Your Voice: Stephanie, 25 Years Old

young mom

Name:

Stephanie Guillen

I got pregnant at:

18 years old

I am now:

25 years old

My initial reaction was:

...so many emotions at once. Chris, who is now my husband, and I stared at those two pink lines, feeling a mixture of surprise, excitement, happiness, nervousness, fear, and too many other emotions to name, all at once.

People in my life reacted...:

Chris and I waited three long months to tell anyone I was pregnant. The first people I told were my two best friends from high school, Grace and Madonna. They were pretty supportive, but not as enthusiastic as they would have been if we had been older. Then I told my sisters, one of whom knew about my miscarriage 6 months prior, and neither were as supportive as I would have liked...at first. They did throw me a baby shower though. Chris' mom guessed I was pregnant by looking at me when I was about four months along, one week before we moved into our own apartment together.

My biggest challenge has been:

...reconciling the life that I am living, the life that I want, with the life that my late mother wanted for me.

I have a hard time dealing with the fact that my daughter Melody probably would not exist if my mother had not passed away from breast cancer when I was 16 years old. I love Melody very much and cannot imagine my life without her. I miss my mother and wish that she were still alive, so she could be a grandmother to my daughter.

young mom photo

My biggest accomplishment has been:

..staying married to Chris through all of the ups and downs that we have experienced together, and raising a kind, smart, beautiful 5-year-old girl.

I love being a young mom because:

I am looking forward to living long enough to be a grandmother and great-grandmother, and I believe that I am showing my daughter that you can do anything that you set your mind to, regardless of what anyone else says.

I struggle with:

...feeling guilty for the mistakes that I have made while raising my daughter. I suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and depression, and I haven't always managed those chronic mental illnesses as well as I am now, and it has affected my daughter significantly. All I can do now is work hard to do better in the present and in the future, and to not dwell on the past.

I wish all young moms knew:

You are not alone. You do not need to feel ashamed, regardless of what anyone in your life tells you. I will tell you what I tell my daughter every night before bed (which I learned from The Help): "You are kind, you are smart, you are important." And you can do anything, be anything, and accomplish anything you set your mind to. You can be a good mother; you will be a good mother; you are a good mother.

***

Note: Since filling out this Q+A, Stephanie has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was hospitalized at a mental health facility. Last I spoke with her, she was participating in an intensive outpatient program, and had also found local peer-led support groups.

"I would love to share my story with other young moms because the only drawback of the outpatient program is that I am the one and only young mother in the group," she wrote me. "There are more men than women, and the women are all decades older than me. I have gotten a lot out of it anyway, but I think that more young people should know about and feel comfortable asking for mental health care, rather than waiting until their condition worsens when they get older. I strongly believe in advocating for better mental health care and reducing the stigma."

If anyone else is struggling with a mental health issue — be it bipolar disorder, OCD, addiction, depression, etc. — please know that you're not alone in how you're feeling. There's help and support out there, when you're ready. And you being healthy is the very best thing you can do for your kids.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Stephanie. If anyone has any comments or questions for her, please leave them below.

8 Ways College Life Prepared Me for Motherhood

college mom

I skipped my college graduation ceremony and unintentionally got pregnant instead. Welcome to the real world, said the real world. Here’s a child.

Of all the times to get pregnant! I had “dream job” interviews lined up in Manhattan, a depleted bank account (thank you, unpaid internships), and—oh yes!—I was just dropped from my parents' health insurance. (This was back in 2008; before the law was changed to accommodate the crippling recession I brought a child into. Timing!)

It was stressful, for sure, but life has a funny way of working out.

Now that I have some perspective, having a baby straight out of college wasn’t all that bad. In fact, my college lifestyle may have provided the perfect set-up to the new-mom lifestyle. Here’s why:

1. Sleep deprivation

If there’s anything that rivals the sleep deprivation of new motherhood, it’s the sleep deprivation of finals week. I was so used to being up all night studying (or partying), that having a new baby wasn’t as jarring as it could have been. If I had spent the next 10 years adjusting to a healthy sleep cycle, those first few weeks would have been way harder.

2. Naps

College students are well-versed in the art of napping. So while some new parents might find it hard to sneak in satisfying catnaps during the day, it was totally natural for me. I could fall asleep just about anywhere, anytime. Naps for everyone!

