We caught up with five ladies who shared with us their experiences of being mothers during their teenage years. The ladies are now in their late twenties, yet they still remember it all like it was just yesterday.
From sleepless nights to baby fevers; nappy changes and a dozen babysitters, raising a child is really no child’s play, and it sure isn’t any easier navigating through your teenage years while at it.
What was the biggest sacrifice you feel you had to make (if any) in order to manage being a teenage mother?
Sibongile Felicia: I was fortunate enough to have a strong support system. My grandmother and my mom were my team players, so I really don’t feel like I sacrificed anything more than being an actual mother to my son.
Can you elaborate on that?
Sibongile Felicia: Yes. Well, my mother and grandmother basically raised my son as their own. He even calls me by my name and calls my mother ‘mama’. I have younger siblings, so he grew up as the last born in the family. So I still got to complete school and follow my career path. I do though sometimes imagine what it would have been like being in his life like a mother, you know, watching him grow to say his first words and things like that. But I am grateful that I got to still carry on with school and university and also graduate in record time.
How would you describe your experience as a teenage mother in three words?
Esabelle Martins: Tearful. Hopeful. Life-Changing. Yes, I think these three words best describe my experience.
You were in Grade 10 when you had your daughter. What was that experience like?
Esabelle: Like something I will never forget because it really changed me. I definitely had to learn to grow thick skin because I’d attend school every day and have to endure stares almost all the time – like it was something new and shocking each time. My parents weren’t so lenient on me, especially because they had warned me about the boy I ended up falling pregnant by. We actually went to the same school, so yep, that was that. We aren’t on good terms today but we continue to be help raise baby Kim, although she’s not such a baby anymore.
What would you say was the most important lesson motherhood taught you that you would have otherwise never learnt if things had been different?
Mpho Dieketseng: I’d say I would have never known how to be as selfless and as patient as I had to be as a mother. As a teenager, I don’t think you are even required to know what being selfless means. I mean, everything should be for the development and nurture of your teenage self; you worry about exams and like your unrequited love for your crush. But I quickly had to learn that my child’s life and development depends primarily on me because I gave life to her. And about being patient, wow, I think this was the most challenging of all lessons. For me specifically because my daughter used to get these random skin rashes that I would treat and monitor as per doctor’s orders. I think this was the major reason why I had to pause my academic year after having gone back to complete Grade 10 post-birth. So I had to be very patient with my daughter’s recovery and treatment, as hard and heartaching as it would sometimes get.
There are some setbacks that one probably experiences when going through teenage motherhood. Socially, what would you say was a major setback for you?
Sindi Nkosi: First and foremost, I broke up with the father of my child. I don’t quite know if it was because I decided to keep our son with or without his consent, but he definitely slid out of my life. My friends – the only two who still stuck with me through everything, say he couldn’t deal with the pressure and that he wasn’t ready to leave his international rugby dream for nappy changes and milk bottles. But anyway, my name was tarnished and I lost a lot of friends. At first I thought, ‘argh, I don’t care who stays or goes’, but then rumours started spreading that I planned to get knocked up and that I wanted him to never leave me. Then I had to endure the label of ‘Gold Digger’ and was also accused of wanting social status as the baby mama of some famous athlete. That was pathetic, but oh well.
Has your teenage motherhood changed the way you see life?
Sinenhlanhla Ndlovu: Absolutely. It has made me believe in God and miracles. I don’t know how I would have managed to get into university, complete my medical degree, and still be an active mother in my son’s life if it wasn’t for some kind of Divine help from above. I never used to speak to God much before I became a mother because I guess I’ve always believed that my parents speak on my behalf and that their prayers over me as their child were enough to keep me good. So when I became a mother, I did what I had expected my parents to do for me, which was to pray for my child and believe that God is the One who holds mine and my son’s life together. In that way then, I started seeing life with God – a quality kind of life. I can’t imagine a day without speaking to God about the plans I would like to execute for my baby boy.
(Names in the story have been changed)