By Bethany Hyder, Guest blogger
|17 Year old Bethany with baby Anna|
Smart, straight ‘A’ student, member of several honor clubs, flute player in the marching band - that is how most people would have described me in high school. By Christmas of my junior year, ‘pregnant’ was added to the list. Seeing the tiny plus sign on a pregnancy test might very well have been the most terrifying moment of my life - second to having to tell my parents that I was pregnant, of course. My boyfriend at the time (we’ll call him D) insisted that we get married, because that’s “what people would expect,” but I knew that two wrongs would not make a right. My three best friends were in complete shock, but stuck by me through it all. My parents…well, they might just be saints.
The Decision Was Mine
Although they were very, very disappointed in me, they told me that they would support the decision I made - whether that was to keep the baby, or to seek adoption. My dad was very concerned that I would not go to college and finish my education. I can very clearly remember a conversation with him where he told me that he was afraid keeping the baby would ruin my life, and I said, “Not if I don’t let it.” We spent several months meeting with a Catholic Family Services counselor to discuss options. Every time the counselor asked me about my feelings towards adoption, I would cry. I could not even speak coherent sentences when it came to the idea of giving my baby to somebody else.Thankfully, I had the support of my parents. They were willing to financially support us while I finished high school and went to college so that I would be able to support us later.
|Bethany's mom was a huge help with breastfeeding.|
I got pregnant the summer between my sophomore and junior year in high school. I tried my best to “hide” my pregnancy as long as I could, but by Christmas of my junior year, the cat was out of the bag. Most people were pretty shocked, but I never heard rude comments from anyone - not friends, not strangers. I put my friends and family in a tough situation – from my aunt and uncle having to explain the birds and the bees to my younger cousins before they were entirely ready, to my friend having to tell her mom that they needed to get a baby gift for her cousin AND her best friend. I made the decision to attend the alternative high school for the second half of my junior year. My regular high school would have allowed me to do make-up work while at home after the birth, but they required that I take all tests (and final exams) when I returned at the end of the year. The alternative school was much more flexible in that respect. I did not “fit in” at the alternative school in the least bit, but I survived, and was thankful for the flexibility when the baby was born. I spent the second half of my pregnancy going to school during the day and learning all I could about natural childbirth and breastfeeding in the evening. My mother had all four of her kids naturally, so it was the norm for me. That, and I HATE needles! Natural childbirth sounded 10x better than a needle in my back! The more I learned, the more I knew it was the right choice for me. I had a slight fear of going into labor at school, so I asked my doctor to put me on “home bound” after Spring Break. My due date was at the end of March, so I was able to spend a couple weeks at home before the birth working ahead on assignments in order to have time to completely focus on the baby once she got here.
|Bethany's Dad was very involved with Anna from the start.|
Anna Rose Arrives
On April 1, 2003, I gave birth to the most precious 7lb 12oz baby girl – Anna Rose, named after my mother. I was successful with the natural birth, with the help of my mom, dad, and sister. Yes, you read that correctly…my dad was in the delivery room! I had awful back labor, and his strength as he applied counter-pressure on my back was just what I needed during contractions. Breastfeeding got off to a great start in the hospital, with help from my favorite lactation consultant - my mom! Breastfeeding was another “norm” in my house growing up. My mom was a La Leche League Leader and eventually became an IBCLC. She has taught me so much about nursing babies over the years – even before I had one of my own to nurse! The end of my “maternity leave” coincided with the end of the school year, so I was able to stay home with Anna until she was just over 4 months old. I returned to my regular high school for my senior year, but only after arranging with the guidance counselor to be an office aide for 4th period so that I could pump breast milk halfway through the day. Having breast milk for my baby was my #1 priority - I knew the importance of that liquid gold! My mom took care of Anna while I was at school, and in the evenings after she nursed to sleep, my dad would rock her while I did school work. She slept in the bed with me which made it much easier to nurse in the middle of the night and still get enough sleep. We continued our nursing relationship until Anna self-weaned when she was around 2.5 years old.
|Anna had lots of "aunts"!|
My social life quickly became non-existent, but I was okay with that. My three best friends were there the day Anna was born, and continued to be a big presence in her life. Anna was a lucky little girl to have so many “aunts” to play with! My mom convinced me to go to my senior prom, afraid that I would regret it one day if I didn’t have that “experience.” I had a great time with my friends, but was ready to come home to my baby by the end of the night.
