Where Have All The Young Girls Gone?

When I was twenty, I became pregnant. Impregnated. With child. This also happened when I was eighteen. I had decided that time to have an abortion, but miscarried before I had to consider it seriously. This time, there was nothing to consider. I was going to have a baby. I thought no further than that. There was no fear. No anxiety or trepidation of any kind. I was at complete peace.

It was simply not bad news to me. I have no idea why. I barely even liked children. In fact, when I walked by children playing, I would shudder. I’m not kidding. I hated babysitting children when I was younger. I had no desire to have a family. No desire to even have a husband. I didn’t really have any plans, but my desire for my life was basically to have a job, a car, an apartment, and lots of freedom!

So why wasn’t this bad news? Again, no fucking idea.

The ONLY bad part was that I would have to tell my parents. My parents would DIE. I was sure of it. They didn’t have any specific plans for me, but as parents, they certainly knew that having a child would set a tone for my future that would probably make for a great hindrance.

From the moment that child was born, my life was changed. That instant. That terrible and hard delivery brought forth a child that created a force in me that has not stopped stirring since.

The delivery was so exhausting, and I had been so ill with toxemia, that the nurses couldn’t even hand him to me. They had to set him on a stand next to me. I feebly reached out my hand to hold his and the energy of that touch was the greatest thing I had ever felt. I was nearly twenty-one. And that will be twenty-seven years ago this July 10.

He is my first born son. And he is amazing. He changed my life. And I have never once… not for one moment… thought of him as a hindrance to anything. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I have a close friend whose daughter became pregnant at sixteen. She was struggling with whether or not to get an abortion. She asked me what I would do if I were her. I said, “You know what I did when I was you!” But I went on to tell her plainly that there is nothing in the world as wonderful as rocking your baby. Nothing as amazing as watching her become a young lady and get ready for her first prom. And nothing as horrifying as finding out she was killed in a car accident that night. I told her there was no one who could tell her what to do, because these were things she herself was going to have to choose, and she herself would have to live through. That whatever she decided to do, I would support her in her decision. She spent a good month talking with friends and relatives about her options. She chose adoption.

The movie JUNO brought all of this back to mind. Very emotional for me to watch. The thing that happened to my little friend was almost identical to what happened with Juno. The people backed out, six weeks before the baby was due. She was devastated. She would not even attempt to try to find another family she felt she could trust to deserve her precious gift. So she decided to keep the little one. And precious she is. Adored by so many.

When my youngest son, at eighteen, told me his girlfriend was pregnant, how could I respond with anything but supportiveness? That baby has changed his life.

All of these children changed lives. And will continue to do so.

Does this mean I encourage teenage pregnancy? That I think the pact that the girls in the news made to have babies en masse is a good idea? Of course not. In fact, if you sat down and talked with me, you would soon discover that I do not encourage pregnancy for anyone at all! I still am not of a mind that everyone should have babies. That every woman should think of herself as incomplete until she’s a mother. That every man should think himself incomplete until he has a family. What wretchedness that sort of thinking brings. I’ve watched people fall to pieces in agony, just hoping for offspring. Children do not complete us. They are the manifestation of creative energy. They are the continuance of life. The outpouring of spirit.

And they are themselves. Not an extension of us.


Dr Z said...

Nothing brings out such mixed emotions in me than thinking back to my pregancies and their beginnings and their endings. I remember trying (at my then-husband's behest) to get pregnant the first time. And seeing the little + sign pop up and he jumping up and down and me feeling ... like a big vacuum had opened up inside me. What the fuck was I thinking? Then a few weeks later I started to spot and I realized I'd never wanted anything so ferociously in my life. Blah blah blah and 14 months (as I remember it) later there was 19.5 hours of labor and the most amazing friend I'll ever have in life.

But I agree with you, Teri. Not every pregnancy is cause for celebration, and Juno was not really a comedy in my estimation. I am divorced from a family of so many ambivalent teen pregnancies, and so many not-so-happy endings. When I express honest regrets about having married, I'm very weary of the people who act as if I'm denying that I love my children. Well, Jaysus, if I could keep the kids and rid myself of the rest, I'd often do just that, but it's not so simple as all that. You take the bitter with the sweet, and that's what it's about.

Thanks for a bittersweet post. You're good like that, and we love you for it.

Anonymous said...

the utter and compete devestatin that the bride had when she miscaried 3 times tween or two crumbs was just about as shitty a thing as i have experienced.
That has diddly to do with ur post I was just sayin.

everyone surely should not breed.
it aint for everyone for sure, if it was abuse wouldnt be as prevalent as it is.

did I miss understand the prom night part, i reread it 11 times.
splain that if u will please.

Andrew said...

Guess what? I broke down and posted a new Dismaying Story ... and it intersects with yours in the sense of teenage girls having sex.

I'm not sure what the answers are to the questions you pose. I'm sure I'd feel pretty strongly about it if it were my daughter.

cathouse teri said...

Z Mama: Well I'm nothing if not bittersweet! :)

SS: What I was telling her is that having a baby is a uniquely wonderful experience. And losing a child is a uniquely horrible one.

