The author of my last guest post in the Mother's Day series has chosen to write anonymously but I still want to introduce you to this friend of mine. She is the mother to five children and has been happily married for sixteen years. A Catholic convert, she just celebrated her 15th anniversary of joining the church. YEAH!!! I will also add that she is incredibly wise, kind, and compassionate.
“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.”
As a teenager, my life was turned upside down when I became pregnant. I was a 'straight A' student from a Christian home (a good girl) and I was in trouble. For four months, I hid my pregnancy from my family and my friends. I lived in denial, puked alone in my bathroom, cried myself to sleep every night, and tried to pretend like nothing was different about me. I begged and pleaded that God would somehow make "this" all go away. I was alone and scared.
Outward appearances can be deceiving, I seemed to be a girl who had it all, but on the inside I was lonely, lacked confidence, and had very little self-worth. I believe that my parents were well intentioned in their parenting, but tired. My father worked nights and family finances were tight. My mother often parented alone. Life had been rough for them and their girls. Quite often, I was allowed to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and with very little questioning as to whom I was with or what we were doing. This became the perfect recipe for a terrible crisis.
I will never forget the moment when my mother confronted me and I confirmed all of her suspicions. Her little girl, the baby of the family, was having a baby of her own. I had bought into the lies of a young man who told me that my worth was in what I could give him- mainly sex. It shouldn't have been shocking when he suggested that I just have an abortion. For my family and me, this was never an option. Regardless of the terrible mess I was in, my family and I held onto one sacred truth. All life comes from God and is beautiful.
The first course of action was for my physical well-being and that of my baby. My parents immediately made sure I was given proper medical care and attention so I could have a healthy pregnancy from that moment on. There was a lot of discussion about how we would handle my pregnancy. My mother wanted to send me away to a home for unwed mothers. My father wanted me to stay home. There was discussion about giving my baby up for adoption or me choosing to parent my child. We weighed the options carefully and I chose to stay home with my family and keep my child.
After the difficult decision was made, I became isolated from my school and my friends. Actually, I no longer had friends. People laughed and stared, made rude comments, treated me like I was nothing but another statistic. I was ashamed and humiliated. I felt like a dirty failure and a poor excuse for a young woman. I was sent to a special school for unwed, pregnant girls through the city's public school system. It happened to be the same school where they sent the delinquent and problematic high school students - just separated by a floor. The girls there were often uneducated, unloved, and lived in poverty. These girls were not college bound, didn't know God, and had very little hope for a positive outcome or a hopeful future. I considered myself fortunate for the gift of my family, for the tutors who came to teach my accelerated learning classes, and for the women there who taught me basic mothering skills. I stayed at that school for my pregnancy and continued to attend there with my daughter until she was four months old.
My shame and humiliation didn't end when my pregnancy ended or when I left that school. There was very little joy (outside of my immediate family) for the birth of my daughter. There were no baby showers and very few people visited me in the hospital. It wasn't a life celebrated. If I dwell on this, it causes me a lot of pain. I choose not to. I understand that no one wants to condone teenage pregnancy, but all I needed was a little joy. I needed someone to celebrate with me because she was my baby. I loved her. I was proud of her. I wanted to beam. I wanted to show her off. She was precious and cherished, regardless of the circumstances.
I faced many challenges as a young mother. I had a lot of broken relationships and a lot of emotional and spiritual wounds. People never stopped staring. People never stopped the rude comments. People still treated me poorly. Even to this day when I meet new people, some guffaw and proceed to tell me that I couldn't possibly have a daughter who is that old. Throughout the years, I diligently took care of my daughter. I finished school and graduated at the top of my class. I went to college. I made our lives better, but only with the help of God and his special graces.
As I grew into womanhood, there were women and friends I encountered in my life who brought me closer to Jesus. They loved me for who I am - a child of God. They taught me that I am not defined by my failures. Recently during a homily our priest asked two questions. The first was, “Can you find joy in the unexpected?” The second was, “How can you bring the “living water” to those around you. After reflecting, I realized that these women and friends had the courage to bring me the "living water" and to find joy. So I challenge you to ask yourselves, Can you bring the 'living water' to girls who are broken and in a crisis pregnancy? Can you help her find joy in the unexpected?
Some simple ways to do this....
* Smile at her and look her in the eyes. Notice her for who she is, not for her failures and weaknesses.
* Keep your comments to yourself. Even the least offensive questions and curiosities can be hurtful. I've never met a young woman in a crisis pregnancy that didn't already feel enough shame and humiliation.
* Ask her if she wants someone to go with her to doctor's appointments or pre-natal/birthing classes. Girls in crisis pregnancies are often lonely and afraid.
* Celebrate the baby's life with a small gift; a baby blanket, a knit hat, assurance of your prayers for her, or a mother's prayer book.
* Show her how to be a good mother. You can do this by how you mother your own children. If she is keeping her baby, she is watching and learning and really wants to be a good mom. Show her virtuous parenting.
* Offer to baby sit. It can be very difficult for a young teenage mom to keep up with school work or participate in normal high school activities like playing an instrument, being in a choir, or playing sports.
* Remind her that God is always good and she is always loved.