We know the stereotypes and prejudices that teen parents have to face — but we also know the truth. We know that teen parents can be capable caregivers and fabulous role models for their children. We know that, with support, they can achieve academically and professionally. We know young families can be successful.

This space is to push back against all that ignorance, bitterness, and prejudice and show what young parenthood really looks like.

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Being in School as a Pregnant Teen

Going to high school as a pregnant and parenting teen led to many mixed emotions, negative thoughts, shame and stigma, but most definitely also an eagerness to graduate. That desire to graduate was only reinforced by all the negative things society had to say about young parents not graduating and dropping out of school. In my school the rumor went around after every vacation I tool that apparently I wasn’t coming back. Completely bogus. A lot of the mixed emotions and negative thoughts were the awkward things I experienced during the school day throughout the school year, not only pregnant but coming back after birth. Luckily I was able to graduate on time in 2013.

In May 2014 I submitted my oral testimony at the Boston Public School (BPS) policy hearing about my experiences in high school, and why the expectant and pregnant policy should be passed for the upcoming school year. With all the advocacy done towards the issue, on June 4th 2014 the policy passed! Now BPS has a great policy on expectant and parenting students. Pregnant or parenting students now have the opportunity to finish their high school education without being mistreated or unaware of their rights. I am very excited to see the results on how this policy improves the graduation outcomes for the BPS students.

After graduating high school I quickly enrolled in Bunker Hill as a full time student. Due to my child care inconveniences and lack of motivation I didn’t complete the fall or spring semesters for the 2013-2014 school year. I knew i wanted to go to school, but the pressure lead me to take on a college responsibility before I was really ready. After being out of school for two semesters I finally realized I wanted to be in school and i am ready to go back and kick ass! I am now motivated, something that I didn’t feel right after I graduated.

In my situation it took me taking time out of school to realize what I wanted. As a young parent I may tell you it is okay to not know what you want to do for the rest of your life at such a young age. Its okay to feel unmotivated and scared at some point, after all the negative things coming at you sometimes school may be the last thing on your mind. And for those who are completely ready to start college and are motivated after high school, hey I admire that and look up to you! Not everyone is the same, this is just what I experienced after high school and now I am striving for great things in life. I’m ready to get my degree and be successful, not to prove the world wrong, but to prove myself right!

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#TeenMomForever

When I got pregnant my senior year of high school, I honestly never thought much about how being a young mom would impact me in the ways it has. I remember growing up, thinking, I would NEVER want to fuck up and be a teen mom. To be pregnant in high school, not married, to be a single mom, those were not positive things for me to be. I grew up around conservative ideals of motherhood and female sexuality. I hid the fact that I was on the pill and having sex with my boyfriend. Of course, some of these would good boundaries, but I wasn't hiding them to establish healthy boundaries with parents (I don't think I really knew what healthy boundaries with parents was). I was hiding my sexuality because I was terrified they would hate me.

So, coming close to 14 years ago, I got pregnant. I was also on the pill. I had sex for the first time, literally, the month prior. My pregnancy was a horribly lonesome time. I hid my pregnancy from everyone. I wore baggy clothes and acted as if nothing was different. I felt ashamed and I blamed my morning multivitamin for my morning sickness. I would throw up in gym and band class. Band would end and here I was packing up my flute quickly, feeling the urge to puke, and running to the garbage can or bathroom … leaving class without permission. I was hiding saltine crackers and PowerAde in my locker, eating and drinking them quickly between classes. Trying to keep the puke down. Looking back, it is amazing how I survived. Seriously. When I see teen girls pregnant, I usually think: fuck, I hope you have support because it's fucking rough. Now, I'm 32. If I was pregnant now, I think I would be scared, but not as scared. And I wouldn't be so ashamed and alone.