3. Puking

Morning sickness or a wicked hangover? I was used to it.

4. Living with strangers

It’s never easy to invite a new person into your living space, but I had spent the last four years moving in and out with roommates, adjusting to different living styles and making compromises. I had no routine to disrupt, no “alone time” to miss.

A Young Mom's Home Birth Story

home birth story

a home birth, what are you crazy?

That was the general reaction when my sister explained why, no, her second child would not be born in a hospital like her first. No she would not be going back to her OB, and she wouldn't even use our local birthing center, where I delivered, the Hospital Alternative du jour around these parts.

During the first round of our pregnancies, I was the "out there" one — birthing Noah in a hospital-grade birthing tub, the kind with jets and filtration. I used midwives, yes, but it was certainly more hospital than living room. (I still had a remote-controlled bed and a bathroom with handrails, if that says anything.)

Despite my loving sisterly pressure to deliver there, too, she ended up birthing Ben at one of the best hospitals in the country for neonatal care. Tomatoes tomahtoes, we both ended up with healthy kids and a painful story to tell.

But then she got pregnant again, and wowza did she veer in the opposite direction. She went about as far as she could, stopping short of squatting and delivering alone. And she was so much happier.

Now that Faye Winter is here, safe and beautiful, I asked my sister a few questions about her experience:

1. I've known you for a very long time. Your entire existence. And I have to say, you surprised me with your home birth decision — especially because it was such a drastic change from your first pregnancy. Why the change in direction? What was that decision process like?

Well, this is a loaded question. There are quite a few reasons why I decided to have a home birth this time. First of all, I think one of the biggest differences is that I’ve already done it once, so I knew I physically could birth a child! The first time around, I was clueless. I thought that everything my OB did was normal, I thought that medical interventions were just part of the process.

Once I was in the hospital and delivered Ben, I quickly realized that being in the hospital was perhaps the worst part of the whole experience. The random nurses coming in and out, “shift” relationships as opposed to continuity of care. I had very little control over my own body, decisions and plan. I got the sense that the doctors didn’t trust the birthing process, or the mother’s ability to deliver a baby. It was very much about their time table and protocol.

That being said, I still had a relatively smooth first birth experience. Once I learned I was pregnant again, one of my first thoughts was, “I’m NOT doing it like that again.” It just didn’t feel right, or natural for me. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but the thought of going to the hospital, delivering a baby, and leaving my son at home, wasn’t even something I wanted to entertain.

A big part of the decision centered around the fact that I have a two year old, also. The decision process was a bit scary. In all honesty, I was in denial for some time, and just let it ride for a bit. I didn’t make an early appointment with an OB, or even rush out for prenatal care in the first trimester. I let the reality sink in for a bit, I researched and networked with some other moms, and made an appointment to interview with the midwives. Right away, it was so different from the experience with my OB. And, even if I wasn’t 100% certain it would be a good idea per say, I knew it was going to be better than another hospital birth for me.

So... I went with it. I was very anxious, a bit uncertain, and knew what I didn’t want…so I basically did the opposite of my first birth. (And yes, I’m very glad that I did.) I had to trust my intuition, and I learned as I went.

Also, at the very beginning of the decision process, I watched a documentary called “The Business of Being Born," which was pretty much a game changer. I highly recommend it for anyone that’s curious. It gave me a foundation and a new perspective to consider that I really identified with.

2. She seems to have assimilated into the family really quickly. Does it feel less real in any way? There was no packing of bags, dramatically driving to the hospital in the snow. No novelty of a hospital room and caretaking nurses. It was just like, BOOM, labor, baby…and wasn’t she always here?

You’re right. It was pretty seamless from my perspective, too. The whole thing just kind of happened. I don’t think it had anything to do with my own preparedness though. To be honest, I didn’t feel very prepared. I kind of had no idea how it was going to play out…at all. Maybe that’s the very reason that it seemed so smooth though. I really didn’t have many expectations, but I had a lot of uncertainties. With a home birth, there are a lot of unknowns; you aren’t constantly monitored and checked. You have more freedom. It was quiet, relaxed, non-invasive. I could go wherever I wanted to go. I could be in any position I wanted to be in. I didn’t know what I would want, or how I would feel, and that was okay. There were no bright lights or stirrups. No gowns or wires. No one told me not to push, or threatened me that if the baby didn’t come in x amount of hours, they were going to “help” her come. It just happened as it was going to happen, and then suddenly, she was here and I had two babies in my arms. (Of course with lots of contractions, pain and pushing in between.)

