I remember sitting there, on the edge of my bed, alone, looking incredulously upon the magic stick I held in my hands; two pink lines betraying my future. From this moment forward I will be living the consequences of my actions, but how can I truly appreciate the gravity of my newfound circumstance? I’m only seventeen, not even yet a junior in high school. Oh, God! How am I going to tell my mom?
Compared to my friends’ parents, my mother had always been pretty open with my sister and me when it came to our developing bodies and sex. I don’t recall ever having “the talk” in its entirety, but she did always answer my questions about phrases I’d heard from other kids at school, though it was done in a sterile way, with responses that sounded as if they came straight from a textbook. This followed the long-time State-held sexual ideology, which was that education about sex and relationships was to take place at home, between parents and their children. And while my mother tried to create a more open environment for us to talk about these things, it was never truly comfortable for either of us; she was my parent, not my girlfriend, and I was her child, not someone she imagined would be having sex before marriage, and definitely not before graduating high school. Still, I found myself in this precarious situation.
A week had past and I was still carrying the burden of this knowledge all by myself. Little did I know at the time, but “all by myself” would become the byword for my life for years to come. I knew I couldn’t keep this to myself forever, obviously, but the fear of negative reactions I may receive from my family and friends was overwhelming. Would they be disappointed? Would they reject me? Would I still fit into the life I knew only a week prior?
I eventually decided to confide in my aunt; my mom’s youngest sister. She was only three years older than me, and because of our proximity in age, we had always been somewhat close. I thought of her more like a big-sister figure than as my aunt, so it was logical that I would choose to confide in her first, testing the reaction I would receive, while at the same time hoping she would support me when the time came that I would finally free my conscience to the one person I needed to confess to most. My aunt’s reception was mostly positive, albeit surprised and concerned for my future. After all, she was, at that moment, where I would have been in my life in three years time, so she well understood the possible impact to my adolescence and the added struggle of coming into adulthood as a young single mother. She held me in her arms and wiped away my tears, and told me “No matter what, we’re family and I love you.” She promised to be supportive and offered to aid me in any way she could. I greeted the fragment of relief I felt for having shared my secret while knowing I was still far from any true repose.
I don’t remember the exact details of what happened next, but I wasn’t the one who ultimately informed my mom regarding my status as her now pregnant teenage daughter. I do remember her confronting me, though. She asked me quite frankly, “Are you pregnant?” She caught me completely off guard and her tone was that of fear and disappointment. I just stood there, my mouth fell slack, and I was unable to provide any verbal response. All I could do was cry with my head buried in my hands. I was so ashamed.
Looking back on it all, shame was the emotion I felt more than any other throughout my pregnancy and early into motherhood. I grew up the eldest child in a middle-class family, with an abundance of aspirations for my life ahead. I would graduate high school with all of my friends, then go off to college working towards a law degree; I would have been the first in my family to go to college. I would have established my career before I ever thought of starting a family. That was the plan anyway. I never imagined I would end up attending an alternative high school for young parents. I never contemplated a life that involved a 40-hour a week job in a call center straight out of high school. I never thought I would be a single parent to a child with special needs. It never crossed my mind that out of every one thousand girls in Utah aged fifteen to nineteen in 1997, that I would have been one of the fifty that became pregnant that year.
It was unfortunate I felt I had no one to turn to once I began having sex. At the time, I believed if I had gone to my mom, then she would know. She would be upset and I feared she’d forbid me from seeing my boyfriend who, because of our physical intimacy and my rampant teenage hormones, I was more emotionally connected to than I knew how to handle. But because I kept it to myself, I wasn’t using any birth control, as I had no idea how to come by it, and my relationship with my boyfriend, that I was trying so hard to protect, ultimately ended in pregnancy - quite literally.
The reality was that once I told my boyfriend I was pregnant, he ended things and made it quite clear he didn’t want any part of our lives now or at any time in the future. Once my friends knew of my pregnancy it seemed as though we could no longer relate; they became more distant and we slowly grew apart. And while mother would always be my mother, anytime I asked for her help she was quick to remind me that she had already raised her kids, and this was my cross to bear. Reality was onerous and extremely lonely, and nothing like I had imagined before becoming that young girl, sitting on the edge of her bed, staring incredulously upon that magic stick she once held in her hands.
Mayfield, McGarry, et al. State of Utah. Division of Family Health and Preparedness. Utah Adolescent Reproductive Health Report 2010. Utah Department of Health. n.d. Web. 21 January 2017. www.health.utah.gov/mihp/pdf/2010_Adolescent_Health_Update.pdf.
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