse, how their parents viewed and spoke of me. It felt like everywhere I turned there was nothing but anger, hate, and condemnation. You would think that I was the first unwed teenage girl in the history of the world to end up pregnant.
The (second) Best Surprise
But my parents. My parents were amazing. Yes, there was the initial upset and disappointment. My mother though wanted nothing more than to make sure that I knew how much she loved me and would support me. She never wanted me to look back on this time the way she did because of her father’s reaction when she got pregnant at seventeen. She told me over and over that this pregnancy was not the end of the world.
Being a teen mom was not the end of my plans and dreams. It did not mean that I had to leave school or give up art. It did not make me a bad person. She told me that every baby is a blessing; no matter the circumstances and that they would love this baby and me no matter what. She told me that in no way did me being pregnant mean that I had to stay with the baby’s father. Her and my step-father never showed me anything but strength and support.
I always figured as I got older the looks and comments would stop, but they haven’t.
When it seemed that others were trying to tear me down or push me aside- they would battle for me. Towards the end of my pregnancy my step-mother told me that if I went into labor during the time her daughter was in cheer camp that my father wouldn’t be able to come to the hospital. I came home in tears. To this day I am not sure what all my mother did or said, but I know it involved calls to my father’s mother and sister, and that my father was at the hospital and one of the first people to hold his grandson after his birth. When others said that maybe a baby shower wasn’t in good taste given the circumstances of me being a teen mom, my mother threw me one anyway. Nothing will ever mean more to me, has done more to shape me, or has impacted me so deeply, as my mother’s fierce love when I thought that my world was ending.
Some Things Never Change
In the years since my son was born, there have been so many highs and lows. They all come back to getting pregnant with him at sixteen. I always figured as I got older the looks and comments would stop, but they haven’t. For every time I have felt like a just regular mom, there has been another time when somebody thought I was his older sister or babysitter. We endure not so subtle questions about our ages. We live with rude remarks wondering if he has the same father as the others.
The other mothers who volunteered in the classroom with their snide words and shutting me out of their group. There was the afternoon in the van when I realized my son learning subtraction wasn’t as great as it seemed. I ended up trying to explain being a teen mom to an eight year old. There have been many times that he has come home in a mood and it turned out to be because somebody made some remark or another about his young mom. I’ve been left wishing that somehow I could go back and change things at times. I can’t imagine the world without him, as he is, in it.
I can’t imagine the world without him, as he is, in it.
I don’t regret having him as young as I did though, not really.
I don’t really wish that I could change that.
I had to get pregnant when I did.
I had to become a teen mom.
I had to have him when I did.
I had to have him with the man I did.
If any of those things had changed, even just one, I might not have the son that I have today. I’m sure that I would have loved whatever other child I had ended up with, but I know this one. I can’t imagine the world without him, as he is, in it.