“In the beginning, life was normal – or so I’ve been told. Unfortunately, I don’t remember that part. My mom struggled to get pregnant for years and when she finally did it was a miracle. I was her answered prayer. My father didn’t really want any more children. He already had a son from a previous marriage and he wasn’t involved in his life, but he reluctantly gave in. Anything to give my mom the chance to be a mother. In January of 1990, her dream came true. Growing up I didn’t feel like that hoped for, prayed for, dreamed of child. My mom was busy most of the time caring for my sick grandmother and my father was usually off doing something sketchy. My father was a drug addict. He often disappeared for days, sometimes weeks on end. He always had some story of how he needed to go away for business. Somehow he was very good at hiding his addiction. Manipulation was definitely his strong suit.
As time went on, things slowly got worse. By the time I was 11, I learned what losing a loved one felt like. My grandmother was sick most of my life. She had gastroparesis and it made her body very weak and fragile. In early 2001, she went in for routine dental work and contracted a bad infection. Within a matter of days she became septic, and on May 11th she passed away. Losing my nana was hard for everyone; especially my mom. For years she had taken care of her. In a way it was almost too much for her to bear. My mom started to slowly become someone I didn’t recognize. There were nights where she would talk to people who weren’t there and she would remember things she swore had happened that never really did. By the middle of 2002, things had started to calm down and the doctors had gotten her episodes under control. She was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. For several months I had my mom back. But this would soon change.
My mom had been working for months as a manager of a hair salon chain. She was quickly moving up in the company and constantly being acknowledged for her hard work. She was so proud of herself making beauty out of the ashes. In December of 2002 she started to get sick. In and out of the hospital, she eventually lost her job. During this time she was in the hospital, my father had gone to several neighbors and asked for money to help his wife with a life saving surgery. On December 12, 2002, he disappeared with the money he had collected and was never seen alive again. And again, my mother’s world came crashing down, sending her spiraling out of control. By the middle of 2003, she was having a series of Electroconvulsive Therapy to help her cope – 21 total. Every single treatment was brutal. She would come home and struggle to remember who I was. At 13, I would have to remind my mother I was her daughter and not an intruder. I begged for months for these treatments to stop. They were turning her into a zombie. Literally!
It was now just her and I. We were all we had. When the ECT’s were finally finished, she had a bag full of medication she had to take daily; over twenty pills. I often felt like a drug dealer bringing her meds to her. She stayed in bed most days because the medication kept her so sedated she was not able to function. I was just a child and I was having to take care of my mother. Making sure she ate, making sure she didn’t drown in her bowl of soup, and making sure she didn’t fall asleep with a cigarette in her mouth and burn the house down. I was my mother’s keeper. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I was the one who was prayed for. I was the one she had wanted for so long. She was supposed to be taking care of me, not me taking care of her. Maybe I was selfish to feel this way, but I was a child and I felt robbed. I just wanted to be a kid.
During one of my mother’s stays in the hospital, I was staying with a family member. It was summertime and I was enjoying the sun! Finally a little relaxation and peace. The music was blaring and I was sunbathing, watching the neighbor boy ride his four-wheeler in the backyard. He seemed to be about my age and I needed a friend to hang out with while I was there. I don’t know how long it took for him to notice I was there, but when he did him and the four wheeler came crashing through my aunt’s fence. I will neve forget the look on his face. His eyes were huge and he looked so embarrassed. He introduced himself and we quickly became friends. As time went on, we grew closer and closer, and eventually he asked me to be his girlfriend. I was so happy to have someone in my life I could talk to about what was going on at home.
His family quickly became like family to me. Every second we weren’t in school, we were spending time with each other. After a few months, the topic of sex came up. I was terrified and didn’t really want to take that step, but I was scared if I didn’t I would lose another person. At this time in my life, I couldn’t mentally handle it. All I knew was I just wanted to feel loved and wanted. So, I caved. I just knew my mother was going to know! I was so nervous.