Not only was my teen pregnancy completely horrible, but so was my social situation. I had a lot of conflicts with my parents. I moved out my senior year into my own studio apartment. I worked full-time at McDonald's and after graduating high school; I got a second job at Bingorama. My daughter was due in September. But I honestly was not paying much attention. The more I hung out with my punk, queer friends - the more I felt less crazy and the more I could ignore what situation I was really in. My boyfriend got into drugs, again, and we broke up shortly after I graduated high school. He still had a year of high school left, but dropped out after getting released from the school for teens with legal and mental health problems he was attending. He was supposed to do adult learning classes, but never did. I felt so depressed and betrayed. He was a manipulative, controlling abuser, but I still loved him and I never realized how abusive he actually was until many years after I left him.

The whole summer I was pregnant, I worked, hung out with my punk, queer friends, and slept. That's all. I would stay up watching VH1 reruns of "Where Are They Now?" and "Hollywood Story." My ex-boyfriend got into selling drugs and eventually was caught. He was arrested the weekend before I was due. I spent the day before my due date hanging out with his then new girlfriend, raising money to bail him out of jail. She didn't know I was pregnant until his mom called, screaming at him about the drugs, my pregnancy, and him being arrested. I sold CDs and movies, I put my graduation money up for collateral, and his friend put her car up for collateral after speaking to the bonds people.

He got out of jail until his trial.

Here I was: 18 and pregnant, not married, baby-daddy just got out of jail. In many ways, I just kept thinking about how typical this was. Of course this is my life. Of course I would never think my life would go this way, but it did. Of course this is what I was told not to be and this is how I end up being.

I gave birth to my daughter, unassisted on September 25, 2001. Her father was there. He rapped Ol' Dirty Bastard, which I screamed "owie" the entire time. When she was born, they placed her on me and honestly, I didn't have this deep connection. That deep connection people talk about, I was detached from the situation, looking in. I was so ashamed and I did not develop a bond immediately. But I do remember when I saw her; I started to cry because she had super huge eyes, she was so small, and the nurse said, "she recognizes your name."

When I was pregnant I did consider abortion and adoption. By the time I found out I was pregnant, it was too late to get an abortion in the state I live. As far as adoption, I went as far as visiting the adoption agency in town and looking at potential parents. I remember looking through the binder, thinking … I have to decide, of these people, who my baby should go. How is this even possible? Am I not worthy? What is going on? All these decisions only felt like a Band-Aid to the situation I was in. I felt forced into making a decision I wasn't prepared for! And each of those potential decisions … it was a forceful decision being placed on everyone around me. I even had hospital staff urging adoption or foster care. I had a social service agency forcing adoption. I had nurses telling me how hard teen parenting is. No encouragement, what so ever. I was so confused and scared and alone.

In the end, I decided to keep her, even though I was so scared and confused and felt alone and felt like I was making the wrong decision. I felt I was going to fuck up her life. I was a teen mom. I was poor. I just graduated high school. I had no degree. Her baby-daddy was not reliable and he was abusive. He was a drug addict and an alcoholic. He called me a "whore" when he called me from his house while I was at the hospital after I was confronted about his behavior and recent arrest. I told everyone about his recent arrest because people saw it in the newspaper. I told no one that he called me a "whore."

I moved into my mom and stepdad's temporarily. I still had my studio apartment, though. I lived with them for about a month and actually found a new job that started a month after my daughter was born. So I decided to do that. It paid better and it was full time and the hours were the steady. I secretly got back together with my baby-daddy. However, eventually people found out. He was in and out of jobs. He couldn't keep one. He actually ended up going to jail for the drug charges. He was sentenced to 18 months and all but 6 were suspended. I spent two days a week visiting him in jail with our daughter. I wrote him everyday and wrote to the judge, asking for early release. He did get out about a month early.