home birth story
home birth tub story

I had doubts. I was scared. It was even more painful then I remembered it to be. I wanted to quit. I even wanted to perform my own C-section at one point…. and I thought there was no way I could physically do it. But usually when you think you can’t do it anymore, that’s when you do! And, I did because this labor and delivery wasn’t all about me. I had a little boy in the next room that could come in and see his mommy at any moment. He could see me being strong, or he could see me unraveling. He kept me strong.

home birth story

And physically? It was me AND Faye, doing it together. When I couldn’t push another second, my body contracted and did it for me. When I wanted to quit, she moved down lower and lower, reminding me that she was coming regardless. I feel like there is a lot of up and down, a lot of give and take between mother and baby in labor. But during delivery, you synch. You do it together. It was me, her and my midwife. It’s humanizing, and empowering, yet the most humbling experience. And, like you said, “boom, labor, baby wasn’t she always here?” Yes — I knew that little girl inside me all along, more than I realized.

home birth

3. You were pretty freaked out about having to leave Ben to deliver Faye, but I know you were also worried about how Ben would react to you birthing a human in the next room. And I know there was some worry about how you’d recover with a brand-new baby and a sleep-challenged toddler. Some warned that you might want space away in the hospital, to heal and bond. Can you speak to that, now that you’re three days in?

Definitely. I was really worried about leaving Ben, going to the hospital for three or four days, and then coming back home with another baby. I know him, and I know that it would have elicited a completely different response. I even think it would have been a bit traumatic for him.

And yes, it certainly would have been more traumatic for me! I am absolutely positive that being stuck in a hospital room, away from Ben, would have made it difficult to adjust to this new dynamic and bond with the baby. Maybe that’s not even healthy, but it’s true. I am very attached to him, as he is to me. I wanted to make this an experience that he could be a part of. He had baby dolls and books about expecting new babies. He came to the ultrasounds with me, and met the midwives. Two weeks later, he’s still talking about it, using Legos on my belly to “do ultrasounds," and talks about the midwives daily.

In a nutshell, it was a great experience for him. It came with a lot of preparation though. At just two years old, he really did understand. I was prepared that I may have to leave him in the case of an emergency transport to the hospital. I had you and mom “on call” as the people that would come take Ben out of the house if he needed a break. That aspect of my home birth, though, went exactly as I hoped it would. Ben was involved, he was present as much as he wanted to be — in and out of the room freely — and was not scared by any of it, at all. In fact, when I was laboring in the birth tub, he kept bringing me his bath toys!

During some of the early contractions, he put his head to my head, and held my hand. He is a sensitive, smart and very loving little boy. Having him here was grounding for me.

home birth story

He was napping while I pushed. Chris didn’t come in until she was almost completely out, and Ben woke up and walked in maybe three seconds after she was born. He was right there, kissing his new baby sister’s head, while she was still attached to me and laying on my chest. The smile on his face told me that I made the right decision. He was absolutely delighted.

birth story

He stayed by my side and stared at the baby while I delivered the placenta. He was in awe over all her tiny features, and seemed like he both expected and accepted what had just taken place!

With preparation and involvement, I think it’s very possible for young children to understand a lot more than we think they do. Many people were worried that it would be “scary” or “traumatic” for him. I completely disagree with that. Childbirth is natural. As long as everything is going smoothly and it’s a low-risk birth, it’s only scary and taboo if we make it that way. It really helped me more than he will ever know, to have him there too.

Sleep and recovery? I definitely didn’t rest like I would in a hospital. I was up and out of bed that evening. I didn’t stay in bed — I was taking care of both kids, but I was okay with that. I think it helped, actually. I didn’t feel limited and helpless, sitting in bed staring at this newborn, while my toddler missed me or begged me to play. He wanted to play, so I played. When he wanted me to hold him, I could so I did. I think it was a better experience for me to bond with my newborn, with my toddler there because I saw how much love he had for her the second they met. That made me feel like it was going to be okay. It made me feel less guilty, and more accepting of my new role as a mom of two. In a sense, it made me feel like it was okay and natural to share my love, because Ben so clearly loved her, too.

new siblings
sibling love
baby photography


4. I know you have a different perspective on labor and pregnancy after working with your midwives and birthing at home. Can you recall any big realizations or changes?

