Today's Q+A comes from Miriam, who blogs at The Bed is Made, the World's a Mess.
1. How old were you when you first got pregnant? I was 23 when I became pregnant with my first child. My oldest daughter, Azalia, will be 4 years old in September, and my youngest, Lucia, will be 1 years old in September. I also had a miscarriage in between my two daughters.
2. What was your initial thought when you saw the test turn positive? My initial thought was denial. I had suspected for a few days that I might be pregnant, but that test turned positive so quickly! I was convinced it was a bad test, so I raced to the drugstore to pick up some more tests. I took two more tests, all positive. It took some time to sink in. Once I was over my denial, I was very excited! [Ed note: For the record, I was in denial until I saw my little baby .]
3. You got married pretty young at 22 years old. When were you planning to start a family? During our engagement we had decided to wait at least two years after we were married before trying to conceive. Since I hadn't finished my Bachelor's Degree and we were among the first of our friends to get married, we wanted to wait and enjoy that time without the responsibility of children. However, after we married I began to have "baby fever." We decided to wait until our one year anniversary, then have the discussion again. I had just begun to be OK with not having a baby, and then I found out I was pregnant. We had been married for only eight months.
4. Did you find that choosing early motherhood was generally accepted in your family/group of friends/community? I believe it was somewhat accepted. I did feel that I had to justify my young pregnancy, in a sense, and explain that it was unplanned. Almost as if it would be very strange if I had chosen to become pregnant at such a young age. Planned or unplanned, it didn't make me love my baby any less.
5. You put your education and career on hold when you found out you were pregnant. Looking back, are you glad you made that choice? It was a hard decision to put everything on hold. I know that some women can do both successfully, but there was so much change in my life in such a short period of time. I wanted to focus on what I felt was most important -- my child. When I decided to take a break from school, I knew that it wouldn't last forever. I was (and still am) so close to finishing my degree, and I didn't want to tell my daughter that I didn't go back and finish after she was born.
The break also gave me some time to truly evaluate my degree. I had changed my major three times before I was pregnant and still didn't know what I would actually do with an English degree. Knowing that I'd have a family made me look at my degree with more purpose and focus, and helped me decide on something more practical. I decided to switch to Human Relations instead. I started taking classes again right around my daughter's second birthday. I know it's harder this way, but I also like the fact that my oldest daughter is fully aware of what I'm working toward. Whenever I go to class, she sees that my hopes and goals for the future didn't end when I had a baby.
6. What's the biggest advantage to being an early mom? One advantage is definitely the energy! My oldest daughter is very spirited, and I'm not sure that I'd be able to keep up with her if I were older. However, I feel like the biggest advantage is yet to come. Most of our friends are now just beginning to have children, yet we already have two children and possibly a third to come. I like that my husband and I will still be young when our children are grown and (hopefully) move out of the house.
7. And what was/is your biggest challenge? I think my biggest challenge was the loneliness when I first became a mother. A lot of the moms I knew were much older and had three, four, even five kids already. There were many times that my husband and I felt a little abandoned by our friends. It was so hard to get those random calls/texts about a party or a meet-up at a bar and have to say, "No, sorry, we can't find a babysitter that quickly." But then something strange happened: When we'd go out, it wasn't as much fun. Having a child changes everything about you, and suddenly going to bars just wasn't that exciting. After awhile, I didn't feel we were missing out on that much.
My biggest challenge now is finding enough time for myself and enough quality time with my husband. Because I work and go to school, our time together is pretty limited. We decided that we didn't want to put our children in daycare, so my husband is very involved in caring for our kids. He has a flexible schedule and can change it to suit my work and school schedule. But this means that time for us sometimes gets pushed aside. We have to work really hard to make date nights a priority.
8. Being the first of your friends to have a baby, what's the #1 piece of advice you'll pass on to your newly pregnant friends? My best piece of advice would be to trust your instincts (they're there for a reason!) and do what is best for you and your family. Because I was the first among my friends to have a baby, I got a lot of advice from an older generation of mothers. They were all very sweet and meant well, but their style of parenting didn't sit well with me, often going against my mothering instincts. My husband and I had many discussions about how we wanted to shape and build our family. I even began researching different parenting styles. We found what worked well for us and didn't worry what others thought, even though I've been a people-pleaser my whole life. I ultimately had to tell myself that it was OK to do what I felt was best for my family, regardless of how others viewed my choices. Also don't be afraid to put yourself out there. I wish that I joined a moms group or La Leche League when I had my first daughter.
9. Has the "mom friends" issue changed from being 22 years old to now 27? I have mom friends now! Some of my friends have started to have children and I finally starting meeting some really cool, young mamas.
10. What do you think is the biggest misconception about you, as an early mama? I think the biggest misconception is that because I'm an early mama, my first pregnancy wasn't planned and that I don't have my life together. I mean, sure, I'm not finished with my Bachelor's Degree and I don't make a ton of money, but does that make me any less capable of being a good mother? Is there ever a perfect time to have a baby? Thankfully I have an incredibly supportive family, so I never felt this from them. I do remember getting glaring looks from stranger when I would carry around my first daughter. You know, the "Oh, you're a TEEN mom" look. A few people would approach me in stores trying "to help," but really acting as if I wasn't capable of putting my daughter in a sling. Yes, I'm a young mom and I'm still learning, but I also know what I'm doing.
Thanks, Miriam! If you'd like to be featured, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.