I successfully finished high school, graduating 10th in my class of about 270. I went to Calhoun Community College for 2 years, and then on to the University of Alabama in Huntsville, where I maintained a 4.0 average and obtained a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. I was awarded the Most Outstanding Engineering Student Award when I graduated from UAH. Sometimes I think I got the award solely because I had a child and made good grades – it surely wasn’t because I contributed anything significant to research like the top students from other departments! Getting through school was tough at times. I never considered quitting, but I held myself to a high standard as both a mother and a student, and sometimes those things conflicted. I always longed for the day that I didn’t have homework taking my time away from Anna at home. I took enough classes to remain full-time and went to school every semester – even in the summer – until I finished. I started an internship during my last year of school, and that turned into a full-time position once I graduated.
|Bethany & Anna on Wedding Day!|
My love life…well, D (Anna’s biological father) and I were not together by the time she was born. He was not involved in Anna’s life much at all. It was definitely a strained relationship between his family and mine. Sometimes he would act like he wanted to be involved, but it was always short lived. I did not put his name on Anna’s birth certificate, so he never paid me a penny, and he never had legal visitation rights. My father assured me that we didn’t need his money, and I couldn’t imagine shipping my breastfed baby off to spend the night away from me. He never took legal action to make any changes. I would take Anna to his house (he lived with his parents) any time they called, but that was not very often for the first two years of her life. A lot of people told me that Anna would resent me one day if she didn’t know her father, but I had to trust that she would understand. I was not going to force him to be in her life, and I knew it wasn’t good for him to come and go, either. I knew there were better role models for her out there, and I knew I didn’t want a relationship with him. I honestly figured that I would get married one day, but probably later in life. I just didn’t think any guys in their 20’s would want to take on a dating relationship with an instant family. But, shortly after Anna’s 2nd birthday, my sister introduced me to Christian. I was instantly attracted to his good looks, but what really got me was the way he treated Anna. In the first few encounters with him, he gave her all of his Chuck-E-Cheese tokens/tickets to get a great prize, and emptied his pockets of change to put in her brand new piggy bank. We dated for the next five years before getting married in 2010. In 2011, D signed over parental rights, and Christian was able to legally adopt Anna. Christian had been her daddy for a while, but it was finally legalized.While Anna has never had much of a relationship with her biological father, she does have a great relationship with his parents - her grandparents. I believe they would move mountains for her, and they have been a huge help to me throughout the years. I eventually had the dreaded conversation with Anna about who her biological father was. She was about 6 or 7 years old and asked me how I had chosen her grandmother to be her grandmother! I was totally unprepared to answer that, but I did the best I could at the time. She had known D for a long time, but only as “Grandma and Grandpa’s son.” As she got a little older, we discussed it more in depth, and so far, she doesn’t hate me in the least bit – at least not for anything surrounding her biological father! ;)
Where We Are Today
|Anna with her baby brother.|
Fast forward to today and we are now a family of 4. We welcomed Anna’s little brother into this world at the end of 2012, and I’m enjoying having a baby around again. It is different this time…that’s for sure! I work full-time as a civil engineer, and Christian just finished up his bachelor’s degree in biology and will be teaching 8th grade science this school year. Anna is 11 years old and following in her mommy’s footsteps – a straight ‘A’ student. She enjoys dancing and has been on the competition dance team for the past two years.
The down side to being a teen mom? Well, obviously I put a strain on my family and friends. While most of my family accepted this reality and supported me, my pregnancy and my parents’ willingness to support me and my child caused some family members great distress, and continues to do so today. My situation forced me to grow up really fast. I never had the college experience of dorm rooms, parties, and being carefree. I don’t think I missed much ;)
|Bethany, Christian and their beautiful family today!|
Clearly, having a baby at 17 did not ruin my life, as my father had worried. Unfortunately, he did not live long enough for me to prove that to him. The day Anna was born, she had him wrapped around her finger. She was “Papa’s Girl” and the apple of his eye until he passed away shortly before her 2nd birthday. I believe everything happens for a reason, and it was clear that Anna was sent to our family to keep us going after his unexpected death.
I am always looking for opportunities to help, encourage, or even mentor other young mothers. If this (long) story of my experience as a teen mom inspires just one struggling young mother, then I have accomplished my goal.
I realize that my experience is probably the best scenario of a teenage pregnancy. I didn’t have to worry about money, bills, or even having a job. I was able to focus on being Mommy and completing my education. I owe everything to my parents. Without their support, both financially and emotionally, I would have never made it. I am forever grateful for the opportunity they gave me to raise my beautiful daughter. I don’t know what I did to receive such a huge blessing from God, but I am so thankful. I honestly cannot imagine my life without her!