I wouldn’t say that 24 years old is too young to get pregnant. In fact, my mother was only 22 when she had me, and most of my friends my age have parents who had them in their early 20s. I had a job, I was living on my own—no problem, right?
Wrong! At the time, I was working in a magazine, getting paid entry-level wages, barely getting by in the apartment I stubbornly wanted to move into, partying like a rock star, eating all the wrong food, hanging out with all the wrong people, smoking heavily, and living life like any early 20-something with newfound freedom would. I was in no way prepared or in a position to bring another life into this world. I could barely even take care of myself!
Now, seven years later, I try to think back at my pregnancy, and it’s all a blur. My daughter is celebrating her seventh birthday in a few days, and I am still in awe and utterly amazed at myself for getting this far without any permanent damage to her or myself. I know I’m not the first, nor the only single mother struggling to raise my child in the best way I possibly can, but I can only speak for myself, and my own experience. It’s not easy, and at times can actually be completely frustrating, so seriously, a big round of applause to every single one of you out there.
In a box
When I took Ananda home from the hospital, I slept in my mom’s bed for a week, with my baby sleeping snug in a box that used to house a DVD player. It was hard waking up every hour to feed her and change her, and then get up again right when I was drifting off to sleep.
I clearly remember the first time I spent the night with her on my own with no mom and yaya. It was early in our second week home, and I thought I was ready. Boy, was I in for a serious reality check. I learned two things that night: Your baby isn’t always cute, and she can be the biggest source of stress and frustration you will ever encounter in your life!
I was up all night trying to get her to sleep, feeling inadequate because I couldn’t, and before I knew it, baby and I were both crying. I remember looking up and asking God why he allowed me to take on such a huge challenge!
Years later, I still find myself asking that same question, mostly on days when I feel like there is just too much on my plate, when just looking at it makes me too tired to even lift my fork to take my first bite.
What I didn’t tell you before, though, is that God always gave me an answer, and over and over it was this: “Because even if you think that she was sent here for you to take care of her and raise her, she is, in turn, taking care of and raising you. She’s making you a better person, a more responsible, caring person who now wants to make the world a better place for someone else.”
Do your best
Who, me? Miss “I-can-drink-anyone-under-the-table” (still can, by the way) actually cares about something other than herself? My daughter sometimes asks me why her father and I never got married, and why all her classmates have dads who live with them.
There are never any easy answers that you can give someone who is still learning her multiplication tables, but at the end of the day, you kind of just do your best to be honest but age-appropriate. I always just tell her that no family is the same, that there aren’t always two parents raising a child, sometimes one parent passes away or leaves, or it just doesn’t work out, and even that sometimes both parents might be the same gender! I don’t want to hide the realities of life from her, but at the same time, I know I need to be able to talk to her in ways that she can understand, process and accept.
Like any other unfamiliar thing that enters your life, motherhood has its cupcakes and cotton-candy days, and it has its “I don’t want to get out of bed” days. Subtract a husband or partner from the equation, and you multiply those feelings several times over. Nonetheless, I would not trade this experience for anything in the world.
Ananda and I fight like sisters sometimes, and yelling and whining are not uncommon modes of communication. She sometimes prefers her friends to me. I sometimes need my friends to get away from her. But whatever we both lack from not being part of a normal family is offset by the (mis)adventures we have in our little two-person family, as well as the abundance of love and support we get from everyone around us.
Besides, what is a “normal” family anyway? Nowadays, the answer really depends on who you are asking.