I thought I was very grown up at 17 and for the first time was determined to make my own decisions about my body. I kicked off that year by nonchalantly strolling down the stairs with a nose ring. All it took was a sharp needle, ice and determination. My mom was pissed, but I was kind of proud I actually did it.
When my very loving, but very Catholic parents found out my boyfriend and I were having sex, they called me on my cell phone and told me I had to get home immediately. I could tell from my mom’s tone that I was in trouble for something. I was scared as hell leaving my boyfriend’s house.
When I walked into the kitchen, I saw that my older brother and my parents had been talking. My brother quickly left the kitchen without even looking at me. We often had family meetings with my three brothers and my parents at the dinner table. But a two-on-one family meeting was never good.
I can still see the two of them sitting across the table from me with angry, disappointed faces. Their first question was whether I was still a virgin. I instantly felt sick with guilt. They knew the answer was no.
During that meeting, they grilled me with questions that I answered honestly. After the interrogation, the final verdict was that I was prohibited from seeing my boyfriend. They also demanded I stop taking birth control, which they saw as disrespectful and sinful.
I had so many rebuttals running through my head. But I love him! But I am being safe! But you two were pregnant when you got married!
I was in love for the first time and believed in our future together. Also, I was confused. I thought I had done the responsible thing by going to Planned Parenthood and taking preventative measures against pregnancy.
But I was a people pleaser and I hated having friends or family mad at me. I was the type of kid who got nearly perfect grades, cleaned my room regularly, and went to bed without being told. So for six months, I really did stay away from “the love of my life” and dumped my birth control down the toilet.
But during those months, I felt like I had two sides of myself fighting against each other. The girl who wanted to please everyone and do everything she was supposed to do and the girl who wanted to experience life firsthand, take some chances and be a little different. I was dying to get out of my town and go to college. I was angry and started to rebel. I smoked pot, snuck out at night, and quit the pom pom squad, of which I was supposed to be captain.
My mom took notice of the fact that I was unraveling. We took a walk one day and she urged me to talk to her. She told me I could tell her anything, but I no longer trusted her. The last thing I wanted was another family interrogation. Plus. there was no way I would admit that I had snuck out and seen my boyfriend twice. Both times we had had sex.
My silence didn’t matter for very long. In October of my senior year of high school, I broke the news to my mom that I had missed my period and I thought I might be pregnant.
Her response was “Have you taken a test?”
"Yes, I took three,” I said. I didn’t tell her that earlier in the day my boyfriend and I had held each other and cried our eyes out for over an hour.
She just hugged me, cried, said “Congratulations!” And she really meant it. I could not fathom how this was something I should be congratulated for. Did she hear me? I was pregnant. I had totally screwed up.
It’s been 11 years since that day and I no longer think I screwed up. I am raising my own daughter, who is not very far from 17. I think a lot about how I will handle sex and birth control. I now know that that parenting really is the hardest job on the planet.
Although I do not understand or agree with how my parents reacted to the discovery that I was sexually active, I know their actions came from a place of love. My mom has even since apologized. Still, I have often wondered how their reaction might have been different if they had found out one of my brothers was having sex with his girlfriend.
Ultimately, I have learned that I can be angry about how it all happened and yet still love my daughter -– and my parents -- wholeheartedly.