- Family and Parenting
Do It For Her
Why being a young mother is not always a death sentence
On more than one occasion I've had friends or family members tell me, “Wow Katie, I can't believe you did all this as a single mother who got pregnant at the age of twenty.” Statements like these always make me smile because as good-natured as they are, they couldn't be more wrong.
I remember being twenty years old, sitting in the bathroom of my best friend's dorm room, watching those two dreaded pink lines show up on my home pregnancy test. My heart sunk. Still, underneath it all, there was an intense and immediate feeling of love that surged through me just as quickly. Despite being a strong advocate for a woman's right to choose, I instantly fell in love with the thing I knew was growing inside of me. Years ago I had always imagined myself as the kind of woman who wanted several children when the time was right. Now, I was not so sure.
A lot had changed since then. At that time I was a college dropout that had drifted heavily into the drug and party scene and working a dead-end job that I could barely hold together. I was dating an abusive drug dealer and we were currently living in a filthy two bedroom apartment with a revolving door of five to seven unstable roommates with serious personality problems. This was not the environment I could safely raise a child in. I knew that I had a choice to make. I could give in to the fear of being a young mother in a horrible situation or, I could re-embrace the mother I knew I had wanted to be before I had given up on myself.
I started my metamorphosis by immediately cutting all of the toxic people out of my life. At the time, my boyfriend agreed to do the same and fooled me into believing he was my ally in raising our child. I never touched another drug and focused on re-enrolling in college and doing well in school. After my daughter was born I was up to 270 lbs and decided I needed to project a healthy lifestyle for my daughter. I lost 130 lbs in the following eighteen months. Two years after my daughter's birth, I kicked her father out of our lives due to continued emotional abuse and drug use. After graduation I was accepted into a master's degree program that would help me pay for my degree as long as I agreed to work as a Special Education teacher at a low income school after I graduated.
I've almost finished with my master's degree now, and a few months ago, published my first novel. I'm currently working a temporary job that pays well and that I truly enjoy, until graduation. Three years ago I met the man of my dreams who now supports all of my aspirations as well as becoming a wonderful father to my daughter. We live in a three bedroom house with two dogs, two cats and lots of love and support. If you would have told the frightened twenty year old in the dorm bathroom where she would be in six years, she never would have believed you.
Before I got pregnant, my self esteem had been destroyed to the point that I no longer cared about what happened to me. Even after my daughter was born, none of the things I did were for me. There was just the ever present voice in my head, whispering “do it for her.” And I did. It seemed impossible at first for me to drag myself out of the pit I had dug, but I took it one decision at a time. I didn't love myself enough to do it for me, but I loved her enough to become the mother she deserved and make every decision in our lives with that in mind. As our situation began to improve, and I improved as a person, I started to respect myself again enough to care about my own well being and dreams. She ignited the spark that brought me back to life as a human being.
So, when people tell me that it's amazing what I've done in spite of having an unexpected pregnancy at a young age, I smile. I smile because they are wrong. My accomplishments were realized because of my daughter, not in spite of her. I took what I thought was a death sentence and peeled the layers of myself away enough to see it as an opportunity. I still respect and fight for a woman's right to choose. I just wanted to offer a different experience than the stereotype of the young mother we are so often presented with. My daughter saved my life and to this day continues to enrich it. I still try and make the best decisions I can, but now I do it for “us”. She has given me a greater gift than anything I ever would have thought possible.