The Answer to Your Question

young mom

Will it all work out right? Will I be okay? Will I be happy? Or am I ruining my life?

If you checked my Google history back in 2008, back when I was newly pregnant and scared to my core, back when I made the unthinkable decision to start a family when I barely knew myself, you might see these kinds of searches:

successful young moms

happy young moms

proof that being a young mom isn't the worst in the world

Maybe these kinds of searches brought you here, seeing that I created an entire blog to prove these questions (to myself, really). These are the kinds of thoughts that would run away from me late at night, poking at my deep dark insecurities, seeping through every interaction and decision in my life. Please tell me that it will all be okay.

Stepping off a comfortable, familiar life path takes courage. Leaping into the unknown — especially something as heavy and important as raising a child — is scary stuff. What I would have given for a crystal ball, a comforting prophecy, a general reassurance that I was making the right choice.

Almost seven years later, I know the truth:

It will work out.

It will be.

The adjectives, the attached judgments, don't really exist.

Our lives will be many things at different times. It will be hard and joyful, seemingly in one breath. The terms "good" and "bad" won't make sense — not like they used to, at least. It's bad until it's good, it's good until it's bad, and they'll tumble through our lives (and days) like playful puppies, one on top of the other, existing all at once.

Our lives — the one that's happening right now — is the only life we'll have. So why do we dwell so much on the things that MIGHT HAVE or SHOULD HAVE happened? On all of the paths we didn't take, as if choosing the wrong one would surely lead to misery and regret. We'll never know if we made the "right" choice because there is no "right" choice. There's just THE CHOICE, and all of the experiences and learning that spills from that choice.

It will work out.

It will be.

It would be easy to say that this path was "meant to be" — that my child was always meant to exist, that these lessons were always meant to be learned in this exact order. That this is my destiny.

Maybe, but maybe not.

Any of our lives could have zigged instead of zagged — a "no" instead of a "yes," a last-minute contraception change — and we'd stumble through a different set of experiences, learning from a different set of people in a totally different life. And that would have been okay, too. In fact, it would have been beautiful. We would have loved and grieved and grown, and it would have been both excruciating and exquisite on its own unique trajectory.

Yet it's tempting to daydream about the storylines that could have been, isn't it? The directions we didn't walk — particularly the directions we planned on heading. If you're anything like me, you've been writing the story of your Future Self, scrawling plans and identities in the quiet spaces of your mind. 

It's easy to replay the SHOULDs and the WHAT IFs and the IF ONLYs on a loop, until we feel that ache square in our stomachs, like our insides are clutching onto something — an identity, a dream, a person, an idea. But all of those somethings are imaginary, only existing in the confines of our minds.

Reality is THIS, where you are, what is.

It will work out.

It will be.

And you'll be grateful it was.

Maybe if I zagged instead of zigged, if my son was never conceived and my husband and I went our separate ways, if I continued living my life exactly as planned, I would have somehow connected with my boy at some point, in some form. The thought of him not being in my life — of not knowing his face and learning from his love — makes no other storyline worth living.

But who can say?

All I know is that he's here, and I'm here, and all of my choices feel like "right" choices through that perspective.

Your Voice: Ellisse, 21 years old

young mom stories


Ellisse Tracy

cute young mom

I got pregnant at:


I am now:


My initial reaction was...


People in my life reacted...

With caution. No one was sure whether or not to congratulate me and I still was undecided on whether or not I was keeping the baby when I told several people.

My biggest challenge has been...

Finding out what makes me happy instead of constantly trying to please people. Breaking out from under my parent's wing. Stress of creating a life and a career with a young child (not necessarily the stress of the workload, but just the uncertainty of everything). Finding confidence as a young mom and especially as a young mom in school. Demanding respect.

My biggest accomplishment has been...

Making the Dean's List with a newborn, finding confidence in my role as a mother, and finding confidence as a person.

I love being a young mom because...

I have energy! I have more years to spend with my daughter. I will be a young empty-nester. I am a hot mom. ;)

I struggle with:

Finding balance. Taking time to find myself and still put my daughter first. Young relationships.

