Reader Q+A: briana, finding faith in young motherhood

briana young mom

1. How old were you when you had your first baby?

Zoe was born just after I turned 23. I wasn't quite done "feeling 22," so it was a hard adjustment at first. I was also in a grueling first year of teaching (I taught first grade) with the organization Teach For America. Let's just say the timing wasn't perfect...and weirdly, looking back, it was kind of perfect.

2. Was this planned?

Nope. my husband and I had just gotten married right after we graduated from college. Every Wednesday was half-priced wine at our local pizza place around the corner. We also ordered-out Thai food (constantly) to cope with our hectic work schedules. It all came to a half when I became pregnant.

Our lifestyle, in Chicago, had been incredibly carefree until that point. Then I stopped drinking wine for the baby. For some reason, the pizza didn't appeal to me anymore, to my husband's chagrin. I literally went to bed at 7 p.m. every single night because I was so exhausted and had to get up at 5:30 a.m. to get to the elementary school on time. It was a tough year.

One of my lowest moments was throwing up on the steering wheel of my car on the way to work, and then not having anything to change into once I got to school. Our first year of marriage had a lot of pregnancy tears in it, I can tell you that.

3. Tell me how you met your husband.

My husband and I met in a prayer group. I know, interesting, huh? We both joke that we were the least likely people to meet at a prayer group. While we're both conservative Christians, at the time we were still working through a lot of the questions you ask in college. We were trying to learn what it meant to have Christian faith, to be real, and to live a good life.

Not that we have that figured out yet. We still talk about these kinds of things every day. On our first "real" date, we actually watched a documentary on quantum physics. If that doesn't scream nerd-girl and nerd-boy, I don't know what does.

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4. And why get married at such a young age? Did you always imagine being a young wife?

I think a huge part of it was that my parents were married young, and I look up to them in their marriage. They have been married 25+ years, and my dad just wrote my mom a love song the other day about how much she means to him (I know, adorbs).

Besides that, I had one of those moments when I first met Chris when I just "knew" we were going to get married. My Christian faith influences everything I do and a young marriage seemed natural to me. We didn't want to live together prior to marriage, so we just figured, hey, let's get this party started!

5. Were your friends and family supportive of your marriage? And your decision to start a family?

Yes and no. My friends thought that my husband was rough around the edges. I knew he had a great heart, so I was stunned when my friends tried to talk me out of marrying him. I had been willing to marry him from about 3 months into our relationship. It was actually a hard time for me, because I felt very lonely in that.

However my family was very supportive. I think they knew how perfect my husband was for me. He really evens me out and helps me to calm down when I feel like the world is going to end. When I walked down the aisle on my wedding day, it truly was the best day of my life.

As far as starting a family, this was a shocker for me and my family. My husband and I are a real-life testimony to the fact that it only takes ones time to make a baby. When we found out, I was actually in Thailand, where I grew up, with my family. I jokes with my sister that I was "late," and she went and got me a pregnancy test. She stood outside the door and we laughed at the idea of me being pregnant.

I must have emerged from that door very shakily, because my heart literally dropped to the floor when I found out I was pregnant. I'll never forget the shocked look on my parents' faces. We eventually calmed down, but I think my parents (and I) were hoping that I would have some time to figure out my career plans and develop our marriage.

6. How did and does the church play into your life?

The church (and my Christian faith) are really what ground me in this life. I spend a lot of time talking about my faith on my personal blog and this is because I really feel that God has worked a miracle in my life. In high school I had an eating disorder that pretty much wrecked my life, and almost wrecked my family. My parents were amazing, and they really believed in me. They tried everything to help me get better. Ultimately I ended up at a Christian inpatient center. From that moment on I gave my whole life to God. I know it can sound cheesy to some people, but I love my life looking backwards at that moment because I found freedom through my faith. I no longer struggle with weight and food. I feel extremely blessed to be able to say that.

7. Has your sense of faith changed or intensified since becoming a mother?

I think my Christian faith has made motherhood harder in some ways. I really want to incorporate my knowledge of who God is into raising my children. When I see myself struggling with anger, or getting frustrated, I feel like I am missing an extremely high bar that I am supposed to be reaching. I guess I can be too hard on myself at times. One thing that has really helped me is knowing that God is ultimately in charge of my kids. I don't have to be the perfect one raising my children, because he is there to fill in the spaces. If there is one verse that gives me hope, it's this one:

He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. (Isaiah 40:11)

It gives me hope that he is leading me and my babies.

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8. Do you ever find it challenging to reconcile your role as a Christian wife and that of a modern millennial woman?

Definitely. One huge struggle for me is the church's conception of a SAHM. Right now I am at home, but I don't think that every woman has the financial resources to stay at home. Sarah Bessey, a writer on feminist issues in the church, says, "If a title [stay at home mom] can't be enjoyed by a woman in Haiti, or even by a woman hailed in Scripture, then biblical womanhood must be more than this."

Sometimes I feel that the church has very narrow roles for women to play. I've never been one to fit into a traditional role, and I like to buck the system.

As a young millennial, I grew up in a very different world for women, where it seemed like the sky was the limit. I wasn't prepared for motherhood in the same way as past generations; my goal for the longest time was to have a prospering career and continue working. I never thought that kids could change everything for me. In fact, I don't think I even thought about kids at all before I was pregnant. It just wasn't on my radar.

9. What's been the most challenging part of your "early mama" experience?

I would say trying to figure out who I am as a mom apart from all the stereotypes I seem to have appropriated. I think it has challenged my conception of "who is Briana?" more than anything else that has ever happened to me.

10. And what's your favorite reason for choosing young motherhood?

At the end of it all, I love young motherhood. My kids are beautiful little people with huge hearts and developing souls. I can't believe I have the opportunity to steward that. It simultaneously frightens me to no end and enthralls me.