By Jane Cummins, from Chapter 4 of her book, A Walk Into Grace Reprinted with permission.
(Check out our interview with Jane here.)
Mommy at 16
I remember the day my mom asked me if she needed to set up a doctor’s appointment for me. I couldn’t even look her in the eyes as I quietly told her yes. Apparently, word had gotten back to her that there was a chance that I could be pregnant. Lucky for me, it was January and I was able to wear large shirts and sweatshirts to cover the fact that I was gaining weight. Lucky for me. Funny.
I was so naïve. I guess I just figured I could continue covering up the fact that I had missed a couple of periods. I would continue to wear bigger tops throughout the winter and nobody would ever guess that I was going to have a baby. I somehow thought if I couldn’t see it, then it wasn’t actually true. I just told myself I was gaining weight.
No such luck.
I sat in the examination room of the doctor’s office with my mom sitting next to me. It was awkward. I wondered what my mom was thinking of me. I had only turned 16 in September and now here we sit in a sterilized examination room four months later waiting to see if I was going to be a mommy.
A mom. What did I know about being a mom? I wasn’t even doing a very good job of just figuring out how to be a normal teenager. What in the heck made me think I could even function for a day as a mom? How could I be responsible for the needs and wants of a selfish baby when I couldn’t even get myself through a day without getting into trouble of some sorts as a teenager? Me a mom. Holy moly!
My mom and I didn’t speak any words while we waited together quietly in the sterile, white room. I’m sure her mind was racing with as many questions and concerns, just as my mind was doing that day. I sat there in silence, thinking and wondering what doom lay before me as I sat on the examination table looking straight ahead. I was in a mindless fog. My stomach was in knots and my body shook with fear because I already knew the outcome that I didn’t want to face.
I glanced at the ticking clock on the wall. I could hear the second hand go TICK, TICK, TICK so loudly as the seconds sluggishly crept by. It had only been five minutes since the nurse had left the room, even though it felt like an eternity.
“Come on,” I thought silently. “Let’s get this over with.” I whispered to myself as I tilted my head back and closed my eyes, tired of the waiting.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my mom deep in thought as she sat in a chair beside me, so still and withdrawn. There was only pure quietness in the room.
I’m sure she was wondering how a 16-year-old would be able to support a child. Goodness, we already lived poorly on welfare in a crowded home with our grandfather. We didn’t have any room for a baby. I shared a room with my mom already because the living quarters were tight. My mom probably questioned how I would be able to stay in school. I was only a sophomore. I’m sure she wondered what people would think once they found out I was pregnant. She was probably asking herself how she let this happen. I’m sure she questioned her mothering abilities and if she would have done things differently, would the outcome be changed somehow? I’m positive she wondered whether or not I would be judged and possibly teased by my fellow classmates and family. I’m confident that she also wondered if people would be judging her and whispering behind her back about her teenage daughter becoming a pregnant statistic with Welfare becoming her future employer.
I turned my head to the side my mother wasn’t on and stared at the blank wall. I zoned out in thought and wondered what I would do when the verdict came back guilty. I felt shame and embarrassment for my actions. Everyone would know now that I was having sex. I felt remorse for disappointing my mom in this way. I was hurt because I could see how this was hurting my mom.
For the first time I’m actually thinking, “Ok dummy, do you feel like an adult now? Way to go! Nothing like messing up your entire life you idiot. What are you gonna do now?” I let out a deep lengthy sigh, and silently smiled to myself. What a mess I have gotten myself into.
Just then, the solid heavy door slowly creaked open to present a short physician who was dressed in light blue scrubs. I gave her a once over and followed her with my stare as she entered the room. She sat down on the black, cushioned, swivel stool which was vacant. She glanced first at me and then to my mom. She had no expression on her chunky, yet young looking, face. As Doctor Airy glanced down to look at the lab report, I held my breath to await the final confirmation of my stupidity. Her thick, brown, curly hair fell down around her shoulders. I couldn’t get a view of any facial expressions that might give me a heads-up on the final conclusion of the testing. The silence was thick in the small room. The only noise I could hear was that of the large, black, round clock that hung on the wall above us. The huge second hand was now yelling TICK, TICK, TICK at me.
I looked over at my mom and tried to briefly smile an ‘I love you’ to her by gesturing with my eyes and a smile. I was feeling anxious. I wanted to go home. I was scared. I wanted so desperately to take back those nights I had sex, the reason I was here. I didn’t even want to have sex in the first place! I always thought I’d never get caught…nope, not me. Why did I think that? Why did I think that I was so special that I wouldn’t be one who would get pregnant? Yet, here I sit in a doctor’s office. My mom was only 34 years old on this day but glancing at her now she appeared to have aged about ten years.
She had little specks of gray starting to form around the temples of her short, thin, curly hair. She had a smooth texture to her face. However, at this moment, I could notice the small lines under her eyes from the amount of tears she had been crying. My mom was shorter than I was, and had some additional weight to her. Not much, just enough to give her character and allow others to see she was healthy.
