Why was I with him? I've wondered that many times. We started dating when I was 15. What drew us together? Mutual misfits I suppose. I was too shy to be noticed by anyone. He was grateful to have my attention. It went to my head that finally someone cares about me. At first it was sweet. I was innocent and believed everything he told me. I felt the glow of being loved for the first time.
After I turned 16 things changed. He felt it was time we took our relationship to a physical level. I wasn't ready. He persisted. I wanted to fit in at school, a boyfriend let me do that. I was always different. The kids at school seemed to be so confident. I was new there, so I didn't have friends prepackaged from being at the same school system since kindergarten like the rest of them.
My older brother's friends were into drinking and drugs. He quickly slid down a dark hole that he never climbed out of. Having a boyfriend gave me a feeling of protection from other guys. They left me alone. Good thing cause they terrified me. It never occurred to me that the one I was with wasn't who I thought he was. He had a secret that was behind his motivation to push me into a sexual relationship. I was too naive to know. He was charming and knew how to manipulate.
It wasn't long before I became pregnant. My mom didn't notice that I missed my period. She didn't notice much about me. I didn't tell anyone that I would throw up as soon as I got to school, because the half hour bus ride was so nauseating. Luckily summer came quickly and I was able to sleep all morning. I kept to myself most of the time. How do I tell mom? What will everyone say about me? How do I fix this? Why is this happening to me?
I wanted to be rescued from this impossible situation. But fear stopped me from telling anyone. We didn't have enough money for our basic needs. How could I ask for an abortion? Ashamed of myself and terrified of what was happening to me, I just stayed quiet.
One day in desperation I rode my bike into an intersection on purpose and was almost hit by a car. I fell off my bike, but wasn't hurt. Just shaken up. I didn't tell anyone what I had tried to do. The truth was locked up inside me and I felt so alone and scared.
Finally summer was over and school was going to start the next day. I had to do it. I had to tell my mom that I couldn't go to school. At that time, pregnant girls weren't allowed to go to high school. This was so incredibly hard but I did it. She was in her nightgown getting ready for bed, and all I could say was "I can't go to school."
"Why not?" she asked. The words couldn't come out. I was choked with fear. The word "pregnant" was too taboo for me to say. Finally I managed to whisper, "I'm going to have a baby." Her expression made me want to die right there.
She immediately poured some kind of liquor and lit a cigarette. With her head resting in her hands, she said, "I thought you weren't ready for sex yet." I said, "I wasn't. I didn't want to."
She just nodded, like she understood. We left it at that.
The next morning she took me to school to talk with the principle. She explained the situation to him. He told me I would have to quit school. But suddenly I got a wave of courage and said, "No. I don't want to quit. I'm on the honor roll. I have to graduate."
He asked me to to give him some time to figure this out and he'll get back to us soon.
I hoped my mom was proud of me for wanting to finish school. No one in our family had ever graduated from high school. My mom only went to the fourth grade herself.
After a couple weeks we heard from the school. The cable company and the telephone company collaborated to create a speaker system that will allow me to attend classes from home. We didn't have computers or Skype back then.
So every morning I had to call in to report to my homeroom teacher that I was present. I wasn't allowed to miss a day of school. The speaker was carried to each of my classes by a classmate. A teacher came every Saturday to tutor me and give me the tests from my classes. It was understood that I would have to return to school a month after my baby was born. No school days could be missed and I had to attend gym every day which meant being with the Freshman class.
My labor started during the Blizzard of '78. We had been without power for a few days. The roads were very dangerous. Mom drove, my sister was in charge of timing my contractions that were coming quickly. We followed a snow plow the whole way to the hospital.
In the labor room no one was allowed to join me because only husbands had permission to be there. I wasn't married so that meant I had to be alone. The nurse was professional but cold. She had me prepped and ready to go in a matter of minutes. She left me in the room by myself. I was so terrified as I labored alone. It felt like I was being punished for being the disgraced teenager that I was.
A ray of love came in when the nurse had left her post, my mom slipped into my room. She rubbed my back. I had never felt so grateful for anything in my entire life. She relaxed me instantly. It felt so good to be touched so gently. When the next contraction came again she urged me to get up on my knees. When I did it felt better. The nurse came back and sent my mother away. I cried as she left. I knew she didn't want to leave me. she stood at the door for a moment and a wave of love passed between us. I'll never forget that moment.
Soon the urge to push came. I was wheeled into the delivery room where the doctor was. He asked if I wanted pain medication. I said no. I had read about them. All the complications sounded awful. I wanted to avoid them. Thank goodness for books. There wasn't any classes for unmarried teens back in those days.
I'll never forget his response to my refusal for pain meds. He said, "Fine, if you want to suffer, I'll let you." Episiotomies were routine. I pushed my baby girl out without any trouble. I noticed the clock read 1 minute before 1 am. The nurse showed her to me and then took her out of the room. Another nurse come over to me and without warning punched my stomach. I felt assaulted, it hurt so bad. She said it had to be done to get the uterus back in shape. All I could think of was how cruel they were to treat me this way. I needed my mother. I wanted my baby. It all just swirled around me like a crazy dream. Suddenly I realized I'm not a child anymore. I'm a mother.
Once the storm cleared we were allowed to go home. I loved those days of getting to know my daughter. But the month went by fast and soon I was back in school. I tried to be invisible which was impossible since they had all been talking about me for half of the school year. But I quickly realized no one would look or talk to me directly. Even the teachers seemed to shun me.
The only one who spoke to me was a math teacher who liked to ask me to answer questions that I didn't know the answer to. I've always had trouble with math. At home I could use a multiplication table or my fingers to figure things out. Here I couldn't. It was worse than embarrassing. The teacher told everyone that I must have been cheating at home. The kids laughed when he had me sit in front of his desk so he could keep an eye on me. I remember running out of class that day and crying in the girls bathroom.
The next year I was a senior. If I didn't have a babysitter I had to ask all my teachers for permission to bring my child to class the next day. If I missed even one day of school I wouldn't be allowed to graduate. Luckily this only happened a handful of times. It was hard to keep her quiet in all the classes but somehow we managed.
That June, I graduated in the top 20 of my class out of over 400 students. My high school made some changes in my senior year to accommodate another young mother who decided to keep her baby. They developed a work-study program. I believe it was an easier road for her and those that followed.
My story may be a bit unusual, but it was the beginning of a lifetime of learning. I'm so grateful for all that I've received. Finding the doula work has been such a wonderful way for me to help other mothers. It feels like a calling - something I'm born to do.
I believe that each birth experience is precious. When I'm invited to attend another birth it's an honor that I hold sacred.
Thank you for reading my story. Please let me know if there is anything you'd like to share with me about your story. I'd love to hear from you.
With gratitude and love,