Prairie Wife of the Week March 13, 2015
Posted March 13, 2015 by Prairie Wife - 7 comments
I first met this week’s Prairie Wife Lizzi, just after she gave birth to her first daughter. She was directed my way by her mother who felt that she could use my support during this hard time. I listened to her fears and concerns and gave her the “New Mom Speech” and we continued to stay in touch. Six years later I now have the honor of calling her one of my close friends. She is now an experienced mother of four, and someone I seek out for help and support about a myriad of things (her skills with hair and nails are amazing).
On average almost a million teenagers give birth each year in the United States of America, and Lizzi was one of those teenage moms. In our society there is a strange double standard about teen pregnancy. Girls (because really most teenagers are still girls rather than women) who become pregnant as teens are often given unfair and traumatic labels, judged and left to fend for themselves or…glorified and turned into celebrities with TV shows like 16 and Pregnant. As with many topics we address here at PrairieWifeInHeels.com we strive to seek out ways that we can support other women and mothers, and I think it’s time that we have a real conversation about teen pregnancy. I am honored that Lizzi was willing to share her story with our readers, and I encourage you to take the time to share it with others as well. Not only was Lizzi open and honest about what it felt like to have an unplanned teen pregnancy but, her ability to now look at her story as a wife and mother adds a fresh perspective to her experience. Her grit and grace, as well as how she chose to deal with her unplanned teen pregnancy from a place of love, make her the perfect Prairie Wife of the Week. Add to that her compassion for others and candid honesty, and you can see why I am proud to call her my friend!
Prairie Wife (PW): First tell us about your family.
Lizzi (L): I grew up in Casper, Wyoming and still live here with my family. My husband (who is also from Wyoming) and I have been married for over 6 years. We love living in Wyoming because of the small town atmosphere, and what a wonderful place it is to raise our children. I have four girls between the ages of 6 years old and 6 months. I am currently able to stay home with my girls and I am homeschooling my oldest.
PW: You were only a teenager when your first child was born, can you share a little bit about that?
L: I was 19 when I found out I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. My boyfriend at the time (who is now my husband) and I had only been together for 7 months. We weren’t using any form of birth control; we didn’t think about the consequences …
PW: Can you walk us through the emotions and thoughts that went through your mind?
L: My first emotion was fear. I took five pregnancy tests and I cried when they were all positive. For me an abortion was never a choice and giving the baby up for adoption was nothing that crossed my mind. I felt that I could get it together enough to take care of a baby. So, from the beginning I planned on keeping the baby. I was so nervous to tell Dan. I wasn’t sure if he was going to want to take care of the baby, or even stay together. When I told him he said that he was excited and that if I wasn’t planning on keeping the baby he was, so I needed to make sure I took care of myself. He said he was there for whatever I needed. It took so much pressure off of me to know that I had him by my side.
Honestly the biggest emotion besides fear was loneliness. It was one of the loneliest points in my life. Even though I had more support than many teen moms, I still felt that no one truly knew what I was going through. I wish that I would have been more open with my family and expressed my feelings and fears. I think that it would have helped me…
PW: What were your close friends and families reactions, what was helpful or hurtful?
L: I told my friends first because I knew that they would all be accepting and excited…and that my family was less likely to be so. I think they were excited because we were all so naïve. None of us had any idea how much work a baby was, or the life changes that having a baby would bring for me and our friendships.
We told Dan’s parents before we told mine. We picked a local restaurant and told them during dinner, we thought it would keep things calm to be in a public place. They were surprisingly compassionate and understanding. Their reaction was not what we expected, and is probably not typically what most teens hear when they let their family know they are pregnant. We learned that night that their own story was somewhat similar to ours and this helped us to have confidence in our decision to figure out our next steps together. Though at this point we had no plans to get married, they were so supportive of us.
When it was time to tell my parents we went out to their house, we felt a that the privacy of home was the best for this conversation. I think that their reaction is probably more typical of what happens when a family finds out their teenage daughter is pregnant. I was so petrified to tell my mom that I waited two hours before I finally could tell her. When I did, I just finally blurted it out…and it was horrible! My mom was sad that it hadn’t been a better experience for Dan and I, angry about our indecisiveness to get married and my dad didn’t say a word the whole time. When she asked us what our plan was and we said we were still working it out she asked Dan to do the right thing and marry me, and I was horrified at her forwardness but, knew that she was right. This was actually the first time that Dan had ever met my parents as my boyfriend! Dan was really calm and collected and simply said that we weren’t sure what our plans were but we would let them know our decisions. When we left things were incredibly strained and it took a long time for our relationship to be healed. But I can honestly say that now it is better than ever!
