The Thin Red Lines

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I found out that I was pregnant when I was 18. I was in my senior year of high school and just turning 19 when those two red lines showed up on my home pregnancy test. In that moment, my hopes and dreams for the future came crashing down around me. It was as if those red lines put a slash through my to-do list in life.

My future with the Marines? Gone. College? Gone. That “I’m never getting married and having kids” plan? Gone. My perky, 18 year old boobs and flat stomach? Gone.

After I recovered from the initial shock, something else happened. I felt ashamed.

My father’s side of the family were very conservative Southerners. Not exactly holy-rollers, but pretty damn close. There was no public teen pregnancy. There was rarely, if ever, divorce. Illegitimate children? Unheard of. The news that I was pregnant with no intention of marrying the baby’s father was not going to go over well.

My father cried. It was only the second time I’d seen him cry – the first time being when my great-grandmother died. I broke up with my boyfriend. He was a horrible person, a drug addict, a liar, a cheater…there was no way I was going to marry him. I was terrified of what my grandparents would think, of the way my grandmother would look at me when she found out.

You see, my grandparents got married on their first date – because my grandmother wouldn’t “fool around” until she was married. When she told my grandfather this at the end of their first date, he backed the car out of the driveway and drove two states over, making a beeline for the Georgia state line, where there was no waiting period for a marriage license. After obtaining the marriage license, he promptly found a preacher’s house and sat on his doorstep until he woke up that morning and married them on the spot. True story. (They’re still together, 50+ years later, in case you were wondering. They are totally old school!)

Things with the rest of the family went better than expected. My grandparents disliked my boyfriend so much that they saw me as a victim to his charms. They were disappointed, but they accepted me and only once has my grandfather ever made a disparaging remark about the whole ordeal.

My pregnancy was difficult. My years as a single mother were incredibly desperate. While I was spending my days working 9-5 and my evenings at home with my daughter, my peers were away at college, partying, sowing their wild oats, slowly growing up and facing the real world.

I had already done that. I grew up in about 3 minutes – those 3 minutes it took me to register that those red lines meant that I was pregnant, back when I was 18.

I see those same old friends in pictures on Facebook, pregnant or toting their toddler kids on their hips…I see them complain about babysitters, diaper rash and day care bills. My daughter? She’s 13. She may cost me a fortune in trips to the mall, but she’s pretty self-sufficient.

While I was 21 and sitting at home without a babysitter for my most exciting birthday, my friends were throwing outrageous parties. Now? They’re paying out the ass for babysitters when they want a date night. Me? I tell my kid to lock the door behind me and to call me if she needs me when I want to go out with my husband.

Those two little red lines that I thought were going to ruin my life back in 1997? Nope, not at all. It was hard, but I wouldn’t change it for anything!

*  *  *  *  *  *

This is my response to this week’s prompt from The Red Dress Club. We were asked to write about a memory we associate with the color red.




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  1. says

    thank you for a look into your life and what it felt like to be a teen mom. I love your perspective! My oldest is 11 now, soon I will know that freedom as well.

  2. says

    You mentioned on Twitter that you thought this sucked…I don’t agree! I like the directness here, it suits the subject matter and the shock you must have felt to find out that you were pregnant. This post really resonated with me, because I never thought I’d marry or have kids either. My husband obviously changed my mind on the marriage thing, but I think a surprise pregnancy would have been the only thing that would ever “change my mind” about kids. I totally see what you are saying about how you like where you are now, at this stage of your daughter’s life.

  3. says

    I love how you took this prompt and turned it into something much more than the colour red. The colour impacted your life and I love how now, as you are older you realize NOW that those lines changed you for the better.

  4. says

    I’m new here in the Red Dress Club: this is my first week, so I don’t really know what the rules are for our comments.
    I’ll be honest. I was first distracted that you used the word red in your post, since the prompt required we not use it. That distraction quickly disappeared as I was sucked into your story. I especially liked how you wove in your grandparents’ story and its complete difference from your own. And how they accepted you in your situation. I liked it a lot. I’ll be back!
    New follower.

  5. says

    I agree that I like the directness of it too. This is one of those subjects I think is best tackled head on. My mother married at 15 and had me at 17. I’m turning 40 in September and I look at how different my life is from how hers was and I know that she got a lot of things right. Maybe getting married and having a baby so young wasn’t the best decision, but it wasn’t the worst one either.

  6. says

    Love your guts! This is pretty tough stuff to post if you’re sensitive about it. You’re obviously not.

    The red lines changed your life – a moving memory.


  7. says

    I’ve had a surprise preganacy but I was in my thirties and was married. I know how it shocked us, I can only imagine that yours was much more magnified compared to mine. thank you for sharing a part of your journey with me.

  8. says

    Wow! I couldn’t imagine going through what you did. But, you must love having your daughter around! 😉 I really enjoyed reading your post! (your daughter is beautiful btw!)

    Kudos to you for not giving up after what happened! :)

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