Think back to when you were 19 years old. What were you doing? What was important to you?
I was a sophomore in college. I had just chosen my new major and was just about to get together with my now husband, Rob. Thinking back on it now, a lot of the important puzzle pieces of my life came together that year. But, really, I was just a kid.
That’s where we find Jessica in today’s post. 19 years old, a sophomore in college. And pregnant.
Jessica shares what she felt in the moment and what’s she learned ten years and two kids later.
Caitlin: So, you became pregnant when you were 19, unplanned and unexpected. Tell me about finding out you were pregnant for the first time and some of those details you’re willing to share.
Jessica: Yes! Well, I was starting my sophomore year of college and dating (my now husband) Kevin for about eight months at the time. I had recently gone off of birth control because of mood swings, and we had unprotected sex once when I became pregnant. I can very vividly remember, haha. I obviously should have been protecting myself, but my first appointment with a gynecologist as a teenager determined I had a tilted uterus, which is not terribly uncommon, but my uterus was tilted at a different angle from most. The gynecologist told me it would lead to trouble getting pregnant.
Back to the unprotected sex, I had started training for lacrosse season that spring, and so when my period was late I kept thinking that it was because I was running more. One morning I decided to pick up a pregnancy test, my very first one, and immediately started crying when I read the positive result.
Caitlin: So, tears can mean so many things. What emotions were you feeling? All of them?
Jessica: Honestly, probably not any on the joyous spectrum, but instead mostly shock and confusion, with some “what am I going to do” thrown in there.
Caitlin: So, how did you decide what to do?
Jessica: I only told a few of my closest friends in an attempt to gain some perspective. I did not tell my mom though because I knew she would be supportive to the point of excitement, and I wasn’t processing the pregnancy just yet. You know, EVERY decision in that situation is life-changing. You cannot undo anything. And so in hindsight I knew what my decision would be, but I wanted to get there myself.
Caitlin: I think it’s a great way to explain it. Do you remember what your biggest fears were at the time?
Jessica: Honestly, very selfish fears, like how I would miss out on experiences and opportunities, how I was not ready to settle down, and how I had no clue what I was doing.
Caitlin: So, you and Kevin decided to get married. How did you make that decision?
Jessica: Again, I am going to be brutally honest, but I never made the decision. It has been something that I have struggled with for years. It was just sort of assumed by (I guess) our families and us that if I was going to have a baby, we were going to get married. Sounds crazy, right? But it all happened in such quick succession that it’s almost a blur.
Caitlin: I know you’ve struggled some with feeling like you’ve missed out on things that most young people get to experience because you were married with a baby at the age of 20. If you’re willing to talk about it, can you share some of that?
Jessica: Sure! Actually, one of the first things my mom said to me when I told her that I was pregnant was that anything you can do without a baby can be done with a baby. It still astonishes me that she said this, because in my experience, there are so many things you cannot do once you have a baby. You are always considering someone else who is completely reliant on you. This can be very limiting if you are not ready to take on that responsibility. In hindsight I don’t feel like I missed out on any experiences, but that is perspective that I’ve gained over the years. At the time, the experience of young motherhood was isolating.
Caitlin: So, the important part, tell me about your baby girl and what it was like being a new mom so young?
Jessica: I realize how cliché it might sound, but she is the love of my life. She is a miracle, and if I would have never gotten unexpectedly pregnant, I would be missing out on this precious soul that brings so much quality into my life. Even when she was little I would say that I genuinely enjoy hanging out with her. She has such capacity for kindness and humor (although I have to hide my giggles when she cries during Disney movies).
Like I said, the experience was isolating, because no one around me was going through it. But in a way, I am actually incredibly grateful for that, because I never asked anyone else for advice. I approached everything with her from the perspective that she and I would figure it out together. This allowed me to evaluate my own comfort level with aspects of mothering; for instance, I breastfed Cambrie for eighteen months, and it gave me such confidence. It also keeps me from giving other mothers unwarranted advice. My usual go-to is, “You’ll figure it out.” Everyone is figuring it out.
Caitlin: Yeah I think that’s great. We’re at a time in our lives now where SO many people are having babies and I can see how easy it would be to compare yourself to the people around you. I think it’s great that you were able to just do your thing. We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention your second baby girl. What was it like being a mother for the second time at a little more typical an age (although still kind of young)?
Jessica: Haha, yes, thank you for reminding me! Harper is the complete opposite of Cambrie. She is rough and tumble, and is still learning the empathy that Cambrie seemed to be born with. My dad actually calls Harper the Heartbreaker because of her personality. She is certainly my wild child, but it is so much fun because she adds such a dynamic to every situation, even the mundane.
One thing about having both Cambrie & Harper on the younger side is that I sort of took for granted getting pregnant and having healthy babes, whereas our friends who are having their firsts now have a completely different appreciation than I did.
Caitlin: Did you ever feel judged by other people for having kids so young? And getting married young?
Jessica: YES. Absolutely. When I was pregnant with Cambrie I would never leave the house without my engagement and/or wedding band. I felt like it would give people the wrong impression about me, that I was irresponsible and what have you. But even that experience really encouraged me to decide what kind of person I wanted to be. In a way, I was projecting those insecurities because I felt them myself.
But the older I get, the less self-conscious and critical I am. People and circumstances are so complex, and there is so much gray in the world. It doesn’t serve anyone to assume anything. Nowadays I welcome any questions about how old I am, how old my daughters are, what I am doing in my life, because I am happy and content with those things, even if it took me all of my twenties to get there.
Caitlin: Ah, excellent point to wrap up. What have you learned about yourself in the last ten years that you’ve been a mom and wife, however unexpectedly?
Jessica: I’ve learned that life has a way a giving us what we need when we need it, and whatever path you choose will serve you. There are no right or wrongs, just choices. It’s all about kindness and humor and deep breathing.
Images courtesy Jessica