About that Pregnant 17-Year-Old You're Judging
Can we talk? I know it’s unfair to ask your permission when you can’t respond, but it’s more of my way of saying, “I wish you were here.” As a blogger, I often talk about inconsequential moments that became catalysts. The events providing little downloads of insight that shift the energy in my marrow.
Last week I wrote about how toxic it is to throw religion at problems (read: neglecting free will because of how you interpret a teaching/verse/etc). An author friend who read my post commented she thought it fell back on the conversation we’d previously had, when well-meaning people say well-meaning (but shitty) things. That people throw God at problems they don’t know how to handle, and sometimes they say God would want them to do XYZ thing without XYZ being helpful or healthy.
Isn’t it crazy how much “insight” we project onto situations when we don’t know enough?
Instead of grappling with the complexity of not knowing, we’re trying to make a nuanced situation very black and white. Kind of like when people ask us infertile ladies if it makes us mad that a 17-year old got pregnant even though she can’t afford to take care of herself.
I taught high school English for 7 years. First, in a rural Missouri town with a high school smaller than my elementary school, and then – later – in an upper-middle class suburb of St. Louis. I saw students who were pregnant in both places, but I saw more pregnant girls where there were fewer well-off people. My pregnant students ranged in age from “you aren’t technically in high school yet” to “well, you got your diploma first” and had varying amounts of support at home.
Yet there wasn’t one of them who I believed was ready to be a parent.
It was easy to judge something I’d never experienced, especially knowing the choices some of these ladies were making before they got knocked up. Even if I got pregnant with a whoopsie baby before I was married, I had a salary, a pension, and insurance. It would be alright; I could take care of my unexpected family. But the girls I was teaching were so young and ill-equipped, I thought.
At the same time I taught them, my high school and college classmates began marrying. My friends and I remained single. We either had, or recently lost, serious boyfriends, but none of us were committed enough for a proposal, so we always ended up gabbing near the open bar at every wedding, drinking whatever we thought had the least calories and lamenting over our fate:
What did she have that I don’t?
These kinds of conversation often left me feeling like a dirtball, my conscious making it clear cattiness was gross.
Why was I hating on someone else for having what I wanted? Why couldn’t I be both sad for me and happy for her?
(Inconsequential moment, big catalyst)
I started reminding myself I didn’t want her husband or her life, and it wasn’t because I was too good for him or it, but because it wasn’t designed to be mine. It wasn’t for me. The weddings my friends and I attended wouldn’t have been perfect if we swapped out one of the players, so there was no reason to feel as if I was lacking anything when I was there. Even if I feared my perfect partner would never show up, I knew their perfect partner wasn’t who I wanted. There was no reason to harbor resentment for their happiness.
Since we’ve started infertility treatments I’ve heard things like this from people:
Doesn’t it make you mad that a 17-year old can pop out a kid yet you are deserving and have to fight so hard?
Has your infertility made you more pro-life? Doesn’t it make you mad that teenagers can abort babies and you can’t get pregnant?
How can that kid have a better life with a high school drop-out than with an established, strong couple?
I’ve seen countless others post about it in Facebook support groups and write about it on Instagram. This isn’t an uncommon gut reaction to pain. Yet, that 17-year-old girl who is being judged very well might have needed that baby before I need one.
Maybe she was using drugs and needed a reason to quit. Maybe having this baby is going to force her to grow up in a way she wouldn’t have without him/her. Maybe she really will be the best momma to her little one, and maybe we just don’t know what that baby needs. Maybe that baby is her catalyst: the reason she gets her life together and becomes a human we're all proud to know.
Who am I to sit here and say she doesn't deserve or shouldn't have the life that she's been given? How does that benefit me or her at all?
That girl is facing down something scary, something BIG, and certainly doesn't need my anger when she's going to face a heck of a lot of it from other people who don't know what it's like to truly, completely struggle.
Her situation isn’t mine, and mine isn’t hers. While there might not seem like a good reason for her baby and my empty womb, I can’t deny a good reason likely exists. I’ve seen plenty of my former students raise their kids into healthy, happy little people, so they must have done something right.
Lately, I’ve been answering people who ask those questions with simplicity. “No,” I say. “No, I’m not mad.”
Yes, she has a baby and I don’t, but I have no reason to judge my happiness based on anyone else’s life. That momma is going to find her struggle while raising her baby. Maybe I found and worked out some of mine first.
Can we talk about that 17-year-old you’re judging? She probably needs more love than she does opinions. Perhaps she needs a diaper or a lesson in how to balance a check book. Yes, you need and want a baby. Yes, it is painful to see anyone get what you want while you're fighting so hard. Yes, it's easy to feel anger or resentment instead of actually thinking about the hard emotions both she and you are dealing with.
You might think there are a lot of things she needs in order to become a good momma, but I can guarantee you she doesn't need judgment.
How do you navigate situations that feel unfair? Leave your thoughts in the comments.