At the time of writing this article, I’m 31 years of age and married to my wife, 29 and together we have 5 children! You might be wondering how on earth have a 31 and 29 year old managed to grow from a family of 3 to a family of 7 by our late twenties and that’s because we started young. In fact, my wife was 17 when she fell pregnant with my first son, Alfie and giving birth to him at 18. Now I’m not sure on what makes a young parent but I would assume that falling pregnant at 17 would be a good starting point.
In this article I’m not going to speak about what it’s like to have a large family of 7, or even the fact that we had 3 children under 3 years of age (now 3, 4 and 5) as I want to keep this article on topic and only give my thoughts on what it was like as a young parent. But if your curious about everything else then why not subscribe and get notified as and when I post new articles?
Our lives before becoming young parents
I think it’s important to give a short insight into our lives before becoming young parents so that you can see how much a child turned our lives around (not necessarily for the worse) and the sacrifices we made, how our priorities changed and so forth. After all, in the majority of cases at least, being a young parent will likely mean that you’ve not yet got your own property, your career isn’t yet set in stone, In fact you don’t even know what it’s like to live with the mother or father of your child! Being young and free with little to no commitments is very different to having a child.
Let’s start with me, the father. At 19 years old I had only left school 3 years prior. I did actually attend sixth form (higher education) with a view to going University but my motivation was short lived as after 2 months I decided it wasn’t for me and left. I then applied for a late entry college placement for mechanics and after 2 hours, decided it wasn’t for me and went home at break time. Still 16 at this point, I thought I knew best and got a job as a landscape gardener with the help of my Father which is where I stayed until I met my now wife at 19 years of age.
So why am I telling you this? Well holding onto things at this stage of my life wasn’t a priority of mine. I wanted things now. In this case, it was money. My attitude was why go to college and earn money later when I could go to work and make money now. Although even with my job I took atleast 1 day off a week which looking back, I only got away with as the owner of the company knew my father. I would be out with friends all night, stroll in at 5.30AM and get ready for work as my train would leave at 6.30AM. Could you imagine that? Going to work with literally no sleep!
My priority was to enjoy my youth, have fun with my friends and work enough to support my life style (if you can call it that). Having a child and being a young parent was not on my priority list.
My wife on the other hand went to college to study animal care, which is where she stayed until she fell pregnant with our son at 17. Although more grounded than I was (had her head on her shoulders with regards to her future), ofcourse she was still young and enjoyed partying and going out with her friends, which is how we met actually. The good old fashioned way.
How me and my wife met
Following on from above, I had a friend knock at my door one evening asking if I wanted to go for a drive with him and that he was meeting a friend. Jumping at every opportunity to get out of the house, I got ready and got in his car. He first met up with a girl called (for the sake of this article) Naomi. Next it was time to pick up her friend, my now wife, Katie.
It’s funny because after spending the whole evening together, myself and Katie said our goodbyes and got on with our lives. It wasn’t until a week or 2 later that I was walking through her local town with a friend (I never walk through this town so it was a complete one-off), that as I walked past a shop door, Katie walked out with her friend Naomi at the exact moment! After a brief hello, we decided to exchange numbers and well, the rest is history!
The college my now wife attended was literally round the corner from where I lived with my mother (another coincidence as if we were meant to be) which meant frequent stays from Katie since it saved an hours journey via public transport and since we had mutual friends anyway, we quickly became inseparable.
How we reacted to falling pregnant at 17 and knowing we’d be young parents
If you’ve read this far then you’ll know that we met when my wife was 17, so given that she fell pregnant at the same age shows that we weren’t together long when we found out we were expecting a baby, we were together 7 months to be exact!
I remember it like it was yesterday. After suspecting that my wife was pregnant, we bought some pregnancy tests on our way to her mum’s house. She had orgininally planned to take the first test in the Morning with a full bladder but she must have not been able to wait as she came to me a couple of hours later with the positive pregnancy test.
Suspecting a pregnancy is one thing, but the realisation of becoming young parents really kicks in when you see a positive pregnancy test! Being young, ofcourse we were in shock, but despite being young, we were both happy. We spent the rest of the evening talking baby names and planning our future together, as a family.
