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Mother’s Day Reflections: On Becoming a Mom at 18

irina nilsson mother's day reflections
Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life

This Mother’s Day photographer – and mother of four – Irina Nilsson recalls her first, challenging moments of motherhood. And reflects on how far she and her daughter have come

Throughout the month of May in honor of Mother’s Day, mamas in Singapore will reflect on unique aspects of their motherhood journeys. Today, our trusty photographer Irina Nilsson looks back on becoming a parent at the age of 18. As amazing a photographer as she is, her beautiful writing just might move you to tears, mama!

25 years ago today I became a mother. I was 18 years old, back in the days before social media and parenting communities.

I remember being alone at night in my hospital room with a newborn who had pooped her diaper, and I had never changed a diaper in my life. I remember how the smug nurse looked incredulously at me when I asked for help tending to this tiny new human and how she said that knowing how to change a poopy diaper should have come with the mothering instincts that clearly I was lacking. I was embarrassed, crying silent tears, walking dimly lit halls because my baby was fussing and nobody had informed me that it was okay to stay in the shared room if my baby was making noise.

I didn’t know anyone else with kids. All my friends were busy partying, going to university and living their post high-school lives. I was home with my baby, nursing and watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie.

Irina Nilsson Mother's Day reflection
Irina Nilsson today with her daughter Frederica

I went to a parenting class a few times but I never felt like I fit in with the 30-40 something married moms with husbands, houses and cars. I was young, broke, felt alone and argued a lot with my baby’s dad who was just as clueless as me, although not quite as young at 23.

I thought I knew it all. I thought I was an adult mature enough to handle things on my own. I despised seeing pity in the eyes of older women and the constant “Honey, what have you gotten yourself into?” looks and comments. I was proud of my daughter and she was my whole life.

It was a strange thing: being old enough to carry and care for a child, but still years away from being old enough to drink alcohol or go out dancing. Being old enough to pay bills and rent and have responsibility for a human being, but not being old enough to be listened to or respected as a parent. I didn’t have the life experience or maturity to demand any of it, but I sure felt entitled to and like I had all the answers. Like most teenagers.

It was hard. It was rewarding. It was messy, it was beautiful and it was lonely.

She changed my life.

People often ask what I tell my kids about pregnancy and having kids. If I’m okay with them having kids early.

My answer is always this:

I have no regrets. My children have enriched my life beyond anything I could have ever imagined and I would never regret having any of them. But I do hope that they live their own lives first before deciding to settle down. That they go to school, travel, meet people and grow as people before they take on the responsibility of raising someone else.

Irina Nilsson Mother's Day daughter granddaughter
Irina Nilsson’s grown-up daughter (and granddaughter)

Today I’m a grandmother. My daughter has a child of her own. She wasn’t as young as I was and she has her act together in a way that I didn’t have. She has a support system and friends who are the same age as her with kids of their own. She’s an amazing mother and an amazing daughter and an amazing friend.

It hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it.

She is the best daughter anyone could ever wish for. Fredrica, you are spectacular and I love you more than life.

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