When he got out, things changed. I thought things would better. I thought him going to jail and missing out of our daughter’s infancy would make things better. Looking back, I felt so much better when he was in jail. Life was better. When he was out of jail, he was back into drugs and alcohol and rarely helped, but I wanted things to work out so much that I kept going with it. He was on probation, too. We ended up moving to a bigger city together and I enrolled in a community college for graphic design. It took me about two years to get my associate's. During that time, I met other single and teen moms through a website called girl-mom.com (RIP!). Some of the moms lived in the city I did. I slowly started to open up about the abuse I was experience. He was cheating on me, verbally and emotionally abusing me, and he had raped and sexually abused me. I had no context to figure out what exactly was going on and so much of it became so internalized that I just KNEW it was my fault. I had no context to take a step back and realize I did not deserve this and neither did my daughter.

Eventually I couldn't take it anymore. He moved out to "work on our relationship" into a mutual friend’s apartment. During that time, I found some incriminating things on our computer, so I ended the relationship. I finally fucking ended the destructive, horrible relationship. And even though it was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done, I felt so fucking free. I remember it took me about 2 hours for me to tell him. We sat on the couch and he kept asking me what was wrong, I kept crying, and I finally told him, and he got so angry with me. He blamed me, screamed at me, packed up his stuff, throwing random statements about how horrible I was, and left. He tried to keep coming back. He kept texting me … saying he loved me, that nothing will change that. He would pound on the apartment door for, what seemed like hours. I never opened it. I pushed through. I never went back, even though I wanted to. Of course, that wasn't the first time I had tried to break up with him. I had tried to do it before. It was hard because I truly fucking loved him. I loved him for a long time after we broke up, too. I wanted to help him, I wanted him to have a better life. Only years later, I found out that was not in my control or was it my responsibility.

I was barely financially making it in that city, so I moved back to my home state. I transferred colleges to work toward my Bachelor’s and ended up graduating with my BA in sociology and women's studies (double major). During this time, I worked really hard on my mental health. I quit drinking, started counseling off/on, and developed health new relationships. I went on a limb and slept around, but even further I entered a monogamous healthy relationship with a man I am still dating today. He is so supportive and I have probably never met someone more supportive in my life. He's encouraged me and never judged me and has been a huge part of my recovery when it came to all of this; leaving an abusive relationship, becoming sober, going to eating disorder treatment, and helping with my daughter. I also went to a parenting class and set firm boundaries with my baby-daddy. In fact, my daughter and I don't talk to him anymore. She even called him out over the phone for his bullshit and lies. It was so brave and amazing!!

In 2010, I was also accepted into a graduate program for a Master’s in Counseling. During those two years, I worked part-time, went to school full-time, and entered outpatient eating disorder treatment. My eating disorder was something that I have had most of my life and I got to the point of not being able to take it anymore. I was driving an hour away to go to my appointments and working, going to class, and doing my internship. I graduated in 2012. But I wanted more … I wanted something different, so I applied for a Master's in Public Health program and was accepted. Public health was where I realized that is what I wanted to do. I focused all my research and work around women's issues, including birth control, abortion, maternal health, and teen pregnancy. I graduated this year and now I work at the local domestic violence organization doing research and attending court to ensure offenders of DV and SA are being held accountable. I also help run survivor groups and take part of various community activities. It is such a great fit for me!

Like many single and teen mothers, I was also poor this entire time. I've been on all kinds of public assistance to help us out! I NEEDED food stamps, Medicaid, housing assistance, and heating assistance. We would be starving and homeless without it. Medicaid helped me go to eating disorder treatment and helped pay for my daughter and my asthma medicine. Food stamps provided us nutritious vegetarian foods. Housing helped us have a decent apartment close to her elementary and middle schools. We walk, bike, and take the bus as often to save money on gas and I try to teach her to not rely on cars so much.

When I look back at how I have been in my life. I grew up in an abusive home and that cycle did not end. I ended up with an abuser. I got pregnant as a teen in high school. I went through a whole lot of shit to get to where I needed to be. I never felt strong. I always felt weak and like a huge failure. But I also knew, so desperately knew that I DID NOT want my daughter to end up where I did. I wanted her to have a mom who left abusive relationships; got the help she needed, didn't feel so ashamed of her choices, and could go far in her life because I knew that she could.

