Being a pregnant teen mom is scary, but I think being a single teen mom and raising a child alone is scarier. I was 17 years old, in the middle of my sophomore year in high school, getting ready to begin driver’s ed while working a part time – job when I found out I was two months pregnant. I never had a great relationship with my parents, so I knew telling them would be very difficult. I remember being scared, worried about how I was going to tell my parents and how they would react. In the Hispanic culture, a woman having a child out of wedlock was frowned upon, but being a teen mom was considered a lost hope.

I am the youngest of my family, and my parents had very high expectations of me since neither my parents nor my brothers furthered their educations. They depended on me to go to college and become “someone.” because of this expectation; it made my situation even more stressful. So after a lot of crying, I summoned up the courage to finally approach my mom and tell her I was pregnant.

As I entered my house, I noticed my mom was sitting down in her bedroom watching TV. so I went in and asked her, “Mom, what would you do if I was pregnant?” She replied, “You’re crazy, you can’t be, and you aren’t.” I again paused for a second and asked “What would you do if I was- just answer me that?”

I will never forget the look on my mom’s face that day. She arched her eyebrow, and tears began to stream down her face. “You can’t be,” she said and began asking a lot of questions. She wanted to know where, and when did this all happen, but none of that mattered anymore. I was already pregnant. I remember her telling me, “You do know there are pills that can make your period come, right?” I told my mom, “I am keeping it,” and she began scolding me and said to me, “There goes all the sacrifices we have made for you to provide you with the best education possible. All of that is down the drain, and there goes your future.” My boyfriend’s parents at the time also said, “What about your education?” they suggested to think carefully about my choices. They said, “While you are changing diapers you will also be doing your homework. Be wise in what you decide!”

Why is having a baby at a young age such a disappointment or a bad thing? What most people don’t realize is that when you’re a pregnant, teenage girl, you already have had many people that have let you down who are supposed to be close to you. From people who you think are your friends who end up deserting you, to teachers who are supposed to guide you but turn their backs. Even your own family doesn’t try to understand your choice.

When I was five months pregnant, I felt alone, ashamed, betrayed and especially abandoned by some of my friends and my family; I began to feel this void in my heart. I wanted to prove everyone wrong; I wanted to prove that I too could finish high school even though I was pregnant. I made an appointment the following week to see my counselor and to talk about my options for finishing high school.

When I met with her she handed me three educational pamphlets and gave me a lecture of how hard it was going to be to finish school, but never once did she say that I would finish if I tried my best. When I left her office, I had somewhat of a small hope that I could make it. However, all my hopes and dreams went out the window when a classmate of mine over heard the counselor say, “She will never make it and will soon drop out of school.”  I was devastated when I heard what she said about me; how am I supposed to succeed when everyone around me is expecting to see me fail? That day would be the last day I ever stepped foot in that high school again.

I was now six months pregnant, I was alone, and I was scared; I was very, very scared and so I prayed, “Now what Lord, what do I do now?” No job, no income, no education, no driver’s license. Something in my life was missing. I needed support, unconditional love, someone who understood me and saw me for me and didn’t judge me. So I started reading my pamphlets that I had placed underneath my bed from my HS guidance counselor (along with my hopes and dreams) from last month. Something that I read in one of the brochures grabbed my attention. The logo on a brochure read “I chose life, now what?” as I was reading it all I kept thinking was, “YES!!! Exactly, now what?” It contained information about how the organization could help a teen mom finish her education along with Life skills workshops. They paired each teen mom with a mentor. They also helped pay for daycare. I kept thinking, “This is too good to be true. Are you serious?” So I made a phone call thinking, “What’s the catch?” Making that phone call was one of the best choices I had ever made along with keeping my son. A person from a teen mother program answered the phone. She sounded very nice and friendly and explained to me how they could help and what was expected of the teen mom when I joined. So I asked her to put me on the waiting list.

I gave birth to my son Rylee on August 31, 2004 and joined the teen mom program in September 2004 when he was only two weeks old. I was excited and eager to learn. I walked in with a group of five other teen moms and their children along with people who were bringing in a cooked meal for our group. They all greeted me warmly, and I was glad to know that they were on the same journey. During the first few weeks in the program, I began to enjoy the weekly workshops- especially the ones where they taught us how to get your child in a healthy sleep pattern, how to cook, and financial meetings and all the while making individual goals. I remember one particular workshop, where a speaker came to talk to us about job interviews. We learned what to say and how to shake someone’s hand appropriately, and most importantly, suggesting that after you have an interview in a job, it’s always nice to send a “thank you” card. I will never forget that not only did I land a job after that life skills workshop, but also that company has currently employed me for the past five years.

I was also paired up with a mentor. We began to get to know each other and forge a friendship. After a few months, I began to work with my mentor to achieve my individual goals.  I did not have a job, or a high school diploma, had no clue what a banking or savings account was nor did I have a driver’s license. But with the help of the program and my mentor, I was able to work towards these goals. When I gave up on myself, my mentor was right beside me every step of the way, even when I stopped believing in myself. She would always tell me, “You can accomplish anything you want to, if you just set your mind to it.” She gave me the motivation that I needed. My son also benefited from the program. He was able to develop a relationship with God and enjoys going to church and learning about the Bible.

In August of 2009, it was time for me to graduate. It was my fifth year. I was sad to leave the program, but it was time for another girl to take my spot and enjoy all the benefits that it had to offer. I had reached all my goals and not only was I able to obtain my GED, but I was also able to get a job, health insurance, my driver license, a car, a banking account, and a education about my finances.  I also developed a relationship with God and was amazed at how He put all these amazing, wonderful people in my life, who give and don’t expect anything in return. They demonstrated God’s love to me throughout my time there. When I graduated, I too, wanted to accept Jesus into my heart and lead by example, the same way those in the program showed me. After I graduated and was baptized at Village Church of Gurnee on a hot, beautiful, summer day.

Since graduation, I am working, attending college and am pursuing a career in the medical field. I also do volunteer work at my place of employment. My son is now eight years old, and he is an amazing child. I couldn’t have asked for more! He still remembers the program and reminds me to sign him up on Wednesday nights for the kids club at church to learn more about God. I also joined the Teen Mom Alumni group a few months ago, which is a nice way to catch up with other teen moms and still be involved with those I grew to love there. I still maintain an amazing relationship with my mentor; and we see each other often.  And my family and I have grown closer together as we have watched Rylee grow. I have God and the program to thank for all that they have done for me.

I am so grateful for those that were always there for me, ready to listen and being on this journey with me. You will forever hold a special place in my son’s heart and in mine.