A Repeated Path

219000_238183546312429_1957702196_o

As you can see from this picture, I am blessed with some beautiful grandchildren. Ayden and these twin girls, Leila and Alana are my life. However, if someone would have told me they would exist at this point of my life, I would have scoffed and said, “No way!” In fact, I remember a time when my husband, Esau, came home and told me his cousin was going to be a grandmother. I was in the middle of chopping meat or something, and I remember I almost sliced my finger.

“Are you kidding me?” I asked. “She’s so young! Isn’t she in her early 30s?”

At that point, both my husband and I were in shock. Neither one of us could even imagine. At that time, he was getting close to his 40s, and I was just entering my 30s.

Now, when I say I couldn’t imagine how that could happen, I’m not talking about the pregnancy. Teenagers do get pregnant young, and I was one of them. Sadly, I am the youngest person in my family to have gotten pregnant at the age of 16. But I had worked so hard to overcome being “a statistic.” I bought my house when I was 19. I got into banking when I was 18, and became a personal banker by the time I was 21. I never had to get public assistance because I worked hard. I also went back to college at the age of 27. I went back to school to not only achieve my goals, but to show my kids that despite tough situations, we can overcome if we set our mind to it.

I had also worked hard to give my daughter, Ariana, a different life than what I had growing up. I had a good mom, but she always worked to keep food on the table. She was a single mom with four kids, and thanks to my dad’s drug habits, he left us in poverty for a very long time and with bad memories of abuse, drug addiction, and violence. He also died in prison a couple of years ago of cancer. He spent the majority of his life there.

Although Esau is not Ariana’s biological father, he has raised her since the age of 4. She calls him dad, and if anyone refers to her as his stepchild, he gets upset. Thus, our daughter lived in a two-parent household. We weren’t rich, but we were middle class. We struggled while I attended college, but Ariana and our son, Jacob, who is 5.5 years younger than Ariana, never lacked for anything. Not to mention, I spent a lot of time trying to ensure Ariana didn’t choose my path by talking to her about sex and pregnancy from the time she started her menstruation.

But I soon learned as shocking as the idea of being a grandmother by the age of 34 was, having a daughter get pregnant at the age of 16 was more shocking. Somehow everything came crashing down the moment I realized my daughter was not only having sex, but she was also pregnant.

How did this happen? We did everything right didn’t we? How could she do this? We taught her better? She knew what it was like being a daughter to a young mother, so why would she do this to herself? How could she do this to us? All these questions came to my mind, and it ate at my husband who asked, “Didn’t I love her enough? Why does she always have to go against us? Where did we go wrong?” So many unanswered questions came to mind. Until the day I finally put the situation into perspective.

I have to say coming to grips with having a teenage pregnant daughter was not easy. I can say I lost myself for a while, and my husband and I almost divorced over it. Not to mention, Ariana got pregnant right when the economic crisis hit. I was unemployed for almost 6 months, while Esau’s pay got cut by 20 percent, his work location shut down, and he was shipped to Laredo, TX for over a year and a half. And while I was home alone coping with all this, I saw myself in my mother. I remembered the day I broke her heart and destroyed her dreams for me.

At the age of 16, I was ridiculous. I failed to see my mom as someone who worked hard for her family. Instead, my silly teenage mind saw a woman who never smiled, who was always tired, and who was always grouchy. I never stopped to think about why she never smiled, was always tired, and was always grouchy. I saw a woman who constantly nagged at me to pick colleges and to avoid losers like the one I was in love with. Or at least I thought I was in love with (also known as Ruben). I had just had a serious motorcycle accident, but that didn’t stop me from being with the “man (boy) I loved.” Ruben and I were going to run away together. I would get pregnant, and she would have no choice but to let me go. I would finally get to leave her house and tyrannical rule. I would live my dreams, not hers.

Little did I know those dreams she had were simply for me not to repeat her mistakes or walk down her path. But I got a glimpse the day I (or I should say my sister Tanya) told her I was pregnant. I wasn’t even off of crutches yet when I found out. I had just had my fifth and final plastic surgery. The news came as quite the shock because I had actually tried to get pregnant before, but it never happened. After my accident, I had started to realize how silly my and Ruben’s ideas were. But here we were. My mom had just gotten home from work, and she was in a good mood, which made things worse. If she was her normal, grouchy self, I could say what I had to in my rebellious way and her grouchiness would justify my actions. But that’s not how it went. By the time I tried to open my mouth and tell her, I couldn’t. So my sister did. Not only was her behavior not usual, but her reaction was not how I imagined either.

When the words “Brandy’s pregnant” came out of my sister’s mouth, my mom just stared. She didn’t say anything or move. I wanted her to scream, to yell, but she never did. Instead, she walked to her room and sat down on the bed. She sat there for almost a half hour. Tanya started crying, and I knew at that moment that what I did went beyond rebellion. I knew at that point that nothing would ever be the same. And they never were. I remember afterward my Mom telling me that my life would be hard. She told me that Ruben was no good for me, and that he would just hurt me. I would end up like her. Even though deep down I was afraid of her words, I thought she was just being her normal controlling, tyrannical self.

