Parenting on a Dare: My Decision to Accept Teen Motherhood

Follow the journey of one young mom adjusting to life with a baby.

Change of Plans

Black and white of mom and newborn baby

My daughter was 4 days old on the day I decided to be her parent. My father was in the driver's seat. I was a 16-year-old leaking milk in the backseat of my parents' station wagon when I made the announcement: "Let's go get her."

"We're going to get the baby," my father said, and drove over a wall of traffic cones to cross over into the turn lane. And that was that: Me, my parents, my younger brother, all of us went on this reckless mission to pick up a newborn baby we'd left with my mother's single friend until we figured out what the hell to do with her. I don't know how my father got there without killing us all. We were all crying. We knew it was a stupid idea. We knew we could be seriously messing up at least two lives. We knew that there was a perfectly appropriate adoptive couple, of the right age and financial situation, with a mortgage, two cars and a nursery waiting for that baby. But somehow we all rushed into the friend's condo, claimed our baby, and took her home, where she went to sleep in a tiny crib that had housed my baby dolls not that many years before.

Promises

We all made promises to that child. My brother, who was 10 at the time, promised to donate all of his allowance for the next eight years, and a new pair of Bugle Boy jeans if we'd keep her. (We still haven't collected on that part of the deal, but I remind him every few years that coming through with at least the Bugle Boys is the right thing to do.) My parents promised to get me somehow to adulthood, by providing us both with a place to live and health insurance, giving me free childcare (from my stay-at-home mother) through high school and sending me on to college, as they had already planned to do.

My promise was the most complicated. On the morning my daughter was born, the doctor came in to talk to me. He knew my age. He knew there was an adoptive family waiting to take her (the bouquet they sent was on my nightstand.) He knew I had not yet made the decision.

He told me that he was concerned with taking care of his patients' minds as well as their bodies. He said that, of course, the best decision for my daughter would be to place her for adoption. But, he said, perhaps I was not strong enough to make that choice.

My response? F you.

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