I wish all young moms knew:

Everything doesn't have to go perfectly for everything to go well. You're going to be okay. It will be really hard, but hard doesn't mean bad and it will also be better than you could have imagined. Create your own path, don't try to fit into someone else's mold. It's still okay to make mistakes.

Read more from Ellise at LittleWomanBlog.

Ask Liann: Baby Boy Name Indecision

Dear Liann,

Hi! I love your taste in names and was wondering if you could help. I'm due with a boy any day and still don't feel like we've found "The One" yet. We like Ryan and West a lot, but kinda feel like we are settling. I don't want anything too trendy or out there, nor am I crazy about super classic names. We have a daughter named Lila. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thank you.

Jess L.

Hi Jess!

I would love to help you find the perfect name for your kiddo. Ryan and West are both handsome, but no one wants to feel like they're settling on their child's name, so let's see what we can come up with. Your daughter's name is beautiful and I'm sure we can find something to compliment it nicely. 

To me, Ryan feels like one of those "new classic" names. It's a solid Celtic choice that's been around for many years. And while I do like the name very much, it's not my favorite paired with Lila. Lila is so fresh; it's refurbished antique. Ryan has been a Top 30 on the Social Security list since 1973. But I do think we can use Ryan as a guide to find some fresher names within the "new classic" style. Or maybe a less-used Celtic name would fit the bill.

In addition to the new classic, less-used Celtic names we're looking for, I'm going to pull some left-of-center names into the mix. Nothing too strange, but since you like West, your taste might be more daring than you think...

boy names

And then you have West, which feels very modern to me. It has never ranked on the Social Security list. It's not "too trendy or out there," but it definitely leans in that direction. Word names — and more specifically, direction names — are something of a trend (think Kim and Kanye's North West). It's also not too "out there" because it's an easily spelled, recognizable name. Add to that the number of boys named Weston and you've got an unusual, somewhat trendy name that fits just outside the box. Not a bad place to be. What do you think of Wesley as an alternative to West? It gives you the nickname Wes, which is pretty darn close to West, minus the trendiness. It also pairs so well with Lila. (Lila and Wesley...Lila and Wes.)

Here are some more West-inspired boy name ideas:

Boy Name west.jpg

After Wesley, I think my favorite from the first list is Desmond. But that may be because it's my own current favorite. It's just so handsome! And come on — Lila and Desmond. Des is a super cool nickname, too. I also really like Miles, Sullivan, and Ronan.

From the second list, my favorites are Beau, Hugo, and Rhett. All super classy and handsome, and they all pair well with Lila. Lila and Beau. Lila and Hugo. Lila and Rhett.

You didn't mention anything about middle names, so of course factor that in when considering any of these names.

So what do you think? Anything jump out at you? I really hope this helps you toward your little man's name. Let us know what you decide when he arrives. You said it's any day now, so good luck!

— Liann


Favorite Children's Books: The Adventures of Kate and Nate

We have children's books stacked throughout our small apartment. One stack of library books over in the living room, another piling of "read these tonight" books on his bed, and several books that are read so often that they just kinda live in our space. There have been days when every table, every room (including the bathrooms) have children's books strewn around, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me.

The quality of those children's books vary. I try really hard to not be all judgy and snoodie about the books he loves — I should be happy he likes books at all, right? — but between you and me, I have to suck down a lot of internal NOs before reading yet another vapid story about the goddamn Power Rangers.

But part of that comes from the fact that I really love children's books — like, beyond the literacy thing, beyond my own nostalgia and writer heart. Kids have this unbounded imagination, this deep capacity to learn and absorb the tiniest intricacies of life. And like Kathleen Kelly said in You've Got Mail, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."

It does! There's a responsibility there. It's important.

So when I mentioned maybe featuring some of my favorite children's books that I've read (and my god, there are a lot of incredible children's books being made right now), and there seemed to be an enthusiastic response, I knew exactly which book series to start with:

The Adventures of Kate & Nate

children's book

I heard the first book in the series, "Kate's First Mate," casually mentioned in a podcast, and it was described as a book that teaches realistic relationship lessons to kids. Considering I've written about how crazy unprepared we are for the realities of relationships, and how downright irresponsible the Happily Ever After narrative is for kids, THIS IS EXACTLY THE BOOK I WISHED EXISTED.