As I had a job we looked into my income and expenses and the areas we could afford to live, which meant moving a little further away. Unfortunately, the expectancy of a new baby meant that my wife would need to leave college but to be honest, nothing else seemed to matter. Being young parents didn’t mean anything, our baby came first and so off we went putting our plans into motion!
How our parents reacted to finding out we’d be young parents
As you can imagine, announcing the arrival of a new baby at a young age isn’t a conversation to look forward to! Both of our parents aren’t particularly religious and as parents go, are generally layed back. But believe me, this doesn’t make the conversation any easier!
Actually, we told our parents at the same time, separately. A good luck phone call between ourselves as we took a deep breath and agreed to call back when we had announced that their children, us, before securing a home or career and after just 7 months together, would be expecting a baby and becoming young parents.
It’s important to say that both of our parents were divorced which meant announcing our pregnancy 4 times! My mother and father, and her mother and father.
Let’s start with my mother. To be honest I thought she’d be the easier of the parents to tell since we had a good relationship and the fact that my sister had became a young parent, falling pregnant at 17, 2 years before. If she had got away with it then this should be a breeze!
I remember my mum sitting down with her partner and I just said “mum I have something to tell you”. Her instant reply was “don’t tell me you have a baby on the way”, to which I replied “yes”. To be honest, being young and naive I thought she’d be happy for me. Instead she called me stupid and a few more strong words. Still, I got away lightly with the conversation only lasting 5 minutes. I explained that we’ve planned it all and we were going to move out and so on and that was it really. I think she expected more from me but had faith that everything would be OK.
My father on the other hand was never as laid back as my mother. Strict. Old school. Someone you didn’t want to tell that you have a baby on the way at 19. But I did have one thing on my side which is that he had been through this 2 years before with my sister becoming a young parent. Although his reaction wasn’t the best.
Given that traditionally the baby takes the father’s last name, this meant that my baby would have my father’s surname. I know it sounds crazy, but I were to use this to my advantage! My words to my dad were “Dad, there’s going to be an additional *surname* to the family. Your legacy lives on!”. I mean, it must have worked as I don’t think he really knew what to say. The conversation was short. Awkward but short. I had succeeded in telling my parents that their eldest son was to be a young parent!
My wife on the other hand was the oldest of the 2 daughters with her mum and dad having high expectations and at 17 was still attending college. Her mum and step dad were sitting on the sofa when my wife announced that we were expecting a baby. Her step father was a man of few words (not in a bad way, just very relaxed) and didn’t say much throughout the conversation. Her mother however was very vocal and was obviously not happy at the idea of my wife becoming a young parent.
Naturally, she didn’t see a young couple together for just 7 months lasting and the idea of us having it all planned out and moving out together was laughable. I mean, looking back it probably was laughable. We were young. We didn’t know the real world. The conversation lasted about 20 minutes, mostly her mother voicing her concerns. But the awkwardness when I came to visit lasted a few weeks. Oh and I’ll have to check and update here if necessary but I’m pretty sure that her mum called and told her father! I suppose that must have made things a little easier as his the type of man that can be hard to figure out. You’d never know how he would react to something. I’m pretty sure we skipped the initial announcement of becoming young parents and let it settle in for a week or 2 before they spoke again.
The birth of our first son…
Incase your wondering, yes me and my now wife did move in together! We moved to the town we wanted to move to and into a lovely little ground floor flat overviewing and having access to lots of woodland. I still remember the first day we moved in! I felt on top of the world. We had done it. So far the plan was coming together with a baby boy on the way and a home to raise him in, together. Many people doubted us, but together we did it.
It was only 3 months later whilst walking around a supermarket that my wife started to get some fairly regular contractions so we kept an eye on how far apart they were. As they didn’t get worse throughout the day, we went to bed later that night only for my wife to wake me up at 6AM from the pain of her now regular contractions so we grabbed our already prepared bags and rushed to the hospital.
