After meeting up with an old friend who has a ten month old, she looked at me with a sad look in her eyes and asked quietly, “Is it everything you thought it would be?”
I was a bit put off by her question and asked, “What?”
“Is motherhood everything you thought it would be?”
We discussed her issues with being a teen parent for a bit, but the tone of her voice and that look in her eyes has stuck with me. On one hand, I feel bad for her for going through a rough time with her baby and parental support. On the other hand, I don’t know how to feel. What do most teens think motherhood will be?
When a teen discovers she is pregnant and ultimately makes the decision to keep her baby, what goes through her head in terms of expectations?
I thought that I would be a flustered, stressed out, frazzle-haired mom covered in spit-up and poop with a screaming baby 24/7. Imagine my surprise when I brought home my newborn and we made it through those rough first few weeks. I wasn’t horribly sleep deprived nor ready to chuck my baby out the window, or even close to wanting to take a bath with the toaster. I had imagined motherhood so impossibly difficult that when my daughter was finally born, I was relieved.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s still hard. There were still nights when I cried trying to nurse my baby with a cracked nipple as she went through a growth spurt. I was frustrated and annoyed, and I felt like the worst mom in the world for being annoyed with my baby.
I feel like a lot of teen moms get overwhelmed with their babies because they don’t realize how difficult it will be. Of course you imagine all the good things. The cute smiles and giggles and dressing baby up in adorable outfits. You imagine baby pictures and those first steps or first words.
Many don’t realize that a baby isn’t going to come out saying “mama”, they aren’t going to be smiling and laughing or splashing in the bath for quite a few months. Their babies are born and suddenly the idea of a cute laughing Gerber baby turns into this tiny thing that cries, eats, poops, and cries some more. That sudden slap in the face from reality is enough to shake any woman, no matter her age.
Yet unlike a new mother in her late 20’s, when we get flustered and need a break, it is seen as immaturity and inexperience. We are judged and examined and even shamed. We have to be on our toes, and prove that no matter our age, we can be good mothers.
So you may wonder, what does being a teen parent entail? Let me outline this for you.
No more party weekends. Yeah, we all need a break sometimes, but your party days are over. The first 6 weeks of life, baby needs mama. Do the right thing and give your baby what he or she needs.
Fast food, movies, and going out. Expect it to be a lot more difficult. Want to run out for a quick bite or to get something from the store? Your 10 minute run is going to take at least 30 with baby in tow.
You will be judged everywhere you go. Teen moms are still looked down on, no matter how popular MTV has made them. Losing your temper, taking too long to respond baby’s cries, and even using foul language will have people silently judging you.
There will be little sleep for the first 6 weeks. Babies need to be close to mom the first six weeks to help establish a breastfeeding pattern and for comfort. Remember, they were inside you for 9+ months, having your warmth suddenly disappear will be upsetting.
School will be harder. Trying to stay focused in high school or college is difficult, and with a youngster needing you it will be even harder. Have you ever tried writing a paper with a happy 6 month old slapping your keyboard because she thinks it’s funny?
You will be frustrated, annoyed, cranky, over-tired, upset, and on occasion hate the world. You will be jealous of childless teens, and even little things like showering or using the bathroom by yourself will turn you green with envy.
Adjusting to life with a baby is difficult, because everything goes from being about you, you, you to baby. But remember, you chose to have your baby. It is not their fault they were born, and you owe it to that child to be the best parent you can be.
When you choose to give birth and keep your child, you give up the right to be a teenager. You give up the right to party. You give up the right to almost all of your free time. You give up the right to a full night’s rest every night. You give up the right to peeing alone. You give up the right to take your time eating a meal just in case baby starts crying.
Yes, baby giggles and smiles will light up your heart. Those smiles and sweet coos make all the hardship worth it. The keyword in there is hardship. Don’t forget that there is more to a baby that pink bows and dinosaur jammies.