I ended up pregnant at the end of ninth grade. I knew I faced many difficulties — how I would tell my parents, if I should keep the baby, and if so, how the father, Ronnie, and I were going to take care of the baby.

I knew we were going to need plenty of help so I first decided to tell my mom. When I told her, I felt like I had completely disappointed her. She struggled with accepting my condition and telling my dad.

Soon after, my entire family knew about my situation. We began to have many discussions about whether or not I planned to keep the baby. After long debates, eventually I told them it was my responsibility, so I wanted to deal with it. At the time I was not sure how I would balance school and a baby. I thought I would have to drop out my tenth grade year because I could not imagine handling the responsibility of being a teenage mother and full-time student. After sharing my thoughts with relatives and close friends, they offered their support and told me they refused to allow me to give up on school.

Before Jaylen was born, we pre-enrolled him in daycare to secure him a place when he reached six months. Although this preparation was a relief, his father and I were still concerned about transportation; getting him to and from daycare. Daycare required infants to report by 8:00 a.m. but I had to be at school by 8:15 a.m. We were required to pick Jaylen up from daycare by 3:00 p.m. but I was not dismissed from school until 3:15 p.m. This frustrated me because I knew that there was no way for this arrangement to work. Again, I was at the point of giving up on school for a while until I could derive a workable plan that would coincide with my schedule, but Ronnie’s father volunteered to take Jaylen in the morning and my mom decided that she could pick him up in the afternoon. With Jaylen visiting his father on the weekends, I had a little free time to complete school assignments and projects or just simply hang out with friends. Having “me” time removed some of the pressures of my hectic schedule.

Another obstacle I faced was how I would continue participating in school clubs and other organizations. The thought of not being an active member of the clubs I belonged to saddened me. Although at times I was not able to stay after school, teachers worked with me and held meetings during school hours or allowed me to catch up with the “happenings” of the organization during a later time. Many days I was unable to fraternize with the other students, so I appreciated the compassion and flexibility from my peers and teachers.

Currently, I’m a senior in high school and I’m glad that I decided to continue school for the sake of myself and Jaylen. Now the question in my head is, “What about college?” Taking on a higher education initially seemed like a difficult choice, because I wasn’t sure if I was going to have dependable people to take care of my son while I went to class. Thanks to caring grandparents and Jaylen’s father, I no longer have to worry about the care of my son since they have agreed to be full-time caretakers while I am at class.

I had to rule out going to college in another state, far from home, because this would mean I wouldn’t have the opportunity to spend time with Jaylen. After doing research, I found an outstanding engineering school, Southern Polytechnic State University, in Marietta, Georgia — close to my home. Since Jaylen is enrolled in daycare, I will be able to take morning classes, have time to study, and still be able to spend time with him. Right now, I am planning to live on campus so that I am able to focus on my education and experience college life fully. With the awesome support from my family and Jaylen’s father, I have the chance to accomplish my dreams of receiving a high school diploma, providing for my son, and getting a four-year-degree in computer engineering.

Being a teen mother has been one of the most challenging experiences I have faced so far. Just imagine a child, who is still growing up, trying to raise another child. It is tiresome and a very difficult task, but as a mother, you have to be strong, energetic, patient, and dedicated, because your child depends on you. Being a mother is not always stressful; it can be rewarding in its own way. When Jaylen began to speak and took his first steps, I felt so much gladness and unexplainable happiness because I knew I had something to do with his success. Knowing that he will grow up to appreciate me for the things I have done, the time I spent, and the hard work I put in to being his mom is gratifying.

Being a young mother has encouraged and pushed me to become a much better person. I overcame selfishness, opened up, and have become a stronger and more positive person because of it.

T. W.

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