As a 23-year-old woman, the thought of being a mother is pretty terrifying. I feel like my teen years aren’t far enough behind me for me to feel comfortable starting a family right now. Of course, women my age who do already have children are hardly a rarity, in fact, many of them are incredibly happy with their life choices. But that doesn’t make it any more appealing to me.

But do you know what’s even more unappealing than being a mother aged 23? Being a grandmother at age 23.
And although you’re probably wondering how that’s even possible – trust me it’s possible. Just ask Rifca Stanescu, a Romanian Gypsy who, at the tender age of 12, gave birth to her first child, Maria.

And despite urging her daughter not to do the same, Maria, also gave birth to a child before hitting her teenage years. Shockingly, when Maria was just 11 years old, she gave birth to a baby boy called Ion.
Against her mother’s wishes, she left home to get married when she was only ten and had her baby just six months later.

So how does this astonishing story begin?
Well, Rifca was born in 1985, and just over a decade later she married a jewelry seller by the name of Ionel Stanescu. She was just 11 at the time and he was 13.
Out of fear that Rifca’s father would force her to marry another boy in the village of Investi in Romania, the young couple eloped.
“Before that, there was a lot of fighting – once my father had even attacked my husband with a knife. He wanted him to pay 500,000 lei in compensation,” Rifca recalled. “My family even took me home, but after three days I ran away again to be with him.”
(Take a look at what The Young Turks have to say about the situation.)

“I wanted to marry him, so I agreed, and of course, after we had spent the night together then there was no way anyone could separate us,” Rifca recalled. “I had been promised to another boy’s family since I was two years old, but I didn’t want that.”
A year after the extraordinarily young couple married, Rifca fell pregnant with Maria.
Rifca’s father forgave her for eloping when she gave birth to her daughter, as Ionel’s family paid him a suitable dowry. However, Rifca herself admitted in an interview with The Sun that she “wished something else for Maria – and something else for me.”
Despite her previous warnings to her daughter, Rifca, who is now 31, loves her eight-year-old grandson Ion, saying “I am happy to be a grandmother.”
Rifca’s own mother also called Maria, has become a great grandma at the age of 40 – as of yet there has been no comment on how she feels about that.
“Ion is a good boy – and he is already engaged to a girl aged 8. Boys are always good to have – they don’t have to suffer as much as girls I think,” Rifca added. “I did not try to stop my daughter getting married because this is the tradition, it’s what happens.”
In Romanian gypsy culture, virginity is treasured in women and girls. They are married young so that new husbands can be certain that their wives are “pure” allowing for a good dowry.

As shocking as it sounds this is common in practice in many cultures across the world. I’m just happy I’ve never had to live the life of a married pre-teen.