Nothing Wrong Can Happen

Delta Winds cover 1998Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Nothing Wrong Can Happen

Terrie Smith

At the kitchen table one evening with my mother, she popped a question that nearly knocked me off my chair. "Terrie, when was the last time you had your period?" At first I could not answer her. Pure terror struck me. Having to say something fast and make it true struck me like lighting from the sky.

"Mom, I had my period last month."

"No you did not," she stated.

Feeling the strength rush out of my body, I said, "Yes, I did."

My mother knew better. She could see the frightened look written all over my face. I knew my words were lies and she did too, but I swallowed that lie to make myself believe it more than for her. At the age of thirteen, nothing wrong is supposed to happen. Hanging out with my friends, having fun, drinking alcohol, and smoking weed seemed to be the normal thing to do among my friends. Life is supposed to automatically fall into place. Teenagers have a strong belief that one day they will grow up, become married, and have children; nothing wrong can happen. Something happened, not what was supposed to happen, but something definitely happened that was not in my plans.

Being a determined mother, she took me straight to the hospital the next day for a test. The test results came back: I was pregnant. "Me pregnant!" I cried. Adults are pregnant, not children. Partying with my friends, wanting to do what they did all the time, was supposed to be cool. This situation I was in was not cool.

My mother asked me what I wanted to do. She told me to be careful what I decide, for the decision is mine to live with for the rest of my life. I did not know about decisions.

I did not know what to do. Besides, I was a kid. What did I know about adult decisions? Vaguely, twelve months ago, I was playing with my Barbie dolls. Those dolls still sit in my bedroom closet, along with my paper dolls. What am I supposed to with a baby?

I was given three choices. It was like the genie out of a lamp telling me, "You can have three wishes." First choice: I could keep the baby. Second choice: I could have an abortion. Third choice: I could give the baby up for adoption.

"No!" All the decisions were too hard for me to answer, because I had no answer for them.

To give away my baby, never see his face, that thought drove me crazy. I could not do that. There was no way I could have an abortion. The thought of a doctor coming to rip out a thriving life from my body would haunt me forever. However, to give my baby away for adoption brought chilling images to my mind. I would never cease to look aimlessly into other children's faces, wondering if that were my child.

I remember one movie I watched that struck pure terror in my mind. It was called I Am the Mommy Now. The movie was about a teenage-mother kicked out of her home and forced to raise her baby in pure poverty. Continuously, she struggled on welfare checks; of course, these never paid enough. At the end of the movie she had to give up the baby, for the baby's sake. In my opinion, the pain of losing a child after knowing it and loving it for so long is harder than giving the child away at birth.

My mother gave me a fourth choice. It was the perfect solution to my dilemma. My mother asked me if she could raise my baby. I agreed. I could still have my baby. Even though I could not raise him, I would still be a part of his life. The thought of having to live a life full of torment and anguish, full of great loss for my child did not bring happiness to my heart.

Soon, I learned the other anguish. I learned the anguish of being pregnant at the age of thirteen. At first, I was not ready to mentally comprehend what was happening to me, or to the people around me, but I caught on quickly. It was like a contagious disease. First, my friends stopped calling me; then they stopped coming to see me. My school explained that they did not have the facilities for pregnant teens, so they found a home studies program for me while I was "in that way" as they put it. I went to an adult school where I attended class one day a week for one hour. Homework was not hard. We spent the hours making little arts and craft projects. I made a pot holder that won second place in a contest at school.

At home I stayed in the house trying to avoid the monstrous looks from people. What was wrong with these people? Adults try to make young people think that one can do whatever one wants once a person becomes one of them. All I was trying to do was work on growing up, to do what I wanted to do, to become one of them. After all in 1981, the movies I watched on TV made me believe I was doing the right thing. American Graffiti was about cruising the strip, drinking, and having sex. I thought that was the norm. Numerous teenagers I knew were doing the same things in my neighborhood. That is why I did them too.

I became a recluse hiding away in my home, refusing to become a freak in a sideshow. When I ventured into public with my mother, it was hard for me to tolerate people staring at me. I wanted to climb under a rock and hide, never to come out again--ashamed of myself for being so naive to think it could never happen to me. At times I wanted to scream, "Yes! This happened to me! Leave me alone, OK! Stop staring at me!" However, I knew my hoarse screams would go unnoticed, as strangers stared in shock at such a young pregnant girl.

After having my baby, I could not wait for my life to return to the norm again. Living as a recluse for nine months is a long time at the age of thirteen. First, I wanted to see my friends. However, I was totally unaware that I had changed in those last nine months. They wanted to party, do drugs, and drink alcohol. Now, I could not do that.

It was because of drugs, hanging out with my friends, and doing that cool stuff that I wound up pregnant. It made me feel un-cool. I was an outsider to my friends because now I was different.

Shortly after the birth of my baby we moved to another neighborhood. The move was a new start for me to attend a different school with hopes of better things ahead. Soon I realized nothing changes for the better. The other kids found out I had a baby. Day after day, I would attend school, and the boys would ask me to jump into the bushes with them. After hearing this continuously for three months, I started night school. I refused to tolerate being hounded and harassed. Luckily, I only had to endure that torture for nine months.

Living once again in a new town, I learned that I would again be attending a new school, Logan High. However, to my disappointment, they told my mother the school was over-crowded. I had to attend school in a neighboring town. At first, we believed the story of the school being over-crowded. Soon, belief turned to doubt when we discovered that the school I had to attend was a continuation school. Being put into a class with young mothers was hard for me to comprehend, for my mother was raising my baby as her own.

Young teen-moms sat around the class, with their babies in tow, and I was towing only books. In the class were mothers who had fathers for their babies. Then there was me. I never told the father I was pregnant. I was not the one raising my baby. It was awkward knowing that all the other mothers knew I was my baby's "sister."

Lessons I learned in my youth were hard ones. I paid a high price in the game of naiveté, thinking nothing could happen to me because I was young--foolish. The worst mistake was thinking I was the only one that had to pay that price. My son also had to pay the price. He was cheated out of a father. He also hates that I could not raise him when I was younger. As I look at my son's anguish, I realize the price I paid was small. I sit here now, not even thirty years old, watching my son growing into a young adult. The example of my youth not only hurt me, it also hurt my son. He had to grow up knowing the heartache of teen-pregnancy while facing it from the child's view.

I had to face it from the young mother's point of view. The life I lived as a young teen still haunts me today. After I realized the responsibilities that adults actually have, I wish that I had not been so eager to become one of them.