And I'll tell you, the author Colin Dubin did not let me down. I did a brief write-up a few months ago for Babble, which you can read here, but this is the gist of the story:

Kate is a little girl who sails the seas with her grandfather on a ship called ‘The Happy Marriage’ — where she has a lot of fun learning and exploring, but also fights rough storms and fulfills her daily responsibilities on the ship. When her grandfather gets too old to keep sailing, he tells Kate to find a new First Mate. Rather than sail on alone, he suggests finding someone who can help with the work, stand by her throughout the storms, and make the trip more enjoyable. She goes on her search, interviewing potential First Mates, and learning a lot about who she can and can’t sail with as a partnership.
— me

If we're going to fill our children's heads with stories of relationships, which we do all the time, shouldn't we pay attention to what they're learning?

So Colin got in touch with me and sent over the second book in the series, "The Adventures of Kate & Nate: Journey Through Jellyfish Island." He also included a note about his intentions with the series:

"In tackling the job of presenting children with a positive relationship model, you must reveal the good and the bad and the ugly and that cannot all be presented in one book. The Adventures of Kate and Nate are designed to show children, over the course of 5 books, that with each new challenge and accomplishment in relationship experiences, first mates grow together. One of the most rewarding moments in a relationship is not the forward looking promise of "...and they lived happily ever after" as the princess stories would have children believe, but the glance to our past when we realize we have been supported through our best and worst by someone all along."

children's book

The second book is about FEAR. Fear in a relationship, in your life, and how it's a very real place that you can unintentionally land in your relationship.

Kate is sailing with her new mate, Nate, and all of a sudden the fog rolls in and their boat, The Happy Marriage, gets stuck on a place called Jellyfish Island — a place where the signs are confusing and give no answers; a place where the songbirds can't sing, and the jellyfish drift aimlessly. A place controlled by Captain Fear.

"As the mist slowly parted, they saw an old man with skin made of rust and a cane in his hand. He had eyes of regret and sat hunched on a log and when he exhaled, his breath turned to fog."

"As the mist slowly parted, they saw an old man with skin made of rust and a cane in his hand. He had eyes of regret and sat hunched on a log and when he exhaled, his breath turned to fog."

As I was reading it, I kept thinking, I'VE BEEN HERE! I know Jellyfish Island! Some days I still drift over to this place. And so not only does it have a positive message for kids, but it gives a certain language, a certain context, to explain our real-life marriage issues in an age-appropriate way.

This has become one of Noah's favorite books — not for the deep meaning, but because it's a good story, and he loves the illustrations, and so he picks it again and again for bedtime. And this book? This book is always a YES.

I can't wait to read the next three stories in the series.

Read more and order your own copies at

No, I'm Not His Babysitter

“You look too young to be a mom!”

Or how about …

“You have a BABY? No! You look like a baby yourself!”

Oh wait, here’s a good one …

“Are you the nanny, ooor … ?”

“No, yeah I’m his mom,” I’d reply. “Yes, I am young,” I’d agree.

Considering I got pregnant straight out of college, I was certainly on the younger end of the parenting spectrum. (No one was more surprised than me, I assure you.) And yet, I wasn’t exactly a teen mom. I wasn’t juggling school courses and motherhood, like so many student moms. I had my own apartment and generally lived like a grown up, despite the thrift-store furniture and empty bank account. I know that some 21 year olds are just starting grad school, or living a parent-coddled lifestyle, but me? I was off into the world with a crisp college diploma, a new full-time job, and a fetus in my womb. I’m not sure I had even thought about my womb up until that point in life, until it was inhabited.

Yes, I know, I am quite young.

I knew I’d be a young mom; I was just surprised at how often the outside world would remind me. And directly, I might add. I would never think to walk up to a random person in the mall food court and ask, “Wow, how old are you?” — half accusing, half astonished — and yet it’s happened, right in front of my eyes...

Your Voice: Jessica G.

young mom stories


Jessica Gooding

I got pregnant at:

17 years old

I am now:

25 years old

My initial reaction was:


People in my life reacted:


My biggest challenge has been:

The stigma behind being a young single parent. I am a firm believer that good parenting has nothing to do with age. It all comes down to perspective and individualism. You can never really understand a perception until you are directly involved.