And on the other hand, if I never had my daughter, I do not think I would have done ANY of this. I think I would have stayed where I was. I probably would not have gone to college or graduate school. I honestly would probably be using harder drugs, I would have never gotten sober or started recovery for my eating disorder.

I must say that I would not have gotten to where I was without the support I had. I had the moms from girl-mom.com. I have had my boyfriend’s continued support. I have had the help of counseling and recovery. I have had friends’ help. And while I do not get along with my mom, most of the time, she helped me at the beginning with watching my daughter.

I would not have gotten to any of this without becoming a teen mom, as well. I truly believe my life was saved because I become a mom as a teen. My daughter gave me the motivation to make MY life better, HER life better, and ours.

I can never say enough that encouragement and support goes a long way. Seeing that others can “do it” (whatever that is for a person) is also just as important. I remember seeing former teen moms going to medical school or enrolling into a PhD program or getting super amazing jobs or raising their special needs kids on their own. They’re all important. So whether teen moms want to go to college or not, I think they’re all amazing. Teen moms need support and when they get it, I see them go to amazing places. They’re my fucking heroes. 

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Admitting The Truth Hurts

Mommy, when can I see nana or papa?”

The words cut me as glass. How I want to respond “because they are not fundamentally good people that pushed me out of their life, all my life, in many different ways … but as a lost puppy I would return only to be tossed out, cast away, shamed, and made to feel that their failures in life were my own and somehow my responsibility to fix”. What I really say to my son is that “you know that saying if you have nothing nice to say than don’t say anything at all … well that’s kind of the decision I made with continuing this relationship I have with them."

Blank stare. That’s all he does. No words.

So I continue, “mommy doesn’t think they are really bad people to everyone… they never have done anything horrible that you know about or remember … but basically I just don’t enjoy the time we share, or, the way you or I are treated by them. As kids we are forced to respect our parents even if our parents don’t respect us. There’s a difference in not getting everything you want as a child and not getting everything you need. There’s an emotional bond me and you share that I always wanted with my parents… “

I stop because at this point I’m talking about so many raw feelings it hurts and I’m getting emotional and teary eyed.

Dyl looks up at me with squinty eyes and just says “okay, I love you… but are you going to cry?

I start to laugh… Literally hysterically …then wrap myself around him and just snuggle him. Even when it hurts to think about the pain and hurt I feel from my parents— he makes me serendipitously happy.

You may not have been able to choose the childhood and life you had as a child but you can change the childhood your child will have by breaking those chains and building even stronger ones with your children. Even if you don’t have many things in mind that your parents did right by you that you want you to do in return for your children; there are the things that you know you don’t ever want to do. So use the negative as a guide of what not to do and instead teach them boundaries, teach them responsibility, teach them the power and value of not only an education but the idea to stay hungry for knowledge, teach them what’s right and wrong, and most importantly say “I LOVE YOU” even after the day they say “MOM I KNOW “.

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What I Fear Most

Ever since the day I found out I was pregnant the number one question everyone asked was, “how are you going to prevent him from becoming a teen parent like yourself and his father?” I never knew the right way to answer that so I would just say, “we have a couple more years to figure that out.” I would constantly think of ways of how I can prevent my son of being a teen parent, how to talk to him about sex, and when it will even be the right time to talk to him about these things. So much that it would stress me out, and because I felt like I didn’t have the answers I felt like I was failing as a mother; in a sense setting my son up for following in my footsteps.

For over 3 years this question has been over my head, stressing me out, and being such a fear of mine. But then I came to the realization that preventing Xavier from being a teen parent is not what scares me the most, him becoming a drug addict, alcoholic, in a gang, in jail, or his life taken away from him too early is my #1 fear and what I should be preventing him from! But yet I have not yet been asked the question of, “how are you going to prevent your son from drug, alcohol, and or violence?” Since when did teen pregnancy become the biggest fear in society and the only thing society cares about preventing –shaming people along the way?

