Becoming a mother at the age of 18 was not something I ever envisaged happening. I guess I had always thought I would do my degree, climb the ladder in my job, buy my own house and then think about children at about 30. That’s the way society tells us we should do it right? That’s the ‘right’ way if you like.
When we began to announce our pregnancy we received mixed responses. A lot of people had the view that we were setting ourselves up for a life of hardship.
Each time someone gave us a negative response, I felt more and more as though I wasn’t entitled to be pregnant because I was so young.
Some people wanted to take control, to give us copious amounts of pushy advice while outlining all the negatives to having a baby. As a result, I didn’t fully appreciate the whole experience at the time – I didn’t take pictures or really ‘connect’ with my baby. Mostly because I felt it was something that ‘shouldn’t’ be happening and so I subconsciously ignored it.
I regret this wholeheartedly – and only now can I see that that is how I felt.
Alongside this, me and Kieran were not able to live in our own house during my pregnancy. As a result I was constantly made to feel I owed more than I could ever give back and that my security could disappear at any moment – because I ‘shouldn’t’ be pregnant.
Young women who find themselves pregnant, by choice or not, experience this kind of negativity from all angles. From the disapproving looks from strangers in the street, to a feeling of not “belonging” when they’re shopping for baby things.
This sort of response contributes far more to a negative outcome than the pregnancy itself. If young women are supported, given options and told that they can still achieve whatever they want (all be it in a different way, that may take a bit more hard work) then don’t you think a positive outcome for mother and baby is far more likely?
Experiencing pregnancy as a young woman and becoming a young mother has many challenges, but they’re just different challenges to those that may be faced by an older woman. There is no right or wrong time for any stage of life.
So as I sit here, happier than I have ever been, I’m still having to spend the time to emotionally take back ownership of my pregnancy, birth and experience of motherhood. Something I shouldn’t have to do, but is an unfortunate reality of the stigma society puts on young parents.