10 Years Later: A Grown Teen Mom Reflects (part 1)
By Erin Froehlich
From the Mindfull Blog Series
As a blogger, I’ve known I would have to share this story at some point, but the comments I got last week and the timing have convinced me that this is the occasion.
Last Thursday my daughter, Ivy turned 10.
I won’t be 26 until January 21.
Do some quick math, and you’ll realize I was 15 when she was born. It’s sort of funny because at the time, I think I was actually the least worried of anyone about what it would mean for me. I was an indestructible teen, just a younger, prettier adult in my mind. I never doubted that I could handle it, (which I think made everyone else even more nervous) and I feel like I’ve defied many of expectations I’ve been faced with since that time. Still, it’s interesting looking back now, with the benefit of hindsight, as a young adult with more life experience and a new perspective, in a post-Juno culture which now glorifies teen mom-hood.
I did a lot of reading about parenting and child care when I was pregnant, and I think I was more knowledgeable than many new mothers are when Ivy was born, but even with that information at hand, there was SO much I could never have anticipated about the life I chose. There was so much those books didn’t tell me. The guides are written for normal moms and dads and don’t speak about the unique challenge of being a young parent, so today, I’m going to answer a couple of the most common questions (brave) people ask me about it.
- How did it happen?
- When did you figure out you were pregnant?
- Did you ever consider an abortion?
- What about adoption?
- How did people react when they found out?
- Are teen moms or their babies at a higher risk or complications?
- How did you handle caring for a baby and going to school?
- What was the biggest surprise?
- How is being a very young parent different as an adult?
- How do you think you would have been different if you hadn't been a teen mom?
- Do you ever regret your decision?
- What does your daughter think about having such young parents?
- What do you think about MTV's show Teen Mom?
- What advice would you give to new teen moms?
Q. How did it happen?
A. It was one of the first times I ever had sex. I wasn’t on birth control pills, but while we did use a condom, it broke. I know a lot of people would place some blame my parents and honestly, they were not especially strict or involved. (I once pierced my own nose with a thumb tack and managed to go a week before they noticed. I just only ever let them see the other side of my face.) Still, I don’t think there was any amount of watching me they could have done to prevent me from having sex. They couldn’t stay with me at school all day. Determined teenagers will find a way.
Q. When did you figure out you were pregnant?
A. I had a little nausea in the morning, but I never threw up and it was nothing that couldn’t have been explained away. Mostly, I realized it had been awhile since I had my period. It’s not so unusual for teen girls to have irregular cycles, and I personally had several friends with this issue, but I had a sense that wasn’t the case for me. I didn’t take a pregnancy test or get an ultrasound though, until my psychologist (Wow, I REALLY sound like a mess now don’t I? lol) outed me to my mom.
Technically, there are patient confidentiality laws that make that illegal, but she justified this by saying not taking prenatal vitamins amounted to endangerment. Considering how many babies were born before prenatal vitamins came about, this was a pretty shaky case in mind, though looking back, I do empathize with her and the position I put her in. When she asked me when I planned to tell my parents I told her “Never.” and I meant it. Logically, I knew it would eventually come out, but I didn’t want to deal with the consequences any sooner than needed.
When I finally had a positive pregnancy test and an ultrasound, I was 3 months along.
Q. Did you ever consider abortion?
A. When they found out, I received a lot of pressure from my parents to get an abortion, so this was really tough. I’m pro-choice and not religiously affiliated. I know women that make this very difficult decision do so as a last resort and don’t do so lightly, but ultimately, I didn’t feel like abortion was something I could personally do and refused.
Q. What about adoption?
A. I spent more time considering adoption and once I was past the point where abortion would be legal, my parents changed tactics pressuring me to go that route. They were so set on this in fact, that when a friend mother who very kind to me offered to throw me a baby shower, they wouldn’t allow it because they thought it would encourage me. They brought me to several people - family members and public counselors - to try and convince me I would fail as parent and this went right up until the end - far, far after I had firmly decided against it. But WHY wouldn’t I go with adoption? This one is harder to explain.
I wish there was a more noble answer I could give, but honestly, I think my motives were mostly selfish. I wanted her for myself. I was a troubled, depressed teen (hence the psychologist) and I think mostly I just wanted someone that had to love me. (Obviously though, this is a pretty poor way to go about getting it.) At the time I justified it saying I couldn’t know for sure what sort of parenting she would receive if I decided on adoption, but I’m sure adoptive parents would have done a wonderful job as well.
Today, I do sometimes wonder if Ivy would have been better off with older, more mature and wealthier parents, but honestly, not much. I’m not religious, but I believe in fate and I think we were meant for each other. We’ve taught each other unique lessons I don’t think anyone else could replicate for us.
Q. How did people react when they found out?
A. My boyfriend: Nick, who was 16 at the time, was pretty distraught. There was some definite disagreement in terms of what way to go, but ultimately, he wanted to be with me and he supported my decision. We’re still together to this day! (YEAH! I know. Pretty crazy, right? I don’t know what the statistics on 15 and 16 year old couples that have a baby, but I’m guessing those that last over 10 years are in a very, VERY small minority.)
My parents: Remember the scene in Juno where she tells her parents? Nothing like that. Understandably, as parents, they were freaked out and felt this reflected badly on them, but they were pretty distinctly unsupportive. Some pretty nasty names and statements were thrown around and environment became generally negative and hostile. My mother eventually backed off a bit when Ivy was born, but my father went so far as to refused to even acknowledge her presence or hold her until she was well past two. It was very hard to live that way.
My friends: They were supportive of me, though several of their parents decided my parents didn’t keep adequate enough watch when they found out, so they were no longer allowed to spend the night at my house. We began to grow apart somewhat during the rest of my high school years and I made new friends with people at the alternative school.
People at school: There was definitely speculation earlier than this, but while I was pregnant at the end of my freshman year, I managed to avoid coming out with my pregnancy until the next year. Surprisingly, no one ever said anything rude to my face on the subject (though I have no doubt things were said behind my back). Mostly, people were just curious. I got some stupid questions like “Are you pregnant?” when I was 9 months along, but it was pretty mild.