When I came home and turned on the evening news there was yet another story about Bristol Palin. Would her pregnancy hurt her mother’s chance to make history? How could someone promoting family values have a pregnant seventeen year old daughter? All the talk of teenage pregnancy takes me back thirteen years. I go to my desk and pull a photo of myself standing on the beach when I was about four months pregnant. Not a photo I want to display, but one I will never let go of. When I do not feel I have the strength to face a challenge in my life I look at that picture and remember where I have been. I think about what has happened since that day and what I have learned about life and myself.
I had always focused on how others viewed me. I did not know myself well enough to know who I was. I thought I would let my reflection in another’s eyes tell me the story of me. What my parents, my teachers, friends, coworkers and even people I barely knew wanted is what I became. By the time I reached college I was big puzzle made up of pieces everyone added along the way. When I started internalizing my life I realized I was more of everyone else than any of me. But old habits die hard and ever so cautious I remained watchful of outside appearances.
I was nineteen and in my sophomore year at college when I became pregnant with twins, a young college student about to become a young single mother. Suddenly, I realized I would have to face the world for the first time as me. I was terrified. After many prayers I did find the courage to face everyone. To face those in my life that thought I had it all together. I answered the usual questions about due dates and anticipation of the babies. I watched their eyes as they gauged my age. I dealt with the how are you going to do it alone questions with the grace of someone much older. I showed that I was a person mistakes and all. I also showed that even the young are strong. I thought of this as I watched Bristol standing beside her mother with the world watching. While everyone else focused on her age or her mother’s failure I could only see the strength it must have took for her to be there. She let the world see her, mistakes and all.
I do not say all of this to condone teenage pregnancy or to make light of the difficulty. Parenthood is hard at seventeen or twenty-seven and anyone who is not committed to the decision to have a baby should not do so because it is hard. To those that find themselves in this situation I believe they can be more than just their age. Like anything else in life some will fail and some will rise up. However, I believe we become mothers long before our children are born and gain all the strength that title entails regardless of our age.
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