Tag Archives: teen mom

Breastfeeding Normalized

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To be a teen mom In 2015 means it is more convenient than ever to breast feed.  America has put breastfeeding through the ringer and history tells of many agendas or cultural norms that dictated whether or not a woman nursed her newborn baby. I myself was fortunate to give birth as a teen mom during a time when nursing was encouraged in the delivery room. I was actually really uncomfortable breastfeeding as a teen. I was feeling very humiliated about being pregnant. I really didn’t understand much about what I was going through. My body was still foreign to me, in so many ways. How could I share my breasts with my new baby? It scared me and made me uncomfortable in a way I just wanted to run from. I was selfish and brand new to motherhood. Yet when my son was born and the attending nurse prompted me to try breastfeeding for the first time, I didn’t resist. I had been told how important a mother’s breast milk is to a newborn. I knew that even if I only nursed for days, it was greatly beneficial for my son’s immunity. So I yielded. I nursed my son the best I could for about a month. Unfortunately, that first lesson I received in the delivery room was the only one. Once home I never developed the technique of a good latch. Healthy newborn babies have what I call the death grip latch. It is intense and you have to understand how to properly latch your baby to your breast. If not, the pain can be unbearable. That was my experience. I nursed, but when I experienced pain I gave up. I was planning on continuing my education after I had my son. I was due to return to high school 5 weeks after giving birth. This in itself was stressful. As a teen mom I had the option of nursing my baby at school. I would be called out of a class to nurse as my baby required. My high school had a teen mom program for girls like myself. They made it possible for mom and baby to be on location together for different parts of the day and cared for by childcare professionals the rest of the time. Girls could get a high school diploma even though they were going through pregnancy and motherhood. Me, personally, I could not handle the embarrassment. I was so awkward as a teen mom breastfeeding,

but I really want young moms NOT to feel the way I felt at 16!

I say this because breastfeeding is such a profoundly beautiful experience. To be snuggled together as mom and baby; warm, soft, perfect. Your body makes the perfect food for your newborn! It’s as supernatural as the baby forming within you. You should continue to be healthy and exercise and take vitamins and watch your weight – just as you did when pregnant. This means sacrifice, but it is sacrifice you will be most glad you made. Especially as you watch your child grow into a healthy, secure being – you will treasure the time you spent breastfeeding.

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I have since had the privilege of nursing all 7 of my babies, the longest time frame being 18 months. As with my first, I have transitioned to formula with some at different points when I could no longer breastfeed. I also simply supplemented a meal for the luxury of having a break due to exhaustion. (Sometimes my teething babies would prefer to stay latched on for hours to comfort there growing mouths) As with every aspect of your mothering, do not allow people to shame you for however you choose to feed your child. I strongly recommend joining a Le Leche League support group in your neighborhood. You can attend during your pregnancy to build friendships and a support system before you give birth. This was one of my favorite experiences as a mother! I will always treasure the time I spent with other breastfeeding mammas, It was that awesome! Breastfeeding rocks! Go for it! #teenmom #pleasingabba

Relationships 101

I had the fairy tale dream. I admit it. I grew up believing in a fairy tale existence as the destination status for my future relationship. I believed in the soul mate, the one true love, and I was looking for that person to show up in my life and complete me. Of course, now that I’ve been married for 11 years, I see so many things differently than I did as a teen mom. I want to share with you something I have become conscious of and I hope you can examine your own ideas and beliefs about relationships. I won’t pretend to be a know-it-all or a perfect example, but I will be real. I believe you can learn from what I’ve been through.

Relationships have always been something of a roller-coaster ride for me, rapidly launching through a range of deep emotion. I am happy to say my love life has slowly become more of a peaceful and steady journey – but it is mostly a battle. A battle to win and a work that requires my strongest resolve. I have to be wiling to give up selfishness. I have to put my relationship before my own desires, and sometimes this is really hard. Sometimes it makes me angry. I have to deal with that anger or let it come out in an explosion of hate heaped upon the people I am supposed to love the most. It is toiling. It is frustrating at times. Of course there is the bliss. The oh so consuming fire of passion and true love. Believing that your relationship is meant to be and this person was created just for you, and you for them. Those times are awesome and real. They are what keeps people staying together long after the storms of life happen. But the euphoria is always mixed with the struggle, it only comes after the work. As a teen I understood so little of the work it takes to keep a family/marriage together. I wanted to be loved so bad. I wanted to have an intimate relationship and experience. It was this out of control hunger.