PW: As you prepared to become a mother what resources did you use, or what do you wish had been available to you?
L: I found a local OB I had insurance but, it did not cover maternity so we ended up paying for everything. At the time I wished that we could have had some more financial support because that was a huge strain. I now know that the financial responsibility was a huge growing point in our relationship because we had to work together to pay the bills. I made too much money for government aid and because we weren’t married I was unable to be on Dan’s insurance. My doctor’s first question was “Are you going to keep the fetus, or abort.” That was hard, and because I was young and not confident it didn’t occur to me that I could walk out and pick a doctor that was supportive rather than condescending. So I would really recommend educating yourself on the doctors in your area.
I also read a lot on the internet about pregnancy and babies. There are a lot of really good sites out there, but make sure they are legitimate and based on medical resources, not just someone’s opinions. As we all know…nothing can really prepare you!
PW: What advice do you have for any teens that may find themselves with an unplanned pregnancy?
L: My first piece of advice would be to take a deep breath and take some time before you make any decisions. I would really encourage you to think about what’s best for the baby. You have a responsibility to that life that you created. If keeping the baby isn’t in your plans there are so many resources out there to help support you. If you are not ready or willing to take the responsibility of caring for your baby you need to educate yourself on adoption.
You need to be talk with you partner and be honest about your plans for your future as a parent. If they are unwilling to be involved there are plenty of ways to find support and the resources to be a successful single parent. I know that I was lucky because my boyfriend stepped up to the plate but, even if your partner decides to not be involved they have the right to make that choice. If they choose not to be involved don’t be discouraged, there are people who devote their lives to helping those who find themselves pregnant and alone (you will find you are not truly alone) .
Your family and friends may not support or you but there are so many resources out there that will help you.
PW: How about advice for their parents?
L: As a parent myself I have a whole new understanding of the emotions that they were going through. Firstly don’t blame yourself or see your teen’s pregnancy as a failure on your part. Second please remind them often that even if you are upset, that you love them. Hearing those words spoken out loud will make a big difference. There are a lot of adult choices that your child will now have to make. While I don’t think you should do the work for them, helping them research their choices and asking questions (in a calm way) about how they plan to take care of themselves and the baby, or helping them find an adoption organization, is a great way to be helpful.
PW: And advice for their partners?
L: This baby is also your responsibility and you have a right and responsibility to be a part of the decisions. But, you need to understand that there will be more work for her, simply because she is carrying the baby for 9 months. You have rights and if your opinions are different you do have legal options. Honesty is key and you need to be upfront and open with your emotions, concerns, and how you are going to participate in your child’s life.
PW: Being a first time mom is overwhelming no matter what age you are but, do you think being a teenager made it even harder?
L: I don’t know…I think that I was probably much more emotional as a teenage mom. I was still developing my own emotions and maturity. I was more emotional during my first pregnancy but, mostly due to the uncertainty that was ahead. There is also the complication of being a teenager in a relationship and the ups and downs that come with that.
PW: What are some things we as friends and family members can do to support a new teen mom?
L: Show excitement for them and happiness a baby is always a blessing no matter the circumstances. If they have given the baby up for adoption reminding them of the joy and selflessness of their decision and being open to the ups and downs of their emotions is vital. Listen and let them cry and vent…without interrupting and trying to fix it. Offer encouragement and just be there. Help them in all the ways you would help any other new mom!
PW: Any prejudices or biases you’ve faced that you would like to put an end to?
L: I think that there are many teen moms that have stepped up to the plate and done as good a job as they can. Assuming that the situation is going to be a disaster isn’t helpful or correct. I think that offering a teen mom support emotionally is better than offering them help financially. Too often teen mom’s aren’t fully made to be responsible for their children, parents step in “for the sake of the baby” and the result is that the teen mom doesn’t ever really have to deal with the consequences of their actions. This is a detriment to our society in my opinion.
PW: What positives have you seen emerge in you and your family from this experience?
L: My children and my marriage are obviously the biggest blessings. A surprising benefit has been the relationship I have with my mother in law. Because of her own experiences she offered me a lot of support and understanding. I have also had the joy of truly being an adult in my early adult years. I am also more compassionate and understanding of other people’s choices having had to make such hard decisions to make in my life.
PW: Any last Prairie Wife words of wisdom?
L: Don’t have sex until you’re married and abstinence is the only sure form of birth control! Please remember that doing too much for our children at any age will only result and immature adults. Giving children and teens opportunities to make choices and see the consequences throughout their lives will give them the ability to become mature and responsible adults.
I’ll leave you with my two favorite quotes “ If you want your children to keep their feet on the ground, put some responsibility on their shoulders” and “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us we’d be millionaires” both from Abigail Van Buren.
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