In early 2000, Lindsay Franklin was set to graduate from high school. The teen had big plans to go to college, get a Master’s degree, and have an amazing career. But all of that anticipation came crashing to a halt when she learned she was pregnant.
Lindsay’s first instinct was to research abortion, because she had always been pro-choice, and being a teen mom was not in her plan. So she got on her boyfriend’s parents’ computer and searched for a nearby clinic. The first thing that popped up on the screen was images of aborted fetuses, and in an instant, Lindsay knew abortion was not an option for her anymore. She was going to keep her baby.
But what was she going to do? She had always been a bit rebellious, but she had started going to church a few months earlier, which is where she had met her 19-year-old boyfriend. He was an upstanding church boy with a good reputation; this would ruin everything for him. So she turned away from the computer screen and told Dave she would disappear and be a single mom. This baby wouldn’t affect his life at all. He could stay in college and continue on with his plans for his life.
Dave chose a different plan. He immediately grabbed her hands and got down on his knees. He told her he loved her, proclaimed that the baby was both of theirs, and said they were going to be a family.
However, before the couple could start planning a wedding, they needed to tell their parents. It was a nerve-wracking situation, because two of the three sets of parents were church-going Christians, and the couple knew that would result in an extra layer of disappointment aside from just the cultural taboo. However, after the initial shock, their parents were all supportive of the two and their decision to get married.
Lindsay and Dave made the decision to be a separate family in their own right instead of simply being grafted into one of their families of origin. They would move out and establish their own home instead of living with any of their parents. Though this was the choice they wanted to make, it was also logical, because their parents were all young enough that they were still working. Built-in child care wouldn’t have been a reality with any of their parents.
From High School to Marriage
So while Lindsay’s friends were planning for senior prom, she was planning a wedding. All of a sudden she had nothing in common with her friends, who were independent and ready to go to college and take on the world. She was getting married and having a baby. As Lindsay had already been doing home study before becoming pregnant, she quickly fell out of contact with many of her friends.
The couple got married two weeks after Lindsay graduated from high school. Dave dropped out of college to work full-time for a catalog company, and Lindsay worked full-time as the receptionist at a hair salon. They found a tiny one-bedroom apartment that wasn’t too far away from the upper-middle-class neighborhoods where their parents lived in the San Diego area.
Lindsay’s working days were short-lived, though, as she developed toxemia during the third trimester of her pregnancy. Those tough months were filled not only with sickness but also with stares and whispers when she was out in public.
During that time, Lindsay dealt with a lot of shame. She had been sexually abused as a very young child so, in her words, “The shame button is easy to push for me.” She says, “I really had to get past feeling like I was walking around church or the world with a scarlet letter sewn to my clothes.”
Dave was able to bounce back from the shock of their situation faster than Lindsay was partly due to his personality and also because he had a much firmer foundation in his faith than she did. He understood the concepts of grace, forgiveness, and repentance. Lindsay, on the other hand, didn’t have that foundation. However, she continued to go to church, and she knew that if she didn’t cling to the little faith she did possess, it would slip away. So she continued to read the Bible, and eventually she was able to come to terms with her new life.
Lindsay and Dave both realized they were in for a rude introduction to marriage. She says, “We didn’t have any romanticized illusions about what this was going to be like. We knew it was going to be really difficult and that we were either going to grow up and become strong together, growing toward each other and God, or we were going to be separated by the hardships.” And grow strong together they did. The two recently celebrated their 18th wedding anniversary.
And Baby Makes Three
In December of 2000, Lindsay gave birth to their son. On top of learning to be parents when they were barely out of childhood themselves, Lindsay and Dave also had to deal with a child who had special medical needs. It was difficult to care for him, and he was in the hospital multiple times during his first year. He wasn’t fully diagnosed until he was 13 years old, and Lindsay admits it was a long and rocky road.
Those early days were very tough for a young mom whose friends were off having a good time in college. Lindsay had to grow up fast. She says, “Having a healthy infant is enough to school you about what it means to sacrifice for another person and to lay down your own dreams or ambitions or needs for somebody who needs more than you do. But him having a scary medical condition compounded everything.”
She also dealt with a lot of loneliness during her early mom years. She had drifted away from her high school friends, and there were no other moms of infants at her church, much less teen moms. She understandably felt very isolated. Eventually, they found another church that was full of other young families, and Lindsay reconnected with many of her high school friends over the years.
While Lindsay stayed home with their infant son, Dave was working hard to provide for their little family. After several promotions and job transitions, he landed in a tech job, and he still works in a tech-related position.
Several years later, Lindsay gave birth to another son, followed by a daughter. They are now 17, 13, and 10. She homeschools the kids, is a freelance writer, and is the author of several books.
Now that the couple are in their mid-to-late 30s, they finally feel like they’re secure and stable in their careers. Lindsay says, “It was a struggle throughout our 20s. It just isn’t easy to support a family when you are not particularly educated and you’re not old enough to have experience in the fields that don’t require education.” She says that while she is ahead of her friends in the parenting game, they’re ahead of her in their careers, due to their different paths to parenthood.
Lindsay and Dave didn’t take the typical path to marriage and parenthood, but who’s to say what’s typical, anyway? God has led them through both the hard times and the good times, and the life they’re living is much better than anything they could have imagined for themselves when they were young. They wouldn’t trade their family for anything in the world.
Q&A with Lindsay Franklin
Q: What are some of the important things you learned as a teen mom?