There are TV shows, movies, magazines, billboards, social media photos, games, and so much more all trying to prevent teen pregnancy with shame and stigma. And in no way am I saying teen pregnancy is not an issue, it is a issue that we most definitely need to prevent, but how about the ads on preventing youth on becoming addicted to drugs, alcohol, getting involved in a gang, going to jail, or losing their life too early. Why are their faces not plastered everywhere being shamed like we are? Why is sex on TV, in songs, in movies, in ads, etc… okay as long as you don’t get pregnant? And if you do, you’re made into a public figure as a mistake? Is it socially acceptable to do drugs, drink excessively, be in and out of jail, and kill people because it’s in every new hit song, TV show, and ad; but very few to prevent it? Because as a mother those are the things I fear the most, and those are the things I am going to try my upmost hardest to prevent my son from, ON TOP of preventing him from being a teen father.

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Empowering Teens to Educate Peers: An Interview with Shira Cahn-Lipman

Shira Cahn-Lipman, MEd is the Manager of Youth Education at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts. In that role she provides professional training to adult educators on the Get Real: Comprehensive Sex Education That Works curricula and runs the Get Real Teen Council – a sexual health peer education program for high school students. 

1. What is Planned Parenthood’s mission for Boston youth and how do your personal experiences intersect with that?

Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts believes all young people deserve access to health care services and medically accurate, age-appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education that empowers them to make healthy decisions. Last year we launched a brand new sexual health peer education program for high school students called the Get Real Teen Council. 

The mission of the Get Real Teen Council, which I co-facilitate, is to empower teenagers to educate their peers, families, and communities about human sexuality and healthy decision making and to inspire teens to use their voices to advocate for just and humane sexual attitudes and practices. Through the power of peer education that teaches accurate, unbiased, comprehensive sexuality education, we can work to end ignorance, promote acceptance and improve communication between teens and the important people in their lives. 

Prior to my experience co-facilitating the Get Real Teen Council, I was lucky enough to work with thousands of young people as a PPLM educator. This particular experience cemented for me the importance of empowering teens to take ownership of this important material. It is one thing for me, as an educator, to walk into a classroom and talk to students about sexuality and relationships and protection and STIs and decision making. But it’s been a far more powerful thing for me to watch students teach those same lessons both inside and outside of the classroom and assume leadership roles within their own communities. That’s a powerful moment when they are able to offer factual information to a friend in need or to answer a tough question that a friend was embarrassed to ask anyone else.

 

2. How does Planned Parenthood work to ensure all young people are equitably served and represented? 

Young people can rely on Planned Parenthood for non-judgmental, confidential, affordable health care. We recognize that teens of color and low-income teens are particularly at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Through our clinical, educational, and advocacy programs, we work to ensure all people have access to the health care and information they need. One of our highest priority goals during recruitment for the Get Real Teen Council was to find a group of tenth through twelfth graders who were not only dedicated to our mission but also represented the racial, socio-economic, ethnic, social, cultural, and socioeconomic diversity of the communities we serve. 

 

3. We often hear that teens are more likely to make safer and well-informed choices if they have strong relationships with their parents. If a young person doesn’t have a safe relationship with their parents, what are some alternatives? 

We encourage young people to find a variety of trusting, respectful, and caring adults in their lives whom they can turn to for support, advice, and resources. Young people can first think about what makes an adult trustworthy and then brainstorm a list of adults they can go to with questions or concerns about sexuality topics. This may be a relative, teacher, coach, youth group leader, physician, school nurse, school counselor, or another person in their lives. Everyone needs, and deserves, to have an older person in their life they can feel comfortable discussing their feelings and concerns. In addition, Planned Parenthood offers a range of website and hotline phone resources for young people and I suggest you reach out to professionals in various organizations, health services, and support groups for help in negotiating life. For more information go to www.pplm.org or call our counseling and referral hotline: 1-800-258-4448, option 3.

