• Stephanie Hammond

Teenage wedding

Yesterday it was 55 years since I was first married. I was 15 and pregnant. I really didn’t want to get married but in those days there was little or no option to be an unmarried mother. My choices included an abortion. But I immediately knew that that wasn’t for me. And my second choice was presented to me in such a way that I just couldn’t contemplate it. If you told me I had to do something, the very lack of real choice was enough to make me rebel against it, even if it was something I would enjoy. I’m still a bit contrary that way.

When it was obvious I might be pregnant, my mother took me to the doctor. When he confirmed I was indeed pregnant she discussed it with our pastor. He arranged for us to visit a small private hospital where I would be able to have my baby. Mum and I sat across from the matron listening to her describing the facility. It sounded nice and I was feeling hopeful. At least the birthing experience would be in nice surroundings.

Then she wrote the date in her calendar when she would expect me to come in - months before the baby was due - and said something about arranging for the baby to be adopted. Mum and I looked at each other and together we rose and refused her ‘kind’ offer.

Perhaps I am more like my mother than I had thought! No way were either of us prepared to be told what would happen to my child, to her first grandchild. So we came home. Mum then told me I was not going to marry the father. We were both young, he was 17. We both needed our parents permission to marry since we were below the legal age.

Although this time I was clear as well that I didn’t want to get married, once again I rebelled against a fait accompli and instead I insisted that she give me her permission. Our pastor from the Baptist Church refused to marry us as we were so young. This fuelled my determination. And so I looked for some church who would marry us and we were married in the Methodist Church. Six months later, our beautiful, healthy little girl was born in the Catholic Mater Women’s Hospital. Three different religions influenced our baby's life before she was even born.

Marriage and motherhood brought their own joys and challenges, mainly because of my youth and cultural expectations. I will write about some of them I think. But today, I’m thinking about my strength and my contrariness of character at a time when I thought I displayed neither.

I loved school and it was during my end of year exams that the first physical signs of my pregnancy showed. Morning sickness hit me with a vengeance. Still, my results reflected my interest in learning and I passed each of my eight subjects.

I would have loved to go on and study more. In my heart I longed for a career in some area of medicine. But it was not to be. Instead, I took on the roles of carer and homemaker and wife. And over the next three years my desire to write took hold and my love of stories found expression in the stories I told my daughters - and myself.

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