“I’m way too young to have a baby,” said my little sister, and she is quite right. Fifteen is too young. So is nineteen. So is twenty-four, and thirty-four, and forty-four. When you come down to it, when are you ever ready for a baby? They are a lot of work! You have to move over and make room for another person in your life, a little stranger with a lot of needs.
But then again, babies are wonderful. They are cute and adorable, they drive you crazy, and you love them to death. You’re baby is the little face with bright eyes who is always happy to see you and becomes your little friend. As they get older, you can’t believe what they do. You want to burst with pride over their first little steps and words.
A lot of young mothers, especially in their teenage years, are going to hear negative advice like, “You won’t be able to do it,” and “Having a baby will ruin your life.” Well, this advice is prejudiced. To say “you’ll never be able to do it” assumes 1) that you won’t be a good mother and 2) that you won’t fulfill your own life.
But do people really have the right to pass judgment on you? In a society which abhors judging others as a basic principle, isn’t it odd that many of the most “enlightened” are so very comfortable pre-judging the inability of a total stranger to mother and grow at the same time? Most have no idea what you’re capable of. A sixteen or seventeen year old girl is marvelous. She can go from being a girl to a woman overnight. While it is far from ideal to have a baby while you are a teenager, especially if you aren’t married, girls who unexpectedly become mothers often find they can do almost anything once they set their minds to it.
Yes, babies keep you very busy. But my mother raised a baby. Your mother did. Fortunately for the human race, mothers keep on successfully having and raising their babies!
In a fascinating study about child development, Mme. De Vollmer wrote, “Just to give you a glimpse into this extraordinary new field, I will mention the importance of those hours that mothers gaze at their babies. It is now determined that a detectable energy flows from the mother’s brain through her eyes, into the baby’s eyes and stimulates the baby’s brain.”
In other words, you are being a good mother simply by looking at your baby! A baby’s needs are straight-forward, but even the seemingly simple things you do, like coo, stroke, and look her or him in the eyes, make a huge impact.
Of course, as the baby grows, his needs grow too, and before long, you are playing peek-a-boo and “this little piggy went to market” with his toes He is banging pot lids together and flirting with his reflection in the mirror. But your abilities grow as the needs grow.
A baby sidebar: I try to create “controlled disaster” zones for my baby. I pile empty cd cases on a shelf just within his reach. It takes him a while to figure out how to get them, but he has the satisfaction of pulling them all over himself and messing them around on the floor. They make a wonderful sound. Just when he’s about to get bored, I stack them up in a tower, and he knocks it down and messes them around again.
Another favorite controlled disaster is paper shredding. All my important papers and books are kept out of reach. I put his papers on the floor. He has a glorious time crumpling and ripping them. Of course, I have watch that he doesn’t eat them.
Controlled disaster zones give your baby the opportunity to explore without actually destroying your house. As your baby gets older, he or she can concentrate on more sophisticated games, like putting clothes-pins in a wine bottle, and eventually, painting and puzzles.
OK, back to the subject of motherhood.
“Science now tells us without a shadow of a doubt, that mothers, in constant contact with their babies, are actually forming the baby’s brain….particularly the right hemispheric orbitofrontal cortex….which will determine his or her emotional well-being and sense of self for the remainder of earthly existence.”
Good mothers do this without even thinking about it. The other day, as I was looking around the parking lot in the pouring rain for my car, I noticed a girl who was waiting for a ride. She couldn’t have been more than fifteen, and she had a toddler on her hip, presumably her daughter. They were bouncing up and down, singing “If all the raindrops were lemon drops and gumdrops Oh what a rain it would be.” She would pause so that the baby could fill in the words, and then they’d laugh their heads off. Then, “I’d stand outside with my mouth open wide…” and they stuck their tongues out to catch raindrops.
The baby won’t remember whether or not her mom bought her designer clothes and the most expensive stroller, but she will always remember her mother as a happy mom who made standing in the rain fun. That is the best gift in the world.
Many young mothers put their children in someone else’s care during the day while they go to school or work to support their child. These mothers must not feel guilty. They are doing the brave thing by raising their child, and they are still good mothers. Perhaps their sacrifices will have an even greater impact, as the baby grows up with a special sense of the preciousness of life.
Even if you and your baby only have a few hours together at the end of the day, know that every minute counts. You are the most precious gift to your baby, and your presence, your gazes into your baby’s eyes, and even the silly games you play, help your baby to grow emotionally and intelligently.
Don’t be afraid of motherhood. It is beautiful. It is your right. Whether you are fifteen or forty-five, you can and will be a wonderful mother. With lots of hugs and kisses and good food, your baby will be grown up before you know it! Anyone who tells you that you can’t do it, doesn’t know you.