My biggest accomplishment has been:

Being able to provide for my daughter comfortably, obtaining an awesome position that I love, finding myself and learning what is really important in life.

I love being a young mom because:

I have defied the negative stigma attached to young parents, not solely because I worked hard to get more for my daughter, but mainly because I have always known that there is no "right" way of doing things in life. There is only the way that works best for you and for what you personally value. Energy is a plus as well.

[also see: Why I Love Being a Young Mom]

I struggle with:

Time management. I work full-time, I am a student, an intern, and I occasionally volunteer with some pretty great organizations. I also have a group of amazing friends and a great family that I love spending time with.

I wish all young moms knew:

That you can do WHATEVER you want! You have one life, live it! Figure out what makes you happy and run with it.

When Abuse Doesn't Look Like Abuse: A Story of a Semi-Separation


"It's like I'm that girl in an abusive relationship," I told my therapist one day, recounting our familiar cycle, where he did something shitty and insensitive (almost always with our money, for drugs, although he'd never initially admit that), apologized, and then when he was really about to lose me, he'd shape up and things would get better. He'd try harder next time. He really, really loved me; he was so sorry.

I was tired of the empty sorry. I was tired of being ignored and deceived. I was so...tired. I saw the cycle from the outside — recognized the peaks, sensed the floor about to fall from under me, strained to hear that second shoe about to drop, always about to drop — and yet here I was, again. And again. AGAIN.

"You are in an abusive relationship," my therapist said, plainly. And god damn, it felt good to hear that — to have someone confirm the nagging thought in my head. For someone to say, "This is not in the description of being a 'good wife.' You're being hurt."

As obvious as it might seem from the outside, I didn't know I was being abused. As I wrote for

"The thing is, my relationship doesn’t seem abusive in the light of day. He never hit me or acted aggressively, not ever. He’s never raised his voice, even when I’ve lost my cool in a fiery rage. He’s never even said an unkind word to me — the way some men hurl nasty, hurtful insults in the heat of the moment. Not my husband. He’d never say anything to intentionally hurt me. He’s funny and charming and affectionate.

His actions, on the other hand, are anything but loving. I’ve been hurt in real, tangible ways; it’s just easier to hide a bank account and a credit score than it is to cover up a bruise. It’s easier to ignore a growling stomach than a verbal attack. This kind of abuse is subtle and easily justified. And because I understand that a drug addict’s brain is wired for selfishness and deception and because I see how much he struggles under the weight of an out-of-control situation, I tolerated his behavior under the guise of “compassion” or “being a good wife.” But as soon as my therapist confirmed that this was, in fact, abuse, I could finally see clearly.

I am being abused by a loving and kind man who doesn’t intentionally want to hurt me, but consistently does. My life is being controlled and consumed by my partner’s compulsions; my basic needs are being ignored. I know he wants to do better, I know he wants to love me, but this isn’t love; it’s abuse."

So I reached out to our private FB group (truly the loveliest group of women I've had the pleasure to know, so thank you). "I'm wondering if anyone has had experience with an abusive relationship that didn't exactly look like abuse, and it took awhile to fully see it for what it is."

Yep, they did.

We talked about verbal and emotional abuse — the pain of living with someone with a personality disorder, anxiety, rage, addiction, alcoholism. How we second-guess ourselves, are made to think we're the crazy ones. How hard it is to find our internal compass and know what to do next, especially after promising to love them through their sicknesses. Especially especially when there's a child involved.

But abuse isn't love.

When someone's compulsions take so much of our time and energy, it can take awhile to fully realize the crushing toll on our lives. Until, suddenly, you're sitting on a therapist's couch and the tears, THE TEARS, they just won't stop. Years of pent-up hurt, leaking down my face. But it's almost as if I needed to go through all of those cycles, all of that pain, to finally find my strength. In losing trust for my partner, I gained invaluable trust in my own intuition and hard-earned wisdom. When you spend so much time living with denial and dishonesty, it's impossible to live with anything less than total radical honesty. Honesty with others, but also honesty toward myself. I feel more awake, more alert, more present because I spent years living in a fog. Eventually that fog turned to steam, suffocating me like a hot shower, forcing me to run from the relationship, gasping for fresh air.

