My parenting journey was unplanned. It began when I was 19 years old and discovered I was expecting. While all my friends were out partying and doing the things young people do, I was sitting at home contemplating my rapidly changing situation towards teen pregnancy. I was just 18 months out of high school and 8 months into my degree when I found out I was pregnant. And I was terrified.
Yes, I was always someone who wanted kids, I dreamed of an army of them. But I certainly didn’t expect I’d have one so soon. Granted, she is the absolute light of my life, but there are things I have had to give up and sometimes – just sometimes – I wish that I had waited to have my little girl.
Along with deciding to keep, and raise my baby alone came a lot of sacrifice. I gave up many friendships. The majority of my old friends no longer talked to me or cared about me, even ones I’d been friendly with since primary school. It was a tough, I felt scared and I felt alone.
I gave up going out with people and enjoying a carefree youth. It was a sacrifice I had to make, but some days I wish I was able to say, “Yes, let’s go party!” In reality, like many mums, I could count the number of times I’ve been out childfree on one hand.
Despite these things, I never thought I would have such a rough trot. I don’t want sympathy but if you think you’re ready for a baby as a teenager, you’re probably wrong. I can only share my experiences and hope you might see the harsh reality of these choices. Maybe my words will form part of your decision.
These are the things that I wish I had known;
Pregnancy is not all maternity selfies and new clothes!
I was so sick in my first trimester I was hospitalized seven times. I had to tell everyone earlier than I had planned that I was expecting because I kept having to disappear to seek healthcare. It was rough. For 22 weeks of my pregnancy I was mostly bed ridden. I couldn’t work and I had to defer my second year of university. I suffered from gestational diabetes and high blood pressure and my daughter had growth issues in the womb.
Young men are often not ready or capable of being engaged fathers.
After my horrible pregnancy, I did finally become a happy new mum. But I was also a 20-year-old single mother. It’s a fact that babies don’t make men stay. They put incredible strain on a relationship and sometimes it breaks them. This is a sad but common truth. For me, since I became a single parent my daughter’s father has not bothered contacting me, seeing her or assisting me to care for her. It’s been a challenging relationship. A baby certainly changes everything and I assure you it’s not always for the better.
You will need support. As much as you can get. Take it.
In whatever form that comes, you’ll need it. As determined as you may feel to do it “all on your own” (believe me, I was!) you will need and appreciate helping hands. I had a tough time coping and I’m grateful for the assistance that I have had enjoyed. They say it takes a village to raise a child. Find your village and let them help you!
Try to keep & create options for yourself.
Stay in school, university or whatever form of education you’re in before you have a baby, and, if possible, even after. Education is incredibly valuable. It will assist you in work opportunities, boost your self worth and you can call on your own experiences when you are parenting. In reality most young parents never return to education but my advice is always try and be the exception to the rule!
Keep it real. Babies are expensive, life changing and permanent!
Babies are not a fun fashion accessory. They cost thousands of dollars before they are even born. Don’t be fooled that government assistance will allow you to ‘live’. Existing off $700 a fortnight when you have a baby is almost impossible. It’s far from easy and largely only possible if you live at home with your parents.
A baby is hard, tiring and non-stop work.
Whilst babies are gorgeous and fun they are definitely not easy! If you think you truly want a baby, try setting your alarm for every two hours on repeat from when you go to bed. Wake up, sit up for an hour, and then repeat. All night long. That’s what life for the first 3 months, at minimum, is like. My daughter is almost 2 and I haven’t had more than 5 hours sleep a night since the day I had her. Being a Mum is tiring and relentless.
Know that with the lows, come the highs.
Despite the challenges, there are also many great moments as a mum. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my own mum. She’s been my rock and I’m beyond lucky to have her support. I’m 22 now and my daughter is almost two. I now have a job, I’ve gone back to university and I have my own home & car. Recently I have finally and cautiously began to settle down with someone who makes me beyond happy.
The sacrifice is huge. But its worth it.
Many days, I’m stressed, tired and upset and yes, a little down. Some people think I’m over doing it, but I do it for my daughter. If I don’t sleep then I don’t sleep. It’s a sacrifice I’m making to make sure she gets the best and becomes the perfect person I want to raise her to be.
So, from one young Mum to maybe another. I’m not saying don’t because it can be done. Being a mum is wonderful no matter your age. And challenging at any age – yet alone a young one. Think twice, think three times and know what lies ahead may be a rocky path but it will still be on rich in tired nights, lovely cuddles and your own little miracle if you choose it.
Ash Kean is a young Australian mum living in New South Wales. She’s a student of Bachelor of Education and enjoys time with her partner and two year old daughter, Adelaide. When she’s not chasing kids, cleaning house or studying you’ll find her working as an admin on Baby Hints and Tips.