I found out that I was pregnant when I was eighteen years old. I honestly thought I had been safe—my boyfriend of two months and I had been using condoms as well as birth control and I took it without fail. However, my doctor never mentioned to me that the antibiotics I was given for an illness could cause my birth control pills to be ineffective. As a college student in a pre-med program, I knew that no method of birth control was 100 percent safe, but staring at the plus sign on the pregnancy test, I also knew right away that my career and life goals had been immediately and dramatically shifted.
Luckily my boyfriend was endlessly supportive, and willing to do whatever was asked of him as I made my decision about the pregnancy. In the end, it really wasn’t a decision at all. While I fully believe in a woman’s right to choose, the right choice for me was not abortion. I knew the road ahead would be bumpy, but I was keeping my baby. I received pre-natal care through my college’s clinic, and finished out my semester of school. Knowing that my parents, whose form of the birds and bees talk had consisted only of “don’t do it,” would be completely opposed to it and that most likely would try to force me to have an abortion, we waited to tell them until abortion was no longer an option.
Finally, I could hide the pregnancy no longer. Taking a deep breath, I sat my parents down and told them that I was pregnant, and that I was keeping it. I will never forget my mother’s reaction of slapping me across the face, or my father calling me a whore. A pregnant teen daughter did not fit in with their image of an upper middle class family, and they made that quite clear by asking me to either move out immediately, or to hide out in their home for the duration of the pregnancy and put the child up for adoption when it was born. Either way, their “solution” made their anger, shame, and embarrassment more than obvious. With my parents lack of support, and with both of us feeling tremendous pressure to “do the right thing,” my boyfriend and I were married in a quickie civil ceremony.
Like most teenagers, we were still just kids. We hadn’t even figured out who we were or what we wanted out of life, let alone how to make a marriage work. And like most marriages that were entered into for the wrong reasons, things quickly fell apart, and we were separated before my son entered kindergarten. Thankfully we both had the maturity to handle the divorce gracefully and today we are still friends, living a five minute drive apart. There have been no ugly court battles, no he said/she said arguments, and we have always put forth a positive and supportive front for the sake of our son.
That’s not to say that being a single parent has been a walk in the park. There were many days that I subsisted on rice or peanut butter sandwiches in order to save money and ensure that my son had diapers or formula. While my friends were going out and having fun, enjoying the typical college experience, I was at home taking care of a newborn. I drove a beat-up, unreliable car because that’s all I could afford. I struggled to work and go to college, and still find time to be a good parent and role model. All in all, I can say that the past fourteen years have been filled with many ups and downs, triumphs and hardships, but through it all my love of my son and determination to be a great mom has never wavered.
I can’t say that it was ever easy, but I can say this: I graduated college summa cum laude, I never used public assistance as a means of support, and I never once regretted my decision to have my son. Not for one second. He is absolutely the best thing to ever have happened to me. However, it’s never been an easy road to take, and one that is filled with challenges—including being subjected to the biases that many people have against teen mothers, and the ongoing stigma that society attaches to that. Today, I am a VP of a Fortune 100 company, but when people hear that I have a fourteen year old son, I can see them mentally doing the math and realizing that I had him in my teens. Parents of the other children on my son’s sports teams, who had their children later in life, tend to look down their noses at me when they realize that I am easily a decade or more younger.
I know that my own teen pregnancy, if nothing else, will serve as an excellent object lesson for my son. That despite taking what seemed to be the proper precautions, accidents can and do happen, and the decision to have sex should never be taken lightly or be considered free of consequence. He has seen my struggles as a single parent, and the sacrifices I have made. Hopefully, I have also been able to show him the joy that comes with being a parent, and how rewarding children can be.
I also hope that through educating him on the risks that come with being sexually active and preparing him for the challenges that lie ahead in his teens, he is able the avoid the situation that befell me fourteen years ago. He’s a handsome kid, and the girls are starting to swarm around. Though I hate that my little boy is growing up, I know it won’t be long before he’s faced with some very adult decisions. I pray that I’ve taught him well, and that he’s as responsible with this decision as he is with the rest of his life. However, I’m a realist, and know that life doesn’t always turn out the way we plan. Should he find himself facing a teen pregnancy in the future, I know that he will be secure in the knowledge he has my utmost support on whatever decisions he makes.