Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
The big day finally arrived. It started early and easy, but before I knew it, I was working my body harder than I ever had in my short 14 years.
“Push, Angie. PushpushpushpushpushPUSH!”
I didn’t have another ounce of energy in me. I couldn’t pushpushpush one more second. But they kept telling me to and I do what I’m told.
“We can see his head!” someone cried out. My eyes were squeezed shut and I couldn’t see anything but stars from straining. I wanted to see his head and I didn’t. I just wanted him in my arms.
“You’re almost there. You can do this! Push harder and you’ll meet your son!”
I imagined screaming and lashing out at everyone: I’m pushing as hard as I can. Stop making it sound like I’m not working hard enough! I’m doing the best I can!
But I didn’t have the energy to say anything. I was too busy pushpushpushing.
I’m not sure how much longer this went on, pushing as if my life depended on it, but the awesome relief I felt as my son passed from me into this world was heaven.
My midwife placed my son on my chest immediately, gooey and bloody. I didn’t care.
Mom was 22 when she had me, a full eight years older than I was. But did she cry like this? Did she break herself wide open to give me life? Was she excited about me at least once, on that first day? Because as I pushed my son into this world, I couldn’t help but think back almost 15 years before and wonder about her, about me introducing myself into her life.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” I asked. “He’s so beautiful and perfect, isn’t he?” I made direct eye contact with every single person in the room and asked over and over. Everyone had to agree that he was beautiful and perfect before I would move on.
While I was staring at his beautiful and perfect face, a small stream of pee arced from the other end of my new son. The room erupted in laughter.
“You are officially christened a mom!” my midwife said.
In that moment, I wanted my mom. I wanted her so badly, I felt my heart ache. I wanted her to meet her grandson, and I wanted her to tell me everything would be all right, and I wanted her to tell me how proud she was of me.
The nurses swooped in and took my son to the small table set up just for him, cleaning him and then weighing him. Those working with him laughed again.
“Wow! You’ve got a big boy,” they said, bringing him back to me. “Let’s hear those guesses, everyone.”
I didn’t have a guess because I just wanted to be alone with my baby, but I listened as all the nurses and the midwife played along.
“The magic number is 8 pounds, 5 and a half ounces, and he’s 21 inches long!”
I was amazed, shocked even. And proud. Me, only 14, and my baby was big and healthy, and I had him without any pain drugs at all.
“You’re an awesome young lady,” my midwife said, stroking my hair and saying her goodbyes. “You make sure I get to see him again.”
I nodded, unable to tear my gaze from my son’s face. I wasn’t awesome. I was blessed.
“Oh, what’s his name?” she asked, standing at the door. “I can’t leave without knowing that!”
I looked at Nate and we agreed in silence. After a lot of debate in recent weeks, we came together right then without a word. “His name is Scott.”
I was a mom now. Day one.
In a matter of hours, my life completely changed. Being pregnant and actually having a baby to take care of were two totally different things.
“Good evening!” a nurse sang, coming into my room. “I heard you just had a baby a few hours ago and I’m here to take care of you. I also heard you were braver than all the grown women who gave birth today. Good for you!”
I swelled up a little with pride.
“How old are you?”
“Well, I’ll be 15 next Tuesday,” I said, bracing myself for the usual.
“Wow, so young. Hmmm…I can’t have kids,” she said, telling me as if I could do anything about it. “You’re very lucky to have your son. I hope no one tries to take him away from you.”
I didn’t understand her comments or the attitude that followed. She seemed to go from being in awe to anger in a matter of seconds. Then again, that was something I was used to.
“Don’t use that call button too much. You had a baby; you’re not dying. Someone will help you when we can.”
She walked out, pulling the door shut hard behind her.
Nate came later and stayed until they ran him off. I didn’t tell him about the nurse because I didn’t want him to make a scene, and she never came in while he was still visiting. But as the night wore on, I grew tired and weaker than before, my arms quivering as I tried to hold Scott. I debated what to do. I didn’t feel I could trust my legs enough to stand and place him back in the portable bed they wheeled him in on, but I also didn’t want to use the call button.
I made the decision and pushed the button anyway when I felt the darkness creeping in. I waited. No one came or even asked me what I needed. I pushed it again, and then again when more time passed.
“Yes?” said the nurse from earlier, poking her head into the room as if she couldn’t bear a second to come all the way in.
“Can you please take him back to the nursery?”
She sighed and rolled her eyes. “You know, you can’t just send your baby back to the nursery when you get home and decide you don’t feel like holding him anymore.”
I glared at her. I hadn’t done anything to her. It wasn’t my fault she couldn’t have kids.
“Thank you,” I said meekly as she took Scott from my arms. I hated handing him over because she made it seem like I didn’t want him. I didn’t think I needed to explain there was a reason why a woman goes to a recovery room after having a baby. She was a nurse; this attitude was unfair, but as usual, I just took it and didn’t say a word.
It was still dark out the next morning when a new nurse brought Scott back to me. I was better rested and ready now, and I was even ready to put up a fight against the next attitude that walked in, but this nurse was wonderful.
“Good morning! I’m Nancy, a student nurse. Listen, I was your age when I had my first child,” she said, sitting on the edge of my bed. “It’s going to be hard, but I’m willing to bet money you are going to do a wonderful job raising this little guy!”
Now this was the kind of support I needed. I wasn’t naïve enough to believe, or even expect, people would think it was a wonderful thing to be such a young mom, but I wasn’t prepared for how some people were already treating me, especially the very people who were supposed to take care of me.
Nancy made the rest of my stay nice and relaxed. Even when her shift ended, I was comforted in the idea that she would be back the next day. And when it was time to go home, she pushed me out to the car in my wheelchair, wished me well, and told me she’d keep me in her prayers. Several days later, she sent us a card, once again congratulating us and reminding us we were in her thoughts.
Our first night home was pretty much a dream. I was just ready to be alone with my baby, and Nate and I settled on a feeding routine so that we could both get sleep. But by our second night home, Nate decided he needed his sleep for work, so I was left to take care of Scott by myself. And this baby was not the same baby from the night before. Now he was cranky and could not be soothed. No amount of walking or trying to feed him or singing helped, and Nate slept on. It was a long night.
From then on, it was my job to make sure Scott didn’t cry in the night so that Nate could sleep. It made sense. He was the one working and I was just staying home all day with the baby, so it was fair. I didn’t mind, not really, but I was tired. And resentment filled my heart because I had wanted to breastfeed and Nate thought I shouldn’t so he’d be able to help feed the baby at night. Another choice I gave away.
Weeks passed into months, and before I knew it, Scott began smiling, cooing, and looking for me whenever he heard my voice. While Nate worked, Scott and I spent all of our time together. I was settling into motherhood just fine and loving every moment.
I spent our days with my sweet baby propped on my legs whenever I read or watched TV. And every time I worked out to lose the pregnancy weight, I’d keep him close in the bassinet. He’d stare at me with the most innocent love, and I realized this was the purest love I’d ever received. Yes, he needed me, but it didn’t matter what I looked like, if I was still fat from giving birth, or how smart I was. He loved me regardless.
Nate still came home late in the evenings. I made sure the house was clean, dinner was ready, and fresh-brewed tea was chilled. It was what a good wife did, he told me. I wanted to be a good wife and an even better mother. But I also wanted to go back to school. I wanted Scott to value education and see what it means to persevere. I wanted to graduate high school and go on to college. More than anything, I wanted to show everyone back home that I wasn’t some stupid teen mom. I had goals, plans. I was going to be someone.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!