Teen to Motherhood (Part 2)

By Esther Rachel Lai. - 4/22/2015

Now that we had our biggest fear out of the way, more challenges awaited us and nothing could prepare us from the roller coaster life we had chosen.


My first and utmost concern involved my studies. Would I have to drop out of school? Does this mark the end of my tertiary education? I needed answers. With the company of a female classmate (because I was afraid to go alone and I needed the support of a friend), I paid my course manager a visit in his office. I wanted to know if I could still carry on with school, how my studies would be affected and as my course manager, he had every reason to know about my situation and I knew that the earlier I told him, the better I could prepare myself on what to expect.

If anything, I was determined to finish up my studies and attain my diploma whether I was pregnant or not. To me, quitting was not an option. I wasn't going to let a baby stop me from getting my diploma. Much to my relief, my course manager told me that I wasn't the first of his students to be in this position and could very much continue my studies. Like the student before me, I could choose to defer my studies for a semester or two (6 months to a year) to concentrate on my pregnancy and then resume studying after. But that didn't quite appeal to me. I wanted to finish my studies in the quickest timeframe possible, even if that mean going to school with a big belly.

The idea didn't seem one bit absurd to me. & thankfully, it didn't seem absurd to my course manager either. The only issue was if my timetable permitted me to do so. I could go to school pregnant but whether my delivery date would clash with one of my major projects or not was the problem. So we had to wing it and pray that everything would run smoothly and I could complete most of my modules before giving birth. I certainly did not plan to get pregnant but God had it all planned out, my timetable fell right into place and I went to school up until I was full-term. I managed to finish all my modules and only had to defer school for 3 months for my internship. My major project ended 2 weeks before Kylie's birth and while my friends scooted off to their internship companies as designers, I was an intern as a new mother.

 My course manager did mention that choosing to go to school pregnant would also mean that I'd have to face being the talk of the school. It was something I knew I had to face from the start, and for some reason, I knew I could.


Knowing I could withstand fingerpointing and judgement from others was one thing but going through it was another. I remember feeling like I'd just walked right into the story of The Scarlet Letter with me being Hester Prynne (minus the adultery part) - only this wasn't fiction, this was reality, my reality. For much of my preggie days, I actually found myself insecure and afraid. I couldn't thank the big man up there enough for giving me ample time to mentally prep myself because my belly only started to show about 5 months later when I was 7 months into my pregnancy. 


I broke the news to my closest of classmates who stood by me throughout my entire pregnancy.

In school, my friends were like my shield. Many times, I didn't dare to step into the crowded canteen alone for fear of getting rude and awkward stares but my friends were always there to give me the support, comfort and security I needed. Even my male classmates weren't afraid to walk alongside with me. I truly believe that without my ever-supportive classmates, I could never have lasted a month in school. When word first got out, I heard a number of reactions which ranged from care and concern to negative remarks. I however, chose not to let the negativity get to me and focus on the people around me who truly cared. Classmates who I never spoke to suddenly came up to me to talk to me, they even bought clothes for my unborn daughter and were very interested to know more about pregnancy. I even had strangers coming up to tell me how they admired my bravery and people from the other schools texting mutual friends how they saw a pregnant girl and complimented that I actually looked good - I was relieved to hear that. Most times, I felt really shy to be talked about whether good or bad but I was thankful that at least there were more positive reactions to my teen pregnancy than bad. Or even if there were bad reactions, at least I didn't hear/know of them. I didn't need to and I didn't want to.


I couldn't be more thankful for the most caring bunch of lecturers ever. They always showed concern on whether I was well, whether I'd already had lunch etc. They even helped me to get financial aid so I could get a couple of hundreds to ease my financial worries.


