MARY Jenkins was a child herself when she discovered she was pregnant at just 14 years old.
Terrified of what her parents would think, the teen hid her pregnancy from her parents for as long as she possibly could.
Mary Jenkins was 14 years old when she became pregnant with her daughter[/caption]
Speaking to Kidspot, she shared her extraordinary journey into motherhood…
What is wrong with me? I wondered at the start of a bitter, cold December morning in 1998. I was midway through the eighth grade.
I was fourteen and had been through the whole puberty phase of life. But this felt different.
The energy I should have as a young girl was gone, replaced with nausea. I had no desire to eat and what little I could get down always seemed to find its way back up.
It was all I could think about. Why is this happening? What is going on?
Terrified, Mary hid the pregnancy from her parents for as long as she could[/caption]
In agony and pain, I slept as much as I could, trying to keep out of sight—and hopefully out of mind—from my parents. They were busy enough and certainly didn’t need the added worry of my bizarre illness.
Though it may sound strange, it was easy to hide in our house. Having a brother and sister who were older and a brother and sister who were younger, I drew little attention, neatly tucked away in the middle—just the way I liked it.
Despite every effort I made to hide my suffering, my older sister Lucy took notice. Sharing the same room, it was hard for anything we did to go unnoticed by the other.
“Mary, I’ve got an idea,” she began, “remember what our ancestors used to do in Cambodia when they were sick?”
I did remember. In the folk medicine tradition in many Asian countries, you would pick up a coin, and with ointment, you would rub the coin on your body until about a dozen red bloodlines formed on your back and eight lines formed on your front.
Through eyes filled with terror, I watched as two lines emerged on that little popsicle-sized stick
It was a form of dermabrasion therapy. It was used to treat symptoms of the common cold, nausea, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness, and fainting.
Ready to try anything, I shook my head yes and lay down on my stomach while she took a coin and applied pressure on my back.
As she did, I prayed, hoping that by divine intervention the terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach would dissipate. It didn’t. I was left with the nausea and all my questions. Information was harder to come by in 1998. Phones were like great blocks of brick with a spinning dial and were kept on your nightstand.
Computers seemed to take an entire morning to turn on and typing in a search command on your browser resulted in an icon that spun and spun and spun some more.
Of course, that lag was due to dial-up internet, a horror I will not bother explaining to you. But, no matter; we were poor and computers were expensive, so we didn’t even own one at that point.
I had no device on which to type in my symptoms for an answer as to why I felt the way I did. Too embarrassed to say anything to my friends or parents, I did the only thing I could think to do. I ran down to the local corner store to purchase my very first pregnancy test—an act that produced a gut-wrenching feeling in and of itself.
Mary wants to encourage other teen mums to seek help should they find themselves in her position[/caption]
Fearing the worst, I paid for the package and made my way home.
After cracking open the packaging in my bathroom, my world went fuzzy. It was a Saturday night, and everyone else in my family was minding their own business while my parents cooked supper, all completely oblivious to my inner turmoil.
I briefly thought about tossing the test in the trash and facing my fears on a day I felt more courageous. But that was not an option. I had wondered long enough and needed to find out for sure.
Through eyes filled with terror, I watched as two lines emerged on that little popsicle-sized stick: pregnant. And in that moment, all of the physical symptoms seemed inconsequential to the emotions that now flooded my slender teenage frame.
Instantly, I burst into tears, feeling more alone, ashamed, and embarrassed than I had ever felt in my life. And as natural as it might seem to focus on my own pain, my thoughts immediately shifted to my parents: what were they going to think?
Mary is seen with her daughter at graduation[/caption]
Though Buddhism was our way of life, my dad was, nevertheless, always learning about new religions and even had us attend church on a few Sundays. Perhaps this is why I found myself pleading with God in this moment, asking Him why this had happened.
Ironically, I write this memory on a morning close to Christmas, which features the story of a different Mary. She faced a similar, yet entirely different, predicament.
At least the Mary in the Bible had an excuse for her pregnancy. I had none. A virgin I was not. I wanted to scream and blame someone else, but the only person I could think to blame was myself.
You’re dumb, I told myself. Your life is ruined, and everyone is going to hate you. Maybe I should get an abortion, I thought but quickly dismissed the idea. What if the short relationship I’ve had with my new child’s father doesn’t last? So many hows and whys passed through my mind it was tough to keep track.
I woke hoping it was all a terrible dream. It wasn’t
That evening, I drifted into an uneasy sleep that lasted well into the next morning. I woke hoping it was all a terrible dream. It wasn’t.
Morning brought with it all the fears and questions I’d had the night before. I had to face the truth: I was six weeks into a journey I never envisioned for myself at such a young age.
Immediately, my thoughts shifted back to my parents. How would I tell them? How could I tell them? What I needed was a plan. I couldn’t fathom where to start.
All my mum and dad knew of their middle-of-the-pack daughter was that she went to school Monday through Friday and was cooped up in the house the rest of the time. They knew nothing about me and certainly didn’t know I had a boyfriend or was having sex.
Weeks came and went. How no one at home guessed my condition was a small mystery. But this oversight reinforces how little they knew me and highlights how high their expectations were.
My predicament was so far from what they expected, it was unimaginable that pregnancy was even an option.
And then it happened. An ominous phone call came one evening. By that point, I was afraid to pick up the phone. And after my mum answered, it did not take long to discover the cat was out of the bag. “Mary!” she screamed, “Come here right this second!” The game was up. It was time to face the music.
Looking back, I wish I had done a better job conveying my true feelings to my parents. I wish I had been more vocal, like I am today. And as the old saying goes, “Closed mouths don’t get fed.”
Mary has shared her experiences in a new book[/caption]
At the time, I only wanted to avoid consequences, but I now recognise that telling my parents would have been much easier in the long run. In hiding my pregnancy, I failed to consider a number of factors, one being the health of my baby.
Because I was living in secrecy, I had no one to help me eat healthy meals or take prenatal vitamins. I wasn’t receiving regular feedback from a physician.
My baby was denied proper care because I could not face the consequences of telling my story. In reality, the potential consequences of not saying something were much greater than the temporary discomfort of being truthful.
If you find yourself in a position like this, I gently encourage you to take action. Tell someone. Do not ignore what is going on around you while hoping life will magically get better.
Remember that keeping everything bottled up inside is a terrible feeling and a sure way to experience anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts.
Being confused is OK. It’s normal. But you must take action to resolve the confusion.
Talking to someone who cares might save not only your life but also the life of the baby you will grow to love.
This is an extract of ’14 and Pregnant: A letter of hope from my journey into unplanned parenthood’ by Mary Jenkins which is available on Amazon.
This article was originally published on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.
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