Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Jewish Motherhood: Starting Earlier Than Expected

It’s Magic No. 3 for The Jewish Motherhood Project, and we’re ringing it in with 32-year-old Yochana, who was 18 years old when she had her first and “barely out of high school.” Sometimes, the scariest revelation can become the greatest gift.

If you're looking for other posts in the project, check the archives. If you want to give your thoughts in the Q&A, click here.

How old were you/what was your situation when you had your first child? 
I was 18 and barely out of high school. It definitely was not what I had intended. I was living with my boyfriend (now husband) and his mom and grandparents at the time. They had previously taken me in from a bad home situation.

Did you always want to be a mommy? Why or why not?
I wasn't really sure. I knew that someday I probably would, but at that time, I was actually considering joining the military.

What was your greatest fear when you found out you were pregnant? What was your greatest anticipation/excited feeling? 
I was terrified because I was so young. I had no support system of anyone my age who understood what I was going through. I had a fantastic support system in my husband's family and our friends in general, but no one my age who "got it."

How did your husband/partner and family react to you being preggo? 
My husband freaked out at first, understandably. He didn't handle it well. His family, whatever thoughts they had about it, shared only understanding. We were so anxious, and they were so supportive. I'm very grateful. My mom was supportive, but she was having a lot of her own struggles at the time.

What was your pregnancy like? 
Other than the ridiculous amount of weight I had gained (I threw caution to the wind with my eating; 13 years later I'm still paying for it), it was pretty uneventful.

How did you decide to start telling people you were preggo? Did you wait to reveal the gender? 
We told our immediate family and friends as soon as we found out. Neither of us were religiously observant at the time, so with every milestone, we shared the information. We chose a name I had wanted since childhood. Thankfully, the hubby also really liked the name.

How did the pregnancy affect your work, schooling, or family? 
I worked part time, so it had little effect. It definitely created a strain on the families because of our ages at the time.

In the days and weeks leading up to the birth, what do you remember experiencing or feeling? 
Anxiety. I was worried about screwing up, royally.

How did you infuse your Jewishness into the pregnancy/labor experience? 
At that time, I was unobservant, so I didn't. It was a very clinical delivery.

If you’ve had more children since your first, how were the experiences different? Were you more or less prepared? Was it harder or easier? 
My other two children came much later, nine and 10 years after, respectively. So while my husband and I were just as surprised (didn't think I could get pregnant, then thought baby number two was a fluke), we were much more prepared mentally and emotionally. By that time, we had become observant, so there was more to it spiritually.

What would be your three top tips for a first-time mother? 
  1. You're going to get flooded with advice from everyone. Take it, don't take it, but listen, and consider its value. 
  2. It's okay to ask for help. Don't think you have to do everything yourself. Asking for help could ease the anxiety a bit. 
  3. Take it one day at a time. Don't stress too much about what happens later. 
Any advice from dad to other dads? 
Don't have any expectations, and make sure to remain patient — with everyone.

Is there anything else you want to add? 
I would not have planned my life as a mom this way, but I wouldn't trade it for anything. My husband and kids are amazing.

Chavi's commentary: I can't even imagine how different the experiences of pregnancy and birth must have been between your first and second/third. It was probably very similar for iBoy's mom who had him in 2003 and his sister in 2012. And what little miracles they must have been. I have to give you mad props for entering mommydom so early on in life. I don't know how I would have handled a similar situation.