Saturday, May 1, 2021

Book Nook: Fourteen and Pregnant (Book Excerpt)


Teen moms can often feel overwhelmed and hopeless. But Mary Jenkins, a mom to five who became pregnant with her first at age fourteen, offers her story as encouragement to the scared and hurting through her book, Fourteen and Pregnant: A Letter of Hope from My Journey into Unplanned Parenthood. I have a chance to include an excerpt of this book below.

Life Is Not Over

We often throw around the word “hopeless” to describe emotions we feel when things do not go our way. But there is a difference between hopelessness that leads to frustration and hopelessness that causes us to believe life is no longer worth living. Arriving at the latter feels dark, like you’ve reached the end of the road. It is as though a giant cloud has invaded your life and shows no sign of leaving.

Think of the bush plane pilot who is flying with no navigational equipment aside from their eyesight. Their ability to go where they want to go is dictated by what they can see. As a result, flying into a cloud of fog might cause the pilot to experience vertigo, throwing them off balance and leaving them with no understanding of which way is up and which way is down. 

This is a helpless feeling. This is what it is like to be hopeless. All sense of life direction is lost, causing you to wonder which way to go. You may doubt there’s any way to reach safety. 

When you go through times like this, you must cling to hope, despite what you see. Press forward with the belief that the sun will one day shine again. 

Keep Your Dreams

It’s awfully tempting to give up on your goals when life-altering situations occur. You want to call it quits and accept defeat. 

When this happens, take out a journal and write down your thoughts. I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. If you have not thought of yourself as the journaling type, start small. Download a journaling app on your smartphone or pick up a journal at Wal-Mart. From there, make a commitment to write something each day. It doesn’t have to be profound; just write a sentence or two to convey your thoughts for the day. For example, one day might be, “Today was rough. I feel like I can’t take another step forward.” Another day might be more positive. Eventually, you’ll want to go on for several paragraphs. 

Over time, you’ll see the benefits of journaling are worth the effort. These entries create a timeline of your life, allowing you to look back and notice negative and positive trends. You will see patterns of behavior that lead toward a more positive or negative outcome. 

Along with journaling, create a vision board. Pick up a giant wall calendar that allows you to write down the projects and dreams you want to accomplish in the coming year. This visual aid will help you track measurable progress. Make a plan to record a podcast, write a book, or take your kiddos to Disneyland. Hang the plan on your wall and hold yourself to it. Write a post-it-note and stick it on the mirror in your bedroom, bathroom, or wherever you will see it daily. 

Stagnation is the enemy to growth. Just as water will become tainted when it sits in a pool without movement, so your life will lose its freshness if you only focus on where you are with little thought of the future. 

Develop a schedule. When I was in high school, working a part time job and raising a baby, it was difficult to juggle everything on my plate. I realized the only way I could make true progress was through personal discipline and structure. I had to be in bed and wake up by a certain time. 

Along with developing personal discipline, invite others into your life to hold you accountable. State your goals out loud for your friends to hear. Doing so will challenge you to keep pressing forward when you are tempted to slack off and quit. 

Don’t give up on your dreams.

Find Balance 

While structure and discipline are important, you must also find time to have balance and enjoy life. On difficult days, sometimes the best thing you can do is kick back, relax, and read a good book. 

The key is to do things that replenish your joy bucket. Every person, regardless of their age, has a joy bucket that must be replenished every day. When our supply of joy gets low, we become short with others, and the clouds of discouragement obstruct our vision. 

For some people, their joy bucket is replenished through taking a long walk out in nature. For others, it is watching a movie that is inspirational or challenges their thinking. And then some find joy in being with their kids and seeing them smile. 

Bottom line: do what you need to do to keep your joy bucket full. Sleep longer and set realistic expectations for yourself. Understand that having a baby brings with it a new set of challenges and will require you to fight harder to maintain a sense of balance in your life. 

Give up living with guilt for what you should have done better. Spend time with your baby but find ways to escape and be alone. Make this a priority. Admittedly, I was not always good at this. After having my baby girl, I felt that every minute of every day had to be spent with her. Doing anything less meant I was a bad momma. But over time I recognized that I can only pour into the lives of my children when my life has balance and I am taking the appropriate amount of time for myself. 

Today, part of my self-care is spending extra time with my husband. We still go on dates, even though we are married. We take vacations as a couple because that escape allows both of us to come back replenished, and it makes me a better momma. 

Make Your Kids’ Proud 

When life feels hopeless, look into the eyes of your baby and remember the choices you make today go beyond their impact on you. 

On days when I was tempted to give up, I couldn’t stop thinking of my baby girl. I didn’t want to disappoint her, and I still don’t. For example, I loved the look in my daughter’s eye when she found out I was still in school trying to obtain my degree. It made her proud because she could see her mom had not given up on her dreams. And oddly enough, not giving up had a dual effect; watching me be strong caused her to stay strong as well. 

When I told my middle son that I was writing a book, his immediate response was, “That’s awesome!” And as he said it, I could tell he felt pride. He knows my story and how difficult it would be to write some of the words in this book. My kids are amazed at how much I am able to accomplish. A remark from one of my sons stands out: “There’s no stopping you. You just love to learn!” 

That statement means so much because that is the attitude I hope he and all of my kids will take from me and implement into their own lives. I want them to know their mom as someone who went the extra mile to make holidays and birthdays special. I want them to see me as someone who enjoyed cooking their favorite food after a long day of work. I want them to see me as someone who went above and beyond the essential “mom responsibilities.” 

When you have a child at a young age, you will have many feelings of uncertainty and self-doubt. But in the midst of your pain and the relentless questions circulating in your mind, remember these three important words: you still matter. 

Your life is not an accident. You are on this earth for a reason. People are counting on you. You can have a child and a career. Your life is not over. It has just begun. 

Dear Reader

Life changes after having a baby. That much is certain. But through the change, you will learn to become more productive with the must dos

Since I became a mom, I do not feel as though I have less time in the day. Yes, my calendar is packed, and money is tighter, but I recognize the unique advantages to living at this point of history in American culture. Whereas societies of the past might have cast people like me to the side, America is a culture that enables people who work hard to have a chance. 

Having a baby at a young age is not a prison sentence; you are not doomed to a life of mediocrity. You can still accomplish your dreams. But as you do, little eyes will be watching and learning what is possible for them. Making them proud makes every action worth the effort.

Mary Jenkins is the author of Fourteen and Pregnant. She is a mom of five kids and a wife to Jermaine. A jack of all trades, she loves to coach others and is passionate about personal development and growth. Jenkins is currently studying psychology at Sinclair Community College, has earned a life coaching certification from New Skills Academy, obtained The Science of Well-Being Certification offered by Yale, and is a licensed manicurist, having received her degree from Ohio State School of Cosmetology. A native of Columbus, Ohio, she enjoys family time, cooking, traveling, and is passionate about helping younger girls who have gone through situations similar to what she describes in her book.


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