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17 and pregnant!

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For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a mum. Well okay an actress AND a mum! I loved playing with dolls and babies and would babysit for any one at any time, much to the pleasure of my family and parents friends!

Finding out I was pregnant at 17, was not ideal situation to be in, however as soon as I saw the two little pink lines on my test,  I was in tears, overjoyed and couldn’t wait to start being a Mum! I went out and purchased a second hand copy of “What to expect when you’re expecting”, which I valued as the pregnancy Bible and shall be referred to as The Book from here on in!

I read The Book  from cover to cover and ate everything it said to eat, did everything it said to do and lived in a little pregnancy bubble of happiness and food. Needless to say I went from 48kg – 72kgs in those 9 months and have since realised that I had the metrics wrong and actually ate way too much!

I was very scared to tell my parents and although I found out I was pregnant at 5 weeks, it wasn’t until I was 8 weeks that I blurted it out to them, in my typical awkward way. I was sitting in their lounge room, trying hard not to vomit or fall asleep, or vomit in my sleep and they knew something was up. I had amazing parents, let’s just get that out there now, and they raised me very well. My dad had the short Scottish temper and was the most likely to blow up, whilst Mum was shy and quiet and rarely raised her voice. To say I was surprised when Mum stood up and blasted me, is an understatement. She couldn’t believe I could be “so stupid” and cried angry tears, as Dad sat back in his chair, uncharacteristically quiet. I didn’t hang around for long and caught the train home, only speaking with them sporadically until after my 18 week scan.  I had disappointed them, as doting parents they had different visions of my future, expectations of what I would become, who I would become, what I would achieve, the experiences I would have. This was NOT on their list. They needed time, I needed time – so I waited.

After my scan I rang the bell to my parents front door, with the ultrasound pictures clutched in my hands. I had found out I was having a girl and I wanted to share it with them, I didn’t care about anything else. They were the first people I wanted to be told about this exciting news. Mum opened the door, Dad was at work, and all the anger, disappointment and sadness was gone – there was an air of peace and acceptance and she hugged me excitedly after hearing the news that she was getting a granddaughter. A parent or Grandparent is not supposed to hope for a particular sex, but Mum admitted in a whisper that this is what she had been hoping for.  She had a bag full of dresses from when I was a baby, that she’d gotten out at some point in that last 10 weeks, so maybe she wasn’t as angry as I first thought. Maybe she felt a tiny bit of excitement too.

My pregnancy was long and exhausting. I had horrible morning sickness from 5 weeks pregnant until around 13 weeks and basically ate, slept and vomited for those first few months. The second trimester was much more enjoyable as my belly started to show physically, and move around as my baby did. I was able to get out and about more and spent a lot of days visiting my Gran and Mum on the tram. That being said I was still extremely tired – I had never felt such tiredness in my life and was a sleep early at night, slept in in the mornings and if I didn’t head out for the day, I would sleep the day away as well.

I did not exercise, I ate well but a lot (I ate the amounts in the book told me too! Books fault, not mine that I had it all wrong….right?) so I basically ate and slept and by the end of my pregnancy I felt horrible. My skin was pale and oily,  my hair needed doing (but the The Book said not to dye it!!) and the baby was taking everything from me so I was like a ghost….. except a very chubby one! I did not glow or radiate gorgeous pregnancy at all and I can laugh about it now – but gosh I felt awful. Like a completely different person, not the 17 year old fit healthy teen I had been months prior.

On the 2nd of September 1998, at 3pm – 17 years 10 months old, my water broke and my labor began.

The Book had described labour as a long process with contractions beginning at around ten minute intervals which would get closer  together as dilation occurred. The Book lied guys! It lied to me! For my ENTIRE 10 hour labour my contractions were 40 secs long and 1 minute apart. I thought I was going to die, I thought something was wrong but I didn’t and there wasn’t and on the 3rd September 1998 Shealee Amy was born.

After 5 days in hospital my parents brought me home, still in my maternity pants and still in a world of pain. They helped me settle in, they waited until I had changed the first nappy and first breastfeed at home and then …..they left. There I was, 17 and a mum. Alone in a big quiet house with this tiny baby in my arms- left to let nature guide me in what I needed to do. I stared into my daughters beautiful sleeping face and felt assured that we were going to figure this out together.

I was so in love -I couldn’t believe my heart hadn’t physically exploded with the love I felt for this tiny human. She was all I had ever wanted and I felt complete.  We co slept ,despite The Book and the midwives advising against it, and I breastfed on demand, despite The Books “rules”. We barely left the house and just slept and fed a lot, in between the soaking of cloth nappies! It was exhausting, but I went for daily walks and mastered getting the pram onto the tram with as little fuss as possible! I was feeling more like myself again, and I cut and dyed my hair so yeah……that helps!

I often get asked about my social life as a teenage mother. I mean I am still a teenager right? I should  be hanging out with friends and experiencing things that other teenagers do, but to be honest I didn’t have many friends left and I didn’t want to leave my baby. I’m not going to sit here and blame people for”abandoning” me or not being true friends – I’m not a victim here. I spent 9 months in a bubble of vomiting and sleep and I rarely contacted anyone. Whilst I was giving birth my friends were finising highschool and heading off to uni or off onoverseas adventures. We were living different lives and we drifted apart and that’s okay 🙂 I didn’t feel like a”regular” teenager and I didn’t really feel like surrounding myself with other teens, so I joined the local mothers group. Here I met my first new bunch of friends ranging in age from 21-42 and I felt like I fit here – Like I belonged. I didn’t feel like a disappointment or a loser – I was welcomed with open arms and remained close to one of these women for over a decade after the mothers group dissipated.

Financially –  being a young mum was tough. I couldn’t work outside the home – I relied fully on public transport, I didn’t want to leave my baby, and child care fees were super expensive, even back then. I often felt judged and would style my hair and dress older than my age to avoid the looks of disadain. I found most people assumed teen mothers were not good mothers, that they left their babies to go out all the time, that they didn’t want to become mums and hated their lives.  I did NOT want to be viewed in this way as  despite my age, I was loving life as a mum more than I could ever imagine possible.

School enrolments and parent teacher interviews were always interesting, as I was always the youngest mum there. I always made an effort to address everyone with  confidence, I mean I truly believed in myself and my abilities as a parent. I always aged up instead of down, which I still catchmyself doing even now! Come June I’ll be telling everyone I’m 38, despite being 37 until November!

I knew I would want my children to finish school and wanted to lead by example so at 21 years old, with a baby (Kiah) and toddler (Shealee) I completed year 12.  I also returned to acting and modeling ,on a very small scale, participating in student movies, small features and extra work – just to keep my toe in the water 😉 It was also nice to be doing something for me, contributing financially and have work outside of the home with actual ADULTS!

I have a beautiful 19 year old daughter now, and I would not change that for the world. That being said, I have told both my teenage daughters to hold off on the making of the babies! I want them to work, travel, find love, lose love, explore, have fun and enjoy the youth they have without the finaincial burdens, exhaustion and feelings of isolation that comes with being a teen Mum.

And you know what? My girls get it! They want their freedom and youth and to achieve great things personally, before they give themselves selflessly to another tiny being and I am so proud!

I would not be who I am today without the experiences I have had and I would not have the awesome relationship I have with Shealee if anything had been any different.

Everything happens for a reason and my gran would always say to me “Ness, you are just born to be a mummy. Everything will come later if its meant to be”. And whilst my idea of success had once been in relation to my career, I now realise that the journey into motherhood ,and the babes I hold in my arms, are the greatest example of success I could ever have hoped for.

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