Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Young Unmarried Mother

It has been over a year since I had my daughter; twenty-three months since I found out I was carrying an unplanned pregnancy (ironically, I got pregnant in the same month when I decided I was going to donate my eggs to a fertility center, but that's a story for another day.) In that time, I have lived through what feels like a lifetime of experiences, many beautiful and rewarding, many not.

Being a young unmarried mother isn't easy. That statement is in fact too simplistic to capture just how incredibly difficult it can be, and I have had it a lot easier than most people who find themselves in my position. I have a supportive family, her father is identifiable, I work in a field that pays well, and ASUU gave me a chance to earn money instead of wasting my time acquiring an obsolete education. Life is better for me than for the average Y.U.M.
But still, there are some aspects in which my experience is exactly the same as every other girl or woman in my shoes. And that's what I want to talk about today.

1. "You can't possibly know what you're doing."

In choosing to keep and raise my child, I decided that getting pregnant at all was, to borrow a quote, the last irresponsible thing I would do where she is concerned. But people can't seem to get that.

You know what racial profiling is? Well, let me introduce you to Maternal Profiling. People look at me and my daughter and immediately assume her mother is somewhere else in the vicinity. If I had a pair of shoes for every time I've been asked, 'where is her mother?', I would be Carrie Bradshaw. Then when it has been established that I am indeed her mother, my competence is immediately called into question. I'm offered ridiculous unsolicited advice, asked insulting questions - the really forward ones attempt to take her from me to 'make sure she is okay.' Many older women seem to forget that everyone, their own insensitive selves inclusive, raised their own children mostly by instinct and intuition. There's no manual, not even when your 'happy married life!' cards come before your 'it's a girl!' cards. I'm not saying there are no bad mothers; I'm saying that the fact that I am young and don't have a husband doesn't automatically make me one. Does she look healthy? Does she look happy? Is she developing normally? Then surely that tells you that whatever I've been doing so far is working, does it not?

2. "You're a mother. You should (not)..."

People also can't seem to get that they cannot decide for me how to conduct myself and my life as a mother.

Don't tell me I can not or should not do this or that, 'because, don't you know you're a mother?' Especially if I haven't asked you. I carried her in my body for nine months. I gave birth to her in the most painful experience of my life. I have been her primary caregiver till now. Of course I know I'm a mother. I am also a young woman in my early twenties, and I'm not about to set myself and my child up for a lifetime of resentment by giving up everything that means anything to me simply because I want to appear to random strangers and/or presumptuous family members to be a 'good mother'.

I chose to raise a child, and in doing so I chose to do my best to give her everything she needs to become a well-rounded person. I know I will make mistakes along the way, I know there will be things I will be unable to handle with the amount of experience that I have, and I will seek advice and help in those situations. But please don't tell me how to live or raise my child - if you want someone to follow all your instructions on parenting, do it yourself.

3. "You should be ashamed of yourself."

Some people seem offended because I haven't internalized any sense of guilt or shame over my 'mistake'.

It is my theory that many people become unintelligent when confronted with someone in my position, because I don't know how else to explain the number of times I've been asked, 'You have a baby? How come?' Nobody believed Mary when she said she was still a virgin because, big surprise, there is only one way to get pregnant. I wasn't raped, I'm thankful I didn't get pregnant from such a traumatic event; I had consensual sex. Does that bother you? The fact that a young unmarried woman had consensual sex bothers you? Why? Oh, it's fornication. It's a sin. Well, so is lying, and checking out the pastor's wife's ass and thinking about all the ways you would hit that, and changing the numbers on your expense report at work, and casually looking at Pornhub. What's your point?

Dear Christians, when Jesus died, He took care of ALL sin(s). The fact that your patriarchal socialization tells you a young woman shouldn't have sexual agency or enjoy sex has nothing to do with anything - please go and nurse your patriarchy in front of someone who cares. I had sex. God isn't having aneurysms over that fact, so why are you?
  • 'Don't you know unplanned children have a hard life?' Life is hard for everyone. Ask Kylie Jenner.
  • 'Don't you know she will want to know her father?' She knows her father. And even if he wasn't around, planned children lose their fathers too, sometimes even before they are born. So...
  • 'You've jeopardised your future.' No, I've changed it. Every person's future is the result of overcoming challenges, self-inflicted and otherwise. That's life.
  • 'Girls born to unwed mothers get pregnant young too.' I will do my best to ensure it doesn't happen to her. And if it does, I and millions of young women in the world have lived through it and made something of themselves. I don't see why she won't too.
I could go on and on, but here is the point: I refuse to feel bad for taking responsibility for my actions. If it bothers you that now there is chubby-cheeked evidence of my sex life in the world, maybe you should stop thinking so much about my sex life.

Unplanned pregnancies happen. And sometimes unplanned pregnancies become babies born to unmarried young women. Ditch the hypocrisy, set your prejudices aside, and cut young unmarried mothers some slack. Things are difficult enough for us as it is. And if you can't do those things, then you should probably just keep your opinions to yourself, because I can't guarantee that the other Y.U.M's out there will be as civil as me. 

Love, peace and soiled diapers.

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