I’m from Mexico. I was 12 years old when I came here. Before I had children, I was in high school. My parents had two jobs. I’m the oldest of four kids so I’m kind of like the mother figure for my sisters. We didn’t see my parents, except at nights and early before we left for school.
I was 15 when I got pregnant. I was barely turning 16 when she was born. When I first found out I was pregnant, I was scared and didn’t know what to do. I knew my parents were going to get so upset. Our culture is so different. You can have a boyfriend, but they need to ask for your hand in marriage. Then you marry them and have kids and that was the proper way to do it. I didn’t do it that way. I know I was not supposed to do it, but I did. I knew the consequences, but I mean, halfway knew the consequences. When my mom and dad found out, there were big problems, but after awhile it was ok. Then my boyfriend came up and told my daddy he will marry me, but it didn’t work out because he had a drinking problem. He was about 8 years older than me.
You really find out who is your friend because people who care really stick by you and give you advice or if you need help, they’ll really reach out to you. I felt kind of bad too—because everybody was staring at me, a 16-year-old with a baby. I was still going to school. There weren’t that many Hispanics in school like there are now. At one point, I did get depressed and wanted to quit. But my mom and dad said, “no, you’re going to finish.” My ESL teacher really helped me out. She found an alternative school where you can go with your baby. It was for teenage mothers and troublemakers.
Our bus would pick us up around 6. We’d get the baby’s bag full of diapers and formula and water plus my school supplies. We used to go in the daycare, check in, make sure we had the baby’s cubby full of everything they needed, their blankets, that their crib was clean and we had baby food—if they were eating. Then we would go to class. At lunchtime we would go straight to the daycare and help out and feed and clean them, then go back to our next class. In the afternoons, we would pick them up, make a list of what we needed to bring back the next day, then wait for the bus. That was it. We used to go home and do homework and take care of the baby. My sisters helped. It seemed like a toy to us. It was something to do besides homework and cleaning up.
When I was 18, I decided to move out. After I had my baby, I had a cashier’s job. I was bringing in money and helping out. But then I had some problems with my dad and he didn’t like how I was acting. He told me there were two options: either him staying or him leaving because the house wasn’t big enough for the both of us. I met a male friend. We got together. My mom was missing my baby. She was really sad. She said, “let me have her for a weekend.” And I did and my baby never came home. I didn’t mind her keeping her because I knew it was going to be better for her. I was working to help out. Then I split up with this male friend and I found out I was pregnant. I was using Depo. I talked to my mom and she told me there was another alternative if you don’t want to have the baby. But by the time I found out, I was 26 weeks so there was nothing I could do. I don’t regret having my child. I have a wonderful child.
What surprised me? How different they are. Every child and every pregnancy is so different. Even giving birth is so different. My first labor was 18 hours. My second was one hour.
Hardest? Sometimes kids get depressed—like when they don’t know their daddy. And when they go to school they see other kids with their mommy and daddy and they ask about him. That’s the toughest thing. “Why is my daddy not with me?” You don’t know what to say. It’s a question for which you don’t have the answer. Because they’re too little and you don’t know how they’re going to react… to not make them hurt.
You enjoy every minute, even if you’re mad at them. They’ll say something that will bring a smile to your face. They give you a hug and kiss and it makes you feel better. Every kid is different. They’re all full of surprises.
I am not as naïve as I was before. I used to believe everything you would tell me. But now I don’t. I question everything. Having kids opened my eyes to the real world. A lot of people will take advantage of you if you’re a single mom. I will not fall for it.
I have to look out for my kids. I will not let anyone hurt my kids, emotionally or physically. We guard our kids like the little animals do. Don’t you dare do something to my kids cause I’ll come and get you. It’s just an instinct.
Advice? If you’re a teenage mother, don’t stop your goals because you’re having a baby. Keep trying. Keep reaching. Ask someone for advice or for help and finish school. Keep moving forward. If you have a baby, the whole world doesn’t stop for you. You have to work. And ask. And be persistent. You don’t have to stop because of your child.