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I know for me this was elevated because of my broken family and lack of close relationships at home. My parents were so busy with their careers and I felt ready to move out as soon as I turned eightteen. It was a lot. I was going to college and I was focused on graduating before marriage. I was just doing the best I could, but I was always looking over my shoulder or around the room. I was waiting for that one guy to show up and whisk me away. That one man who would love me and my son. I had a deep and desperate need in my life. I wasn’t just looking for myself, I had a child to consider.

Relationships consumed my late teens and early twenties. Dating was almost like a career. Relationships dominated gossip among my circles. Who’s with who?! Who’s going? Who’s that? It really can be a great time in life if you keep things in perspective. The feelings of wanting to find a partner and co-parent are normal. Every young person goes through this time. Yet as a teen mom it is different. You are vulnerable if you have a deep need to be loved. You are vulnerable because you have your heart wrapped up in your child. You are not alone in these things, you are very much the same as all mothers. You only lack the experience. You only lack the time and hard work and self-denial required to maintain a healthy, long-term relationship. Just remember that when you admire a marriage or partnership from afar, you’re not seeing the whole picture. Real love requires a real obligation. Real love hurts because it makes us grow out of our own ideas and comfort zones. You will not always agree with your mate. You will disagree and get offended and you will have anger. You will then have to work it all out within your relationship and at times this will be the most challenging part of your waking life. You will have to juggle all these emotions with parenting and money management and your personal work or career, because we all have a purpose and destiny. (Did I mention you will be the main cheerleader for your partner’s life work, too?) It is a role of a lifetime – wife. It will bless you and bring much joy, but it will be more work than fun.

I’m not afraid to tell you the truth. I wish many of the older women in my life could have been a little more real with me instead of putting up a front. I do the same so I get it. We all want to look good in front of others, we want to feel like we have it all together. Each person is a one of a kind original and each marriage/family is the same – no two are alike. Your life may be so different from mine, but remember what I have said about the hard work. Expect relationships to be harder than you anticipated and invest wisely. Know that you will have to juggle many roles and who you chose to love is a big deal. It may be the most controversial decision of your life!

You may ask, do I still believe in fairy tale romance and storybook endings? Yes, I do. I actually have a castle picked out in France and I regularly daydream about living there with my husband. I am a bold dreamer, I know. I haven’t given up on happily ever after. I think the romance and the dreaming are the greatest payoff for the endurance and pain we go through. Relationships! What else can I say? #PleasingAbba #TeenMom

My fairy tale? To be continued…….

Where Are The Boys?

A recent article I read reminded me of an important truth I faced as a teen mom. It was this really cool article in Lens on NYtimes.com – “Teenage Motherhood in Latin America” written by David Gonzalez. Really interesting, to me, because it was research from the field on a topic I am most passionate about – teen moms and their real life stories. As I looked through some of the photographs shown for the article from the collection entitled “Teen Mom”  (www.christian-rodriguez.com) I was saddened. I felt compassion for these young girls. I recognized the look in their faces and behind their composure: They were experiencing the unknown, they were in a struggle. This gifted photographer, Christian Rodriguez, spent time capturing images of birth and then the following day. He also wanted to shed light on the poverty some girls were coming from by photographing them in their homes. It is a powerful work that shows the reality of teen sex. This story reminded me of a detail I had overlooked in my own writings, a fact many of these young mothers are combating alongside stereotypes and poverty. It was noted in this article that,

“At a Montevideo hospital where he photographed the girls in labor, the majority showed up with their mothers, as the boyfriends had long left the scene.”

As I read the words I was overcome with the familiarities of my own background. I knew I faced birth alone, but the thought never occurred to me that the majority of teen moms do the same. I was so moved by the sheer poverty and lack of support these girls were facing in Latin America; giving birth in a plastic bed with plastic sheets, a line of nursing students watching their every contraction and pain induced cry. Alone. No boyfriend or spouse, just their mother. I too walked into labor and delivery with my mother when I was only 16. She was the one who went to Lamaze classes with me. She waited on call those last days and she was there as I gave birth. I saw this in my teen mom program at an alternative high school as well. Out of all the teen moms, few still had contact and support from the father of their baby. The boyfriends/fathers were long gone.