I didn't just had to face strangers and aquaintances. I also found myself having to face feeling like an embarrassment to my family. A lot of times my dad would tell me how shameful it is and although it hurt to hear that, I knew he was just angry - possibly at himself for not being able to discipline me well enough. If anything, I knew he was worried about me. During my pregnancy my dad also reminded me how not to let my daughter stay overnight at chalets etc. - I felt bad. Because I'd one too many times used "chalet" as an excuse to stay over at Shane's and when I got pregnant, it was a blatant break of the trust and liberty that he had given me. I felt really really guilty when he told me that on several occasions but I knew I was wrong. It hurt me to he would even think that he did a bad job at parenting. My parents had always been there for me, giving me the liberty I needed to grow. I was never really rebellious, just a tad too playful, too adventurous for my own good. It was never their fault, they did their best to guide me and be good parents to me. I never once thought they were bad parents. Even though it was painful to hear my dad telling me how shameful it was that I'd gotten myself pregnant, my mom would always try to brush him off. Ultimately, I knew that both my parents still loved me no matter what I'd done to disappoint them. It just took some time for my dad before he could come to terms with me being a young mother. Even then, as with every parent, he never stopped worrying for me. I was and always will be Daddy's girl
I once chanced upon my brother's private twitter account when I used his computer. He'd forgot to logout and I knew I should have respected his privacy and logged out on his behalf but I couldn't resist knowing how he felt about his younger sister being pregnant at eighteen. My brother was a man of little words, an introvert and the whole time, he never said a thing. I'm sure he had feelings, he just never expressed them & I wanted to know. I scrolled through his tweets and found one that wrote "What were you thinking?! & You're still studying!" the "You" I assumed, referred to me. I didn't know how to feel, it was a mixture of embarrassment and slight relief that at least he's concerned for his little sister even though he doesn't show it. I remember once when he brought a friend over, he had my feelings at heart, I was already showing by then and his friend (who happened to Shane's friend) told us later on that my brother had actually told him, "my sister's pregnant. So later when you see her, just act normal". My brother was always this sort, he never showed much but he's always tried to protect me without my knowledge, he would always watch my back whenever he could. During my teen years, my brother and I hardly spoke but since my pregnancy, it's brought us a whole lot closer. Although still reserved, he would ask about Kylie and he would strike up random conversations with me as well. I also remember that one time when he stood up for me when a relative rudely asked "why? So young, pregnant. Why you like that?" I was ashamed and had nothing to say but my brother rebutted "aiya, why you care so much? Also not your life." I found myself looking at my brother in such gratitude, I was beyond thankful for a brother like him.


Being chinese also meant that I had really traditional chinese relatives who would obviously see teen pregnancy as a taboo.  I recall going for visiting during Chinese New Year and having to muster up all that courage to face my relatives. I never felt uncomfortable seeing my relatives until that very day. I had cousins and aunties making remarks like the one mentioned above. They always asked "why?". I had no answer for them. But there were kind relatives who told my mom not to reprimand me but give me their full support instead. I also remember the time my cousins surrounded me to ask about my pregnancy and I was so embarrassed, I buried my head in my hands and wanted to walk away from the conversation but they assured me "no, no it's okay!" "Is it a boy or a girl?" "What are you gonna name him/her?" I was glad they treated me like any other pregnant woman, even made pregnant jokes too. The last I needed was to be seen differently. As I progressed into my pregnancy and later gave birth, I guess I answered all their "but why(s)?". I did my best to not be the young mother that society's stereotyped and soon found relatives who were overjoyed for my little family. The same aunt who rudely interrogated me, also told me that I was a really strong girl. I never held it against her but it felt really good to finally gain the approval of my relatives. I had no answers for them then, I didn't know what the future held but I let go and let God and he answered all their questions for me. 

