“You ruined your life.”
“You need to have an abortion immediately; nothing is more important than your education.”
“Pity. You had such potential.”
These sentences were all said to new young moms, straight in their eyes and into their hearts from people they love and value. (I know because I get emails and messages from young moms all over the world.) Looking from an outside perspective, we can see how these things were said with ignorance, or misguided love, or all of the above. But do you know what that feels like in our hearts? Do you know the weight of those words? Have you felt that kind of searing hopelessness?
I have. At 21 years old, I was thrown headfirst into the subculture of pregnancy and baby — learning how to breastfeed, sifting through an ungodly pool of must-have baby products, and then negotiating maternity leave at an entry-level job that I literally just started. I had no one to teach me; girls my age were barely out of college. “Nipple cream? What is that, some new sex toy?”
And I was in my 20s! I can only imagine the pounding pressure and negativity that young high-school girls face. Girls who had sex — just like so many high-school girls do, with or without protection — but ended up seeing two lines instead of one on their pregnancy test. There’s no turning back; she’s pregnant. We can’t shame that away, or wag our finger hard enough to turn back the time. But man, we sure do try.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the young moms I’ve met behind my computer screen, it’s that people say the rudest things when you’re a baby-faced woman pushing a stroller. Opinions, warnings, flat-out prophecies — all fair game when you’re a young-looking girl with a pregnant belly. Bonus points if your left finger is bare. Instead of hearing “congratulations,” we’re told, “I’m sorry.”
We don’t see moms that look like us on TV — not unless it’s a mug shot, or reality TV stereotype, or another fear-based cautionary tale. We walk down the street and see billboards about how we’re not only ruining our own lives, but our children’s lives. (SHAME ON YOU.) Billboards that say things like, “You’re supposed to be changing the world…not changing diapers #NoTeenPreg.” (SHAME ON YOU.)