Today, there are fewer and fewer stereotypes around teenage motherhood. At least in some places. I'd like to believe the world is now more forgiving and that society is less judgmental.
I was in my third year of high school when I found out I was pregnant. I live in a country where abortion is illegal (no matter what circumstance you're in), so that was never an option. It was shortly after my birthday when I started experiencing morning sickness and wanted to do nothing but sleep. I was only 16 years old and as expected, my parents were not okay with it. Heck, I was not okay with it—it wasn't the plan.
Five days after giving birth and two days after I got discharged from the hospital, I moved out of my then-boyfriend's house and moved in with my paternal grandmother. That old woman showed me love and compassion I never thought existed. Of course, she also sat me down one day while my baby was asleep and told me how disappointed she was. And then said so many more things that basically translated to, "you're family, still. I love you, still." And I knew then: this road won't be easy but I will be just fine.
Now at 28, it's easy to look back and be proud of the great things I achieved. But I'd be lying if I say there were no lies about being a young mom that I believed back then. Here are the lies I believed about being a teen mom.
1. That you messed up your life forever
While my father's side of the family was kind and accepting, my mother's wasn't. My grandmother and aunt were only two of the relatives from that side of the family who reminded me, every single chance they got, that I had officially messed up my life.
As a teenager, holding your child in your arms and having zero clue of what to do with your life, it's so easy to believe this. It's so easy to say, "yeah, this thing is MAJOR. Maybe I did mess up my life for good."
But life doesn't work that way. One mistake won't mess up the rest of your years on earth. But if you became a young mom by choice, you did not mess up the rest of your life. If you had an unplanned pregnancy, you still did not mess up the rest of your life. Maybe you had a hiccup. Maybe you just stumbled a bit.
You will pick up the pieces and make a good life for yourself and your kid. Because young girls are strong like that. And frankly, the world tends to underestimate young mothers.
2. That people will get over it when you're older
I used to think people would stop looking at me like a total failure once I was older. Well, that's a lie I told myself. The stigma is real.
There are still some people who see me as nothing but a failure. The reality is, no matter how successful you may be, some of them will always see you as that teenager who got herself into a huge mess and got pregnant. And honestly, if that's how they see you even after so many years, it's safe to say that's how they'll see you forever. And that's not on you. And if there's something I tell myself about it, it's that it's not on me.
3. That you have so much energy
Initially, I thought one of the "advantages" of being a young mom would be that I have so much energy that raising a child won't be that exhausting. Nope. I was mistaken. My youthful energy can only go so far. A baby is cute, but all the waking up in the middle of the night to feed him quickly consumes your energy. And then we get to toddler age where there's non-stop running and chasing after him. It's fun and for me, and it taught me a lot. But still, to the young moms out there, know that there's a level of exhaustion to be expected.
4. That you're a failure even to your child
Let's set the record straight: being a young mother does not make you a failure to yourself, to your child, or to anyone. I have spent so many years thinking, "this is it, I have made the biggest mistake any young girl could ever do. I won't be anything more than a teenage mom trying to get by." And it's the most toxic thing ever. When people make me feel like a failure, they are almost always successful. Until now.
5. That your body will bounce back immediately
I thought that after giving birth, my body would just go back to the way it used to look. That did not happen. It took me years to lose my baby weight. Some aspects of my body did not go back at all, and that's okay. One thing I need to keep reminding myself is that my body will always change. And it's a journey to continue loving it through those changes.
6. That it will hold you back
Well, it might—for a short period of time, if you let it. As you try and find your way. But if someone ever told you being a young mom will get you stuck in life for good, that is a total lie. If I had a dollar for every time someone point-blank said this to me, or made me feel this, I wouldn't be writing this article right now. Because I'd be the richest young mom in the world.