I was at a party with a friend about a year ago when my phone buzzed: 1 New Message from Britana. I thought my 18-year-old daughter was in the middle of a shift at the fast food restaurant where she worked. When I opened the message, I became light-headed. I reached out to steady myself; I felt like I was going to pass out. It read almost exactly like a hand-written note I'd written to my mother nearly 20 years ago explaining that I was pregnant and was about to become a teen mother.
"Mom, you're a great mother. This isn't your fault…" it started. It ended with, "I'm pregnant." At age 37, I was about to become a grandmother.
Sixteen and Pregnant
I got pregnant with my first daughter when I was a 16-year-old girl living in a small Georgia town. I was the role-model sibling in my family: I was independent, played intramural sports at my boarding academy, and got great grades. I was planning to go to college to become a nurse.
I'd only had sex with my boyfriend a couple of times. I was in love with him and we had unprotected sex, but I never imagined that I would become pregnant so quickly.
I started to cry when I thought about having to tell my parents. I'm adopted, and I knew I couldn't give my child up for adoption. I grew up in a very religious family, and I don't support abortion. I can't lie and say the thought didn't run through my mind, but I knew I'd never be able to go through with it.
"I knew the first time I held her that I had to be the best mother for her I could be."
My dad was out of town, so I decided I would break the news to my mom first. There was no way I could do it in person. So, I wrote a note and slid it into her purse after she went to bed, knowing she'd find it at work the next day. I spent the entire next day terrified. She got home and didn't say a word about the note.
"I can't believe she didn't read it," I thought.
Then, after dinner, I was getting up to leave the table when my mom said, "Patricia, after you clear the table and do the dishes, we need to talk about your letter."
She asked how I was sure I was pregnant, and she wanted know who the father was—she didn't even know I had a boyfriend. And she wanted to know I was taking the proper prenatal vitamins and scheduling an appointment with the doctor. She was stern, not emotional.
The plan was that I would keep going to private school until I was too big to hide my belly, then I would do home-schooling. I still wanted to get my high school degree and become a nurse. But my parents demanded I quit seeing my boyfriend. A few months later, they found out I was still meeting up with him behind their backs. They kicked me out of the house, so I moved in with my boyfriend and started at the public school.
The day my daughter Olivia was born completely changed my life. I knew the first time I held her that I had to be the best mother for her I could be. I got my GED, began working at Wal-Mart to save money for college, and I started taking birth control. Nineteen months later, the smell of doughnuts in the back of the store induced those familiar waves of nausea. "No…. it can't be…" I thought.
The doctor confirmed I was more than 20 weeks pregnant. I was so far along, he confirmed I was having another little girl. I was devastated. The timing was horrible: Things weren't going well in my relationship, and I couldn't fathom how I could still go to college when I was going to have to raise and support two babies.
Four short months later, Britana was born: another healthy, beautiful little girl.
About a year after that, my boyfriend and I broke up. My relationship with my parents was strained. Although being a teen mom in my small Georgia town wasn't unheard of, I isolated myself. I focused on raising two happy little kids while logging more than 40 hours a week at the carpet mill. My ex's family was a huge help—I'd pay his aunt to babysit the girls when I was at work. A new relationship was the farthest thing from my mind. My life was about my kids.
My Baby Is Having a Baby
My girls and I have a very unique bond because I was so young when I had them and because it was just the three of us for so long. They're like my friends—though, of course, I was the disciplinarian when I had to be. I don't remember ever sitting the girls down for a proper sex talk, but I made sure they knew how difficult I had made things on myself by becoming a teen mother. Above all else, I told them how important education is.
When Olivia got into college two years ago, I was so proud but so sad to have one of my girls move out. All I've known for the last two decades is being a mom. I always thought eventually I'd get to go to college, but I just keep pushing it back. So to see my oldest actually do it filled me with pride. Britana had been accepted to college with a volleyball scholarship when she broke the news to me that she was pregnant.
When I got that text from her, I couldn't help but think about what it was like for my mom when I told her the same news. And I was devastated because I knew my daughter's life was about to change in ways she couldn't even imagine. But I knew I had to do whatever I could to make sure Britana knows that I will support her while she raises this child. I'll never kick her out of my home.
A few months later, when Britana broke down in tears while I did her hair for prom, my heart sank.
"I'm nervous about everyone being like, 'Why is she here.' It's not normal to see a pregnant girl at the prom," she said as she cried, rubbing her eyes.
"I was devastated because I knew my daughter's life was about to change in ways she couldn't even imagine."
I know how hard things are about to get for my daughter. Sometimes I blame myself: Should I have encouraged her to do more after-school activities to keep her busier? Should I have sat her down and had a detailed talk about birth control? But I know that guilt is pointless. She always played sports and I told my kids if they were going to have sex, they needed to use protection.
I wasn't prepared for the emotions I experienced when Britana gave birth to her daughter, Rylie. I felt the overwhelming love for my granddaughter that I felt when my other children were born.
The word "grandmother" sounds so old, so, for now, I chose the name "nonny" to go by. I lost my job at a dental office six weeks before Rylie was born, so I take care of her five days a week so Britana can attend a nearby college and work. She's a great mom and I'm so happy that I can support her while she goes to school. I know that, as a teen mom, you can't do it all on your own and still pursue an education. I tell my girls all the time: "Knowledge is power and power is money."
For me, finances are a constant issue. I lay in bed at night and worry about how I'm going to keep supporting this growing family. But during the day, I put on a happy face. My family is my life, and I'm so grateful for them every single day. I wouldn't do anything to change what I have, but sometimes I think about what I could have accomplished if I hadn't gotten pregnant so young.
Watch new Lifetime series 30-Something Grandma, premiering Monday, November 14, for more of Patricia and Britana's story.
Follow Marie Claire on Facebook for the latest celeb news, beauty tips, fascinating reads, livestream video, and more.