Pregnant at 21


I wasn't exactly parenting 16 and pregnant, but I was a young mother. On my twenty-first birthday, there were no drinks for me. I didn't spend that beacon of official adulthood with a crazy, wild night. Instead, there was a backyard party, cake, and a very pregnant belly. A few months later, I would be a mother and a college student with a full-time job.

As a young mother, I initially thought that every mother of a “respectable” age had to be a better one. “Respectable” was code for older than me. In my mind, mid-30's mothers had years to figure out their lives: partner, college, career, a house. Me? I was burning the candle at both ends with an infant and sleepless, paper-writing nights. I never slept, took a vacation or could afford a babysitter that wasn't one of my single friends or family.

But then my daughter hit elementary school and I figured something out: it's doesn't matter the age, all mothers have no idea what they're doing. It was a relief and I haven't looked back since.

My mother had my sister when she was eighteen and she struggled mightily trying to find a place where she fit in while my father worked long, grueling days. She cooked, she cleaned, she had a few mental breakdowns – so much so that my sister swore off having children by the time she was eight. As crazy as my mother tends to be, she has yet to be wrong when offering advice and I have often gone to her to figure out how, as a young mom, I could push through my own self-doubt and get what I wanted to accomplish done.

I always had this question – which I think a lot of young mothers have – is it better to have children early or when you're in your 30s? Life is more grey than black and white, but I desperately needed an answer at the time. I went to my mother and this is what she said:

“You're sitting at home raising your baby while your friends are out and starting their careers. When your child is older, your friends will be at home with their babies and you'll be able to come and go as you please. In the end, life equalizes young and older.”

By the time I turned 30, everyone I knew was pregnant. Last year, three friends gave birth within a week of each other. In a year, my daughter will be on the verge of middle school. Instead of me playing babysitter, I can send her.

For me, the things that once seemed impossible a decade ago as a young mom turned out to be very possible. I may not be exactly where I thought I would be, but the twenty-one year-old version of myself has to be pretty proud. Age truly is nothing but a number. Work hard, play harder, and life will right itself.

In the end.

Original image via Flickr: dizznbonn


What do you think?

Pregnant at 21

Liz Henry is the irreverent voice behind the award-winning blog The Six Year Itch. She lives with her daughter and her partner, Slasher, in Philadelphia. That's not his real name and that's not her real hair color. Her soft middle is totally real. Liz graduated summa cum lazy with a degree in English literature, which means she knows how to write properly, but rarely does. She loves Harry Potter and Luna is her favorite. ... More

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  1. great article. I am 20 and pregnant now and in November i’ll be 21, so this really helped me a lot. thank you for telling your story. 🙂

  2. great read. I’m 20 now and pregnant, and in November i’ll be 21, so this really helped a lot. thank you 🙂

  3. KaelinRae says:

    Great article 🙂 I myself am 22 and I have thought the same things.

  4. Tina says:

    very nice article! I agree that you will always have doubt in if it’s a good time to have a baby. The reality is there is not a "right" time to have a baby. Things come up in all stages of your life. I am glad that I’m having my baby now (I’m 22) because I feel like it is neither too young or too old. This way I feel like I can be closer to my child because I’m still in good shape, have energy, but I also have a good career, and a boyfriend that is also mature and very excited to be a parent. I’m sure we will be excellent parents we just have to work together and keep giving each other positive support.

  5. life says:

    nice story. i had my son 3months before my 18th birthday i can say it was hard to get advice from my mom because she left me with my dad when i was 5in a half so grew up by a man. she just started getting bak into my life when i was 5months pregnant. with my son and it was hard seeing her and wondering was it hard to leave me and my brothers, sisters behind over a man?. i then promise my self that my number priority is and always will be my kids. so when i left my sons father for abuseing i make sured the first thing i packed was my son there and still no way i could leave my son behind. i love him to death.