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Over the years I have had the opportunity to have some men talk frankly with me about this topic. More than one have confessed that after sex a man walks away free and clear, only the females are left to face the consequences of a child. That perhaps it was unfair, but that this is the way it is. I always thought these types of attitudes that dismiss the male role in caring for an unplanned pregnancy and child to be a complete cop-out.

Anyone can walk away, but we are still ultimately responsible for the life we create

How can anyone have a child in this world and just not care? How can the majority of boys and men really believe it is not their concern, or that it is okay to simply have sex with a female and leave aftermath behind? I believe many do care. It’s time to stop using the excuses and demand more from our boys. It’s time we raise them to understand sex creates life and it’s a huge responsibility. Lifelong issue can come with sex and we can no longer afford to cast the full load upon our teen girls, their families and the government. This may mean having more difficult conversations and holding our young men accountable. This may mean taking a more active role in who are daughters spend time with and holding those individuals liable if an unplanned pregnancy occurs. Where are the boys, free world? More importantly – where are their leaders?

May I Have A Word? Encouragement For New Moms

Motherhood. It is a word that can bring lots of images and thoughts to mind. It is a beautiful experience and one that softens a women in a way nothing else can. The cry of a baby, so tugs at the mother’s heart that she must respond. The beauty is so real and raw, the stress and sacrifice also as consuming to a new mother. As a Teen Mom I really lacked patience. I was pretty selfish still, totally normal for a sixteen year old girl who’s only previous responsibilities failed in comparison to caring for a newborn. I also lacked parenting skills in general. We all have instinct as moms, it is a great thing. But the question I have to address is more about influence than instinct, more to do with lies than truth.

Why Do We As Moms Become Harsh and Impatient With Our Children? What Causes Us to Lose our Loving Nature and Become Annoyed With the Responsibility and Demands of Motherhood?

Now I know I am going to have to explain my way through this, but bear with me, I have a valid case. I was a short-tempered, stressed out Teen Mom. It was a common place occurrence in my younger parenting years. I actually developed this insane idea. I had a son and his father was never involved. I told myself I had to be both a stern disciplinary and a mother. If I did not raise my son harshly as a man would, I thought in my young ways, I would be failing him as a boy/man. It makes me shake my head just thinking about it, but this was the reality of an inexperienced mind. I know from my own situation that I was uneducated on parenting stragegies and outcomes. Most of my ideas had come from other people’s opinions which were also ignorant.

A child should be seen and not heard

A child should listen the first time they are Instructed to complete a task

If a child misbehaves, they must be punished

A child should have manners

A child should not run or be a nuisance in public

Certain places, like restaurants and movie theaters, should ban children because they are unwanted by adults trying to relax

There arewp-1456254468885.jpg so many false mindsets in society. I know that rules and discipline are important, but let’s call this training. Training a child is a lifelong commitment. It takes lots of love and endurance to see it through to adulthood. Let’s replace these former ideas with some truth.

We were all children at one time

Children are pure and innocent, unaware and in need of guidance

Children are sponges, soaking up everything new in a beautiful world

Ages 0-5 are the most influential years of a human being’s life

Children thrive in loving environments where they are respected and educated

I am all for a world of sweet, well-mannered children. To have well-behaved children, someone has to invest in them. Someone has to provide the skill sets needed to walk in obedience and respect. Children must be shown the way to go, not simply told. This takes time and hard work, which brings me to my next question:

Where do our expectations for our own parenting experiences come from?

Are we all caught up in images? Is it the fairy tale dream? Happy family, all dressed in coordinating outfits, smiling and healthy? (I love those kind of pics, don’t get me wrong) Do we only see the fun, the bliss and not the hours of hard work needed to be invested in parenting?

I couldn’t really prepare for the amount of hard work I was facing because I had no prior experience. Becoming a teen mom was scary for me. I was dealing with an internal war, one of survival. It was hard to focus on being a good mother, especially a single mom. I was in the dark, grasping for what I could to do my best. Of course I wanted to be a good parent for my son. Does anyone give birth and want to do wrong by their child? Young moms try to embrace your time with your child. Always yield to love, whenever you can. Know that discipline is something you teach your children only through a commitment and passion to see them succeed. Ignore the cold glances and criticism that tell you to toughen up on your little ones. Ignore the sarcasm you hear from other moms that tell you to be impatient with your child’s neediness and how burdensome it is.

