I was struck by a friend's words recently--something she said that really got me thinking. She was talking about how I got pregnant at 16, and that I had "given up everything" to have my daughter - and I'm pretty sure she didn't mean it as a compliment.
I am reminded of an article I wrote that year while I was pregnant that was published by the Tulsa World. They wanted to do a human interest story on the Margaret Hudson Program ( the school I went to that year - a school for pregnant and parenting teens) and our English teacher gave me the job. One of the questions they wanted answered was "how does having a baby change your future plans?" My answer was that it didn't to change them at all. It simply meant that you would have to work harder, and it might take longer to accomplish things. You might have to reach your goals by a different road than you had planned, but you could reach them nonetheless. And your baby would be an inspiration, a constant reminder of just exactly why you need to do all that hard work.
I meant every bit of what I had said. Thinking back now, I have to smile. It's been nearly twelve years since I had that baby and I can say that its all true. I smile because my friend Amanda had me in her "Heroes" section, with something like "because she's always found a way to follow her dreams and never let 'stuff' get in her way." The people that know me - really know me - know that I didn't give anything up, not really.
I had my baby in April. In August I went back to my regular school for my Senior year. I graduated with straight A's, as the president of the FTA and first chair flutist. From there I got a job that would help me pay for college. I met a great guy and got married. I kept working. I kept going to school. I stopped one class short of my Child Development Associate's because I realized that I really just wanted to be home with my own kids.
So now I'm a grown woman. I've been to college. I've won music competitions and writing competitions. I've been married to the most wonderful man I've ever known for 8+ years. I have 3 beautiful, funny, creative, too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. I have a few really good friends and many more "casual" friends. People come to me for advice on parenting and homeschooling. I have my own home - no castle, but a nice home. I have had (in the past) a website for teen moms, from which I received 30-40 emails a week from scared young mothers and worried grandmothers looking for advice and encouragement. In fact, for about a year, if you searched for "teenage pregnancy", it was my site that showed up first on the list. I have now a page for homeschoolers where people read my blogs and ask my advice. Some day, when I have enough of them, I'll do my best to have those blogs published into a book.
Just the other day, a girl I've known since high school told me how much she admired and respected me for what I made of my life - with a baby in tow.
Guess what? I didn't give up a thing. In fact, had I not gotten pregnant at 16, all thsoe things I just listed - wouldn't be. I would never have chosen the field of Child Development, and learned so much valuable information. I would never have been able to encourage those countless firghtened girls who were so afraid that their lives were over just because they were pregnant. I would never have embarked on the homeschooling journey and therefore never been the one to give answers and advice to others starting on that road.
Because, and I've said this before, if my first pregnancy hadn't been unplanned, I would never have had kids. I was never one of those people who wanted kids. I didn't really like being around other people's kids - they made me nervous.
But God apparently had other plans. I think perhaps some people misunderstand me when I say "If it weren't for this...I wouldn't have had any kids." I don't mean that I figured I was stuck being a mom anyway and so I might as well crank out a couple more. I meant that after having my daughter, I realized how much I loved being a mom, and wanted more children to share that love with. Other people's kids still make me nervous, though!
Looking back now, I very much see God's plan at work. Once out of high school, I would have gone on birth control and never had kids. Plus, if I hadn't had a baby, I probably would have stayed with my high school boyfriend and been either dead or living out a hellish existence right now.
So, I'm sorry - well, no, I'm not - but I don't see how I "gave up" anything by having my daughter. In fact, by the grace of God, I gained everything I needed to be truly happy.