 

4. What tips would you give young people for talking to their parents about identity, sex, and relationships? 

The Get Real Teen Council collaborated with our Manager of Education back in October 2013 (during “Let’s Talk” month) to create the following tips for teens who want to talk to a parent or caregiver:

Think about what you want/need. Information? Support with a problem? Do you want to talk to them about decisions you’ve made or are thinking about? Do you want them to bring you to the clinic? Sometimes writing down ideas can help you prepare.

When and Where? Talk to them when they are relaxed and not in the middle of something important or in a hurry. Some people like to talk face to face and some feel more comfortable when they can be walking side by side or in the car. If this takes a while, don’t give up.

Getting started. You might tell them that you’d like to talk and ask if it’s a good time. Ask them to let you talk. Remind them that sometimes it is hard to get feelings into words and if they interrupt ask them to wait.

Be prepared to listen to them as well. They might have some good advice for you even if you don’t agree with everything they say AND, remember, it is often just as difficult for adults to talk about sex and other challenging topics.

Be honest. Being honest creates trust. Trust can make life happier and be a foundation for healthy relationships and communication.

Allow for mistakes and assume best intentions. Although they may not say the perfect thing, or say what you want them to, or even have an immediate solution – keep talking. No one is perfect so allow for mistakes and try to see where they are coming from and then: keep talking.

 

5. How can young people get more involved with Planned Parenthood’s work in our communities?

We’re fighting for change in Massachusetts, but we can’t do it without you! The Get Real Teen Council is one way to get involved with our work. More information about the program can be found at www.pplm.org/GRTC. You can also join the Sex Ed Matters campaign to increase access to comprehensive sexuality education in Massachusetts: sign the petition, share your story, or take a photo and share it online. If you want to learn about upcoming events, like walking in the Boston Pride Parade, email ajohnson AT pplm DOT org to learn more.

 

READ NEXT: Empowering Teens During Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, an interview with Jasmin Colon and Ciara Mejia on the Planned Parenthood blog.

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No Mistaking Mama's Love

Every day is Mama’s Day, in a world where children are identifying with a woman showing her love, undying commitment, whose selfless love unconditionally cures the aches and pains associated with a world often hard to understand. This woman is Mama. What is it that makes a Mama so incredible? It’s not her age, her socioeconomic status, her marital status or where she lives. What makes a Mama so incredible is that she sees the soul of this amazing human being that has graced her life, knowing that one day her showering of everything short of the moon for her child will yield the most incredible gift of all, one that cannot be written in a card or bought in the form of a bouquet of flowers. This gift is the child who enters our world innocently, and grows with such power and grace to represent their Mama’s legacy long after she is gone, bringing their own uniqueness mixed with the grace and timeless character of their Mama. 

Young mothers are supremely capable of great love! Their soft malleable hearts, being molded to give so much to that beautiful soul at a young age, setting aside her own innate needs, to provide the nourishment and care this beautiful baby needs. Many times alone, in a world whose common greeting comes with the disappointed shake of a head, a shielded stance to avoid that ‘contagion’ of teen pregnancy or sometimes the judgmental comment that often times attacks this beautiful Mama’s core. 

May is recognized nationally as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, a message that may come with hurtful, shaming, stigmatizing and desensitizing messaging and imaging using young mamas as a negative example. #NoTeenShame is a movement of 7 mamas across the nation whose journey into Mamahood began young and was accompanied with the harsh anti-teen pregnancy campaigns. 7 mamas who were sometimes alone, shamed by society and filled with disappointment and guilt from the hurtful judgments caste by family, friends, educators, and healthcare professionals. 7 mamas who believe that young families are sacred, deserve respect and should be honored. Mamas who share the belief that young families are working so hard to grow as individuals while completing their education, working to feed and clothe their babies, all while fighting a daily battle of prejudice, shame and painful judgment. Mamas who believe that young families should be treated with dignity when taking their child to the doctor, when bringing their child to daycare, when asking for help from a world who makes it sometimes impossible to parent without support, however continues to humiliate and dehumanize this Mama when she accepts that help.

