"I became a parent before I became an adult."


I’d lived in a very unsafe and damaging de facto relationship since I was 15 – also leaving school to work full time to support my unsavoury partner.

In hindsight, it’s easy to say I hated myself and everybody else, at the time I just felt lost.

Lost and worthless and I believed absolutely and unequivocally that I had nothing meaningful to offer the world. I was a lost and broken thing, afraid and voiceless, frozen on the edge of surviving.

It probably came as no great surprise to anyone that as a high-school drop out with a live in partner, I became pregnant shortly before my 17th birthday. But it was a surprise to me. Because it was the beginning. The beginning of courage, of risk and reward and ultimately the beginning of claiming my own life and potential.

I loved my son before I knew his name, his face, his voice. It was a great vibrant, tearing light reaching beyond my fingertips into this fragile world of ours. A light to guide the both of us. Loving my son was more than a feeling, it was a choice. A choice that said – I choose you, I welcome you, you are my responsibility and I will do everything I can to give you the very best opportunity to live a rewarding and meaningful life, I will keep you safe from the darkness in the world the best I can.

Loving my son meant that I had to choose life. Real life.

It didn’t happen the moment I discovered I was pregnant or even the moment he was born, but together with the moment Zacharie was first placed in my arms, a fire was lit. A fire that grew larger and larger and larger, screaming at me ‘the world is a confusing, painful, scary place, but it is also precious and worthy of your time and you can either spend the rest of your life running or the rest of your life building a better world for Zach to live in’. I chose the latter and everything since is the living expression of that choice.

“With the moment Zacharie was first placed in my arms, a fire was lit.”

I left Zacharie’s biological father and spent 5 years as a single parent before meeting a beautiful, beautiful man who loves both Zach and I for the flawed, perfect individuals we are.

I returned to school to complete Year 12 the year that Zach turned 2 and have since undertaken tertiary studies as an Actor, Youth Worker and student Teacher. I’ve built a career as a regional artist working across disciplines in the arts, education, health and social justice.

I’ve been a high school dropout, teenage mum, single parent, waitress, artist, student, sewing machinist, blogger, dishwasher, community facilitator, speaker and last year I was presented with the 2011 South Australian Young Citizen of the Year Award at Government House. In believing that my son deserved a better life I started on the road to discovering that I deserved a better life too.

He saved me, that tiny squashed pink and white bundle of skin and bone and sinew and breathing, sighing, screaming life. He saved me because I loved him enough to demand a better life. To stretch into my life with a greater courage than I thought I had because I had a promise to keep.

“Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”
– Kahlil Gibran ‘On Children’

Zacharie is now barreling towards 10 with a cheeky smile, stunning blue eyes and a loud, loud voice. He is his own person, with dreams of becoming a video game designer (concept and story) or an author. I believe in his potential. I believe his life belongs to him and it’s my job to equip him with the skills, resilience and foundation to navigate this terrifying, confusing, sometimes painful but always precious existence.

I was 17 when I became a mother. 17.

There was no time for pressure, for expectations, for a woman’s duty. I fell into this love, this choice, quite accidentally.

Thank you little one, you are my arrow.

Alysha Herrmann is a proud parent and regional theatre maker (playwright, poet and performer) currently splitting her time between Adelaide and the beautiful Riverland in South Australia. She is the Creative Producer of ExpressWay Arts and a Foundation for Young Australians’ Young Social Pioneer passionate about empowering children and young people to claim personal and civic space. Alysha is currently in the throes of planning a wedding in March and expecting baby #2 in April. She also tweets mini poetry (@lylyee) and blogs here.

How did having children change your life for the better?