Let’s just say that by the time I was 18, my mom was already saying, “I told you so.” I must admit, I figured she enjoyed that everything she told me came to pass, but little did I know, she really didn’t. But one thing I did learn out of getting pregnant is that I would not become what people predicted. As an honor student, I had a lot of support from some of my teachers, but many people thought I would drop out of college. I did the first time because Ruben left me for another woman who didn’t want him to have anything to do with me or Ari. Many people assumed I would get on welfare. I never could because I made “too much money” and because I got a settlement from my motorcycle accident. I have to say that ended up being a blessing. People also thought I would just stay in banking. By the age of 27, I left banking and went back to college.

At this point, I had met and remarried my husband Esau. I had went through some major tragedies and struggles that I will share at another time. We had our son, Jacob, and we had made the hard choice to leave our families and my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona behind to go back to Esau’s home state of Texas. We made our move to San Angelo, Texas, a small city of 90,000 people so we could work on our marriage and bring our kids to a better environment.

I will say that after I found out my daughter was pregnant that our move may have been a mistake, but I realized that regardless of where we were at, she was destined to follow in my steps. This is how teenage pregnancy works sad to say.

So as I was working on improving myself and achieving my goals of being a writer, I failed to realize I was neglecting the needs of my children. I was here, but I was always studying, working, or hanging out with college friends. I was trying to relive my youth and college years later in life, and somehow I lost track of what was in front of me. During those days, I didn’t see that, but now I do. My daughter was hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I never imagined she did. She was smoking weed, and I didn’t know until later. I can spot a druggy from a mile away, so that says a lot. And then there was Jon. I never met the kid; I only heard his voice once when he called our house. Ari never went anywhere but to her best friend’s house. She never talked about boys or relationships. We joke today because I actually thought she was a lesbian at one point and hadn’t had the courage to tell me.

But then she stole a shirt for $12.99 at the mall right after my husband had offered to give her money. I ended up going to truancy court a couple of times because she was constantly late to class. We learned she was hanging out with wannabe gang bangers in this small town, which was silly to us because we live in middle class America. We were constantly having talks with her about her behavior, and I knew I was getting my payback for what I did to my mother. Ariana had my canny ability to say the worst things at the wrong time. We were her enemy. I was controlling and tyrannical. I knew exactly what she thought of me and many people compared her to me (which she hated). I was the same thing at her age, so she wasn’t going to pull one over on me. The only thing I didn’t consider was how much like me she would actually be.

And then the moment came. Ariana and I grew up together. Even though I lost track of her for a while as I worked on my degrees, I know her like the back of my hand. I know her mannerisms, her expressions, and when she’s nervous or lying. One thing she gets from her biological father is her inability to lie. Just like I know her, she knows me. We may have grown apart thanks to teenage hormones and my need to relive my youth, but I knew her. One day while Esau, Ari, and I were sitting at the table laughing and conversing, I noticed something was different. Ariana’s coloring and mannerisms were different. She was twirling her hair as she talked, and she looked “like a woman.” It was then I knew.

I spent a few minutes trying to get Esau to go upstairs to our room so I could talk with Ari privately. As soon as I accomplished this, I pulled Ari to the kitchen and said, “You’re having sex aren’t you?” Talk about a slap without a hand. The girl looked at me and immediately blushed. She rarely blushed. I could see she wanted to say no, but I caught her off guard, and she wasn’t prepared. So she replied quietly, “yes.”

The next week I scheduled her an appointment with a gynecologist to get her on the pill. This is the same thing my mother did when she learned I was having sex. I couldn’t shake the feeling though that it was too late. During our visit, I was surprised to learn the doctor didn’t order a pregnancy test, so I had knots in my stomach. I tried to shake it. She had started her birth control after all. Maybe things would be different.

As days passed, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right. Ari had left to her best friend, Eybeth’s house, and so I took that moment to go through her drawers. I didn’t have time to feel bad. I had to know. Finally, I came across her birth control. My hands shook as I opened the pill box. My heart sank when I saw all but one of the pills. At that moment, I confirmed my fears. I picked up the phone and rang Ari’s cell.

“Hello,” she said.

“Come home now. We have to talk.”

“Why? What’s wrong?”

“Just come home.”

Ari was silent for a minute before she said, “Okay.”

When Ari walked through the door, I motioned her to the couch. Esau was working in Laredo and I didn’t have the heart to tell him about my fears because we were already under a lot of stress thanks to the economic crisis. We were on the verge of losing our house, our cars, and even our furniture. I didn’t know how I could tell him about this, so I decided to deal with it alone.

“Do you have something to tell me?”

“No,” she answered. But she had a look of uncertainty on her face.

“Are you sure?” I asked and pulled out her pill box. “You’re pregnant aren’t you?”

“Yes,” she said and started to cry.