Dr. Andrew! So glad to have you back! I look forward to spending some time at your place.

Struke said...

Teri...excellent post! Your thoughts about giving birth to your son and being a mom are worthy of a Mother's Day post. I take my hat off to you for being such a loving person. Your pride really comes through in your writing.

On to Juno...that movie has interested me to do some research for the class I am in. I think the movie missed a few points in how teenage pregnancy is shown on the big screen.

With the 17 girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts forming (or not forming a pact)...that story has pissed me off because the mayor, the school superintendent, and the principal are having this public dispute about whether or not there was a pact between the girls. Who gives a crap? The fact is that they are all pregnant! Where's the support for them? What are they teaching in the health classes there to make teens more aware of the risks of sex at such a young age?

Jen of A2eatwrite said...

What a fabulous post, Teri. Your heart just makes me so happy at times - I come here and leave feeling so energized.

BTW... my beloved Grandmother's b'day was July 10th. She was one of the treasures of my life - a lovely day, indeed.

doozie said...

the very last sentence really summed it up. I wish so very much that my Walter could have a father who understood that.

cathouse teri said...

Struke: Thanks for dropping by! I posted my lengthy response at your place.

Jen BB: Hooray for July 10! The best of the Cancers!

Doozie: I wish my children had such a father, too.

Anonymous said...

so true! children are an amazing life force - what an amazing and hard thing to do when you make the decision to have a child.

74WIXYgrad said...

So...you have a 14 day head start on me as a parent. Martha turns 27 on July 24.

A very thought provoking post along with some very thoughtful comments.

Jami said...

No, not everyone is meant to get pregnant and have babies. But that's not the same as not being meant to be a parent. The other side of the coin is that there's an enormous amount of pain for those who really do want children but who either cannot conceive them or cannot bring them to term.

cathouse teri said...

Jailbird: It's a hard decision for many. And for some, it just happens. Such is life.

74: Hooray for 1981!

Purrty Jammies: Indeed. Getting pregnant and being a parent are two separate things. And still worse than those situations you mention are those who desperately want children and would make fine parents, but cannot conceive AND cannot adopt. I am happy for those who find a way.

VE said...

I'm very pro children but sadly over the years I've gotten more and more opinionated around world population. Families larger than two children mean world population increase. The world cannot sustain it. Instead of seeing large families as "wow" I now see them as ultimately irresponsible. It's too bad there isn't a way to balance out those needing and those not wanting better. Life isn't simple though...a case in point where those two people were going to get married and found out they were biological siblings both adopted but unaware. Seems nothing in this world is easy...

Diva said...

I was 15 when I had my daughter. She is partially the reason I am as strong as I am.

She (her being) pressed me to go back and graduate high school, and then 15 years later to go back for a degree.

There's no love as deep and strong as the love for a child.

Dawn Colclasure said...

I totally agree!! There are people who try to shape and sculpt their children into how THEY want them to be. Which isn't a good idea. Yes, children SO change us. I was pro-choice until I had a baby of my own. There are so many horrible thoughts and doubts that can paralyze us if we don't have children or if we are about to and all of that just changes when the baby comes into the world. But sometimes, the change isn't good. I think that there are indeed people who should NOT have children. I know people who turned into bad people after having children. I think in some way, that "badness" was already in them and becoming a parent just brought it out in them. I'm glad things worked out for the best for you. :)

Bee said...

My sister became pregnant at 21.
She had just lost a lot of weight and looked gorgeous then met this asshole who wanted to rule her life and not let anybody else in. I was the first person she told. Being 8 years older than she, I helped raise her. She was terrified but my reaction eased her fear. I was on the phone jumping up and down with joy. When she tells people that story she says she could hear my heels clicking on the harwood floor and once she knew I was happy the rest was easy as pie.
I agree with you, how could I even think about scolding her or being anything but supportive?

After her little girl was born, she realized what an asshole her boyfriend was and kicked him to the curb. The little girl she had changed all our lives for the better.

Now on the flip side, the hubs and I decided not to have any kids. We like our life just the way it is. ;o)

Anonymous said...

Great post. Loved what you said about children: They are the manifestation of creative energy. They are the continuance of life. The outpouring of spirit.

To which I'd add one thing - being a parent teaches us to love unconditionally.

cathouse teri said...

VE: Well I hardly feel prepared to tell the world how many children to have or not to have. If I were in charge of that, there would be a LOT of changes! :)

Diva: That is a sweet story.

Bee: No problem with that!

Dads: Being a parent gives us the OPPORTUNITY to learn to love unconditionally.

Jeff said...

I didn't actually know you had a son... or is it sons? I get confused easily... just how many boys and girls do you have?

Struke said...

Jami and Teri...
You two bring up a great point about wanting to be a parent and not being able to have kids. Someday, I would love to have at least one kid.

I am religious but not fanatical about it. I am fine with whatever God has planned for me. If I don't have kids, I can live with that. Sure, it would be disappointing but I realize it's not the end of the world. Right now, I would just settle for overall happiness.

