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Teen Mom—Minus the MTV

Olivia-teen-parent
By , 18, Contributor Originally Published: May 7, 2014 Revised: May 7, 2015

During a busy summer of practices for show choir and the summer gym course at school, I’d forgotten about the one thing—my period. My period was late, ridiculously late. When Zach, my boyfriend of three years, brought up the idea that I could be pregnant, I shook it off—impossible! We’d gotten away without using birth control for years and never gotten pregnant before. Since I was much too scared to talk about the idea of using birth control with my mother, Zach had always just pulled out.

I sent Zach to buy a pregnancy test. Within seconds of peeing on each stick I got the line! Zach and I burst into laughter wrought by the sheer surprise and surrealism of the situation. As we regained control of ourselves, reality hit and so did the terrifying thought that we would have to tell our parents.

Weeks went by, and I was far too terrified to tell anyone. Finally, one day when Zach picked me up, he explained that he had told his dad I was pregnant. Zach’s dad gave me a deadline and said he would tell my mom after that deadline. So I called my mom and said, “I think I’m pregnant,” because those were the only words I could get past my lips. My mom wanted me home, “Now!” So, as my mom ran to get a pregnancy test that Zach and I already knew would be positive, we took this opportunity to plan how to get away if my mom went on a rampage. But my mom’s reaction was much different than I expected; she didn’t throw things or yell. Her reaction was just to say a bitter “Congratulations.” Then she asked the most important question of all, “So, what are you guys going to do?”

Almost everywhere I go I have people who come up to me and tell me how I’m much too young to be a parent. But despite the criticism, I am proud to be a mother, and I’m proud to maybe change their minds.

Preparation for Teen Parenting

To prepare for becoming parents, Zach worked extremely hard, moving from doing dishes and setting tables to becoming the line cook at the local country club. Since many employers were hesitant to hire a pregnant teen, I had to figure out how to contribute without a job. First, I had to learn how to make myself healthy, so my child would be healthy. Everyone in my home quit smoking, and I made sure that people did not smoke around me. I ate as healthy as I could. I went to all of the doctor appointments, and I found a program that would let me do my school work after I gave birth.

I also attended my high school’s teen prenatal/parenting group, hosted by Early Head Start—a federal program that provides daycare, parenting and educational programs for teen parents. The program was life-changing for me. Someone came to our home weekly and helped me learn everything I could about pregnancy and parenting. The program would also provide daycare six weeks after birth. Through Early Head Start, I even took a cooking and nutritional health program, because ramen noodles didn’t cut it as a meal anymore. I prepared as much as I could for being a parent, but it didn’t feel real yet.

The doctor scheduled an ultrasound, because we weren’t sure of my due date. But finally it was real when I saw this little thing on the screen. It was one of the happiest moments of my life! I was fifteen weeks pregnant, and it turned out I was having a girl. We were having a daughter—a Zoey, and we couldn’t be happier.

Closer to my due date, we began to prepare for the arrival of our daughter. I moved in with Zach and rearranged things again and again and never stopped trying to make everything perfect. School was strange, no one out right said anything, but I felt the stares, even from teachers.

At about thirty weeks of pregnancy, I started having terrible back pain, and after going to the hospital, they told me I was having false labor in my back. So, I started the home-based program, where I came in twice a week after school to complete my classes. Some teachers were very helpful; some sent only a fraction of what I knew they were doing in class. My grades dropped, but no less than a C and many were higher.

Time to Meet Zoey

Then, my due date came and went. I was a week over my May 1st due date. At my last appointment, my doctor told me I would have to be induced on May 8th and that would be my daughter’s birthday and the day I become a mother. On the way from the appointment, I cried uncontrollably, I’m still not exactly sure why, other than fear and excitement. My whole life I heard horror stories about how terrible labor would be—“the worst pain of your life”— so I was terrified. But I knew that the next day I would become a mother. I would meet my girl.

Labor was unpleasant, but it turned out it wasn’t terrible. I slept most of the time in between contractions and breathed through it. When the pain of the contractions got a little rough, they gave me an epidural—medication to numb me below the waist, which was actually the most pain I have ever felt in my life. Though, after that I was numb and just rested there until they told me, “You’re ready!”

Zach had just left, because my labor was going so slowly. He hadn’t eaten, so everyone ran to catch him at the door. Zach almost missed me having Zoey for Taco Bell! But, luckily, he made it on time and with a huge grin. As the doctor came in to prep, he remarked, “You shouldn’t be smiling right now!” But I was so happy and excited! Eight minutes later of pushing, my Zoey was born. It was so surreal. She was so beautiful, despite crying and being gooey. After some visiting and my first try at breastfeeding, I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke, Zoey was gone. Zach had to help me stand and clean up in the shower. The recovery was much worse than actual labor. I was so sore and tired.

Back to School as a Teen Mom

After six weeks of maternity leave and doing my school work at home, there were only four days of school left. When I came back to school, it was strange; all I could think about was going home to Zoey. Teachers began piling me with the work that they hadn’t given me before, so my last few days were stressed-filled. It felt amazing to pick Zoey up from daycare at the end of the day. When I came back to school in the fall, I only had a semester left because I’d earned enough high school credits to graduate as well as a few college credits.

Now, it’s Zack’s last semester. We’ve both been accepted to Ball State University. We have our apartment ready on campus, and we are getting ready for both senior prom and our daughter’s first birthday all this May.

While things get crazy and hectic, it’s beautiful watching Zoey grow and learn. To go from seeing her learn to hold her head up to helping her learn to walk to watching her little personality grow and evolve, it’s an amazing, but difficult, life.

What Our Future Holds

In a few short months, we start college, and move in to our first home. I am pursing a degree in social work that I luckily have paid for through a scholarship I earned. I want to eventually go back and get a master’s degree in school counseling. It’s my ultimate goal to start a sex-positive education movement in high schools, giving real comprehensive education on sex, birth control and relationships.

Being from a community that has many teen mothers—many that I see defying statistics and stereotypes, I know that being a teen parent is not a death sentence. I met Zoey a little early, but I will also be able to love her longer. I am not a statistic; I’m not a show on MTV. Almost everywhere I go I have people who come up to me and tell me how I’m much too young to be a parent. But despite the criticism, I am proud to be a mother, and I’m proud to maybe change their minds.

This is my teenage pregnancy, minus the MTV.

Olivia Noffsinger is a national contributor for Sex, Etc. from Indiana.

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