My Mom And I Were Both Teen Parents — But I'm Doing Everything Differently

She made it clear her children were not wanted. Mine are.

girl holding pregnancy test Lopolo / Shutterstock

I am seventeen years old, a senior in high school, and it’s New Year's Eve.

My friends want to get booze; we weren’t huge party girls compared to some of our classmates, but it was about to be 2008 — the year we would graduate high school, the year I would become a mother — this required celebration.

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Like most times, even before my teen pregnancy, I was designated driver for the evening. We cruised around in my Ford SUV, affectionately called The Exploder, blasting Prince or Ashlee Simpson or Lynyrd Skynyrd or whatever fit my mood. Windows down, completely sober, knocked up, belting out “Free Bird” and hoping to feel my baby move again.


I had Googled my “symptoms” during computer class, the first time I felt flutters in my stomach and thought something was wrong.

While we were supposed to be working on the football programs for that Friday night’s game, I thought I was losing my secret baby in the middle of the second period. The Internet informed me everything was fine though — the incredible human inside me was just moving, kicking, flipping saying: I’m in here, I’m in here.

I put my hand on my stomach and finished the football programs without saying a word.

My dad wasn’t exactly enthused when the lady cutting his hair congratulated him on becoming a grandfather soon. He came home, asking me if it was true. I couldn’t look him in the eye, but I told him “yes”. He cried for a while, then pretended as nothing happened and never looked at me the same again.


Nobody, except my liberal best friend, Meghan, ever mentioned abortion.

Both sides of my family were devout Catholics, members of the local parish, and attending private Catholic schools. My grandparents had sixteen children because that’s how many God intended and birth control was a sin.

Out of the family, my mother was probably the least religious, rebelling from her parents and the Catholic church at seventeen just to find herself pregnant by nineteen — despite her full-ride athletic scholarship at the prestigious local Catholic college.

My mother almost had it all.


She spent most of my childhood reliving her glory days as our All-Star Coach in small-town recreational leagues. My mom was always a hard-ass, and she definitely made more than one kid cry. “Losing” was not in her vocabulary, especially when it came to anything athletic.


“I would have gone pro, the WNBA, if I didn’t have kids,” she would tell everybody who listened. “We never lost a game.”

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And that was something we just accepted — our mother’s life would have been better without us. At a certain point, you become indifferent to this kind of pain because the need for parental love is so primal.

You grin and bear it. You survive.

At seventeen, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to have kids. Ever, but high school was definitely sooner than expected. I thought maybe I would adopt after college, explore the world first— every moment of my life had been leading up to the moment where I leave this place and get as far away as possible.


I had taken rigorous courses. I had done all the extracurricular activities (Sports, Newspaper/Yearbook, Forensics, Scholar’s Bowl, FBLA, RADD, STAND). I had studied for the ACT and kept my grades up. I had scholarships lined up. I had a plan to get the fuck out.

But everything changed when I peed on a tiny stick and it said PREGNANT.

My mother and I were on another one of our “no talking phases” after she called me a b*tch and left me at Target. Even though she knew I was pregnant (she was the one who told the hairstylist who told my dad after my sister told my cousin who told my aunt who told everyone when she got drunk at a wedding I didn’t go to —  families are great), she kept her distance and I let her. 

We were used to this distance — frequently going years between talking since I was removed from her custody at eleven.


To her, I was a spoiled brat who tattled and got myself removed so my dad would buy me stuff and let me do whatever I wanted. It had nothing to do with the man she married who burned down our house or beat her into hospital beds or had to be talked down from a loaded gun to his head or forced little girls to watch deer be hung and gutted and laughed when they cried.

Despite my growing fear that you do actually become your parents, no matter how hard you try, there is one huge difference between my parents and myself that I hold onto — I have never allowed my regrets, expectations, and judgments to be burdened on my children.

I carry that weight, something I fully accepted responsibility for when I felt my first baby move for the first time in a small high school classroom


I’m in here. I’m in here.

I will never be perfect. But I will always be trying.

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Emily Lingenfelser is a 20-something mom who writes and captures moments to make sense of this messy world. She runs the website, Emily is Fearless.