Mamas representing #NoTeenShame whole heartedly believe that teen pregnancy prevention is possible without the blame, hurt and shame; that teen pregnancy prevention can be accomplished through the sharing of true experiences of teens parents with non-parenting teens in a safe, homogenous environment where their experiences will be respected and valued, and they will be recognized as educators and influential stakeholders in the future of our nation’s youth.

#NoTeenShame is a movement led by 7 young mothers, Natasha Vianna, Gloria Malone, Lisette Orellana, Marylouise Kuti-Schubert, Jasmin Colon, Christina Martinez, and Consuela Greene, to improve strategic messaging campaigns and conversation around young parenting to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach, while highlighting the importance of comprehensive sex ed. 

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A Dark Path of Bad Memories

On February 19, 2014, I was in a bad car accident. I was driving straight through an intersection, on a green for me, while the other person decided to take a left coming from the opposite direction, and smashed into the driver’s side and pushed my car so hard it went into a pole. I do not know if I have been so scared in my life, but at the same time, I found myself thanking god that my son was not in the car. I just felt like everything shattered in my world. I did what the doctor said, I took time off work, did physical therapy, took medication, and did not pick up my son. This not being able to work and not doing what I usually do, has led me to start to go back on the path of depression. I felt like doing nothing, sometimes sleeping too much, just not taking care of myself. It made me feel awful to know I was not being the best mother my son deserves. It brought back memories of being depressed back at the end of my high school years and a little after.  I became depressed because of underlying issues of adoption, a break up with an ex-boyfriend, whom at that time I loved, but what pushed me over the edge was being raped and dealing with the trial and testifying… Just that dark black path of bad memories and places I just did not want to revisit. 

Those feelings and actions, of cutting yourself, sleeping too much, not eating or eating too much, isolation, no motivation, and the worst feeling of all, the feeling of being suicidal, because you feel you are not worthy enough to be in this world and a couple of times getting so close to ending your life.  Throughout the many years, I have worked on myself and dug into those issues of being adopted and how I felt different from my peers and friends, the break up and how it affected me, and conquered my feelings of the whole rape case. Through time, being adopted did not bother me. I have been able to speak up about my assault and feel strong to say that I am a survivor, and that feeling of healing is so amazing and empowering. Issues of the break up, I realized there wasn’t anything wrong with me, it just was not a good fit in the end and I am glad. I am so happy how my life has turned out and where it is headed. I might not be able to work for a little, but I have an amazing job, I have great friends. I am going to college to eventually become a Dr. I have the best family who are so supportive and amazing, I have a partner who loves me for me and supports me in absolutely everything I do, works his butt off, and we created the most incredible, intelligent, kind hearted, sweet, lovable, etc. I can go on forever, little boy! The most absolute best part and life changing is being a mother. Therefore, in regards to being depressed about the accident, I have picked myself up, decided to not go down that dark path again, and just realized this is just a little bump in my life journey. My family and everybody around me deserve to see a happy and healthy Lauren, but most importantly, my son and I deserve it the most.

My message to anybody who is going through depression is you can heal and be happy again. Work through those issues that are making you feel this way. Whether it be sexual or violence abuse or assault, bad break ups, adoption or foster care issues, the list goes on.  If you have children, do it for them, but more importantly, do it for yourself. So, you can be the best person you are meant to be. It is very hard, I will never say it is otherwise, but the reward you get from healing makes everything worth it. People do believe in you, but YOU have to be the first one to believe in yourself.  No matter what it is, you can pick yourself up, dust your knees and hands off, walk towards the light at the end of the dark tunnel and achieve whatever you set your mind to in life. 

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5 Ways the New Policy For Parenting Students in Boston is Awesome

Boston Public Schools has been working with the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and several supportive organizations across the city on a very comprehensive policy for expectant and parenting students. It’s pretty amazing and nostalgic for me as I was brought on as a young mom during a roundtable discussion with Councilor Ayanna Pressley at Boston City Hall in 2010 (here’s my recap) and it’s been history-in-the-making since!