That was the moment that changed our life, even more than the economic crisis. For days, I was hysterical and couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t until after we met Jon’s parents that I felt a little better. The parents were supportive and assured us they would help in any way they could and Jon would take responsibility.

Then came the acceptance. That really didn’t come for me until closer to Ari’s due date, and it didn’t come for Esau until after Ayden’s birth. The moment I saw him enter the world and hear him cry for the first time, I knew our lives had changed. He became my world, and I couldn’t imagine a life without him. Ayden had us all wrapped around his little finger. Not to mention Ariana became human again, and I started to see the change in her that came over me when I found out I was going to be a mom, and when I became a mom. We didn’t care much for Jon because we noticed his immaturity. While Ari was growing up, he wasn’t. I saw a lot of Ari’s dad, Ruben, in him and couldn’t fight the feeling that she would end up alone just like me. Esau couldn’t get over the fact that Jon had gotten his baby girl pregnant, and so that made things a little difficult.

As time went on, we accepted Jon and fell so in love with our grandson. What was once a crisis turned into a blessing. We even were close to the other grandparents. Life was falling back into place, and we even managed to save our house, vehicles, and finances because I was working five jobs teaching and writing, while Esau’s work started to pick up in the oil field.

And then came the next bang. Something I didn’t expect. Ayden was almost two. Ari was going to college–something I never thought she would do. She was also living on her own with Jon and Ayden. Things were finally right again. So when the words “I’m pregnant” came, I was not expecting them.

Well, this time I didn’t react negatively. I figured after all that we had been through, this couldn’t be any worse. We told Esau, who got upset but couldn’t say anything any more than I could. All we could do is shake our heads at our daughter. But a few weeks passed by, and all the rage and frustration at the situation overwhelmed me. I lost it, and Ari and I had a bad fight. I thought I had accepted the pregnancy, but I hadn’t. I was so angry! How could she do this again? How could she be so dumb? She and Jon were having problems like I knew they would. Being young parents is a challenging job, and they were starting to feel the effects of it.

So I lost my cool, which didn’t bode well for Ari. She ended up in the emergency room because I had stressed her out and she started spotting. I felt so guilty. I was angry with her, but I didn’t want her to miscarry. I never wanted that. Here I was thinking I had caused her to miscarry, that is until she called me.

“Mom, I have some news.”

My heart was beating fast, and I felt sick. I expected to hear, “The baby’s gone.” But the words never came. Instead she says, “I don’t know how to tell you this, but I’m having twins!”

“Oh sweet Jesus!” I thought. One thing I never considered. Twins. Twins run in Ruben’s family, and now because of this, my daughter was about to be 19 with three kids. Holy Crap!

Let’s just say that the next months proved to be pretty crazy, but I felt like an expert by this point. The babies came a month early and were in N.I.C.U., but something happened to me with their birth.

At that point, I realized how badly I had misjudged and treated my mother as a kid. Here I thought she was my enemy, but all she ever wanted was the best for me. She had sat by with her mouth closed as I chose a horrible partner just like she did. She had warned me before I married him, but never said anything else after the fact. She had kept quiet when I ranted and raved. She even accepted when I wanted to move hundreds of miles away. I lived hundreds of miles away, but when I held those babies in my arms, I felt completely one with her. All I ever wanted was for my daughter to have a better life than I did. I worked hard for my family. I wasn’t the perfect mother, but I wasn’t the worst either. And that was my mother. She always worked hard, just like I did. She made mistakes, as all parents do and as I did. Sometimes, she got too busy to notice when I was up to no good. Obviously, I did, too. But most of all, she always put us and her grandkids first, which is what I have done since my babies’ births. These babies are my world and I will do anything and everything to take care of them. And no matter what mistakes or choices my daughter made, I will be by her side, just like my mom.

Some women don’t experience children until their 20s or 30s, or grandchildren until their 40s or 50s. I started this journey at 16. I’ve been a mom for half my life. I became a grandmother at the age of 34, and will be one for the other half of my life. Interestingly, it wasn’t until the age of 36 that I finally figured things out. No matter what my mom did. No matter how hard she tried to keep me from walking in her shoes, I was destined to do so. No matter how hard I tried to leave the past behind and change the future, and regardless of my socio economic status or education, or how hard I worked to overcome being the stereotype outlined in sociology and psychology books, and what society expects, my daughter was destined to walk in my footsteps. It doesn’t matter if we lived in San Angelo or Phoenix. Ari would have made the same choice. This is how teenage pregnancy works.

So what does change the cyclical nature of teenage pregnancy? How do we also reach out to the young moms who have yet to figure things out, or the parents who can’t understand how their daughters made the choice to struggle as a young parent? And worse, how do we help those young parents who end up without a partner because that partner was too young and immature to handle the hardships of marriage and children? I may not have all the answers, but as a young mother and young grandmother, I hope “The Day In The Life of a 37-Year-Old Grandmother” will bring awareness and inspiration if anything.

B.R.