A few months later, I went to the doctor. Things in my body were changing and I didn’t know what was happening. The doctor said she would do some blood work and check things out to make sure everything was okay. The next day, I got home from school and my mom sat me down. She said, ‘Sis, we need to talk. The doctor called and you are pregnant.’ What?! I’m only 14, this can’t be! I broke down and started to cry. What was I going to do? How was I going to be a mom? My mother assured me I had her support and things were going to change. She was going to take her life back and be there for me and my baby.
I knew going to school and people finding out I was pregnant was going to be hard. There would be rumors and drama nonstop ,but I never thought it would get as bad as it did. Students started to accuse me of lying and said they were going to beat me in the stomach until I miscarried. Eventually, the school had to ask that I be homeschooled until after the baby was born because the threats were so bad and they couldn’t have me there being a liability. I was devastated, but I understood I needed to protect my child. Plus, it was only one school year and I would be back with my peers learning again.
Being a pregnant teen, it felt like the world gave me dirty looks. Everyone whispered and pointed. Constant comments were made and I tried so hard to ignore them. They didn’t know my story and their opinions didn’t matter. I was doing what was best for my child and myself. While there were a lot of unapproving people, there were twice as many supportive people who were there cheering me on for doing the right thing. It felt good to know there were people rooting for me to succeed as a mother. Supporting a teen mom is not encouraging teen pregnancy. Of course, there were several people who thought I would fail and my mother would wind up raising my child. But I knew deep down I would always be his caregiver and no one else.
In September of 2004, I gave birth at 14 years old to a beautiful 7lb 14oz baby boy. Every struggle, every heartbreak, and every fear completely disappeared the moment I laid eyes on him. He was my entire world and no one could take that away from me. I knew then I had so much to live for and so did my mom. She started to heal and stopped taking the medications that kept her sedated. She fought so hard to regain her life to be there for me and my baby. We were happy just the three of us. When the time came for me to go back to school, I did my best to make it work. Between the unapproving teachers and the constant gossip from the students, we decided homeschooling was best. I was able to do my school work and still take care of my son on my own. Of course, my mom helped where needed and so did his other grandparents. They were all so amazing with him.
Blaize was the perfect baby. He was always so happy, slept through the night, and easily entertained. Except for when his grandpa would bring him home from their day of golf. Those were always his favorite. He would always come home so upset that his time on the course had come to an end. We would always joke he was going to be the next Tiger Woods. His grandpa would take him to the golf course and strap his car seat to the golf cart and off they went. 18 holes was no match for our little guy. I am pretty sure his grandpa felt the same way Blaize did about their days on the course.
By the time I turned 15, my mom had started dating again. He quickly became a part of the family. Blaize absolutely fell head over heels for his Gagey. That’s what he called him – his Gagey. Tim didn’t have any children of his own and never thought he would. Until he met me. He never once had a problem stepping into the role of dad and granddad. It came very natural for someone who had never had children. Life had started to feel normal again. My mom was happy and home felt like home again. We were finally a family and it felt amazing.
As time went on, I graduated school and got a job working full time. By 16, I had met the love of my life and eventually the man I would go on to marry at 19. We had two more children, Haleigh and Trace. Life hasn’t always been easy and there have been so many times I could have just given up. So many times I wanted to give up. But If I had given up, I wouldn’t be where I am today. There have been many trials and a whole lot of errors, but nothing that prayer and patience couldn’t get us through.
Being a mother is hard at any age. It’s especially hard when all the odds are against you. But hard never means impossible. In March, my husband and I will celebrate 16 years together. Blaize just celebrated his 17th birthday and will be graduating high school next year. Unfortunately, my mother passed away in November of 2020. Gagey (Tim) is still very much a part of our lives and always will be. No matter how difficult things may look, they are never impossible.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lo Mansfield of Denver, CO. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and her website. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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