Today, women are nearly 31 years old when they first give birth, whereas a generation ago it was 24.
I was 16 when I had my first child. That was thirty years ago. A child having a child. . . Gulp . . . I wasn’t even old enough to vote or to get my own apartment or bank account. I could not even enroll in a night-time trade school (I chose nursing school) without my parent’s signed authorization. I tried to cheer myself by repeating that once the baby was born, I could officially be emancipated–meaning support myself and my new little one, make decisions on my own…and for my baby.
It didn’t work.
Just the thought of it shook my world to its core.
I was so uneducated about sex and birth control at the time that I truly was confused when my doctor told me that it wasn’t just the flu. I was sitting up on the doctor’s table, fully clothed, when he walked in and announced, “You’re pregnant. I specialize in teenage pregnancy, you’re in the right place”. I remember thinking, “The right place?? For what?? I just want to know what kind of flu I have!” I sat dumbfounded as he answered, “You will feel flu-ey, but you are actually PREGNANT.”
The doctor sent me downstairs to get some blood tests, which took some time since I fainted in the elevator.
At that moment I understood pure shock. I came pretty close to falling into a catatonic state. My daze lasted for weeks—at least I think it did. It was quite a blur.
I don’t remember much about my pregnancy, except the disapproving stares and harsh whispers as I walked around with my baby in my belly. The memories sting to this day. I was ashamed to be pregnant at such an age and the disapproval of others fed into it. I knew it was “wrong”
Or did I?!
It was around month 5 when I found my inner “Lebanese”. I learned how to use my voice . . . and in a BIG way. “Enough with being judged”, I decided. Who were these people to look down on me? What kind of way is that to treat a young girl? The struggle for me was real. It was the first time I had sex with my high school “sweetheart” . . . and boom I was “flu-ey”. Baby daddy was gone, his family shipping him out of the area and leaving me to navigate through it primarily on my own. My mom and stepdad thankfully were there for me every step of the way, but mostly, I was emotionally alone.
Despite battling morning sickness, I earned my GED and transitioned into night school with a focus on the medical field. Even at that young age I somehow knew that I was going to be responsible for another life in a matter of months and that an education or a trade was needed immediately. Welfare was not an option. (Why I thought that I have no idea, but I just did.) My family wasn’t wealthy, we were middle class. Or at least I think we were. We lived in a nice home, my mom and stepdad provided us with the basics, and we were made to earn bonuses.
When my son was born, I was still desperately trying to get a basic trade education so that I could work above minimum wage. I suffered from major postpartum depression within days, so much so that I had to check myself in to a mental health institution. I was there for at least 3 weeks, maybe a month, diagnosed with Level 5 depression.
Apparently, Level 5 means “cannot see her baby”. The nurses there taught me how to change diapers, how to hold a baby, and even how to soothe both my son and myself. I do not exaggerate when I say that they were truly angels sent from above. They shaped me as a mom and I think of them often, grateful that they were there at a time when I most needed them. I remember the scent of the bleached, and somewhat burnt, smell on the white towels. I can still smell the peach fragrance of the lotion I rubbed on my hands after washing them. To this day when I smell bleached/burnt white towels or peach lotion, I start to cry remembering the blessing all these people were who, quite literally, saved my life. Even the memory of my stepdad driving me to the hospital because he knew I needed help, causes me to pause and wipe tears away.
My kids are all adults now. I survived the young parenting bumps, while they (all three) survived my single-mom parenting. And now, here I am, about to become a grandmother at the young age of 47. I am super proud to be a young grandma, a totally different feeling from becoming a young mom. As I eagerly await the birth of my first grandchild, I often wish I could return to the 16-year-old me and let her know that everything is going to turn out okay. I would love nothing more than to hold tight that scared young teen and show her just as well blessed I/we are today.
Ironically, the daze is back that I felt upon first learning about my pregnancy. It hit me as soon as my daughter told me she was pregnant. Only this time the daze is different as I am not confused or scared. This is more like a Cloud Nine excited trance because I get to be a GRANDmother now. No parenting needed, only grand-guiding.
The only type of worrying I feel now is the kind felt by a mother with 30-plus years of experience and three children. Now I constantly worry about my daughter when she is feeling sick and if the baby is okay. I text her dozens of times every day just to check in. I’m obsessed with her health and this new journey she is embarking on. I don’t care if I am being a hemorrhoid. I don’t want her to be afraid, alone, scared or dazed. At the same time I force myself to remember that this is all part of the process and of personal growth. I am learning, slowly, that I have to step back and be a grandma—not a mom. I must patiently observe and only offer help and guidance when asked.
I will always be a mother, and that will never change. But now it is time to navigate this new role by learning how to be more of an observer, supporter, a guide. It sounds easy, but so far, it’s not. All I want to do is hover over my daughter, make sure she is okay. Thankfully, baby daddy has really been there for her. I know I need to let them have space and time together, so I keep my distance. I decided to start by focusing on things that I could do to show my support. I subscribed my daughter to a monthly pregnancy box, one for baby dad too. After all, I’m building a relationship with him now and we barely know each other. I have also created care packages to drop off periodically that will include feel-good things for my daughter–fuzzy slippers, pregnancy safe bath salts, and activity books that she loves. (Naturally, the first thing I bought for her was the best pregnancy book ever written, What to Expect When You’re Expecting, even though she is hooked into a pregnancy app . . . Shhh. I signed up for the app too so I could follow her journey, but she has no idea. Lol.)
Don’t hover, I continually remind myself. Sigh…
Until my grandbaby is born, I’ll do my best to not hover which means that I will dive deep into working. Speaking of work, I may need a second job just to pay for all the baby outfits I will buy when my grandbaby arrives—whether they are needed or not. Time will tell if I become more of a mommy grandma. It is only baby steps . . . or grandma steps . . . but I must start somewhere since this is all so new to me.
Still, I smile daily out of gratitude for how good my life is. Dazed from giddiness is much better than dazed from confusion and fear.