Connecting with so many Early Mamas, with so many different stories, has undoubtedly made me a more confident mother. It was, in a way, comforting to hear about the women who chose early motherhood for themselves, or those who wished that they could have been younger moms. But there's something uniquely terrifying and transformative about the unexpected early mama. The young woman going about her typical 20-something life — going to class, planning her career in intricate detail — only to have her entire life change in the ordinary second. The young woman who mourns her could-be life and somehow accepts this unexpected change. The young woman who decides to keep moving forward, trepidatiously, anxiously. The young woman who becomes someone she never knew she wanted to be.
I was that young woman, and so was Ashlee Bush.
Ashlee recently started a Web site to help women cope with unexpected pregnancies, so I decided to ask her a few questions.
1. How old were you when you became pregnant?
2. Tell us about the emotions you went through during those first few moments/weeks/months.
The first minute = total disbelief & shock!
I immediately left my apartment and drove to K-Mart to buy another test. This time, I ran into a few classmates and uttered this is for a friend.
I got a sympathetic grin and hurried to the register.
I felt like I was in movie or a bad dream. I started to pray and I kept thinking to myself that this cannot be happening!
I took the second test at a close friend’s house and it was positive – again!
More total disbelief, fear, anger, shock and embarrassment washed over my body as I began to cry.
My friend just kept telling me that I will be okay, and reassured me that everything would work out the way it was supposed to.
Not long after, I told my family and the haze of disbelief started to dissipate and the reality of the situation set in and I got moving. I planned my school detour and decided to transfer schools to be closer to my parents once I completed the current semester.
The remainder of my pregnancy was joyful; it was all about staying healthy, eliminating stress, and delivering a healthy baby. I would sing to her, talk to her, and put headphones on my belly when I would study.
3. What was your relationship status at the time?
It was complicated. I was single and starting to get to know a guy from school. The New Guy and I had been in a class together all semester and we had finally started talking after months of casually exchanged smiles. We talked and texted when we went home for holidays, and, at that time, my ex-boyfriend (who I had not seen in a few months) wanted to take me to dinner.
I agreed to meet him.
I drank way too much and wound up sleeping with him, once, and getting pregnant.
When I went back to school, the New Guy and I had finally made plans for a real date.
It feels strange to say it out-loud now, but telling him was probably the hardest thing I had to do during my pregnancy. I liked him A LOT. (The timing couldn’t have been any worse, or so I thought at the time.)
He surprised me with his first question, “Have you started taking pre-natal vitamins?” And the next day he brought me a bouquet of flowers to congratulate me. Later I would find out that his sister had gotten pregnant while in high school, which I think helped.
I believe that he was put into my life, at that exact time, for a reason.
Our friendship would eventually end as I decided to try and make it work with my baby's father.
4. How did your friends and family react?
My family and true friends cried with me. They couldn’t believe that it had happened, but once the initial shock wore off, they wanted to help and were excited for me. They would tell me about any resources they found out about, and success stories of young moms or moms that graduated school. I felt their support for my decision every step of the way.
Sadly, I had one friend who thought my choice was stupid. She thought my life was over, my future was ruined, and that I’d never be able to finish school if I went through with the pregnancy.
5. How has Early Motherhood changed you?
I used to be the girl who wanted to make sure everything looked and sounded perfect, before life taught me to enjoy the journey and all the unplanned surprises. When I had to face something that did not make me look so good, I started to change.
Slowly, one day at a time, I started to morph into the person that I always knew was hidden deep inside myself.
Early motherhood has taught me to be more flexible in life, which, as it turns out, is a wonderful skill to have in adulthood!
6. What has your daughter taught you about yourself? About life?
Oh goodness…She has taught me so much!
I never knew how much I could love another person. The love that I feel for her is so pure and real. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced.
Overall, the pregnancy taught me that there are no guarantees in life. Life can/does and always will change in the blink of an eye. And it’s best to just ride it out as best as we can!
7. What were some of the misconceptions you had about early motherhood/unplanned pregnancies?
As cliché as this sounds, I thought that it would never happen to me.
8. What prompted you to start blogging?
My world got turned upside down seven years ago; I was shocked and embarrassed that I was facing an unplanned pregnancy. But, once that initial shock wore off, I was saddened by the lack of resources for young moms. At times, I felt lonely being the only pregnant girl on campus and desperately wished that I could have connected with other women going through similar situations.
A few years ago, I kept thinking about all of the unexpected moms who might be feeling alone, scared, and unsure of themselves — like I did — and decided to give blogging a try.
Fear is a powerful emotion. It can either make you feel paralyzed and trapped, or help us grow and change gracefully.
It kept me from taking a huge leap of faith to even start to a blog. Five years later, I told fear to shove it and here I am.
Action Ashlee is in the early phases of development and growth, but my long-term goal is to make Action Ashlee a leading Web site full of resources, covering an array of topics geared specifically to help unplanned mothers.
Action because, without it, we can’t change and grow into the people we want to be.
Ashlee because I think it’s a popular name that can be the face of a lot of typical 20-something women.
Our motto: “Change gracefully. Live purposefully.”
9. If you could give one message to the young women facing unplanned pregnancies, what would it be?
To the woman facing an unplanned pregnancy: I believe that you have the most fantastic intuition, and harbor an incredible amount of inner strength and courage that you don’t even realize is within yourself.
Follow that inner voice because it’s YOU and only YOU that you need to listen to.
10. And three random facts about you:
I change my hair color and style almost more frequently than I change my underwear.
I enjoy a good micro-beer. (Schlafly, anyone?) I’m a St. Louis girl; can you expect anything else?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be an FBI agent. (Now I live vicariously through Criminal Minds.)