In working with my midwives and receiving their care, I realized how natural pregnancy and childbirth is for a woman. Pregnancy is a natural state for a woman’s body to be in. We are made to do this. We CAN do this. We don’t always need medical interventions. Don’t get me wrong: I completely support doctors and modern medicine. I really do. It saves lives. It saved my mom's life! She would have died during childbirth. I know that modern medicine can provide miracles — that’s not what I’m speaking to.

In a “typical” low-risk pregnancy, I realized that there is no reason to invade the woman’s body. It’s now the baby’s home, and as long as everything is progressing as it should, my midwives believed and taught me that was enough to trust. Women have been doing this forever, and they will continue to do this forever. We are so much more capable than we realize. It’s pretty amazing, actually.

birth story


(I know you’re tired, the screen looks blurry, and your stitches are hurting from sitting in that chair. I’m almost done, I swear. )


4. If you were to do this again (RELAX! I KNOW! TOO SOON!), would you have another homebirth?

First of all — bite your tongue!! At this moment, I never want to do it again, period.
But yes. If I were ever to be pregnant again (gulp….) I would want to do another home birth.

***

THANK YOU Nikki for answering my questions so soon after giving birth, and thank you and Chris for taking such gorgeous photos (as always). We joke that she's pretty much the face of Early Mama (and all of my Babble/mom.me posts!).

Nikki has shared more here, too. Wanna see?:

Becoming A (Young) Mom

Another "Early Baby" On The Way

Meet Ben: The Child Of A Young Mom

If you want to chat about birth stories or talk to Nikki and I, we're both in the private Early Mama Facebook group. There's just about 350 of us in there, it's a nice space! If you want an invite, shoot me an email (addima27@gmail.com or the contact form above) and I'll add you.

The Heavy Weight of Motherhood

young motherhood

The full version of this post can be found at Babble.com.

I’ve felt the weight of a growing life inside my body — heavier through each trimester, as this small human gained body mass and limbs. Until one day I was housing a full-size newborn and his entire living quarters, feeling the pressure of gravity on my hips as I waddled to the bathroom … again. (My bladder felt the weight of motherhood, too).

When he was finally on the outside, 7 pounds of pure loveliness, the weight not only redistributed, it seemed to magnify.

baby photography
newborn photography

I’ve carried a 9-pound baby in a 10-pound car seat, with three packed bags slung over my shoulders, with a full baby swing in one hand and a Boppy pillow draped around my neck. Have you pushed a double stroller? Have you rocked a 20-pound child, up and down, shushing and consoling, and felt your lower back tense under the weight? (I knew about prenatal vitamins and healthy eating, but no one told me to prep my muscles, too.) I’ve carried loads I never thought I could, just to avoid waking a sleeping child.

I’ve felt the weight of exhaustion settling in my eye sockets.

I’ve felt the weight of exhaustion settling in my eye sockets.

I know the weight of a breast pump sucking milk out of my body as I worked long hours away from my new infant, and how my heart felt anchored down with heavy guilt and doubt. Every day I’d drop him off at daycare — his eyes just opening for the day, focusing on a mother waving goodbye. I’d come home just as his dad was bathing and prepping for bedtime. His eyes fluttered closed, clutching my shirt, as if to say, It’s you! You weren’t a dream! Don’t leave me, please!  (That’s the kind of weight that’ll fracture your beating heart, believe me. So much that I quit my job four months later.)

Why, though? Why does parenting come with such a remarkable and tangible weight to it?

Why does parenting come with such a remarkable and tangible weight to it?
new family

These photos are of my sister, who just added a new baby girl to her (our) family. She'll share her home birth story with us later this week. xo

The Answer to Your Question

young pregnant woman

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 with 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 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

Name:

Ellisse Tracy

cute young mom

I got pregnant at:

19

I am now:

21

My initial reaction was...

Numbess.

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 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

Name:

Jessica Gooding

I got pregnant at:

17 years old

I am now:

25 years old

My initial reaction was:

Shock.

People in my life reacted:

IN SHOCK.

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.