Don’t worry…it gets better! You can do it! That’s what I wanted to tell a young single mom I met last month. She was about 19 years old and working hard to finish school while raising a beautiful baby girl – who at that moment refused to be soothed.
Watching the two of them brought back fond memories of the early days for my son and I. To look at us now, it would be hard to imagine that our story started out much the same. But, as we all know, looks can be deceiving.
You see I was a 20-year-old college student when I got pregnant. Unmarried and living far away from home, I was pretty much on my own. My first thought was that I needed to go live with my parents until the baby was born. Then they could keep him while I came back and finished school.
Ha! My mom quickly squashed that idea. She told me I didn’t need any time off. I needed to take my behind back to school, because now more than ever I needed my education. She also told me I needed to raise my own child. Well dang…As you can imagine, I was kind of salty about her response. But now I give Mom two thumbs up for standing her ground. She was right – on both accounts.
So, it was back to school I went. Only this time, I was headed back without health insurance. That’s because after I got pregnant my family had to unexpectedly change policies and the new carrier wouldn’t pick me up. Which unfortunately meant I had to use the charity hospital system for my care.
Dirty free clinics, never the same doctor, and waiting FOREVER to be seen were the norm. Hollering kids would greet me every time I stepped through the door, and in the exam room a condescending doctor talked down to me like I was a sub-human species only encountered in poverty-stricken communities. To this day, it remains the most humbling experience of my life, but one that greatly increased my compassion for the poor.
Fast forward a few months and I’m big as a house and two weeks past my due date. It’s 2am, and I’m miserable because I can’t get to sleep. Suddenly I hear a slight pop, and water starts dripping down my legs. Ewe!!! What is this? Oh right, my water must have broken. Yuck!!
8 hours later, in a ward filled with other screaming women in labor, my son was born. It was 3 weeks before my 21st birthday, and I cried because I was a statistic. That is until my Mom arrived later that day, I explained my angst and she said, Honey you have a lot more important things to be worried about.
May I just pause here and say this is one of the reasons I love my Mom so much! She is wonderfully loving and fun, but also incredibly pragmatic in a way that helps you get over yourself and focus on the business at hand, which for me was learning how to be a Mom.
Having baby sat only one time in my life, this was no easy task. I was a hot mess – fumbling, exhausted, and still in many ways a kid myself. All I can say is thank God for my Mom who stayed with me for a couple of weeks while I got the hang of things. Because all I was sent home from the hospital with was a few boxes of diapers, some formula, and an appointment at the WIC office.
I’m chuckling imagining all of you that are reading and wondering what is WIC? Some of you that struggled like me know that’s the government agency set up to take care of women, infants and children. Basically, it’s where they gave out the free baby formula.
Wait…you didn’t think I could afford to pay for that, did you? Um…no. I was a broke single mom, living off government assistance. I was in that group of girls that so often get written off because…
- We’re less likely to finish school – high school or college
- We’re more likely to remain in a cycle of poverty
- We’re probably going to have more babies, keeping us on government assistance
- And our babies will likely be criminals and rob people like you who help support us
Yep! That’s what many thought of me. In fact, leaving the hospital one of the nurses said, “Goodbye. I’ll see you next year.”
At the time I really wanted to slap her, but now I think about her and smile. Because for all the people like her that saw nothing in me but failure, God gave me double the amount of folks who expected more. It’s their voices of support that kept me encouraged, uplifted, and moving ahead.
Has it been easy? No way. But my son and I worked hard, defied the odds, and have been blessed to live a life of freedom and abundance. Thank God that even with a rocky start we can still finish strong!
I believe that young mom can shatter the statistics too. I can tell she’d do anything for that baby. But I can also see she’s tired, and needs a little encouragement. That’s why I pray God gives me the privilege of being one of her voices of hope. So every now and then I can tell her, I believe in you. I did it. So can you!
Isn’t it awesome how God allows us to encourage one another? Sometimes all people need to hear is what He’s done for you to see that they too can make it through. That’s why we should never be afraid to tell our testimony. Hope is one of the greatest gifts we can ever share with another soul.
Hugs and Love ❤