Kathleen Loughnan: The courage to give a baby life

Reading Time: 3 minutes
Third-wave feminists only seem to speak of abortion, despite the advantages of giving birth.
Third-wave feminists only seem to speak of abortion, despite the advantages of giving birth.

Having a child at a young age

I was a child when I had my first child, and while I didn’t stop studying, I did stop going to most classes. This wasn’t something that was forced on me, not exactly. I simply couldn’t afford childcare.

The most strident disapproval of my studying for two came from perfect strangers who were appalled by the obscenely large bump protruding from my otherwise young frame.

The greasy looks I got in public from older women dripped with disgust. People would remark within earshot that they resented their tax dollars going to waste on young mothers. They hated me.

My parents weren’t too hot on the idea either. My mum told me that if the baby stopped me working I shouldn’t expect her to pay my way. My dad said that I could be forgiven for having one baby, but I’d better not have another.

I suppose I wasn’t a very good citizen or daughter because I didn’t listen and in a few years I fell pregnant again. By then I’d almost finished a law degree and was looking for a work experience position to complete my practical legal training.

A brave law firm took me on. Their only criticism was that I ate too many biscuits from the staff fridge. I was summoned to a partner’s office and told in all seriousness to get my nose out of the trough.

The cover of Shauna’s Great Expectations, written by Kathleen Loughnan and published by Allen & Unwin.
The cover of Shauna’s Great Expectations, written by Kathleen Loughnan and published by Allen & Unwin.

A few months later, three days before my delivery date, I sat the bar exams. After that, my hourly rate went from nothing to two hundred dollars and I could afford to buy my own biscuits. I swiftly began to pay more than my fair share of tax.

The positives of having a child young

Is there really anything so very bad about girls and young women having babies? I was certainly made to feel so, even though I took good enough care of my kids. Most young mums do. Their vitality can only be of benefit to their children.

There’s a lot to be said for having children when you’re in your late teens and early twenties. Not only are you likely to get a healthy baby. Of course there are challenges, but they’re for the parents to bear and are none of anyone else’s business.

Prominent second-wave feminists like Germaine Greer and Fay Weldon have spoken in support of teenagers having babies, but third-wave feminists seem to speak only in support of abortion.

We don’t hear much about the heart-wrenching decision to have the baby, or how giving birth was actually the best thing for everyone, or how a young woman took control of her destiny by giving life.

Ideas about never being able to travel or have a stellar career or meet a nice man after having children are just nonsense, and I am living proof of that. Brilliant girls who give birth will still be brilliant after the baby.

The earlier you have your baby, the sooner you can get over the economic hit babies entail and realise your potential in other areas, however great or small that might be.

I’m still in my thirties and I have two grown-up children. My younger two will both be in high school next year. I can work like a maniac for the rest of my life without feeling guilty.

As for schoolgirls who have the courage to see through their pregnancies in defiance of the pressures, good on them. Let life go on.