I was only 22 when I found out I was pregnant, when my life entered warp-speed and hasn’t let up since. Mike and I found out we were expecting on September 7 and were married a week later, rather than in the spring as we had tentatively planned. I was still finishing up a few classes and working part-time, and everywhere I went, I felt like I was floating between two worlds I did not identify with. I did not know any other women like me, young mothers-to-be who were college-educated, in the early stages of marriage and careers. There were the other college students, women who were already planning which hostels they were going to stay in Europe or when they were going to take the GRE test for grad school. Then there were the pregnant women at the doctor’s office or in the breastfeeding class, most of them in their 30s, their bellies big with babies they had planned on having for years.
I wanted to find someone like me. A 22-year-old pregnant woman, too old to be considered a teen mom, too young to be considered anything else. “No Man Is An Island” should have this addendum: “UNLESS SHE’S PREGGERS AND HER BABY IS THRASHING AROUND DURING ADVANCED CREATIVE WRITING 484.”
I wasn’t seen until I was well into the first trimester and it was the first opening the doctor’s office had. I was seen by a woman whom I could tell wanted to discuss how poorly prepared I was for young motherhood. Her string of questions were like pop quizzes designed to show that I was wrong, wrong, wrong. I ate cottage cheese and she shrieked, “That’s not enough calcium!” She also asked if I ate queso, like she had just looked at my Spanish maiden name and figured me out and instead of asking, “Now what the flying hell does that mean? What’s wrong with queso?!” I said no, because I was 22 and I didn’t know I could have an opinion.
Then after she was done grilling me, she smeared cold gel on my stomach and I got to hear Nathan’s heart for the first time. I wish I had a recording of that rhythm, the swoosh-swoosh-swoosh that filled my ears and the beat assuring me that whatever my life was transforming into was the right path.
Also early into the pregnancy, I had breakfast with some of my former co-workers and told them that I was having a baby. One of them started ranting, “WHAT ABOUT GRAD SCHOOL? WHAT ABOUT YOUR CAREER?” Another one went on about how if she ever found out she was pregnant, she would throw herself down the stairs. No one said congratulations or asked me the requisite inquiries about baby names or gender preferences. JUST SELF-INDUCED ABORTION TALK. I left that breakfast, rubbing my stomach and the baby inside, determined that no one was going to tell me if I should be a mother or not.
The only real judgment I experienced was from people outside my family. My family and in-laws were absolutely elated to hear the news. They sent me maternity clothes and ginger candy for the nausea. My sisters-in-law swooned over the little baby we were having and how *finally* their older brother was going to be a father.
I don’t have any regrets for having a child when I did. Every decision until now has brought me Nathan and if I had waited, I would not have had the child I know as mine. I have this little boy who hurts his finger and then runs across the entire room just so I can kiss it. I have a son who points up to the sky and tells me, “It’s pretty!” I have a son who barrels into me when I pick him up from daycare, who yells, “MOM!” before I’m even in the door. If given a choice to have this exhausting and exhilarating little son now or in ten years, I will always say now, now, now.