I was 19. I had everything planned and it was all going to plan – until I got the news my beautiful little girl was on the way. In that moment I knew things were going to change. Did I know to what extent? No, that’s impossible until you have a child. But did I know that following my dreams to England to go to my dream college and achieve all my goals; to travel the world and become a dancer had come to a quick halt? Yes. I knew that I had to let it go. Put it on hold. Walk around at 19 with a bump. Go through childbirth. Breastfeed. Be completely responsible for someone else’s life. That was my life now.
With this came paranoia, a fear of failing. But most of all he feeling I had already failed. Failed my parents, failed myself. I was that girl. That girl who didn’t make it to college. That girl who said she was gonna be this, that and the other, but got pregnant. I was her. I felt it. I embodied it. I became it.
I have a lot to tell. And hope that my words connect with others who were also that girl. That girl who had hopes and dreams. Who loves their little baby more than anything in the world and wouldn’t change a thing, but who still mourns the life they could have had. How do we let go of her? The girl we were? How do we reach complete happiness and not feel judged by others? Implement our original dreams in our life?
I was too young to be a mum.
After the initial shock, I began to feel utterly ashamed I had let myself fall pregnant in the first place. I felt there was just no excuse. My parents had drilled the importance of safe sex into my head, so at 19 years of age I was pretty aware the stork didn’t deliver your baby to the front door.
Every time someone asked “How did you get pregnant?” I just wanted the ground to swallow me whole. The sheer embarrassment that I’d been irresponsible, knowing the stress it would initially put on my family – and just as I had been accepted into college – was too much. I decided to lie to savour some of my dignity. Here are some examples of what I decided to tell people when they asked me the dreaded question:
Number 1: “I got food poisoning and vomited. I forgot it cancelled out the pill.” Nope, didn’t happen.
Number 2: “I was on antibiotics and the doctor never told me it cancelled out the pill.” Nope. It wasn’t the poor doctor’s fault.
Number 3: “The condom split.” Nope, there was no condom.
The truth is I was irresponsible. I had been on the pill from the age of sixteen and decided that I didn’t like the effect that particular pill was having on me so I came off it to try a different one. Within two months I was pregnant. I was that naïve, I genuinely thought my ovaries were in some kind of routine from being on the pill for so long and never believed I would be ‘That Girl’ who actually got pregnant. When I look back now at my 19-year-old insecure self I have to laugh. Being so unable to bare the judging look on people’s faces I came up with every excuse under the sun, and probably convinced no-one in the process.
For any girl who may be in this situation and is feeling ashamed – don’t. It may seem like you’ve done something wrong or let you and your family down but you haven’t. Things do get better; you do get stronger. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been with my beautiful daughter and I couldn’t imagine my life without her and all the guilt and shame is now a distant memory.
Marykate is mum to Elise. She lives in Dublin, Ireland.