by "Anonymous" of Billings, Montana
06/11/98 BOZEMAN -- Seven years ago I was an active high school senior with hardly a care in the world. Although I wanted to go to college and run on a track team, I was not doing much to prepare for it. Rather than work on my math grade or train for my last season of track, I concentrated more on how much fun I could have. Ending up 17 and pregnant seemed like the worst situation I could be in.
It's ironic how my seemingly hopeless situation turned out to be such a miracle. Over the nine months that my child grew inside of me, I became a person I never imagined I could be, although I did not realize this until recently.
Writing this, I realize how emotional I still feel about the last seven years! I went from being a popular, active teenager to a mocked, separated, minority "other." I tried to remain the same person I was before that day in November when a Planned Parenthood nurse told me I was pregnant.
However, I felt that many people were working against me. The principal called me into his office to discuss how difficult it would be for me to remain a cheerleader. Although he was trying to be sincere by warning me about the comments I might get, I could not help but notice the panic in his voice that I might actually continue to represent our school as a cheerleader.
Understand that my parents taught me to be a fighter, so I took it as a cue that I had better show these people. I think I could have done it if people had not been so cruel.
I clearly remember being mocked and talked about at the last basketball game I cheered at. While watching these parents whisper and shake their heads at me, I wanted to scream out that I really had not done anything different than many of my friends. Why was my decision so different from that of some of those parents' daughters who had abortions? The same thing happened when I won the title of queen of a fall festival. Although neither I nor my parents were invited, a meeting was held to try to take my crown away.
Even though the baby's father stayed with me, which I am thankful for, we did not have a good relationship. I knew he was not the person I wanted to be with forever. He dropped out of school but did not work, so I carried a load twice as heavy. I realized I was going to have to get tough fast. Thanks to the never-ending support of my parents, I made it through the school year and graduated.
My parents helped me move into a small apartment right before I graduated from high school so I would be settled when the baby was born. My healthy, beautiful little boy was born that August, and I stayed home with him for six months. I had always wanted to go to college, so at this point I registered for my first classes at Montana State University-Billings. Five years later I graduated with a bachelor's degree in human services. While in college I met my husband. With his tremendous support, I made it through college and we now have a three year old son.
Having had a baby when I was so young has turned me into an independent, self-initiator. Sometimes I find myself still fighting to prove I am worthy. Although I wouldn't go through it again for a million dollars, I'm able to see how it grounded me for real life.
Professionally, I bring compassion to my work because of what I went through. I empathize with my clients who are so poor they cannot afford gas, and I feel the rage of the teenage parent who receives no respect from a professional who is supposed to help.
I clearly remember the feeling of inadequacy I experienced because of thoughtless comments made by an ignorant professional. Although I was at a vulnerable place in my life, I had just enough self-esteem to know it was wrong for a professional who works with young mothers to come into my home and make me question my worth as a parent. I was not offered positive feedback and did not feel safe enough with the worker to ask questions. Luckily this experience did not happen with all of the service agencies I used. But it motivated me to strive to provide services to families in a way that empowers and encourages them to make the best decisions they can.
Although people consider my story a success, I strongly support prevention. Unlike some teens, I was equipped to handle the situation. I had a strong upbringing and supportive parents. I hope that by telling my story and through my work with a teenage pregnancy prevention program, I can help make a difference in just one young person's decision to protect themselves against the mountain I had to climb.
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