The suspense was seen in my mom’s blue eyes. She slowly started to lean in closer to the doctor so she could hear better. She did not want to miss a word of the upcoming results that could change both of our lives forever. As my mom moved in closer, I also started to lean forward and wait with anticipation of when the doctor would start to speak. It was killing me. I wanted to run over and grab the paper from her hands so I could look for myself and be done with the waiting. Doctor Airy was holding my future in her delicate hands and it felt as if she was holding out on me on purpose. Spill it already! What was she waiting for?
Finally, she looked up at me. She tried to keep eye contact with both of us as best she could. There were only two words that she spoke at that very moment. As I heard the small phrase seep out of her mouth, the lingering of the words seemed to form ever so slowly as she declared, “It’s positive.” It felt as if those two words took forever and a day to get out of her mouth as if in slow motion. It’sss…………………..pos-i-tive………………..
There. She said it. The secret was out. I was pregnant. I was pregnant! Oh my gosh, I was really pregnant! What am I gonna do? Panic and fear suddenly set in for the first time. My head dropped down quickly and my body went limp. I had a huge lump in my throat that knotted up tight. I could barely swallow, let alone breathe. My heart was beating so loudly in my chest that I was sure that both my mom and the doctor could hear the sound of the BOOM, BOOM, BOOM my heart was making as it pounded so rigorously against my chest cavity.
Even though I knew all along that the test was going to come back saying I was pregnant, I wasn’t able to actually face the reality of it until I heard the doctor say I was going to have a baby. Then it was like a punch in the gut! A total revelation stated to me as fact. This is it. I was gonna be a mom.
As I felt the effects of a panic attack violently sweep over me, I heard Doctor Airy continue to speak, “The due date looks as if it will be around June 26th.” Then it was like WHAM! It really hit me. I’m pregnant?? How can this be? I had just blocked the situation out of my mind, pretended it didn’t exist, and figured that somehow it would just go away. Oh my gosh, what am I gonna do?
I looked at my mom and we just stared at each other. Neither of us knew what to say to each other at this point. What could we say? Was there any point in trying to blame, or trying to discipline? How funny to even think about grounding someone who would be a mother in a couple of months herself. Would it make any sense to tell me that what I did was both morally wrong and stupid? Would it be wise to get mad and yell at me here in the doctor’s office in front of my doctor?
In the background, as I was still processing the doctor’s words, I could hear her rambling on. Still in shock, her words seemed so far away and all I really heard was blah blah blah blah blah. As I took a deep breath in and finally focused my attention back on the doctor, I could see that she was giving my mom instructions for the next five months of my pregnancy.
As my attention zoomed in on mom’s face, I saw the corners of her fine-lined lips start to quiver. I could actually see the heat that was forming on her face. The dam was about to break. Her strength was weakening. The tears accumulated in her eyes and, as hard as she fought to keep them back, they poured down her cheeks and stained her shirt with wetness. The sniffles also showed up, and were non-stop. Reality set in that her oldest baby was having a baby.
My mom tried to stay composed as the doctor continued speaking about what was going to happen to my body within the next few months. Doctor Airy handed my mom brochures, useful information, and even suggested that we sign up for a Lamaze class as the date got closer to delivery.
I felt like the room had closed in on me. I wondered if the doctor was judging me and thinking horrible things about me. I also felt like a heel for being so careless and reckless with my life and my body. I felt so bad for hurting my mom. I believe she was more heartbroken than I was at this point. My mother had years of life experiences behind her to know that I was in for a horribly, long, hard, bumpy ride. I, on the other hand, was clueless to what life was about to hand me. I had no concept of reality, responsibility, motherhood, disappointments, or the challenges that were to come my way even in my immediate future. My mother knew because she had already experienced many of life’s wonderful surprises.
I suddenly felt like yelling in the room that I didn’t do any of this on purpose. I didn’t try to go out and get pregnant and that I was so sorry for being a disappointment. In my defense, I had even asked my mom, before this happened, to let me get on birth control. She said no. Absolutely not! She didn’t want to give me permission to go out and have sex with boys. I understand that now, years later. But, hello, I was a teenager being pressured to have sex. I felt like I did the right thing, the responsible thing at my age, to ask my mom about getting on the pill. One of the hardest, scariest things I ever did was to ask my mom to get me on the pill. I didn’t want my mom to know that stuff about me. It was embarrassing that she might think of me doing that. Like I said, I totally understand her reasoning years later but I have to admit that I blamed my mother for many years for my pregnancy. SHE could have prevented it. SHE could have been like all the other parents who allowed their daughters to get on birth control. I guess at this point, I just needed someone else to blame. This was way too big for me to get out of on my own. It was easier just to point my fingers at my mom and say this was her fault.
If we are to experience the abundant life the Lord wants us to have, old thoughts that do not agree with God’s Word must be replaced with truth. Then we need to screen the ideas that bombard us each day. As we cooperate with God in this ongoing process, our lives will be transformed.