5:00 a.m.: The alarm goes off, but it's not any ordinary alarm. This alarm goes off at different hours, seconds and minutes without warning. The alarm is the sound of a screaming baby. My baby.
At first, I ignore the cry, hoping it will die down. But it doesn't, so I sleepily turn over to give my one-month-old daughter her pacifier. She keeps crying. I'm getting frustrated, in about one and a half hours I'll have to get up and get ready for school. I force myself to get up and go into the kitchen to make her bottle. My daughter is in my arms and still crying.
The bottle bobs in the boiling water. I take it out, checking it on my wrist to see if it's too hot. Luckily, it's just right. I walk back to my bedroom, sit on my bed and begin feeding my daughter. I stop to burp her after every three ounces that she drinks. When she's done, I lay her down and pat her back so she'll fall asleep.
6:30 a.m.: I close my eyes and the alarm goes off. (The real alarm, this time.) Realizing that a whole hour and a half has passed, I bolt straight up. I grab my towel off the night stand and get in the shower. As the hot water hits me, I can feel my body weakening. I start to doze off. To stay awake, I stand directly beneath the water, letting the hot flow hit my face. I get out of the shower, dry off and get dressed.
I take my daughter off her stomach and turn her around so I can take her clothes off. She begins to wake up, but not fully. I get her wash rag and wash her body down. I put a pair of clothes on her that I think makes her look so cute.
7:30 a.m.: I've got to hurry so I'm not late getting to the babysitter. I strap my daughter into her carrier which is attached to my upper body. I begin to complain about how much my back is going to hurt by the time I get to the train. As I'm leaving the house, my boyfriend's sister says, "Stop complaining!"
"She thinks it's so easy," I think and roll my eyes.
The train is six blocks away. Each block my back hurts more. I'm on the sixth block when I see the train pulling up. I start running, holding my daughter. At the turnstile, I struggle to get my Metrocard to work. Once through, I run up the steps. "Hold the door!" I shout. I'm catching my breath as people offer me their seats.
Back on the street, I have to walk five blocks to the baby sitter's house. When I get there, I decide to relax until it's time to go to school. Sitting at the kitchen table taking a rest feels so good to my back.
8:30 a.m.: I kiss my daughter goodbye and walk to school. The school day always goes by smoothly. Being in school feels like a break from my other life as a mom.
2:30 p.m.: When school's over, I run out the front door and walk quickly. I always try to get to the baby sitter's house fast so that I can get home faster. Getting home early gives me more time to rest.
I pick up my daughter at the baby sitter's and walk to the train. Walking makes me so tired and mad. Sometimes I want to take a cab, but I don't. I'd rather not waste money to avoid a walk I know I can do. So I just handle it and keep going.
When I get home, I have an hour to rest before I leave and go to night school. This has been my schedule for the last seven months.
But things momentarily changed one particular Friday morning. I was on my way out the door, complaining about walking to the train and how heavy my daughter was getting, when my boyfriend's sister said, as she used to say often, "Please, Shauntay, you act like it's hard what you do every day. All you're doing is taking her to the babysitter and picking her up, then bringing your butt home. That's nothing!"
You Try It!
I couldn't believe she thought my schedule was easy. So I took off the carrier, passed my daughter to her and said, "OK, since you think it's so easy, take the diaper bag, put the carrier on and take her to school with you!"
She agreed. She shrugged her shoulders and said, "No big deal." She called up her school to make sure she could bring her niece with her. While she was on the phone, I told her the rules: she had to walk to the train and walk back home from the train, she couldn't take a cab. I also explained what she needed to do in case of an emergency. I told her that if my daughter cried with the pacifier, it means she's hungry, and if she starts to choke, just pat her back softly.
As I walked to the train without my daughter in my arms, I felt so good. I had no back pains and I was able to walk fast. Being without my daughter felt very different.
When I got to school, my advisor said, "Shauntay, you're extra early and you don't look worn out." "That's because I didn't bring my daughter to the babysitter," I said in an excited voice. "I came straight to school." She told me to have a great day off.
All day I was anxious to get home to see how my boyfriend's sister's day had turned out. Mine was going great. I felt so free, my back was well rested and my feet didn't hurt.
After school, when I approached the door to my house, I could hear her pacing back and forth. Before I could take a step inside, she had put my daughter in my arms.
Was It That Bad?
"Damn," I said, "was she that bad? And what are you doing home so early?"
"Why am I home so early!" She was still pacing. "I'll tell you why I'm home so early! Your daughter is heavy, greedy and she threw up all over me in school. I had no choice but to come home! Then," She said in a very sarcastic tone, "while I was attempting to walk home from the train, I had to spend money on a cab because of all the weight that I had to carry!"
"You cheated," I said. "You was not supposed to take a cab home. You were supposed to handle it like I do and walk your lazy butt home. Also," I said, mimicking her, "stop complaining. All you did was take her to school and bring your butt back home."
"All right," she said. "I now understand where you're coming from when you say that it's not as easy as it looks. From now on, since I'm the one looking in on the situation, I won't comment, or should I say I won't knock it 'til I try it."
It's Not Easy Planning for Pregnancy
True to her word, my boyfriend's sister no longer makes comments when I complain. Instead, she even tells others that it's not easy being a teen mom. And after experiencing the day in the life of a teen mom, she is even more determined not to get pregnant until she's ready to be a parent. She says she doesn't want children until she's married and financially stable, so she can take cabs whenever she wants.
My life is not easy, but I learn to manage. For me, each day is a new struggle, whether it be with school or with my daughter. I continue to wake up each day and do my thing because I know that in the end I'll be paid and living a nice life accompanied by my daughter and my fiancé.