Naturally my wife was in a lot of pain but as she was too close to birthing our new baby son, she was refused the epidural and made do with gas & air. I stood by her side the entire time, my hand numb from her squeezes of pain until at 9.42AM our baby boy Alfie was born.
At the time of our son’s birth, my wife was now 18 and myself 20. We were young parents and we had only met for the first time 16 months prior to this moment. In less than a year and a half we met, fell in love, moved out and had a baby. Seeing our son for the first time was the best experience of my life and being a young parent didn’t change a thing. We knew, together, as a team, we would love and cherish this boy for aslong as we lived. Our lives prior? The free, young and adventurous teenagers we were not so long ago? None of it mattered. We were parents now. We were a family now. We had started a new chapter in our lives and besides, being a parent doesn’t stop you from going out and having fun. It just means that you have to plan it around your family now!
What was it like being young parents?
Despite all of the sunshine and rainbows I’ve written above, let me start by telling you that being a parent is not easy. I find also that as we have got older and more experienced as we’ve had more children, our patience has grown too. As inexperienced young parents it’s easy to get stressed. It’s easy to get stressed with eachother. Having a baby tested our relationship at times which was likely due to the little sleep we had. But ofcourse, despite being inexperienced and young parents, our priority was always our son. Alfie always came first.
When we first got home with Alfie we were on cloud 9. He was actually a very easy baby in the beginning and we took it in turns on the weekends to get up with him and let the other have a lay in. Good sleep was key! We spent the next few weeks getting to know our baby and how to better ourselves as young parents. I think the only stressful part in the first few weeks was making a bottle when Alfie started crying and having to cradle him for 10 minutes whilst waiting for the bottle to cool down. Although my wife had it worse as she had to go through this during night feeds 5 nights a week (it would be my turn on the weekends when I had no work).
After a few weeks he began to cry more often than usual until he cried what felt like non-stop. When we asked the health visitor she explained that lots of babies can be like this and they call it colic. We were advised to purchase some colic medicine which we put a drop into each bottle hoping to sooth him. It made Alfie a little happier but this would go on to last another couple of months at least. Needless to say, we loved him to bits but he was hard work!
Still on the topic of having a colic baby, I’d be at work and my wife would be at home trying to sooth Alfie all day whilst watching the clock for me to get home and take over. If she felt like I didn’t do my bit then I’d know about it. If on a weekend I felt like she wasn’t helping enough then she’d know about it. Yes, your relationship will likely be tested and even more so as young parents. But we got through it. Alfie was our delicate little flower that could do no wrong. So much so that we’d point fingers at eachother.
The funny thing about having your first child is that you watch them like a hawk with paranoia that something bad might happen to them. As Alfie began to crawl, he became adventurous. I felt like he wasn’t happy unless he was trying to go somewhere not safe. I think it became a game to him! I’m sure he’d attempt to get behind the TV with all of the electrical wires just so I’d run over to him and move him! Every cupboard ended up with child locks. Stair gates to lots of rooms. He wanted to get everywhere and I knew that if he wasn’t in my sight then he’d be doing something dangerous.
It’s even worse when you visit other homes. You spend all this time child proofing your own home that anywhere else becomes a danger zone. Any event, party or get together was spent keeping your child alive! Although again, I think a lot of this has to do with inexperience and being young parents as we became a lot more layed back the older we got and the more children we had.
Ofcourse it’s not all bad. Having a child is a blessing at any age. Actually all of our other babies were so easy compared to Alfie so we might have found it easier had our babies arrived in a different order. When your baby first smiles you’ll call everyone to let them know. When your baby first rolls over after weeks of trying you jump for joy. When he starts to crawl you you’ll be shocked with excitement. When they make their first steps from sofa to sofa it’ll be your proudest moment. All of these small things are milestones for a baby and we knew, that despite being young parents, each milestone was a sign that we were doing OK!
Ultimately, be there for eachother. Look to eachother for support when needed and don’t forget to get some time to yourselves to recharge. Me and my wife met at 17 & 19, moved out and had our first baby in less than 18 months, went on to have 4 more children and created our final milestone by getting married after 10 years together, now together for 12. People may doubt you for being young parents, but we did it!