6 Things They Don’t Tell You About Becoming A Young Mother In The United States
Nothing prepared me for these changes.
This Essay article is part of a Narcity Media series. The views expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Narcity Media.
Becoming a parent is both a beautiful and challenging time, especially when you're a young mother. It's a joyful, messy, soul-affirming fever dream.
I was freshly 22 when I got pregnant with my son Gus, and while I had long outgrown the "teen mom" category, in many ways I still felt like a child myself.
Instantly, it felt like I had met my best friend, and while it's my job to teach him important lessons, every day I am reminded in the little things that I am learning from him too.
Though there are plenty of examples of parenthood portrayed in traditional media, very few can capture the nuances of what it's really like being a young mom.
These are six things no one tells you before becoming a parent in your early twenties.
Paid maternity leave is rare.
Here in the U.S., jobs with paid maternity leave are rare, and our government says you're essentially on your own when it comes to taking time off work to give birth and recover.
The United States is one of the few countries in the world that don't have paid national parental leave for new mothers. Most families have to rely on their savings or a partner's income if they want to be with their newborn.
People will assume your kid is your sibling.
Whether we're in the grocery store or at the doctor's office, there will always be a stranger who assumes you're just babysitting.
My husband and I have both been asked if our son is our sibling while we're out running errands in Georgia on multiple occasions. While I am 24, I definitely present younger, and setting them straight can be amusing.
While it's not the most offensive faux pas, I've found it best in daily life never to assume someone's situation.
You will miss your friends.
Drinking culture is a large part of being in your early twenties in the states. Once I got pregnant and could no longer go to bars, I drifted apart from many of my close friends.
Being pregnant can feel super isolating at times when physically all you want to do is lay down and take a nap because you're so drained. I greatly valued the time my friends would come over to my house to check in on me and have a low-key night in.
Babies and hangovers are pure hell.
Once you can start imbibing again, I learned very quickly overindulging when you get a night out in the city with friends can lead to hellacious mornings.
While it's nice to get a break from the pressure of new parenthood and be able to set aside some time to socialize and have fun, screaming babies and hangovers do not mix. Proceed with caution, as well as Biolyte.
Postpartum depression is too.
For me, childbirth and its aftermath were an emotional rollercoaster.
While I was warned of the perils of postpartum depression, I didn't expect it to hit me so hard. The isolation of being a newborn parent combined with the dramatic shift in hormones and lifestyle changes resulted in a looming sense of hopelessness.
Luckily, as a society, we've gotten a lot better about addressing these feelings, and assuring parents coping with postpartum depression there are resources to help. Knowing that it would eventually pass and that we could get through it as a family was a great comfort to me.
There are lots of U.S. resources available to help new mothers get through hard times.
It's okay to ask for help.
Reaching out and asking for help is one of the greatest lessons I learned from becoming a new parent.
Being young with a newborn is a beautiful but vulnerable time and requires plenty of support from loved ones, colleagues, and medical professionals. If the significant people in your life are living on the other side of the country, there are also local support groups available in many American cities like these women's support groups in Atlanta.
It takes a certain level of courage to reach out to someone when you're in need, and for a lot of us, it's a learned skill that doesn't come naturally.
Bringing life into the world is simultaneously one of the most beautiful and challenging experiences. There is a lot of joy in knowing there's a network of people who care deeply for you and want you to feel supported as you're adjusting to great changes.