If you read my ‘About’ section, you will know that I had my first child when I was 17 years old. If you didn’t, well…”I had my first child when I was 17 Years old!”
I had been off the pill for about 12 months as I was having a bad reaction to them. Instead of trying something else we just left it. We didn’t actively think about having a baby, we just figured if it happened then we’d be happy. For a while I thought there may have been a problem because, despite having a very active sex life, nothing seemed to be happening. But then, after about a year, the morning sickness came…ugh! I’m sure women lay in bed at night thinking about what’s to come, the birth, the pain, and of course the pain relief. But, being only 17, I feel there was an element of naivety to my bed time thoughts, not quite Disney, but not at all realistic. My thought’s seemed to switch between “Oh Wow, I’m going to be a mummy” to “Oh God, I’m going to be a mummy.” without any real thought of what that really involved. And, although I made sure to go to every midwife appointment, and read the books they gave me, we didn’t really do much else in the way of preparation. We didn’t go to, pre-natal classes, I didn’t do any of the exercises, we didn’t even go for the tour of maternity ward. Even the overnight bag was packed on the morning I went in. I shouldn’t have worried anyway as I had a whole 37 hour labour to take in the surroundings and mentally prepare myself.
15th April 1999
I pressed the intercom button, and then when the lady’s voice came through it I stated my name, why I was there, and waited for a reply. Appreciating tight security in the place I would be giving birth was one thing, but when you’re standing on the doorstep after twelve hours of contractions and a severe need to use the toilet…well, let’s just it puts a different perspective on it. Finally they let me in and began walking me through the ward, and that’s when it strikes you that there’s really no turning back. You can walk into a tattoo parlour and see a large hairy muscle-bound man, crying as he leaves the shop and decide for yourself whether or not a tattoo really is for you. Or, change your mind about your AA cup size after you’ve spoken to the women on the ward whose breasts are now in two different time zones, but are now a source of constant pain. But not this time, this time you’re in it until the very (messy) end.
The nurse/midwife escorted me to my bed and told me relax, ‘for your babies sake’ but I’m sure my baby can hear the same sounds I can, sounds that are more akin to that of what you hear in a prison documentary. Women screaming, cursing, and generally sounding not very happy. I also expected to see smiling mothers cradling their new born babies, whilst the husband cuddles them both just as I had seen on television. That was not what I saw. I witnessed exhausted mothers reach over and cradle their babies but tried to put them down as soon as they could only in the hope they could try to get themselves in a comfortable position. The husband didn’t sit with his new family, there was no time. He was sent out buying nappies, larger baby grows, or those all important scratch mitts that had disappeared along the way. The men that were there looked dazed, scared, relieved, or a mixture of all three. The perfect picture I had painted in my head was gone, and as my pain progressed, this just made all everything feel so much worse… and don’t get me started on the night time.
I was not taken to the labour suite until eight thirty the next morning, stupidly thinking it was soon to be over. As if the labour suite meant you were ready to deliver, HA! For the next eight hours I sat up, I lay down, I walked, I vomited, and I peed until, finally, the dam burst and out came my eldest child. Finally, it was all over, all that was left was for them to take away my last shred of dignity. With my legs elevated in stirrups the doctor spent an hour stitching me up. My husband said it looked like road kill down there, take note young girls, the pain was horrendous for a very long time after too. I now knew why all those women looked so uncomfortable, as it felt like I’d had a night of passion with Freddy Kruger. By this point it had been an hour since I’d given birth, and I still hadn’t held my baby.
Having sent my husband home for some well needed, well deserved rest, I watched our new baby sleep. He did nothing else for two hours, just slept and I just watched, almost yearning for him to wake up so I could just hold him. It was strange, because I didn’t feel like he was truly mine yet. With the nurses there, and being under someone else’s care, I felt like he wouldn’t be truly mine until I got him home. Like a young child with a new toy that dad insists on instructing him in the use of. Not that I’m complaining, the nurses were brilliant. Eventually he opened his eyes and, as delicately as I could, I reached over and lifted him out of the cot with a painful struggle. Thirty six hours of labour, god knows how many stitches later, my body was a wreck but there was no amount of pain that could stop me holding my son. My husband walked in as I fed the baby, I smiled contently at him, he told me how awful I looked, not very helpful but oh well, I was happy. He suggested that I should get some sleep and offered to take the baby, but no, everything was fine. I realised that all the women I’d passed who looked thoroughly put out by their bundle of joy were not, and the absent husbands were absent for many different reasons, some because they must and others just because they felt so utterly useless.
Impending parenthood is hardly ever a joy and definitely not what you expect. There are so many factors to worry about that you often barely have time to enjoy it, but the results are astounding. You are not only tolerant, patient and completely unselfish towards this person you have just met, but also one hundred percent besotted by them, all because they came out of you. This is when the real hope and joy for a new life begins.
Now thankfully, all these years and another son later, my kids are healthy, happy, and thankfully understanding. For a large portion of their lives I’ve been ill, and save for a girl, homework, or just being hungry, they are very understanding, helping out when they can and not making me feel bad when I flare up and have to spend several days in bed. The eldest is nearly 18, he goes to 6th form studying, English lit, history and politics at A-level (Definitely takes after his dad). Our younger son is 13, he is in year 8 now and beginning to settle himself into ‘Big school’ which is rarely easy but we see him grow on a personal level day by day.
17 Yrs old is young to start a family, the same age as my son now and I don’t think the thought has even crossed his mind yet. All the health issues I have started when I was 26, supposedly the best age to have children. I’m thankful everyday that we didn’t wait, just getting myself around the house some days is a chore, imagine running around after little ones. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened had we not had our children young. Would it be different if we had waited? Would we have gone for it anyway, be damned with the health risks. My husband would have been dead against it as it would put a lot of stress on my body, but how strong is that maternal instinct? And would he have felt differently if that was the only option. I don’t know, and luckily, I will never need to answer that question. But, I know there are plenty of mums and dads that do, despite the stress and struggle it will cause them. And, to all the mothers and fathers that do have chronic illnesses, and still want to have children, I salute you and wish you luck.
It bugs me when you hear or read that parents are too young, too old, too this, too that, to have children. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt is that there isn’t a “right” time or age or even a right mind set. When it comes to kids as with anything in life you won’t know if you can deal with it until you’re faced with it, and that includes childbirth, which was for me scarier than any illness I’ve ever had, but it’s something I would never change one single aspect of.
Thanks for reading.