Community Advocacy and Support by and for Young Mothers

A Good Mom by Elizabeth Cunningham-Halbert

A Good Mom by Elizabeth Cunningham-Halbert

At my first prenatal appointment, the doctor sat me down in his office to talk about abortion. He told me that having an abortion now wouldn't mean that I couldn't have other children later, maybe when I was more ready. I told him I was having my baby. I remember my step father's words "I hate to say it, but there are other options." I told him I was having my baby. A close friend fell silent on the other end of the phone. When she found her voice she said, "I just never thought that abortion would be a decision you'd have a hard time making."

I'm not a teenage mother; I was 22 years old with a good job and a degree from NYU when I got pregnant. But, I live in New York City, the New York of HBO's Sex & The City where people are driven by their careers and their social lives and their wardrobes. Here, 22 years old equals teenage Mom. I'm the youngest Mom on the playground by ten years.

I've read that having a baby can be isolating, and that you should reach out to your friends. None of the books offer any advice on what to do when your friends look at your precious child and say "I am SOOO not ready for that." I couldn't find the chapter on feeling lonely when everyone else is at the bar. I've read that the playground is a good place to meet other Moms. For me, it's been a good place to be mistaken for the babysitter.

With no instruction manual, I've had to wing it. It's actually been okay. I've learned that the 38-year-old Mom in my building is pretty cool. I've learned how to really cry. I've learned a lot about my own strength, and I've learned the most about love - how much you can love and be loved by your husband, your child and your true friends. I've learned what's important and what isn't, and that if you let everything upset you, you are never happy.

I thought some day people would get used to my motherhood. Some people, like my Dad and my best friend Kris, were always cool. Others came around when Tim and I got married, or when James got older and a little less helpless. Recently, Tim and I decided to have another baby and the shock rushed over friends and relatives again. "Another unplanned pregnancy?" one person asked. When I told her we had planned this one, she looked even more confused, and when my toddler threw a toy and let out a shriek she sighed, "And now you'll have two."

When I look around at other kids I see how well James is doing, how bright he is becoming, and how verbal he is for his age. There are times when I want to brag, as any Mom does. There are also times when I want to scream, when I want to find everyone who ever doubted me and say: Look at this child, look at how good I am at this! For the most part, I've given up on trying to tell people I'm a good Mom. James knows, Tim knows, and soon this baby in my belly will know, too. Deep down, no matter how people look at me, I know too.