Melissa was the college-age pastor's daughter from a large baptist church. And then she got pregnant.
During her sophomore year at college, Melissa went into the doctor's office thinking she had a cyst and walked out 6-weeks pregnant. She left college, moved back in with her parents, and became the type of mother, the type of person, that she never knew she wanted to be.
Melissa shares the reactions, the struggles, and the surprising support — and how early motherhood changed everything:
1. How old were you during your pregnancy?
I found out I was pregnant three days before my 20th birthday.
2. Was this expected? Planned?
No, not at all. I was going to college and having a blast with the college experience. When looking back at it, I guess we weren't trying that hard to prevent it though. Spencer and I had been talking about getting married and starting a family as soon as we graduated, so we just sped up the process a bit!
3. As a preacher’s daughter, what kind of expectations did you have/your parents have for you as a young adult?
I had plans to finish college within that four-year time frame, right after high school. I had plans to then marry Spencer, followed by having kids, after establishing a career. My parents had similiar expectations of me, but maybe with a few more years added to the timeline — and less partying. I'm sure they would have been happy with none of the partying.
4. Tell me a little about your pregnancy experience. Did you receive unexpected support? Obvious judgments?
I called my mom and finally told her that I was pregnant about a week after my birthday. Her reaction was the most calm and unexpected reaction. I remember her saying, "I thought so." Then we talked about my plans and called my dad, he had a similar reaction. There was never any yelling or reprimanding, they were very loving and supportive of my decision to keep the baby and offered to let me live with them and pay for our wedding if we wanted to get married. We figured I'd have to leave college by the end of semester. Leaving Longwood [University] was one of the hardest parts of my pregnancy.
When I returned home, on December 9, 2010, Spencer proposed to me. The decision of if we would get married was an easy one. That is probably when people at church realized I was pregnant. I remember people telling me I shouldn't get married until I finished school, while others just pretty much assumed we were doomed and would never last. We finally announced I was pregnant at around 17 weeks pregnant. I had many, many people contact me, telling me they had been in a similar situation and there was nothing but support from people. On February 26, 2011, we said "I do". I was 24 weeks pregnant.
At the same time as my pregnancy, my older sister was also pregnant with her first baby. She was 9 weeks farther along than me. She was a great support system and it was nice to see what was coming next for me, but at the same time, her pregnancy was planned with her husband and I think she felt the scandal of my pregnancy took away from hers. But now we've grown even closer as our babies have grown together. They are 7 weeks apart and best friends. It's worked out really well.
5. Was “early” motherhood common in your community? Were you the first of your peers?
It wasn't particularly common, but I was not the first of my peers. In fact we had a few unmarried young mothers in our church. My dad said to me once, "You aren't the first one this has ever happened to, and you aren't going to be the last."
6. Are you still in school? Any career goals?
I am! It's taking awhile, but I'm taking about three or four online classes a semester for a degree in Psychology. I have a passion for children with autism and learning disabilities, and I'm currently helping out in a sunday school class for children with autism. They are so fun! I hope one day I could help assist or teach autistic children in the school system.
7. What’s been harder for you: young motherhood or a young marriage?
I would have to say young marriage, actually. Our relationship is amazing, but it's so hard to find couples our age who we can relate to. Most people at 22 aren't taking a relationship seriously and don't understand the dynamics of marriage. It's hard to find anyone my age who has a child and is still with the same person that they had their child with.
Young motherhood has actually been easier than I expected. I got plugged into a christian Mothers of Preschoolers group (MOPS — these groups are found internationally, if you're looking to get plugged into something) at my church and they have been the most incredible support system.
8. I recently shared some of my tips for better wifedom. What have you learned about your own relationship since having your baby?
I would have to say, I had to learn to take time for him again. I feel like I get wrapped up in all the craziness of the day and forget to take the time to spend quality time with Spencer. So I've learned to do something for him every once in a while, just to remind him how incredible he is. I'll leave him a little message on our mirror. Or pick him up a 6-pack from the store without him asking. It's little things like that that can make all the difference. We also try to go on Samson-free date nights once a month.
9. What have you learned about yourself?
I've found that I'm a lot stronger than I thought I was. I've also learned to stop caring about any judgements from others. I try to go through every day not caring if people look at me and automatically check my finger to see if I'm married. I don't care if people give me the side eye as I walk through the grocery store. I know that I'm doing the absolute best for Samson and for my husband, and as long as they are happy and I'm happy, that's all that matters.
10. What’s the #1 reason you love being a younger mom?
I love being a younger mom because I have so much energy! I have more patience and I hope that I'll have more time with my son. Everything we have now is something some people pray for and never get. I consider myself incredibly blessed to have Samson and I know that God knew I could handle being a young mom.