Working Mom

After a 3 month break from school, I went back to finish up my internship at a renowned multi-national ad-agency. I had my first taste of what it felt like to be a working mother and quite frankly, it was very very difficult for me. During my internship, although I loved the work I did, I always found myself missing Kylie. Things were harder when the clock struck 6pm but I had to still stay in the office till late to meet deadlines. There was this one night, it was nearing mother's day and I came home from work at midnight to a sleeping baby. Shane handed me a card that the school made for all the mothers with a poem and Kylie's handprint. I couldn't help but cry cause I had spent so little time with her, it broke my heart. All the late nights at work weren't worth the sacrifice - that was when I decided to give up on the design industry and to find work with fixed office hours even if that meant sacrificing doing something I love. Kylie was love in itself to me. I would give up anything for her.
When I started working full-time after graduating from Temasek Poly with a Diploma in design, I ventured into the banking industry for stability and ample family time. Even then, I've had to face snide remarks from older colleagues who thought of me as a reckless young mother because of my playful nature. I once had gastric at work and the relief manager and cleaner made a really distasteful remark on how I probably don't feed my daughter well either, just look at me. I was furious. What did me having gastrics had anything to do with my daughter? If an older mother had gastrics, I'm sure they wouldn't pass such an absurd remark simply because well, she's older? 

I didn't say a thing but it angered me to tears. I may be young but that doesn't mean I'm any less of a mother than a normal mom. It's hard but I knew that it was all part of being a young mother. Unlike "regular" moms, we constantly have to put up with stereotypes from the older generation. It sucks but brooding over it would only make me feel worse. I had to take incidents like this in my stride. People can say what they want but I know that I'm being the best mom I can be to Kylie and that's all that matters.


Shane and I got our marriage legalised at the Registry of Marriages when I was 5 months pregnant. We were happy we had each other. But this is marriage we're talking about. Were we truly ready for a commitment of a lifetime? I for one, definitely wasn't prepared for all that came after signing the papers. I never knew marriage took so much work!

(To be continued in my next post - 19 and Married.)

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  1. Thank you for being so raw and honest. I think being so candid with your experiences, both the good and bad, can allow those who would have originally thought negatively about your life choices, to sympathize with you. We all have our own mountains to climb, we all ultimately want the same thing in our lives - love and happiness. However people often believe there is a "set" way to achieve these two things - like going to university, studying a particular subject, getting good grades, getting a good job, all that. What many don't realize is that there is no "set" way to do things, what works for you may not work for others. And for those who take the "path less trodden," they face the ridicule and negative remarks of others. The same thing goes for people with "abnormal" sexuality, disabilities etc. - people generally don't like what's not considered "normal" because of their ignorance and narrow mindedness. Thank you for being who you are and always being true to yourself despite the difficulties. The world needs more like you. I wish you and your family nothing but love and happiness.

    1. & thank you so very much for your kind words. You have no idea how touched I am. It really means the world to me. Thank you for being the blessing that you are too :)

  2. really admirable how strong you've stayed despite the tough times you've faced; i hope it all gets better for you & your family from here. i'm 19 now and i can't imagine being as resilient/handling this situation as well as you if i were ever in your shoes.. all the best! :-)

    1. Thank you, your encouraging words means a lot to me :)

  3. I stumbled upon your blog as my friend shared your blogpost on being a regular's wife on his FB acct. I went on to read some of your other posts. I have to say you took a brave albeit right decision to give birth to your first child. Bravo yo you and your hubby Shane. And you know the good thing about giving birth young? You still look ravishing even after 2 daughters!

  4. You are such a strong woman:') I really admire your courage and resilience!!

  5. What A great blog. For me it's interesting to read as I'm an expat here and come from a different culture. So it's interesting to read how your culture reacts to your pregnancy and little miracle. It is completely the opposite of where I come from, but then again we hardly have teenage pregnancies in my country. I Guess that is cause we educate our children about it and are open about everything. Not saying that our culture is good and yours isn't. It's just interrelated to see the difference.
    I think you did a great job as a person, a Daughter and a Mother. Good on you you finished your studies! You will be a great example to your Daughter! And believe me: if a mom is older she doesn't necessary take better care of her child! I have seen plenty of the opposite. So put a big hole between your ears, so all the negativity can just slide through, and turn your back into a slide as well so that all the not so nice remarks can just slide off you!
    You go Mommy! You're doing an awesome job! And so is your hubby, after all he manned up and stayed by your side! I know plenty of man who wouldn't have done that!

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