  6. I find out I was pregnant at eighteen and am nineteen now with a newborn. Submarines I wonder how I’m gonna do this.

  7. JessiLoveday says:

    I found out I was pregnant less than a month after my 22nd birthday. Lucky for me, my darling boyfriend works while I sit home and puke my guts out (my birthday was in March, so I’m only about 11 weeks pregnant). He takes good care of me, and I fully intend to work again once baby is born. Also, his boss has known me since I was born, as my dad also worked for him for ages. So he’s practically accepting our baby as his first grand child. Things are looking up, and we are happy. So I don’t have a reason to care what others think about my age.

  8. monette3 says:

    Everyone’s path in life is different, and everyone just does their very best. I think those who love their children, and sacrifice for them, do a great job, and your age has nothing to do with it!

  9. Alexis says:

    I was a young mother and still am but that never stopped me from doing my motherly duties I have a son that I stay teaching and have forever faith in him his father is no longer around but my soon to be born childs father is a good ro-model for him children are a blessing and you have to treat them as is and i say that to say this no matter what age you are age dont define a mother her actions and doing’s define her and I fell anyone could be a mother but how fit can a mother be is the question I love my son && my new addition and im going to continue to support my children in evrything they do as long as it’s in a reasonable learning loveable time consuming manner.
    that’s all I have to say to whom ever read this thank you for hearing my voice and i support and have faith in all young mothers just be smart about it please!!!

  10. LuLu9 says:

    I was 20 and pregnant and had my baby in april 2012 and that same year i turned 21 in December 2012. I didn’t drink, party, or did anything crazy like expected to do for my 21st birthday. I didn’t do anything because I’m a breastfeeding mother and of course my number one priority is taking care of my child . It is somewhat hard at times being young and having a child but you have to make the best of it.

  11. ErinA says:

    I think 21 is a reasonable age to have a baby you’re already an adult. I just turn 27 and I don’t have any children yet although I want to have a child soon. I think about my mom she had me at 32 turning 33 and I only wish she would have had me earlier. Maybe our relationship would be better she’s a bit old fashioned lol

  12. I was 20 when i was pregnant. I was a full time student, worked 12-14 hour shifts without getting paid (was internship through school from Jan.2011-June 2012) and had a job. I struggled i am a single parent. My daughter just turned one today but the best thing is when shes older i can still go out and will finish my schooling (from paramedic to nursing) when she begins school so i will have all day for school and work at nights.

  13. Ashley says:

    In my opinion (which everyone is different) I’d rather have my kids a little earlier. My mom had us 3 before, and during her 21st, and now she’s really enjoying life. She’s 44 now, and she LOVES being able to keep up with my 2 year old. She doesn’t have any health problems and she stays very active in the things she loves to do. I’m glad I’ve had Belle on the younger side, I can’t wait to enjoy my grandbabies (maybe I can, as long as Belle doesn’t grow up too fast!).

  14. i’m 24 and pregnant. i don’t consider myself to be a young mom.. i think 24 is a reasonable age to start having children. but i’m also married, graduated from college and own a home. i would have been miserable if i would have gotten pregnant at 21. i think it depends on life circumstances more so than age though.. you can be in your 30s not married, living in your parents basement and still going to school and be less prepared than i am.

  15. Krista says:

    i was 20-21 when i was pregnant with my first, no drinks for me either, not that i would have anyway but yeah, had my second at 22-23, i wouldnt do over either, i also had 2 forms of birth control and still got pregnant with my second so i know it was meant to be.

  16. Pixie says:

    I’m glad that I’m a young mother. I have experienced a lot with my children. I’m very close to them and durn the summer we have lots of fun doing things together and playing. Yes a lot of my friends were living there lives having great times. Going out when they wanted doing what they wanted but I wouldn’t change it for anything. My children probably kept me out of a lot of trouble. I don’t know where I would b right now if it wasn’t for them but I’m pretty sure I’m better off this way.

  17. ering229 says:

    i loved this..thank you

  18. I think being pregnant at 21 is a blessing. Things happend for a reason. You can always go back to school and finish what you started and give your child what he deserves. Its a wonderful gift.

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