A: I don’t mean this in a condescending way, but when you’re a teenager, you are very much thinking about yourself. It’s that time of life where you’re figuring out who you are. You’re discovering your identity. I think for a lot of teens their faith is becoming real to them in those years—not just something that their parents instilled in them. So it’s not a bad thing to be self-centered in those years because it’s supposed to be a discovery phase. But I suddenly had a little person who was depending on me for everything. So I learned really quickly that it was not about me anymore. It was about my son and making sure that he was provided for.
Q: What advice do you have for teen moms?
A: It’s really easy to feel like your life has suddenly ended. When I saw the positive sign on the pregnancy test, I remember feeling that my life was over. Because as far as I was concerned, my life for the next four or probably eight years was going to be school and very intense studying. That had always been my path, so there was this feeling that my life was done. I think it’s important to let yourself feel that to a degree and mourn the things that you’re giving up, because that’s real. You are losing certain things to make a sacrifice for your child.
But what I’ve learned now that I have some perspective is that it was important for me to mourn it but also to let it go. I had to let go of those expectations and understand that God had my best interest at heart, even though I was going to have a rocky path in front of me. Being a parent is no joke. It’s a big deal. I could not have even imagined the good things that God had in store for me in that moment when I was feeling like my life was over. It felt like an end, but really it was just the beginning of a new life that I hadn’t imagined yet.
There is definitely hope for teen moms. You don’t have to feel like you have no future. You do have a future. It’s just a little different than the one you imagined. And it can be an amazing future. I love being a mom. I love being a wife. And I get to have a career now. I didn’t have to give up on my dreams to have a career forever. It just had to be delayed a little bit while I was taking care of someone who needed me a lot. And I don’t think those years were wasted at all. They were good for my son. They were good for me. They were good for my husband.
Q: Do you have advice for how teen parents can respond to people’s reactions to pregnancy news?
A: When you’re dealing with your parents, you want them to have grace for you. I think it’s important for you to have grace for them too. It’s a very startling and frightening piece of news to receive as a parent. I think that when parents react angrily, it’s just fear talking. They’re afraid for how you are going to make it, how you are going to survive, how it’s going to work. That’s a natural and understandable reaction. So try to have the same level of grace that you want to receive from them.
With other people, realize there are always going to be people who are not going to be kind and are going to judge you. There’s not much you can do about that, because you can’t control anybody else’s thoughts or reactions. It’s a good time to practice resting on who God says you are—what He says about your identity. He says that you’re loved. He says that you’re forgiven. He says that when you walk in repentance, there is no shame or condemnation. No matter what other people say, that’s who God says you are. People are going to be unkind, but they don’t define who you are. God does.
Q: Where should teen moms go for support?
A: Most communities have crisis pregnancy centers. I would always recommend looking for one that is faith based. Search out centers that are there to support both moms and babies. We had a local center like that, and they helped us out with a lot of information. Know that faith-based centers are there to help and provide information and support in a judgment-free environment. I know a lot of very good Christian women who work in crisis pregnancy centers and they are not there to judge teen moms at all. They’re there because it’s their heart to help.
It’s also important for teen moms to find some counseling. A lot of churches have great free counseling available. If there’s a pastor or a mentor or leader you trust, that’s a great place to go for emotional support.
Q: Do you have any advice for the parents of teen parents?
A: This is really hard, because I can imagine myself in this situation now as a parent of a 17-year-old, a 13-year-old, and a 10-year old. I think a lot of the emotions that spring up in these moments are based on fear, because we want our kids to be OK and we don’t want them to struggle. We wouldn’t pick the most difficult path for our kids to follow.
How your kid needs you to respond is going to vary depending on the kid. For me, I was already struggling with a lot of shame, so I definitely needed to know I was still loved and my parents didn’t want to cast me out or never speak to me again or sew those red letters onto my clothes. I needed to know they weren’t grossly disappointed in me. They didn’t need to say that what I did was OK, but I needed to be reassured that they still loved me. But it might be different for your teen. It’s going to depend on what your child in particular is struggling with.
I also think it’s important to make the choice for life for the grandbaby to be as easy as possible for the teen mom. However, you can support without enabling or excusing. I think it’s important to hold onto what’s true and the values you believe in but not cross into shunning or punishing, because that’s not helpful for anybody. It’s not helpful for the baby. It’s not helpful for the mom or the dad. It compounds a difficult situation with more difficulty.
Q: What tips do you have for friends of teen moms?
A: There was a period of a few years when I really drifted apart from all of my high school friends, and that felt really isolating. I would advise friends to try to remain connected even if you’re in different places and doing different things in your life. I think this is probably easier to do now than it was when I was walking this path. Social media and cell phones keep us very connected if we make a little effort. Keep that line of communication open with your friend who is suddenly finding herself on the motherhood path, because that can be a very lonely difficult road. It’s weird and hard to watch your friends enjoying that fun, exciting, but also scary season of college while you’re at home with a baby and changing diapers and dealing with middle-of-the-night feedings. I struggled with feelings of envy. So if you can meet her where she’s at, I think that would be a tremendous blessing to your teen mom friend.
I would advise that rather than inviting your friend with a baby out at night so that she has to deal with finding childcare, you could offer to come over to her house and visit with her and the baby. Or ask her to go out for coffee in the middle of the day to somewhere that’s kid friendly. That’s a way you can continue to stay connected and get past the hurdles of awkwardness and envy and being on separate paths.
Lindsay A. Franklin is the best-selling author of Adored: 365 Devotions for Young Womenand The Story Peddler, an award-winning editor, and a homeschooling mom of three. She would wear pajama pants all the time if it were socially acceptable. She lives in her native San Diego with her scruffy-looking nerf-herder of a husband, their precious geeklings, three demanding thunder pillows (a.k.a. cats), and a stuffed wombat with his own Instagram following. You can learn more about Lindsay on her website: lindsayafranklin.com.
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