In 2010, Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Chair of Committee on Women and Healthy Communities, scheduled a meeting with organizations across the city who work with expectant and parenting students, Boston Public Schools, and young mothers to talk about the 1988 version of the policy. In 2010, Councilor Pressley presented the motion to revise the School-Age Parents Policy of the Boston Public Schools and the revision process began in 2013!

I have attended every single meeting and ensured that my voice was and is both being heard and used to entirely change and improve a policy that will impact the lives of young families. My experiences may be unique in some ways and my narrative does not represent an entire community, but my lens can help shape something more appropriate for people like me. 

Here are 5 awesome points we cover:

1. Throughout this new policy, “expectant student” is defined as any student, regardless of gender identity, who is either pregnant or is the partner of a pregnant student. This matters to young people who are often misgendered and misidentified. 

2. Discrimination and harassment from school staff is highlighted! Yes! School leaders, teachers, and other school staff are held accountable for leading the way in treating all students, including expectant and parenting students, with respect, and recognizing that all students have the potential to succeed, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, or marital status.

3. And just as Title IX mandates, expectant and parenting students who feel their civil rights may have been violated for any reason are encouraged to file a report with the Equity Office. Principals, Superintendents, and staff are all held accountable for violating a young parents' rights.

4. Schools should also be sensitive to new mothers’ need to express breastmilk and should work with students to identify a private and sanitary location for this purpose. Because of my experience in high school, this was actually one of my own key policy suggestions. Elevating every young moms' right to pump and giving them the time to pump, space to pump, and support to pump is vital.

5. And of course, all expectant and parenting students have the right to choose how and when they seek services and support from school staff. Staff cannot push their noses into a young parent's business and no one can force a young parent to participate in a program or apply for something they do not want to apply for. Young parents are not forced into any class or program that perpetuates the idea that they are incapable of succeeding without it.

As you can imagine, the policy is both long and comprehensive so there’s a ton more that isn’t posted in this blog and while it's not in its final state, I am so proud of it already.

Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on this policy or feel free to ask a question. I’ll answer them myself! 

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Not The End

Not the end—but a new beginning to my world.”

Dear Teen Parent,

Becoming a parent at a young age means that you and your baby have found each other a little earlier than expected, but it also means that you will get to love them longer! I guarantee that many have said and will continue to say your life has ended. Do not let this lie become a reality to you. Reality is, your life has just begun. A baby certainly does not take away our, or anyone’s future. They give us a new one. As teen parents, it is up to us to show the world the amazing young men, women and parents there can be. Things may be hard but definitely not impossible, even though you may feel it is because of all the stress. Just know it is not the end of the world. It is a new beginning and a blessing. I guarantee you will never love anyone as much as you love your child. And no one is going to love you and look up to you as much as your child will. There’s a type of love no one experiences until they have a baby and we are lucky to have experienced it at a young age. Do what you have to do for you and your child. Keep your head up high and do not let anyone tell you you’re not a great parent because of your age. Also know that there are people out there who care and live the same struggles, and your child is going to love you no matter what.

Sincerely,

Ciara Mejia

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It May Be Hard

It may be hard but not impossible!”

Dear Young Parent,

Back when I was 16 and first found out I was pregnant this is the quote my cousin, who was a teen parent, told me to get me through. This quote helped me when I was scared, when I didn’t know what to do, or when I felt like giving up, and still does to this day. Whenever times get tough I always keep this quote in mind and it makes me want to keep pushing and to not give up. And today I am giving you this letter to tell you that yes things are going to be hard. But with hard work and dedication you can get through it; it’s not impossible! And I know that for a fact, because I went from being 16, jobless, in school, homeless, depressed, and struggling to 20 years old with 3 jobs, my own apartment and car, starting college, and happy with who I am today and where I am headed!

Best Wishes,

Jasmin Colon

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