In 2014, roughly 250,000 babies were born to women of the ages 15-19. While the rate is going down, teen pregnancy is still an epidemic happening here in the U.S. Rather than get the “don’t have sex before marriage” talk from health class and be told wrong information, I thought I would ask the one woman I knew for her advice for upcoming teen parents: my mother. In the year 1993, my mother discovered she was pregnant with my older sister. Twenty two years later, my mother is married with four children – all from the same father – and about to head back to work after taking a leave to be a stay at home mom. The following is an interview with my mother, and brother, on their advice for teens and young parents.
Q: Did you have a job back then?
A: Yes, at Fair Share Finer Foods, I was a cashier.
Q: How old were you when you found out you were pregnant? And what was that feeling like?
A: I was seventeen. I actually, believe it or not, maybe I was young, but I was excited. I actually wanted to be pregnant. A lot of my friends were pregnant. I don’t know, maybe I thought I was missing out, so, I don’t know. But, I was excited. I didn’t regret my pregnancy. Maybe I regret that I got pregnant young, but at that time, I didn’t think about it.
Q: How did you find out you were pregnant? Were you with a friend or by yourself?
A: I was by myself. I went to the clinic – I had a feeling I was pregnant. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I was afraid how to break it down to my parents, so I figured that [the pregnancy] would be a secret that I would keep by myself with your dad.
Q: What was it like telling ama y apa?
A: I didn’t have to tell them because I got busted. My older sister found my prenatal pills with a doctor’s note attached to it with my next doctor’s visit. So she told my mother and when I overheard them talking about it, I just popped out on them and told them…
My sister, the first born, shouts from the other room, “My daughter’s a tramp!” My mother laughs and breaks brief concentration from the interview to shout back, while laughing, “Este pinche! Shut up!”
A: I told them it was true, and that I was pregnant.
Q: What was grandma’s reaction to this?
A: Grandma was worried about how to tell grandpa, because he was very, very strict.
Q: What was grandpa’s reaction? How did he handle it?
A: My mom had to find a way to break it to him and, it took her a while. Because she knew my dad would be very upset. She was scared, not for me, but for herself as well. Back in the day, your grandpa drank a lot and was more aggressive. She finally told him and then one day, a Saturday morning, he came up to me. I was sitting down in the living room, watching tv. He had this look and this upset tone with him. He just said make sure you see your doctor, do your follow ups, do what he says. And he just walked away. So by him saying that, I knew he already knew. But he said it in a very upsetting way. A disappointed tone, but at the same time he wanted me to take care of myself and my pregnancy.
There was a two minute break due to my random outburst of emotion that caused my eyes to get watery.
Q: What grade were you?
A: I was supposed to be a junior, but I was a Freshmen because I had to repeat it for three years.
Another two minute break. This time, my sister and I laugh in the kitchen, where the interview is being taken place. My mother continues to wash dishes and laughs along with us.
Q: So, did you continue school?
A: No, I went to a very bad school. It was always on the news with riots and fights. No one could concentrate. Grandma decided I just stay home so I don’t get hurt, with me being pregnant. But I went back as an adult in my thirties to get my GED. I passed it just by reading the textbooks and on my first try.
Q: Were you scared to deliver?
A: Yes! All four kids were natural. It hurts like hell, but it is worth it once your child is out.
Q: Did you and dad have a place to stay during and after the pregnancy?
A: My parents actually let us stay, well they rented us the basement. It was very comfortable. And I had my parents guidance. They helped us out tremendously, so if it wasn’t for them, I don’t think I would be where I’m at today.
Q: Did dad have a job while you were pregnant?
A: Your dad did. I was working before I quit, then I went back. It was a little part time job, and everyone would always quit and come back, and they would always take us back. It was an on and off thing. But your dad did have a job, which currently today, he is still employed.
Q: There’s some teens out there who wouldn’t be as fortunate as you guys were, in terms of housing, family support, and employment. What would your advice be to them?
A: You really have to think with your head. You should know what’s right and what’s wrong for you and your family. You can’t see what others have and compare your life to that. You have to try and be a survivor and do what you have to do to sustain the household.
Q: What was it like the moment you saw your child come out?
A: I was really happy. Real happy. The first thing I felt was love. Love. Unconditional. Love.
Q: Lastly, what’s your final advice for the girls who are about to become teen mothers?
A: Don’t let this stop you from pursuing and education. At all. Go forward. You’re going to have a lot of negativity, even from your friends. They’re going to say how stupid or dumb you were. But you know what? Those weren’t your friends to begin with. Don’t let this hold you back from anything or doing anything. If you feel that at the moment, you can’t continue or pursue an education, it’s never too late to pick it up afterwards. It’s never too late for you to get back on your feet and continue on. Wait until your baby is on their feet before you can get back on your feet.
Last year, my mother learned that one of her children had followed in her footsteps of being a young parent. Her son, my older brother, was 20 when he broke the news that his girlfriend of three years was three months pregnant with their first child. My niece was born last June and now that my brother is a father, I decided to see if he had any advice for upcoming teen and young dads.
Q: How old were you when you met Alicia*?
A: I was eighteen when I met her, and it was at her sister’s quince.
Q: Did you have a job at the time?
A: No, not yet.
Q: How old were you when you found out she was pregnant?
A: I was 20 when I found out.
Q: Were you in school?
Q: What was your first reaction when you told her? Did you have a job at the time?
A: I was scared when she told me. And I was working at Paisans [a pizzeria as a delivery boy] and I was still in truck driving school.
Q: What’s the best part about fatherhood? What’s the worst?
A: The best part is seeing them grow more and more everyday. The hardest is changing diapers constantly. The crying, too. But that’s more when they’re newborns.
Q: What advice do you have for young dads?
A: I advise young guys to enjoy their life before they take on such a big responsibility. Every father has a different experience.
Q: Do you have any tips for fathers who don’t really get along with the girlfriend’s family?
A: Nobody really likes their in-laws, so just suck it up. It’s for the sake of the child.
Whether you or someone you know is about to become a parent, just remember that every experience is different. People have it easy, people have it hard. You go through it alone, or you have all the support in the world. Listening to my mother talk about motherhood at a young age opened my eyes and brought me to tears as she talked about how she felt having disappointed her old-fashioned and strict father. To those who are sexually active, please remember to wear a condom or take birth control, or even buy the Plan B pill. In the words of my mother, “Enjoy your youth. There is a lot more to life than there is to motherhood. A lot more.”
*Name has been changed to protect identity.