I had my son at the age of 16, right before my junior year of high school. Looking back now, as a married woman and mom to a teen and pre-teen, I wonder how I did it. Back then, I decided to continue my education at the Catholic school I had attended most of my life.

It’s probably no surprise that being a teen mom was difficult. I was still in the process of growing up, learning who I was and what I was capable of, and suddenly I was responsible to teach someone else to do that too.

My sweet 16 was spent vomiting instead of dressing up in a beautiful dress.

I was learning to drive while learning how to bathe, feed and swaddle a baby.

My close friend of 15 years decided she had no idea how to handle my new life situation so it was easier to just leave me hanging and pretend I didn’t exist.

But I survived because of my support system—my parents, my sister, my best friend (who lived with me on and off for a few years) and her mom.

By no means was it a perfect system. My mom worked from home one day a week to watch her infant grandson, despite the fact that we had a falling out and I had moved out (don’t worry, we’re over this).

The babysitting for the rest of the days was pieced together like a delicate spider web. My best friend would pick me up for school, while her mom watched him for a few hours, then he would get passed off to another relative until I returned from school.

If someone was sick, forget it—the whole day was shot, and I missed my calculus test and biology notes. It was “a team effort” as my mom describes it now.

I can’t begin to imagine what our lives would have been like if I didn’t have that support system during that fragile time. Would I have even graduated high school? How would I have provided for him?

And the need for a support system didn’t end with my high school diploma, or even my college degree.

Truthfully, as a mom, that need never ends. It just transforms.

I look at my son now, at the age of 14 (oh my gosh… how did that even happen?!) and I thank God that I have the ability to text my mom-friends to ask about carpooling to the trillions of sporting events he attends, or request a spare pair of white baseball pants because he left his at his dad’s, or vent about his latest moodiness and body-hair issues.

My mom-friends are a whole new category of friend. They may not have known me as long or as intimately, but they know me as a mom and have been in my shoes.

They understand what it’s like.

They get it.

It’s proof we all need each other and if you think that goes away after your kid is out of diapers or daycare, you are in for a surprise.