A week before Thanksgiving, I asked him to move out. Another relapse, another excuse, another round on the merry-go-fuck-yourself. It wasn't too dramatic, it was just time. When my therapist would ask, "When, Michelle? How long will you let this continue?" I said, "I think I'll know when it's time."

It was time. I've allowed it for too long.

And because it wasn't coming from an angry, defensive place — I've long learned that screaming and yelling about ALL HE IS DOING TO ME, pointing fingers, dousing him in shame, only backs him into a corner — we could get through to each other. (Also, a lot of that anger was really coming from hurt, and exposing the vulnerability was much more cathartic.) We lovingly agreed that it was the best thing for both of us. Our relationship was only stifling us, keeping us in this loop, preventing our growth. I told him that I love him, that I hope he finds his way back to us, that I wanted us to be amicable and co-parent Noah in a healthy way, but he needed to leave. I needed space, I needed my life back. I told him that I was scared and sad, that I didn't want our relationship to end this way either, but there's nothing left to do.

The choice was obvious, overdue even. I hoped him moving out of his safe place, his happy place, would motivate him to make some long-lasting changes. I didn't want to hate him, but I knew that switch was about to be flipped.

It turns out, the theory of separation is much easier than the actual logistics. Finding a new place, figuring out the finances, and what about the furniture? Who gets the bed? How do we explain this to Noah?

And then the thoughts started: I don't want to be a single mom, I never expected this, this isn't how my life is supposed to go (deep breaths). You'd think that because I've already been through one life-changing situation where I had very similar thoughts (I can't be a mom, I never expected this, this isn't how my life is supposed to go...), then it would be easier to embrace. In a way, it is. I recognize the language, the expectation letdown. I understood that I was mourning an image in my head, a life I wanted, but that it would eventually be okay. And this time, I took the time to cry, to grieve. Even after mourning my marriage for the better part of a year, I still found myself binge-watching the last season of Parenthood, alone on a Monday afternoon, crying from the gut.

I'll never have what Adam and Kristina have! Look at the damage Julia and Joel have done to their kids! GOOD FOR YOU, AMBER! DON'T ALLOW HIS DRUG ADDICTION INTO YOUR LIFE! WAHHHHHH.

In and out of a depressive state. Living together but separate. Waking in the middle of the night, sobbing.

And yet, I was also immensely relieved. For the first time, I had hope. Yes it was hard and sad, but I could breathe again. I knew, all the way down in my gut, that this is what we needed.

Then...everything changed.

He broke. I broke. And we somehow landed in this place of self-compassion and self-love, where we became softer, more tender, more honest. He's taken leaps that I never expected, committing himself to not only making his body healthier, but his mind. His being. I hate to speak too soon — remember, I'm that girl in the abusive cycle — but the shift has been startling. And lovely. Like fresh, clean air. I see him again, and it's nice.

Something else has changed: I'm consciously keeping a healthy space between us. Not a cold, angry space, but a loving space. I'm still okay with the idea of us separating, if things turn south again. I'm not expecting this to last forever; I'm just being here, right now, watching the life filter through his eyes in a way I'd all but forgotten.

I do have moments of fear, of uncertainty. The idea of separating gave me such relief, and while I want nothing more than our marriage to be healthy, there's a lot of work to be done. I worry about slipping into a comfortable cycle again, about allowing my codependent tendencies to creep back in (which, trust me, they're still here). I realize how much work I have to do, all on my own, to stay present and grounded and mindful.

Maybe this is part of the cycle, maybe it can't last, maybe it doesn't matter. My eyes are still open, my boundaries are strengthened, and no matter what, I'll be okay. Today, I'm okay. We're okay.


