I remember like it was yesterday, I was locked in a stall in my dorm bathroom anxiously awaiting the results of my pregnancy test. As I closed my eyes I thought, “could I really be going through this?” Just months earlier, I had left my small town as the first person in my family to receive a scholarship to college. I remembered my parents beaming with pride as they left me at college full of their dreams and aspirations for me. I was going to make a difference. As I opened my eyes my life changed forever…..the test read positive…I was pregnant.
Everything after that was a blur from how many tears I cried. My boyfriend (husband now) was supportive but we really had no idea what to do. We considered an abortion but neither one of us could go through with it…I wanted to keep our baby. After making that decision there was a whirlwind of activity: I had to find a place to live, get a job and tell my parents that I was pregnant and that I was keeping the baby. My mom cried and my father was silent…dead silent. After about a month they recovered from the news after I vowed to stay in school and still “make something out of myself.”
Nine months later my son was born, but instead of life being easier it got harder—even unbearable at times. Here I was a full time student, part time worker, who still had dreams, aspirations and a baby. Being the strategist I am, I decided that I had to make this work. I moved to on campus family housing, got government assistance, and decided to live by the mantra, “that hard times don’t last always”. During those hard times I learned 5 important lessons that have stuck with me as my family has grown and has allowed me to be a great mother despite obstacles.
1. When you have children, their interests are first. PERIOD. POINT.BLANK. This was hard for me. I was so used to doing what was good for me that at times I forgot I had a baby who needed me to do what was good for him. This took a lot of sacrifice….there were times I could not go out and socialize because my son needed me. I had to spend quality time with him, work on his homework with him, or just be there because he wanted me. Whenever I was offered a new opportunity or job I had to consider how the hours, stress, pay, etc would affect him. This caused me to turn down some opportunities while embracing others.
2. Spend time and love your children and everything else will fall in place. While I was pregnant I read every website and book I could find about raising a child. When he was born, I tried to institute everything I read and I almost had a nervous breakdown. My mother saw the toil trying to be “perfect” took on me that she gave some advice that only she could, “love him, spend time with him..everything else will fall in place.” Living by that mantra has allowed me cover any mistakes I’ve made with him (buying him a skateboard to early, etc) with love. When he is an adult he will remember the love and time I spent with him not the petty mistakes (giving him whole milk to early, etc) that I would “beat myself” up about.
3. Some friends will not understand nor respect that you are a mother—discard of them immediately. I was 19 when I got pregnant (twenty when I had my son) so I was the first of my friends to have a child. Some of them understood but there were some who did not understand nor respect I was a mother. There were friends who got mad at me because I refused to leave him with random people to go out on the town with them—I stayed away from them. The friends who realized I was not as mobile as I had once been were priceless to me. Sometime they helped me when I needed a sitter or when I was about to fall to pieces but for them I will be forever grateful.
4. Every mother needs a support system, small or large. For the first couple of months I was a mother I thought I was superwoman. I changed all diapers, gave all feedings, soothed every tear and then I almost had a breakdown. My boyfriend would joki
ngly say that I never slept a wink because I needed to do it all. I needed help and since my parents lived 500 miles away I had to make a choice. Accept some help or go back to my hometown with my baby. I chose the first option and life got better. If someone I trusted asked to baby-sit I allowed them. Other times I needed to get advice, a homemade dinner or a word of encouragement—all of these things helped keep me sane.
5. “Me” time is vital for your (and others around you) sanity. I learned that not every minute can be spent with your family—no matter how much you love them. So some days I would just go to the library, take a walk or go to the mall and spend time with me and learn what I liked to do without baby. Don’t underestimate the power of being alone, it’s during this time you find yourself with no distractions.
Fast forward to eleven years later, and I am a mom of 3 children (11, 3, 2) who graduated from college, got a Master’s Degree (working on my PhD) and is a pretty awesome wife to my college sweetheart. As I look back during those times I can smile because my son helped me become a better (more responsible person). What are some lessons you learned when becoming a young parent?