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 KatesFirstMate.com.

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 YourTango.com...

"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.

Your Voice: Kelly W.

young mom blog


Kelly Webster

I got pregnant at:

22 years old

I am now:

22 years old

My initial reaction was:

a mix of emotions: shock, fear, nervousness, excitement.

People in my life reacted:

I think people were definitely happy for my husband and I, but probably concerned because I am still in school and we are not set in our careers.

My biggest challenge has been:

managing working full-time and going to school full-time, all while being nauseous and vomiting!

My biggest accomplishment has been:

I think once I graduate and have this baby (the baby is due around my college graduation date), those will have been my biggest accomplishments!

I love being a young mom because:

I have not experienced motherhood just yet, but I cannot wait!

I struggle with:

my constant fears about whether or not I will be a good mom.

I wish all young moms knew:

You can have a baby and still get your education, and/or fulfill your life goals. Just because you are going to be a mother does not mean that your aspirations have to be put on the back burner!

Read more from Kelly at A Life Fit for Two.

Congratulations on your pregnancy, Kelly! I was right around the same age as you, and I very much remember that unique mix of emotions.

For all the other Early Mamas, add your voice at the top of the page. Your stories matter.

10 Signs You're a Codependent Wife

The post I wrote for YourTango.com, "10 Signs You're in a Codependent Relationship" has been shared a bunch, and many of the comments are the same:

"Crap. That's me. Now what?"

It's easy to dismiss the label of "codependent" — A) because it's often misunderstood or misused, B) because no one likes to be put into a category, and C) it's easier to put on blinders and ignore our issues.

Yet when you see the signs written in black-and-white, it's hard to ignore. Do you recognize any of these?

1. You do things for your partner that he can and should be doing for himself.

2. You can't help but worry about your partner — where he is, what he's doing, what he's thinking, what's wrong with him. The worrying eats you alive. More often than not, you're worrying about things that you have absolutely no control over.

3. Your partner's mood affects your day.

4. You've allowed irresponsible, hurtful behavior into your relationship.

5. You let your partner have his way, and then feel overwhelmed with anger and resentment. ("Look at all I do for you!"..."How dare you do this to me again!"..."I knew this would happen!")

The thing with codependency is that it's SO COMMON, and often a major source of unhappiness and unhealthiness in not only our relationships, but our lives.

I understand that wave of exhaustion you might be feeling, just thinking about tackling these issues head-on. Not only is it overwhelming and unappealing to look at ourselves this closely, but addressing our codependency can be a direct threat to our relationship. If we get healthy — emotionally and mentally healthy — will we realize that our marriage needs to go?


But I can tell you, without a shred of doubt, that if there's something about your relationship that you want changed, the only thing you can change is yourself. And really digging into the patterns and symptoms of codependency can dramatically improve things about yourself that hold you back — like anger, fear, control, anxiety, and perfectionism.

There's no need to be embarrassed for identifying with codependency; it's not your fault. This is how you were programmed — how SO MANY OF US were programmed — but there's a healthier way to live. And it really doesn't have to be that overwhelming. Researching the topic and being aware of your issues is step #1, which you can do with a book or a therapist.

Don't get me wrong. Just because I read a few books, researched a few experts, and started a therapy program doesn't mean that I'm cured — not even a little. Codependency is something I'll have to work on for years, maybe even for the rest of my life. But that's okay. Because recovering from codependency gives me a potential for happiness that I never had before, and a way of understanding and loving myself from a different perspective.

Recovering from codependency has been the most illuminating and important turning point in my life.

Perhaps you'll feel the same.

Your Voice: Acacia

young mom story


Acacia Remmer

I got pregnant at:

20 years old.

I am now:

22 years old.

My initial reaction was:


People in my life reacted:

with discouragement.

My biggest challenge has been:

leaving my daughter's abusive father and standing my ground against the stigmas and stereotypes.

My biggest accomplishment has been:

going back to school.

I love being a young mom because:

It connects me with my truest self.

I struggle with:

loneliness, utter exhaustion, and comparison.

I wish all young moms knew:

there is absolutely nothing we can't do.

Acacia has more of her story to share with us:

"When I got pregnant, I was still young enough to cling steadfastly to the idea of a fairytale ending. Even though my ex was emotionally and physically abusive, I'd been fed the same story as so many other young women: that it was my job and DUTY to nurture and support him through "difficult times." That it was wrong to walk away.

By the time I chose to have my daughter, I had no hope of leaving and had resigned myself to making the most of the situation I was in. Thankfully I did leave, even though it meant walking right out of the cultural narrative and into a swamp of stigmas and stereotypes. I was the "bitter jealous bitch" when I finally went to the police to protect ourselves from him.

The thing that bothers me is when people say, "Wow, I never thought you were the kind of person who...(was abused/would get pregnant, etc.)." Ummm, the kind of person? Of course I am. The people who get pregnant, who can have X, Y, and Z happen to them, tend to have some things in common: They breathe air, they are made of flesh, they are human. Because these thing could happen to any of us, to all of us. And the suggestion that there is a demographic, a "type," is damaging and fear-based.

So that's the dark part. But there is hope. I am now studying at University, and I recently began my honors thesis in environmental biology. I'll be applying to a Master's program in the next few weeks and I'm aiming for a PhD. My daughter, now almost 2, and I live in family housing through the university. I have so much hope for the life that we are building. We are happy, we are strong and we are amazing. There is no stereotype, no label, that could possibly contain us. I know I'm not the only single, scientist young mum out there."

Thank you so much Acacia, this is an incredible and important perspective. I wish you all the best! You sound like one strong, smart mama.

Do YOU have a story to share? Add your voice.