A teen mother’s advice...
... to other teen moms.
By Tracy Engelbrecht
As you may know, I have some experience in the topic of teenage pregnancy, so I’m throwing my two-cents in (again). This isn’t a debate on teenage sex, abortion or the Moral Degradation of Today’s Youth. There are enough people talking about that, and I’ll let them get on with it.
Article originally in Parent24
This is the information I was looking for 15 years ago, and couldn’t find. I read the papers, I know all the stats. This isn’t about stats. This is about you, Ms Pregnant Teen. I’m talking to you and I hope you’ll listen. This is for you – especially if you’re considering motherhood.
First. No denial. It won’t go away. This is no time for “coulda-woulda-shoulda”. The consequences of this decision will stay with you forever. It’s your responsibility alone. Nobody else can or should choose for you, and you cannot let them. It ain’t for wussies. Get over yourself and do what needs to be done.
Whether you choose abortion, adoption or motherhood, you will need medical attention, and soon. If it means you have to go alone, then go alone. This is your body, your life, your job. Do it.
Yes, you’re scared. I know. Take a breath. You’re okay. If you think you want to be a mom, now’s the time to decide how much. You’ll need to think about these things:
Am I willing to change my life completely? Adjust my thinking to accommodate another person whose needs are more urgent than mine? Give up parties, hanging out with friends, sleep and free time?
Your parents can’t raise your child for you, and you can’t flit in and out of your child’s life as it suits you. This is for keeps. All moms are entitled to their own lives too, but it won’t be anything like the one you had. Not worse, just very different.
The emotional adjustment from being a kid to being somebody’s mommy can’t be underestimated. If you can’t get past this one, please think again.
Can I – will I – give up any drugs / alcohol / other bad stuff that may be part of my life right now? Immediately? Forever? Don’t kid yourself about this.
Your family’s reaction
Expect anger, shock and despair from your family. If you have a strong family who love you, then this will pass. Let them go through the motions, don’t take it personally. The anger comes from love and fear. It’s best to tell them as soon as possible, but don’t go in there a mess. Take some time to start making a plan before you speak to them. Start making contact with organisations and people who can help you. Anticipate your family’s questions.
However, if your family has issues with abuse, drugs or alcohol – think hard. You’ll be relying on them for some time. Do you really want to bring a child into a place that is already unstable?
There is no reason why you can’t complete your education. You owe it to your child to make it work. You’ll find a way. Going back to your school, homeschooling, college, distance learning, night classes are all options. It is hard, but not negotiable. Talk to teachers, the education department. You have a right to an education, but it’s your responsibility to make sure you get it.
Your own dreams don’t have to change – but you’ll have to be creative and flexible to achieve them. Expect it to take longer than it would have.
And the father? That’s a whole column by itself. Don’t base your decision on support promised by your boyfriend. Yes, he should be there. Hopefully he will be. It’s best for your child if he is there. Keep giving him opportunities to be involved. But for many of you, it won’t happen. Can you do it without him? If your relationship is unhealthy or dangerous, get out now. Don’t think that a baby will make it better. It never does. Don’t put your child’s wellbeing at risk for anybody else. Ever. Not negotiable.
Finances may be the deciding factor. Support from baby’s dad should be a given, but often it’s not. What are your options for part-time work? Daycare and medical costs are huge expenses. For many families, an extra mouth to feed is not an option. How much is your family willing and able to help? Does their financial support come with strings attached? No matter who pays the bills, your child has only one mother – you. Make sure everybody understands that, and that you deserve the title.
After all that – are you still sure it’s what you want? Go into it with your eyes wide open.
In the end, good parenting is not about age or matching surnames for Mom and Dad. It’s about love, determination and sacrifice. It’s getting up every day and carrying on, even when it’s tough and scary. It’s accepting that your child didn’t ask to be here. You had all the choices, and this is what you chose. It’s about learning and loving until your heart feels like it could explode. It’s finding joy and peace in a new way of living. You don’t have to be a statistic. You can do it well. It’s up to you.
Were you a pregnant teen? What advice would YOU give?