I have done some research over the past ten years and have made a point to ask older women I come into contact with in the community, “What is your best piece of advice for a younger mom like me?” Hands down it is always the same answer,

“Enjoy your time with your children, it goes by too fast.”

Never once has a kind old lady who came to coo at one of my babies over the years said, “Hire a babysitter more” or “make sure you discipline them with punishments” or “Make sure you get enough you time”. It just doesn’t happen. They have all encouraged me to embrace motherhood, to give it my all, to ENJOY IT! Stay in love, you were made for this role teen mom. #PleasingAbba

What A Teen Mom Needs To Hear

So many things going on in the head of a new mother, how much more a teen mom? Teen moms have to combat stereotypes, negativity and sometimes the stress of being a single parent. It is a lot to carry around for a teen. Many may find themselves isolated from peers and circles they used to belong to. Because they are now caring for their child, it can feel like they just don’t belong among former friends or other teens. I felt this way. I felt a strange sense that I was different. It was always with me. I still went to parties, I still went to prom and other social events, but the fact that I was now a parent never really left me. If I went out at night, I still had this lingering feeling in the back of my mind that when I got home, my son was waiting. In some ways it was good for me. I avoided heavy drinking and drugs thinking,

“What if my son needs me? I can’t be high unable to get sober. I can’t afford to end up in the hospital or worse.”

Although I sometimes benefited by default, being a teen parent isolated me from the majority of same aged peers. Unfortunately, adults and teachers can also cast a judgmental light on a young parent. Even within my own family there was such a high level of ignorance and apprehension. They didn’t see what I had faced at school and the pressure I was under. They simply judged and held the assumption that I was bad. I must be. I got pregnant at 15 – good girls don’t do that, right?  Even though some people in my family and society never made a rude comment while managing to fake a smile at me and my child, their opinions were crystal clear. They lacked compassion and the ability to sincerely support me, a young lady, who had endured being victimized by her peers and culture. People on the outside did not know nor understand my story, yet they felt sure I was worthy of shame for the sake of tough love and being taught a lesson.

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So there I was, feeling all this. Different. Isolated. Hurting in so many ways with no real loving wisdom to commune with. The reality of growing up was still on me. I still was experiencing the pressure to be successful and make something of myself. I still had competition in my family and fellow teens. They were all making plans to graduate and go onto college. They were getting jobs and talking about moving out on their own. I was thinking about my future also, but I was doing it as a young parent. It was a lot. Priceless how as human beings we have the ability to survive and find a way.

I distinctly remember one of the ways I stayed encouraged. It was going to visit my Grandfather on Sundays. Ever since I was very young, my mother’s family had gotten together on Sundays after church for lunch. It was a casual get together, you never had to call ahead. Every single Sunday, my Grandfather opened his home to all of us. There was always a simple lunch of sandwiches or hot dogs on the grill, and there was always coffee with cookies for dessert. We talked and visited.  I was grateful for the familiar faces and to be fed, but that’s not really why I went.

At the end of every visit when we said goodbye, my Grandfather would give me a big hug and say, “You’re doing a great job!”

My Grandfather was known for his bear hugs. I had been receiving them as a parting right ever since I was a little girl. When we were small, we would all giggle in his arms after a giant squeeze and his “good-bye – I love you!”. But his message to me changed after I became a teen mom. I love you was still implied, but now he made sure to speak these words of power over me every time we met, “YOU’RE DOING A GREAT JOB!”.

I do not know if I can convey in this post what that did for me. I am not sure if my skills as a writer are up for the task, because when he spoke it, I didn’t believe it. I was so broken and overwhelmed, so isolated and alone; I really could not accept that I was doing a good job. This is true even though I had never given up and was doing my best. If I was doing a good work, why didn’t it feel better, easier?  I needed to hear his words. I went back again and again, Sunday after Sunday, just to hear that steady voice of optimism over my situation. I went just to hope he was right, just to be assured one more time. It was like a life line. It was like if someone in my world doesn’t believe in my chance to make it out, I won’t. Thank God for my Grandfather. Thank God for others like my Teen Mom mentor at school, who was another powerful voice I had to speak hope and confidence into our lives. This is what a Teen Mom needs to hear:

You’re doing a great job!

You can do anything you set your mind to!

There is hope for you and your child!

Keep going and keep chasing your dreams!