I just came back from an overnight stay at a friend's house in Toledo and she and her husband have two beautiful children. Seeing them and seeing the great pictures and words that you, Teri, have written about your own kids makes me happy that you take the responsibility of parenting so seriously. Your pride shows through. I have a great set of parents myself and am thankful everyday that I am who I am. Your children should be thankful to have such a loving and caring mom. That's the best gift that parents can give their kids...a warm and loving home.

cathouse teri said...

Dawn: Thanks for dropping by! Yes, wouldn't it be nice if only the good people could be allowed to have children. Unfortunately, that would require there being someone who could decide who is good and who is bad. Now there is a troublesome road, eh? ;)

cathouse teri said...

Struke: Which is it, what God wants or overall happiness? ;)

That reminds me of that time when my daughter brought a friend home to play. She was six years old. Her friend was saying that they want another baby in their family but her mother says that God hasn't given them one yet. My daughter gave her a startled look and said, "You don't get babies from God, you get them from having sex!"

The Offended Blogger said...

This really was a very sweet post, Teri. :)

I had my kids when I was 20, 22 and almost 24 and I don't regret it one bit!

By the time I am 40, they will all be of age and the hubby and I can enjoy *our* time together.

cathouse teri said...

Offensive One: When my son read it, he sent me a message that said, "I'm reading your blog and it's filling my soul with love."

It is great to be so young when your kids are all grown! And I plan to stay young a very long time! :)

arychtexas said...

whew when i was sixteen i got my girlfriend preg. and all i can could think about is how am i goiung to support a child working at LONG JOHN SILVERS...my parents werent rich and hers sold drugs...she had 2 miscarragies while i was with her and i didnt have my first child till i was 21...i think children are a blessing and god knows when its time and you did the right thing by supporting him...

Struke said...

Teri...I think right now, I won't be able to have kids so I'll take happiness. I did word that kind of funny.

cathouse teri said...

Arych: Well thank you. :)

Struke: I knew what ya meant. All I meant was that the way of God is not necessarily the way of happiness. (Unless you have some real, deep understanding of what unwavering happiness is.)

Single Mom Seeking said...

Thank you for offering this "side"... which we don't hear/see in the mainstream media.

anno said...

The rule of the Benedictines requires them to offer the hospitality of what they have to anyone who asks. The guest must only be willing to accept what is on offer.

Sometimes it seems like a lot of life is like that. There's the whole world on offer, and our job is to be willing to accept the hospitality that comes our way.

Not quite sure how this connects to your post, but I felt like it did... you got me thinking, though..

colbymarshall said...

Your thoughts are so similar to my mind on this issue--teen pregnancy surely isn't something to be encouraged by any means, but there are so many worse things that could happen. A good friend of mine died of lymphoma at 18, and not lon after, a different friend found out she was pregnant. I couldn't help but think that my friend who died's parents would probably kill for him to be having a baby instead of where he was then.

Hot Alpha Female said...

Whoa this is a powerful post and thank you for sharing it with us.

Like you talk about I am quite young too. 21 to be exact. N although i have not had kids nor am pregnant, i do see what you are saying about the importance of children and that level of unconditional love.

N while i dont think that i can fully appreciate what you are saying here until i have kids of my own, i will say that even now i believe that having children is one of the greatest joys and creative energies that you can help bring into this world.

That you don;t really understand what real and true love is, until you have kids.

N i think it sad that many women today who are career focused and so culturally brainwashed have lead themselves to believe that they do not want kids.

Because i truly believe that as women, this is one of the reasons why we are put here in the first place.

Hot Alpha Female


exskindiver said...

well put veriteri.

Brad K. said...

Cathouse Teri,

I recall the 1960's, when abortion was made legal. What most young people today fail to realize, is that making abortion illegal would return the spectre of unlicensed abortion. And needless deaths and injuries from botched procedures, home-type practices (the coat hanger was one vivid image for me).

And we still haven't built a society that allows a pregnant woman free access to career and education. Single parents still flirt with poverty, more often than not. There has never been a period in history that abortions weren't available and done - we just live in an era when it is safer, for now, for the mother.

I pray that no one I know ever needs to abort a pregnancy. But I am relieved that abortion is available if needed.

I think your objection, that children shouldn't be held as a milestone of maturity or family the only purpose to life, could be turned around.

If instead of finding a compatible partner and then trying to make a family and then have children - we look for a mate and co-parent from the git-go. We don't select partner not on what scent they wear, or provocative clothes or sleek boutique physique or suave pickup routine. We do select for character, for parenting aptitude and attitude. We look for character, for family ties and friendship networks and the other signals of someone active and respected in their community. We find a co-parent, and then decide if we can make a happy home with them. Or we look for another that will let us build a family.

We might have to turn off the beer ads, and send the Vogue and Cosmo and Playboy magazines to the flea market. We might have to turn the TV off, and be careful what movies we attend. We might have to stop looking for our partner at the local bar, country club, or health club. We might have to pay attention to the people working at the hardware store, we might have to discuss possibilities with the older ladies in the choir.

We might have to rely on our family to help find someone suitable.

But turned around, finding a partner that first fits into a family intention, then we confirm that as a person and companion he is suitable, I think most people probably should have children.