College is something a lot of people experience, even if just so you can party on the weekends and move out of your parents’ house. It’s four years of fun, stress, and learning who you are.
But what happens when you get pregnant in the middle of it?
I’m a junior at a respected University, a Social Services major, and six months pregnant. And the pickup line “I’m 19, single, and pregnant. Wanna hang out?” unsurprisingly hasn’t worked yet.
College didn’t start out this way, and it was never how I expected the end of my teen years to go. I had a 10-year plan. Go to school, get my degree, start my career – then have a baby. MAYBE. The plan was never go to school, fall in love with a man, break up after a year and a half, move out, and find out you’re pregnant six weeks later.
But of course, plans don’t always work out the way we want them to.
Choosing to keep my child was the single hardest decision I’ve ever made in my life – and being in recovery in a 12-step program, I’ve had to make some damn hard decisions. Choosing to give up my life for someone else, something I never could do (hence the breakup), was a decision I couldn’t have fully comprehended when I decided to do it. Still having my baby safe and sound inside me, I doubt I’ve actually started to realize how much my life is going to change in a few short months.
Finish school. Seems simple, right? Not when you’re a single mother with a full-time job of raising a kid, a part-time waitressing gig, and a full-time class load.
Get a house. With the money that I now spend on diapers and wipes?
Raise your child the way that you “know you should.” No one looks at a single teenage mom and thinks very highly of her. I never did, until I found myself as one. Until the day I took that test and the two lines showed up in front of me, I judged teen mothers harshly. How could they let that happen? Why can’t they give their child everything?
Those are questions you can’t ever answer until it happens to you personally.
The day I took the pregnancy test was the most surreal day of my life. I didn’t look pregnant, I didn’t even feel pregnant. I hadn’t even missed my period yet. I only took a test in the first place because a friend was worried she might be pregnant, and I wanted to make her feel better. Turned out she was the one comforting me that night. In the Safeway bathroom, next to a stranger peeing, I found out that my life was going to change regardless of what decision I made. Sobbing on the floor of that stall for half an hour, only to pick myself up and walk outside (after buying another test – just to “make sure”), was the biggest thing I’ve ever done.
Getting up when you want to stay down takes courage.
I notice the stares at school when I take off my jacket and people see my belly. FYI – pregnancy isn’t contagious, you don’t have to back away from me or avoid eye contact. Or when I’ve been up for a couple days studying and crying, and gave in for a coffee, I get the “caffeine’s not good for the baby” comment. The BEST is the “is your husband excited?” when I’m waitressing and customers see I’m expecting.
Actually, the best is when I say “I’m actually a single mom,” and I get to watch them become extremely uncomfortable.
Judging a pregnant woman, regardless of how old she is or what her relationship status is, is the worst thing you could do. Because I may not have a “boyfriend” in my life, but I do have a man – my son, the 24 week old baby inside my belly.
My son, who will be raised in an unconventional way by two parents who may not love each other anymore, but who both love him more than anything in the world. A son who will have a mom, a dad, and a community of support from the ones who love us too.
My son, who will learn damn quick that if anyone ever says to him that he’s a “bastard” child, that his parents are addicts and therefore are less than, or if anyone belittles him in any way, he has permission from his mother to stand up for himself, but also be the bigger person.
Raising a child being 19, single, and in college is the most controversial thing I’ve ever decided to do. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and it will also be the most rewarding.
So just remember – when I’m walking across campus with my big belly, or serving you breakfast and my bump’s at your eye level, have some respect. Have some empathy. And most of all, keep your damn mouth shut.