1 in 3 American girls will become pregnant by age 19, do you think you might come across a Teen Mom in your grocery store or at the local library? 1 of 10 babies born in the U.S. is born to a Teen Mom, do you think your children and grandchildren will have companionship with these kids as their peers in school? What about at your Church? If statistics tell us you will likely have a connection with a Teen Mom in society, can you make a conscious choice to support her with one word of encouragement? I hope so America – Together we can change the risks to these vulnerable families. #PleasingAbba

Juggling Education with Teen Motherhood

You are a teen and you are having a baby. What about your education? I had my 1st child in the summer time in between 10th and 11th grade. My mother had done some research and found an alternative high school which catered to young mothers. (Even if you gave birth during the school year, moms were allowed 2-3 weeks of absence.) A teen mom program at a high school location provided on-site day care for our children with the opportunity to continue our education and complete our high school diploma. This was an opportunity I was willing to embrace because not becoming a drop out was very important to me. I truly believed with all my heart the best thing I could do for my son and myself was obtain an education. I knew how harsh the world was. I really didn’t want to lend any help to our defeat. I would get a diploma, not a GED, because it really meant something to me.

I realize not everyone will feel the same about staying in school. To be honest, once I became older and started a family I questioned if I had made the right choice to pursue my education instead of taking time off to just be a mom. (So) What are the important things to consider? Will you be solely responsible for the provision of yourself and child? Even if you have help from a partner or family, as you get older you likely will need to earn a living. Maybe you will only need part-time employment. Most young mothers have to consider providing at some point. Focusing on your education while you are young will be a great investment for more $$$ sooner. I think it motivating to stay in school with peers of your own age. It helps to feel you are on time and on schedule. With online schools available, it really is easier than ever to get a basic education while you are still a teen and earn a diploma. This is a point you will hear me repeat often:

Once you complete your education, no one can take it from you.

Its yours! What you invest in yourself and mind will always be there within you. So even though it may be hard work, I believe it is worth the effort while you are still young. Life will move on. You will too. This is the time to focus on your education. There are so many resources available with the internet! Local libraries will allow you to use their computers, printers and scanners for free. When you have access to YouTube, Skype, Google hangouts and online classes – there really isn’t a reason to skip educating yourself. I had a hard time staying at my high school after I became pregnant. My friends and peers were not dealing with the same things I was. I understand walking away from your current situation for mental stability, and to get some space from bullying and gossip. Yet I would still encourage you to go forward as planned with completing your basic education; Then considering more formal job training afterward. Trade, skill, craft, business all have mentors and internships. Maybe a formal classroom setting won’t work best for you and your new baby. I’ve found that when I put myself out in the world looking for options, I tend to get a lead. If you are a young mom interested in being educated and responsible, that is bound to open up doors. I want you to see yourself able to be both a young mother and financially secure. When you have that sense of stability, it creates the best environment to parent in.

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I cannot talk about continuing your education without discussing the care of your baby. In order for you to work on your skill sets and ability to earn money for living, you will need to place your child in the care of others. This is the most important aspect of your new life as a mom. No one can look out for your baby and love them the way you can. I think mom and baby staying together as much as possible is the best. But because most young moms will need to earn money to support their child, even if only for a season, you need to take special care for their safety and well-being while you are away. Look for options. Be willing to think outside “normal”. You can manage most of your education and you can access a world of opportunity from the comfort of home. When you begin looking for childcare look for a safe place that has checks and balances. Are there video cameras on site? Are they always functional? Do other adults come and go throughout the day? Is there more than one adult available to keep an eye out for your child’s safety? I used several different styles of care. The place I felt best about was a teaching facility with large tinted windows available in every class room for parent viewing. This school also had and used cameras in the classroom as well as on the playground. I felt that at any point during the day I could show up and I was welcomed to see my child. Because I was a young student/mother, I also qualified for financial aid which paid most of my son’s tuition. Do not be intimidated by the cost of good child care! Simply ask about grants and aid for every place you research. Again, now that you are a parent you must juggle multiple responsibilities that cannot be compromised. You need to make money, and you need to get your education, but the care of your baby must come first. When I was going through this, I got caught up in being young. I was running around for my social life, my education and part-time job. Almost twenty years later, I do not see or hang with ANY of my friends or peers from that time frame of my past – Yet my son is still my son and one of the most important people in my world. Learn from my experience and spend as much time as possible investing in your relationship with your baby. Make your education a priority, but always keep your child first. Aim high, young mommies, you have what it takes to succeed!