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I was a young mother...

I became a mother 3 months before my 16th birthday. I had a lot of backlash including the, "now her life is over", along with everyone quoting the outcomes for young mothers and their children. I remember my school nurse saying, "How do you feel knowing you will not be able to go to college?" Now thinking back my response was priceless, "Why not?" I responded. I'm sharing my experience so that others learn to view young mothers in a different, more loving way. The exchange I shared is just one of hundreds I experienced. From adults at my high school, to local health establishments, and even my parents who struggled with what to say.

Lately on my newsfeed, I have seen campaigns, articles, and opinions from prominent figures that are meant to curve teenage pregnancy or help the teenage mother make the tough decision once she is pregnant. I felt inspired to write this blog so that those who are trying to help these young mothers can actually do just that. A couple days ago, Dr. Phil published questions about what teenage mothers should ask themselves when they become pregnant. I love Dr. Phil, but have to disagree with his line of questioning. They are coming from a place of judgment. Take a moment to put yourselves in the shoes of the teenage mother. She is scared, vulnerable, and feeling ashamed, along with varying other emotions. Young pregnant mothers are wrestling with a great deal of shame due to feeling like they let everyone down. Young pregnant mothers are already struggling with the idea of "can I really do this?" or "what if they are right?" What I am saying is that you don't know her story. Not what you see on the outside or what you think she has been through, but what she has truly experienced in her young life. The reality is she's pregnant; guilt tripping our young mothers won't work. Tough love doesn't work. Coming from a place of empathy and love does. Helping her make the best choice for herself and the baby is what will work. Everyone's decision & path will be different. My story is just that, my story. I never second guessed the decision to keep my baby. I knew in my heart that this was the only option I wanted and could live with. I chose to prepare myself to be the best possible mother I could be. I chose to attend an alternative school for teenage mothers when I was about 6 months pregnant. I returned to my local high school when my baby was about 6 months old. Yes, I did graduate from high school and continued my education until I earned a master’s degree. I am now a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a private practice in Palm City, Florida. I now work in something I am passionate about which is inspiring women and young ladies to fall in love with themselves unconditionally.

It was not an easy journey. I remember back to my high school days, there were many days I could hardly keep my eyes open due to staying up all night caring for my sick baby. Without determination and the love and support I received from those close to me, my story may have been different. Although we didn’t marry until we were in our twenties, my husband was my biggest support. He was my unwavering rock and biggest supporter throughout. For that I am eternally grateful. My baby isn't a baby anymore, he is now a 16 year old junior in high school. He is bright, funny, and kind-hearted. I am also the proud mother of a beautiful 14 year old young lady who is so intelligent, determined, and never ceases to amaze me with her perseverance. Am I the perfect mother? Absolutely not! Do I make mistakes? All the time! I wouldn't change being a mother for anything in the world. I have learned so many lessons along the way. These lessons have molded me into the women I am today.

To young mothers: I am sharing my story in hopes to provide encouragement to young mothers out there who are just starting out on their journey. You can do this, regardless of whatever decision you choose. If your plans involved going to college, do just that. If you are worried that you won't be a good enough mom, just know that this is a worry most mothers face. Talk to other supportive mothers. Focus on being the best momma and woman you can be. If your choice is to raise your baby it will be difficult but a worthwhile journey. You will be one of the greatest role model your child will have. I believe in you!

To others: I am not in any way diminishing the true struggles of a teenage pregnancy nor am I in any way condoning it. What I am saying is being a young mother is hard enough, so stop adding on to their struggles with all the shaming and judgments. Words really do matter, in particular when someone is in such a vulnerable state. Instead empower them, lift them up, and offer little bits of encouragement. It costs you nothing but to them means the world. They may not be getting it from anyone else.

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