*I was 16 years old in 2012 when I found out I was pregnant. I had just moved across the country to live with my mother and had been feeling under the weather for a few weeks – hot, dizzy and nauseous. My mom took me to the doctor’s office, and I figured they would give a prescription and send me on my way. When the doctor told me that I was 20 weeks pregnant, I was in complete shock. I sat there in the exam room, alone and scared, asking myself, “now what?”
I know that many girls have found themselves sitting in a similar exam room, feeling the same kind of way. I hope that by sharing my story and the lessons that I’ve learned, I will be able to help other young moms like me. Here are the most important takeaways from experience:
Finish School. This is the single most important piece of advice for every teen mom. You have to finish school. Without your education, you will not be able to support yourself or provide for your child. When I look at my daughter I know that she deserves more, and I want to give her a better life than I can right now. School is the only solution.
I moved around a lot throughout my childhood, while I was pregnant and after I had my daughter. This made it really hard to keep up, and I was out of school for a while. I had fallen pretty far behind before I started taking classes at Ombudsman Chicago, last February.
Now, I am back on track and working really hard to earn my high school diploma. At Ombudsman, the school day is only four hours long and you can work at your own pace. You only have to take the classes you need, which means that you can actually graduate sooner than you would at a normal high school.
Being a mom and a student can be hard to balance. There are schools out there that will work with your schedule, help you graduate and get you ready to move on to the next phase in life.
Make your Baby your Priority. When I found out I was pregnant, I cried and cried. I was really scared about my future and I worried about how I was going to make it work. Once my daughter was born, everything changed and I realized that it wasn’t just about me anymore.
When you have a baby, your social life will change and this can be a hard adjustment. Your true friends will still be there for you, and this can be a good time to break away from bad influences. Take a break from dating for a while, and get rid of other distractions. Your baby comes first.
Set Goals and Demand More. Because of my daughter, I push harder and I demand more out of life. I know that I am responsible for my future AND hers.
I always thought that I wanted to go to college, but it never felt as important as it does now that I am a mother. My teachers at Ombudsman have helped me map out my education plan, and have even helped me fill out applications for college. My short-term goals are to finish high school, begin an associate’s degree program and find a job. My long-term goal is to open a daycare center that would specifically help young moms like me.
When you set goals for yourself, make a plan and work hard, things will get better.
Prove the Haters Wrong. In a perfect world every teenage mom would have a supportive loving family and lots of people who believe in her and encourage her to succeed. Unfortunately this is not the reality for many moms, myself included.
When you are faced with people who think you are going to fail, the best thing you can do for you, for your baby and for your future, is to prove them wrong.
Keiara Peeple is a 19 year old high school senior at Ombudsman Chicago’s West Side Options School.