I am not a single mother. I have been married for 20 years now and have three grown kids, the youngest of which is Arlene. Yet I felt the plight of a single mother. Her tears and her pains have made me weep too. My youngest daughter Arlene was a typical teen. She went out with her friends, was worried when her exams were round the corner, and constantly worried about ‘how fat’ she was getting. Which is why when she began to gain weight around her belly I was a bit worried about how casually she was taking it. By the time we found out she was pregnant, Arlene had been carrying the baby around for seven months. Most people asked me how I could have missed the signs but I swear it was not obvious. She had been gaining weight no doubt but every time I asked her she just shrugged it off as eating too much. I had gotten so worried about her weight gain that I took her to a doctor to see if her thyroid had acted up so something. When she informed me that my daughter was pregnant, I thought they got the tests mixed up.
Pregnant! I did not even know that my daughter was sexually active.
For minutes I just sat there looking bewildered. Arlene was so scared and crying her eyes out while I was wondering how my 15 year old could be pregnant. The fact that I had not even realized that she was pregnant for seven long months was something that was shocking me the most. When my husband came in he kept asking the doctor if they were absolutely sure. Arlene was so afraid of her father, that she ran into the bathroom at the hospital and locked herself inside. After a while she came out, and I saw my husband cry for the first time in all the years that I had been married to him. He just hugged Arlene and wept like a baby while Arlene kept saying ‘daddy I’m sorry’ over and over and over again. For my part I was afraid of what the coming days and months and years would bring, since being a mom at 15 was not easy.
While my husband assured Arlene that the worst was over, and that we would do this like a family, I knew that the worst was yet to come. As the news became public, Arlene began to stay indoors. She would not take calls from her friends and completely stopped going to school. Because she was underage the doctors had warned us of many problems that we may have to face. Arlene’s placenta was lower than usual and she was put on bed rest. Six weeks before her due date, Arlene went into labor.
Her uterus opening was too small for a natural delivery, and after three hours of tremendous pain, it was decided to do a Cesarean birth. She gave birth to a baby girl who weight was just about two pounds. Arlene herself had suffered tremendously during this time. It was so bad that we were worried we might lose her. After the surgery, they brought Arlene back to the room. While the pain killers kept the pain to a minimal, she was very uneasy. I spent that entire week in the hospital and between Arlene and the baby every day was a fight to survive. Arlene was bleeding and her breasts would hurt with the milk gorged in them. The baby on the other hand had developed fever and the doctors were pumping her with antibiotics. My heart hurt for my child and grandchild and yet there was nothing I could do for either of them.
When we came home with the baby, Arlene had lost her child like charm. She would stay quiet for most part of the day. The others in the family would try and cheer her up and pitch in to care for the baby but things were no looking too good. The baby was still too small and sadly did not get much of mother’s milk. Taking care of the two would take up most of my day, and the household began to suffer too. My husband and the other kids did all they could to help but things were by far not easy, and fuses were blowing up all the time.
About three months down the line, when we went for some vaccinations for the baby, the doctor informed us that the child has Down syndrome. This just broke all of us in many ways. One small mistake on Arlene’s part had caused her entire life to go down the drain and the family to suffer tremendously too.
It’s been three long years since we realized that Arlene was pregnant. Amanda, her daughter and my first grandchild is two years old today. She has Down syndrome and caring for her is a full time job. Arlene is barely getting used to being a mother. At 17 when she should be looking at college options, my baby girl is home looking after a child with Down syndrome. Things are nowhere near normal. While somewhere the rest of the family has gone back to leading their lives, Arlene is alone in her fight. I do not know where life will take her. I have no idea what I can say to make things easier for her. I try and do my best to help her but there is only so much I can do.
I would like to take this opportunity to urge everyone to never forget how big a decision it is to have a child. Please put in thought into this act for once you have a baby there is no breaking away from the responsibility for the rest of your life.