I was a teenage mom. It was not glamorous. It was not a television show. No cameras, no confessional rooms, no reunions. It was real life. My real life. I was a 17 year old kid about to have a kid. My experience changed the course of my life, for the better. The journey was not easy, nor pretty.
I thought I was in love and that I knew way more than I did. I mean, I was 17 years old, almost an adult, right? I thought I had everything figured out. I was on birth control, but I was late in taking it. I thought I would be good. Now, I did not intentionally become pregnant. It was more carelessness and a belief of invincibility than anything. I had these big dreams of going to the Olympics as a track star, becoming a doctor or teacher or becoming a famous model. None of my plans included having a baby. As a matter of fact, I did not want any kids the immediate future. I was the oldest of four, raised by a single mother, which means I helped a lot in watching my siblings. They made me not want any kids. It’s funny how God and the Universe works.
I was starting my senior year of high school and the details are fuzzy in the very beginning, but I do remember waking up horribly nauseated during summer school. I didn’t think much of it. My period was irregular, so I didn’t think much about missing it for a month or two. I eventually took a pregnancy test, and it was positive. No matter how much denial I was in, it was definitely positive. I remember a surge of feelings. I was ashamed, embarrassed, afraid. I felt like I definitely screwed up. I was afraid to accept the reality of it all initially. I had so many questions. What would my teachers think? What will my classmates think? What about college? What can I do? What can I be (in a professional sense)? Can I really raise a baby? I thought about an abortion, but I was convinced to my core that if I followed through with an abortion, I would not be blessed to have a kid in the future.*
I had to be around 4-5 months before I told my mom I was pregnant because of fear. I was super skinny, so eventually she would have found out. I was afraid of what she would think of me after telling her. I was afraid of what others would think of her about me. I felt like such a disappointment. When I told her, she didn’t snap on me, didn’t sound angry, didn’t say she was disappointed. She was calm and said she knows I will be ok. It wouldn’t be easy, but I would be ok. Talking about a weight being lifted! I was afraid of her and what she thought more than anything. Her response made anything anyone else thought or say not matter.
People at school did not know I was pregnant until I was 6 months along. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself because of it. I went to school and every class every day. I do not remember missing a day of school because I was pregnant. I also worked on the weekends. I did not want to be a burden on anyone, so I tried to do as much as I could. There came a time when I couldn’t work because my job required repetitive lifting. I performed well in class and applied to area colleges because I knew I had to prepare a decent life for my son.
I delivered a healthy baby boy exactly three months before my high school graduation. I stay out of school for 4 weeks and during that time, I tried to stay on top of all my school work. There was one teacher that would not let me make up any of my missed work. She stated that if I could go to K-mart, I could be in class. I had seen one of my classmates while picking up my lay-away at Kmart. She mentioned seeing me and the teacher overheard. So, I earned a C- minus in that class. It was ok, I excelled despite that. When I returned to school, I finished the work I needed to, applied to college, and took my ACT. I had decided nursing would be perfect to pursue. I liked taking care of people, I enjoyed learning about the human body, and I knew I could make a good living and provide for my son.
I graduated valedictorian of my high school class. I bust my butt to do so. I had the support of my family and some very dear teachers. My high school chemistry and nursing teachers were phenomenal. At times, I felt my chemistry teacher believed in me more than I believed in myself. She helped me write my valedictorian speech and then she gave me a card that I still have today. She wrote that I was a star and to never let anyone dim that. She saw my potential and did not label me or discard me.
Being a teenage mom was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I had to grow up quickly. I had to make responsible decisions because what I did affected me and my son. I had to build a tough exterior because not everyone spoke positively or were encouraging. Below are some lessons I learned.
- No one is perfect. Not a single person. We are human and we will make mistakes.
- Life can be hard, but it won’t be impossible.
- Prioritize priorities. Everything cannot matter on the same level.
- Work hard, prove the doubters wrong.
- You are not your circumstances. You are whoever you want and work to be.
- Be kind. Speak kindly into the life of others. You don’t know their story. You never know who that person is to become in your life or in the life of others. They could change the world.
- Have faith in God, the Universe, our ancestors that your life has meaning and purpose. DO NOT GIVE UP.
- It’s ok to cry and not have it all figured out. DO NOT GIVE UP.
- Surround yourself with positivity.
- Have a plan for where you want to go.
- It will all work out for our good in the end.
*I am pro-choice. I chose what was best for me and believe in women having the right to choose what is best for them.
I Am Jackie