In case you're here for the first time, here are some things I've recently started talking about:

I Was in an Abusive Marriage and Didn't Know It

What it's REALLY Like to be Married to a Drug Addict

10 Signs You're in a Codependent Relationship

The Secret Life of an Inspirational Young Mom

The Ups and Downs of a Young Marriage

I'm a Recovering Codependent

I've been so grateful for all of your emails and messages — your stories of solidarity and understanding. Going through painful marriage/relationship problems can be lonely and isolating, and I encourage anyone in a similar situation to start talking about it. Write it in a journal for no one to see. Find a therapist. Confide in a friend. It really helps, I promise. You're not alone; we all struggle with hard things from time to time. But it's the hard times that teach us the most.

Here are some more posts that might help:

4 Questions for Tough Decisions

It's Only for Now

It's Okay to be Sad

Unexpected Lessons from an Unplanned Life


YOUR VOICE: Jessica K.

young mom story


Jessica Kolenda

I got pregnant at:

23 years old

I am now:

28 years old

My initial reaction was:

shock, tears, fear of not being ready and still living five states from our families!

People in my life reacted:

with excitement and encouragement! (My husband was the most calm, best support system I could've asked for.)

My biggest challenge has been:

I had just applied to go back to college. I started 6 months pregnant and graduated with an 18 month old. I'm starting to build my career and my family is still growing! I now have two wonderful beautiful boys — 4 years and 8 months! I think overcoming the loss of sleep was a BIG challenge, but now it's finding time for family, friends, myself, and all the mundane at home too.

My biggest accomplishment has been:

My family by far...other than graduating with my second Bachelor's degree and kick-starting my career.

I love being a young mom because:

I have energy now and I'll have it later. In all honesty, I'm learning as I go but I feel as though I have more patience as well.

I struggle with:

The lack of sleep! Oh my! Especially with two now, but they make coffee for a reason — right?!

I wish all young moms knew:

It can be tough, lonely, heartbreaking, exhausting, mentally and physically draining — did I mention lonely? But we all feel that. Find a friend, confide in someone, join a mom's group — whatever you do, just know you're not alone; you're not the only one. You can do what you set your mind to, and you're stronger than you think!

Thank you for sharing your story, Jess!

If anyone else would like to share their voice, click the link at the top right of the screen.

Unexpected Lessons from an Unplanned Pregnancy

I had everything under control, and then my pregnancy test turned positive. I was 21 years old.

It’s a situation that virtually every woman has imagined herself in or avoided being in countless times over, so it’s probably easy to empathize with. Imagine being two months out of college, unmarried, no health insurance, no savings and a packed schedule of job interviews. You’re standing alone in the bathroom, and the positive pregnancy test your mother urged you to buy is lying on the sink.

It instantly turns positive. You’re pregnant. You’re the only one who knows it. It hasn’t even traveled from your brain to your lips yet — you haven’t actually said the words — except you know.

For dramatic purposes, I could say that I stumbled backwards, clutching my still-flat stomach, hyperventilating from a panic attack. But that’s not true. I felt…numb, as if I had to swaddle myself in denial to absorb that kind of shock.

It took a good 15 minutes for the tears to come—and they came: tears of fear, tears of guilt. This isn’t how my life is supposed to go. I’m not this type of girl. This can’t be right.

Up until that point in my life, I was fully trained to believe that, a) There are “right” and “wrong” paths in life, and b) I could and SHOULD plan my future carefully. I was also hardwired to judge situations and feelings as “good” or “bad” based on how they feel in the moment. In that moment, I didn’t feel very good.

Besides fear, I felt anger. Betrayal, even. How could I—a good girl with plans and goals, who used birth control, who deserved to succeed—get pregnant? The A+ report cards, the unpaid internship hours, the dreams I spent years concocting and executing, all evaporated. How could there be fairness in the universe? I may have been carrying another life inside of me, but I felt more alone than ever.

Thankfully I had a choice in what to do next. (If I didn’t have a choice, the walls may have closed in on me altogether.) Against all logic and assumptions, I chose to keep my pregnancy and embrace the terrifying void.

What I didn’t understand back then, six years ago, is that being thrown off of a carefully laid track and being hurled into that void, forced to let go of virtually everything you know about your life, can be transformational. In fact, that unplanned pregnancy gave me so much more than a child...

The Secret Life of an Inspirational Young Mom

young family

"How can my marriage be falling apart, when I started a Web site to prove young couples can have happy marriages?"

