The Experience of Being a Young Mother

"You're not going to keep it, are you?"

"You know your career is over, right?"

"You won't be able to go to school while you're pregnant."

"You are going to be a single parent. That's statistics."

These were the encouraging words I received from various people when I told them I was two months pregnant.

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At the time, I was in my sophomore year at Wayne State University, majoring in journalism. I was at the top of my game. I had a 3.8 overall GPA. I had interned at various newspapers, a magazine, a radio station and I had just landed an early morning internship at a television broadcast station. I had only two goals: graduate college early and get a job at a magazine right afterward. Everyone knew that I was destined to succeed, but once they found out I was pregnant, I was no longer going to amount to anything.

I'll admit that it wasn't the right time to have a child. I was 19. I wasn't married (my boyfriend and I had been together for three years), but aborting my daughter because "I wasn't ready" was out of the question.

I became determined to finish school – determined to continue shining. During my first term of sophomore year and my pregnancy, I took 17 credits. Two days out of the week, I was at a TV news station from 3 to 9 a.m. even though I would have morning sickness just half an hour before. It was difficult being pregnant while in school. I was always tired and I never could hold anything down. I had so much responsibility: schoolwork, internship and meeting the demands of my journalism program, the Journalism Institute for Media Diversity.

After I finished my first term, I didn't want to go back for the second half. It would be easier. But then what? When would I ever go back? So the next term, I decided to take the same amount of credits and freelance. Surprisingly, despite the occasional nausea and tiredness, I was fine. My daughter and I were in good health. We got a lot of exercise as I walked across campus, full belly, to get to my 8 a.m. class.

My due date was two weeks after the last day of school. I was glowing. And it wasn't just the pregnancy that was making my face light up. It was the fact that I was proving so many people wrong.

I was determined not to be a part of the negative statistics or African-American stereotypes. I had no limits, only high goals. So I decided to continue my schooling by taking three more classes during the summer; two of them were online. Class started May 7 and I gave birth to Serenity Symone Simpson on Mother's Day, May 13, 2012. I read, did homework and studied in between the feedings, diaper changes and bonding. There were definitely sleepless nights and many tears as I juggled being a student and a young mom. But my child's innocent face and ignorance to the fact that I was a young mom made me want to keep going. Growing up, our lights and heat were never off and we always had enough to eat. My daughter deserved the same.

That summer I received my first 4.0 – and the term after that, I got my second 4.0. It is not as easy as it sounds. I had a wonderful support team. I may not have been married, but I wasn't a single parent. My boyfriend and his family were amazing. They took care of my daughter while I attended my classes and constantly encouraged me to keep going. And when times were tough, my mom encouraged me by reminding me of what my ancestors had to go through during slavery. She would tell me that my great grandmothers had to deliver their babies then strap them to their backs and continue working. Yes, a harsh image, but the point was that they didn't have a choice and neither did I.

At the end of 2013, I accomplished both of my goals. I was hired at BLAC in June and I graduated cum laude in three years with a one-year-old daughter.

If I had listened to the people who told me my career was over, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish anything. The stress of the negativity alone could have killed my child while still in the womb. But some people just don't see it that way. There are absolutely no benefits to discouraging a young pregnant woman unless that person's goal is to have the young mother miscarry or get an abortion. It's hard enough being pregnant. Young mothers need a strong support network to encourage and uplift them. They need someone to constantly set the bar higher, so they can reach for things they never thought they could grasp.

But most importantly, young mothers need to grow up! It's not the responsibility of the grandparents to raise their grandbaby. The first step of a successful life as a young mother is to have the realization that the luxuries that teenagers and young adults have are no longer an option. That doesn't mean you can never go out again, but it does mean changing your life around. The young mother is now responsible for another person and that person is looking to their mother to make the best choices for him or her. Your child should always be your first choice. Every decision that you make when you find out you're pregnant should somehow benefit your child. All I wanted and want still is for my child and future children to have a wonderful life. That was my motivation.
 

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