Answer by Imogen Moore, freelance journalist:
I was 18.
After having my second child at 36, I can say that 18 is a great physical age to have a child. I had plenty of energy and didn't care as much about a clean house, so I had a lot of "extra" time to play.
But it's pretty lonely. Obviously my peers were doing nonbaby things, but I was also rejected by other parents at the playgroup and school. There is a huge stigma to being a teen mother (strike 1). I was also low-income (strike 2) and single (strike 3), so I found it difficult to be taken seriously by my daughter's teachers or even just by other mums and dads who were more "grown up."
The irony is that I was juggling work, university, and parenthood and was still the only parent at the school gates who seemed happy to see his or her child—maybe it was because I wasn't involved in a conversation with another school parent, so I had no need to shoo her away!
Every decision has the undertone of "her her her" as its soundtrack. If I made a good decision, then that noise would fade for a while. If I made a bad decision or a dubious one, then the noise in my head would become overwhelming. And I made a lot of bad decisions then compared to the decisions I make now, as an older, wiser, and better parent.
Although I was a pretty bad parent to her (honestly, 18 is not the smartest age), her existence kept me alive and made me avoid the worst of life's situations and people. It was only my belief that she deserves better that kept me away from the truly destructive path that I was on.
Basically, although a teen pregnancy is a bad situation, because of it there are two slightly battered but good, loving, and compassionate people in the world who came pretty close to dying or not existing at all.
It's funny what can save a life.
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