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Carol Larese Millward is a writer who for several years taught life skills and best parenting practices to teen parents. As a family advocate and parents educator, Carol worked with young adults and their babies up close and personal in their homes and in group settings through Family Support and Education Centers.
Carol has written a beautiful guest post about her main character finding love.
Star Peters, the teen mother in my young adult novel Star in the Middle fell in love just once in her young life. That relationship resulted in her having a baby at fifteen. Star loved her boyfriend, Wilson Fletcher, but he hurt her deeply. I thought I’d let her give her own perspective on teen mothers falling in love again after the birth of their baby.
Sometimes I watch that show on TV—you know, the one about teen mothers. I feel for them. Okay, I know, they’re probably paid pretty well for being on that program, and it’s neat that they get their pictures on magazine covers, but still their lives look pretty complicated.
I can identify with them, because I got pregnant when I was fifteen and had my baby just before my sixteenth birthday. Wilson was my first boyfriend and I was totally in love with him almost from the first day I saw him in the halls at school—long before he ever spoke to me.
Wilson is handsome, smart, athletic, and he can be so charming. So, when I watch that show, I wonder if it’s possible for us teen mothers to fall in love again after things have gone so wrong with our babies’ fathers.
Like I said, my life is really complicated. I won’t go into all the details. But have you ever loved someone and hated him at the same time? That’s pretty much how I felt about Wilson for a while. He denied he was our baby’s father, and wasn’t there for me during my pregnancy or Wil’s birth. He eventually came around after a whole lot of encouragement from family and friends, but by then I was sure I could never trust him again. The loving part was harder. How do you fall out of love with someone?
Things were pretty much out of control in my life when I agreed to move in with Wilson’s family. I feel really guilty about living with them, so I tell myself they’re just doing this for their grandchild’s sake. But that’s not how his parents make me feel. They insisted I go back to high school where I’m a junior, and strongly suggested I continue to run cross-country. Wilson’s sister said they want me to have the same opportunities as Wilson. He’s a senior this year, and plays football.
Mrs. Fletcher watches my baby while I’m at school. She insists that Wilson and I care for Wil equally when we’re home. At first I was really nervous about the whole thing because Wilson was so clueless about what Wil needed, but he’s good with the baby now. Things are still awkward between us. I mean we say we’re friends, but I’m not sure either of us knows what that should look like under the circumstances. We’re certainly not together, or even dating—things are just tense. Wilson tells me that he’s changed and I should give him another chance. I’ve pretty much forgiven him--as much for myself as for him—it’s too hard to hold a grudge. But forgiving is much easier than forgetting, so there’s that.
I go out with my friend Todd when it’s Wilson’s turn to have Wil. Todd’s baby’s mother left town after Nevaeh was born. I wonder if he still thinks about her? Sometimes Todd and I go out on dates, or just hang out with our babies. It’s funny, Todd makes it all about me. He’s sweet that way. It’s so easy when I’m with him--I feel safe. Then I come home and see Wilson--and I’m confused all over again.
I never knew my father, and my mother disappeared when I was really little. My grandmother raised me, and my grandfather had died before I was born. So I guess I never knew
what being in a loving relationship looked like until seeing Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher together. They
both work hard, but they have fun too. Even when they disagree about something they are respectful and listen to one another. They still hold hands and go out on dates. Mr. Fletcher gives Mrs. Fletcher one red rose every week, even though she has a garden full of flowers. And, he gives me one too. Actually, I’ve never seen him do it, it just appears in my sitting room.
The Fletchers are out of town this weekend, so I’ve pretty much stayed away from the house—except to sleep. I spent yesterday with my friend, Elizabeth. And last evening, Todd and I took the babies to the park. I heard Wilson come in late--his friend Craig dropped him off. He came to my room to ask if I wanted him to listen for the baby overnight, but I told him I was good. He looked like he wanted to say more, but he didn’t.
I couldn’t fall asleep after that. I kept thinking about Wilson being alone in his room. I wonder if he thinks about falling in love again, and knows what he wants. I guess I should figure that out what I want. For a long time I wanted to go back and undo it all. I didn’t know how hard it would be to have this baby, or how it would change my life. I love Wil so much, but I wish Wilson and I would have waited to have sex. Even if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, it changed things between us. I guess I just wish we had known each other better before we got so involved.
But wishing something doesn’t make it happen. And staying up half the night thinking about someone doesn’t change the bad things that happened between the two of you in the past. So today I got up early and put Wil in the stroller. We took a very long walk, and it helped me to think. Here’s what I figured out. None of it matters unless I feel good about me. Todd being sweet, Wilson asking for another chance—none of it matters. What matters is that I trust myself to make
good decisions for my baby and me. What matters is that I give myself permission to trust other people, and recognize when they deserve to be trusted. What matters is that I give them reason to trust me as well.
Todd’s sweet, but it shouldn’t be about him feeling like he needs to make it all about me. I want to be in an “us” relationship with someone. I want to be able to tell the guy I’m with when I’m uncomfortable about something, and have him respect that. Todd understands that, is Wilson ready to understand that as well?
Wil’s asleep when I take him out of the stroller and carry him into the house. I catch Wilson coming out of my sitting room. “Hi, Star, I was just coming to get the baby to give you a break,” he says. But he looks embarrassed, like I’ve caught him at something. The baby is instantly awake and reaches for his daddy when he hears Wilson’s voice.
“Hi, little dude,” Wilson says, taking the baby from me. Wil kicks his feet and giggles, pulling on Wilson’s shirt. There’s nothing cuter that a baby’s laugh.
“How was your date with Todd last night?” Wilson asks, looking away from me.
“Fine,” I tell him.
“That’s good,” he whispers. “We’ll be in the playroom if you need us,” Wilson says, his voice louder now. He turns to leave the room.
“Wilson,” I say. He stops and looks at me. “Maybe we can do something together soon.”
“Sure, Star,” he says, leaning down to kiss my cheek. “Whenever you’re ready.”
I sit on the sofa and close my eyes. I guess I’ve always known that I’m still in love with
Wilson, but now I trust myself to decide what to do about it. Take things slowly. Make sure it’s real. When I open my eyes I see it. Any other weekend, it wouldn’t be an unusual sight, but this weekend Mr. Fletcher’s out of town. All those weeks, I thought it was his father just wanting me to feel welcome.
Those teen mothers on TV—I don’t know how much of what we see is for the cameras, and how much is real. This much I do know, we all have something in common—our babies. They are a very important part of our lives and our futures, whether their fathers are involved or not. As for love, maybe it’s given without expectation of getting something in return—like the single red rose Wilson left in my room every week since I moved in with his family.