"How can I inspire other young moms when my life is such a mess?"

These thoughts have gone through my mind, I admit. Back when I first thought of the Early Mama concept, the "early marriage" component was key. I desperately searched for any indication that we could have a lasting, successful marriage despite our young ages, and I wanted to share those positive stories. In hindsight, of course my insecurity was showing, but I loved my husband madly. I still do.

Even though we've come a long way in the last few years — my husband recognizes and is in treatment for his gripping addiction to prescription pain killers — I still might end up separating from a man I'm in love with. (That's an ending they don't cover in fairytales.) And yet I'll still be grateful for this marriage. It's been a valuable experience, especially in my formative 20s. Entangling my life with another person has given me a first-person understanding to the interconnectedness around us, to the complexities and simplicities of love, and to the importance of loving ourselves. It's taught me more about myself than I ever knew possible.

Is young marriage always the BEST experience? The ONLY way to be mature? No.

Is it a BAD experience? Destined to end in flames? No.

There is no narrative to follow. Being an "early mama" doesn't give us a new set of rules and expectations, no matter the inspirational stories. We can be inspired and encouraged without using our stories to predict and judge our own lives. The only things we can expect are meaningful experiences, opportunities to learn, and both happy and sad moments. No matter the circumstances, we can be okay. We can grow through uncertainty, learn through pain, become stronger and smarter and better. And just because a relationship might end, that doesn't make it a failure. Not if we learned something from it.

No matter what life throws us — a pregnancy test turns positive, a marriage turns abusive, we have a sudden and shocking loss — we can keep moving forward, or we can let a situation break us. Sometimes it's not an either/or — sometimes we get wrapped up in mind-made identities and patterns, sometimes we bury ourselves under shame and fear, and that's okay, too. Because there's humanity in the struggle.

Having a baby and getting married at a young age isn't always easy, but it's not supposed to be. Life will NEVER be consistently easy, and comparing our lives to that expectation will always lead to disappointment. But just because something is hard, doesn't mean it isn't worth it. In my experience, it's the most struggling moments that have been the most necessary.

So this is my story, in all its raw honesty...

What It's Really Like To Be Married to a Drug Addict

I could hear my husband open our front door as I prepped dinner in the kitchen. Except I knew it wasn't really my husband, not the same guy I married 68 months ago. Not the same man who held my sobbing body as a positive pregnancy test sat on our bathroom sink, 74 months ago. Not the man who promised we'd be okay. That we could do this. That he would always stay by my side.

And, technically, he did stay by my side. Technically.

He limps into the room: skinnier, snifflier, dead in the eyes. We had a few good weeks going as husband and wife. I actually thought he might be coming back to me after a near-death scare, a promise to get clean, a few sessions on a therapist's couch—but it's all back again. The consecutive ATM withdrawals and sneaky deception. The coldness in his words, the preoccupation behind his eyes, the sound of his struggling lungs whistling as I try to sleep next to him. All back.

Today it's Vicodin, before that it was Methadone, before that it was Heroin, before that it was an OxyContin prescription from his doctor, hoping to ease a gnawing pain in his leg. The doctor didn't ask if he had a deeper pain, an emotional pain that this prescription might temporarily patch. The doctor didn't ask if he had a history of addiction in his family or at what age, exactly, he started self-medicating the anxiety that plagued his childhood. That age was 9.

Not like my husband would have been honest, of course, because addicts aren't honest with anyone, especially themselves.

When signs of my husband's dependence became obvious to the doctor—and to several doctors afterward—there was no acknowledgment, no understanding, no effort to help a man struggling with a coping strategy that turned self-destructive. There was simply a phone call from a receptionist: "We can't see you anymore." Dropped from care.

So he went to the streets, which is where so many addicts go when their prescription is yanked from their hands. He wasn't looking for a high; he needed to feel normal, to not be in constant pain. And so the cycle starts: Disappearing money. Lies. Falling asleep at the dinner table. Denial. ER visits. Broken promises. His life is chaotic, consuming, no matter how or why it is.

He shuffles past me; I hold my breath. Everything in me wants to scream.