When Caylee Anthony disappeared in 2008, I followed the news coverage with a sick heart. I hugged my then-6-year-old daughter a little tighter and whispered multiple prayers of thanksgiving for her safety. Caylee's story made me imagine what it would be like to have a child disappear, and those thoughts terrified me on a level I didn't know existed.
As it became clear that Caylee probably wouldn't come home safely, the nation learned more about her mother, Casey. A young, single mom with an irresponsible streak, it was obvious that she wasn't ready to be a parent. And as I held my own child, it wasn't only Caylee's story that scared me, it was Casey's. Just as Caylee brought to mind my daughter, Casey reminded me of myself when she was first born. Poll: Would You Date Someone Accused Of Murder?
When I was 21 and in a relationship that I knew wasn't going anywhere, I found out I was pregnant. I was in college and waiting tables in the evenings. I worked and studied hard and partied even harder. I could write a mean literary essay and nailed all my exams. I did not, however, know what to do with a baby. Regardless, I felt strongly that keeping my baby was the right decision. I had the support of my family and hadn't yet outgrown the assumption that I was invincible. People had babies every day, and I was close to finishing a college degree, intelligent and fully capable of being the best single mom ever. I was an idiot.
When I decided to keep my daughter, I considered finances. I considered how I would finish school. I considered raising her together with her biological dad—an idea I immediately vetoed along with his half-hearted offer to continue our relationship. I even considered how to schedule her days for optimum intellectual development. But along the way, it never occurred to me to consider whether I was ready to commit to being a parent. Casey Anthony: Porn Star?
Babies are all-consuming, and after my little girl's birth I was caught up in the recovery, the feeding, the awe of her beauty, my love for her—and the pressures of keeping up in school. Once I adjusted to having a newborn and she started allowing me a full night's sleep, the real consequences of being a young single mother blindsided me: I was bored and lonely.
I was 22, single and had a baby who went to sleep by 8 p.m., which is about two hours before most college students hit the town. My friends, celebrating our impending college graduation, maintained the high-energy party life that I'd previously participated in. My young liver cried out to be abused playing Flip Cup and doing shots of Jagermeister into the wee hours of the morning—the same wee hours when my daughter would awake needing me to be a parent. I was the only one with that level of responsibility, and sometimes it flat-out sucked.