“I can’t do this!” I cried to my mother as she caressed my cheek. My Aunt was on the other side of me, holding my hand. I watched as the nurses were preparing things around the room. The beeping from the monitors seemed so loud as I writhed in pain; it was almost unbearable. I felt like my stomach was being crushed by the hand of Goliath. I felt like I was being torn apart. I couldn’t breathe. I was hyperventilating. I have never been more terrified in my entire life. Then, at that moment, I saw him. He stared at me with his big, brown eyes and rosy red cheeks, and I knew I CAN do this!
It was my senior year of High school. At seventeen years old, I was planning my graduation, hanging out with my friends, sneaking out to parties on the weekends. I had no worries in the world. I was “living the life.” I thought I knew everything there was to know about life. Despite what my parents told me and the rules they gave me, I often thought to myself, I’m grown. I don’t need anyone to tell me what to do. I would argue with my parents and my teachers whenever they tried to give me guidance. I thought they were just trying to “tell me what to do.” I didn’t realize that they were only interested in what was best for me. They were trying to help me grow and prepare me for the real world. Throughout my teenage years, I had it made. I had my family, friends, health, and everything I could ask for. I thought I had my life planned. I was going to graduate from high school and join the Air Force. I wanted to be a pilot, or I thought that is what I wanted in life. Life had different plans for me, and everything was about to change.
I woke up one morning not feeling so well. I had asked my mom to make me a doctor’s appointment. I remember the faint smell of coffee and rubbing alcohol as I sat in the exam room with my mother. I looked around, reading all the pamphlets on the walls, looking at the magazines. I honestly had no clue as to what was about to hit me—that in just a few moments, my life was going to be changed forever. The doctor walked in; the look of judgment on his face was one that I will never forget. Then he said it, the two words that would change everything, “You’re pregnant.” I looked over at my mom, and I felt her heart break. I could feel all of her emotions because, at that moment, I had no feelings; I was numb. I couldn’t believe the words I just heard.
The car ride home was silent. I had so many thoughts swirling through my head that I couldn’t think straight. I felt dizzy, overwhelmed, consumed by fear. I went straight to my room when we arrived home. “I’m going to be a mom,” I said aloud to myself. The disbelief came first, followed quickly by panic before the realization and acceptance arrived. I was seventeen years old and realized the days of my carefree teen life were now behind me. Finding out I was pregnant was a devastating shock, not only for me but everyone else around me. As months passed, my parents came to terms with my teen pregnancy and became excited about the new bundle of joy. I became more excited, but the fears returned as I found myself in my final trimester. Being pregnant was one thing, but having this child would be an entirely new world. I often thought to myself, Will I be a good mom? How am I going to care for him? What if I fail?
It was September, a month after I turned eighteen and became a legal adult. It had been a long, crazy summer, but it was time. I called my mother and said, “I need to go to the hospital.” I was nervous and excited at the same time. I remember counting my contractions on the way to the hospital and my mom saying, “You got this, we’re almost there.”
When we arrived at the hospital, the nurses hooked me up to the machines to measure the baby’s heart rate and my contractions. The nurse said, “Yup! It looks like when you leave here, you won’t be leaving alone.” I just stared at her in silence as the pain increased in my stomach. After several hours of labor, the pain was almost unbearable. I was in the hospital bed, my mom on one side of me and my Aunt Joan on the other.
I was sweating uncontrollably, screaming in pain, and then the doctor suddenly said, “it’s time to push.” I looked back and forth between my mother and my Aunt and said, “I can’t do this!” I wasn’t talking just physically, but at that moment, all my fears came crashing down on me: How was I going to be a mother at 18? Then, it happened. I heard my son. My heart completely melted, and I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. When the doctor put my son on my chest, I knew at that very moment that everything was going to be OK. All of my fears had been washed away. I felt a sense of relief and hope. The first few moments of holding him, the first moments of his life, gave me a whole new perception of life. I knew at that moment, no matter what, I was going to be the best mom I could be for him. I would protect him, teach him, care for him, and love him unconditionally.
Motherhood has taught me many life lessons. Before becoming a mother, I was a self-centered child and had no cares in the world. But the greatest reward is the love I share with my children. It is pure and unconditional. Becoming a teenage mother was the most frightening thing I had ever faced. I had to grow up faster than all of my friends. I had to take life seriously. It wasn’t just about me anymore; I had another life to care for. I had graduated high school at five months pregnant. I knew I had to have an education for my son, but I was also so scared I would fail him. I was young; what did I know about being a mom? As I looked into his eyes in those first moments of his life, I knew that all my fears would change. I would have anxieties about many other life challenges, but the fear of failing him was no longer. I knew that I was going to be the best mom I could be for him and love him more than any other person would ever love him. He inspired me to be a better person, and every day that he grew, I grew too. That six-pound baby boy changed my life forever.