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Looking Back, Moving Forward

Erin-holding-baby
By , 17, Contributor Originally Published: February 9, 2012 Revised: October 4, 2016

I remember my freshman year. I dreaded third period—Life Skills Health, the most uncomfortable class I have ever taken. I always thought that if I ignored the information they gave me then I wouldn’t ever be affected by it. I realize now three years later that I was very wrong. My name is Erin Hesler. I am 17 years old, and I have a 2 year old son.

Being a teen mom has opened my eyes to everything that was going on around me. I live in a small town, so what one knows, everyone knows. That’s just the way is out here. After I had my son in 2010, I suddenly realized how many girls were getting pregnant, how many guys were walking out on them and how this all could have been prevented if someone had stressed the importance of sexuality education to them. I decided to take it upon myself to spread the word, to let others know what I didn’t want to hear: this does happen, and it will happen to you if you aren’t careful.

It was like having a kid was contagious, like if they befriended me they would get pregnant too.

Last year, my teacher signed me up for a project to speak in front of the freshman class at Summerville High School. I have never been a good speaker. The idea made me nervous, but I told the young people my story, about how a troubled life can become so much more when you don’t pay attention. I felt pride for the first time. I was ecstatic that just one thing I said could have made a huge difference. I got addicted immediately.

Just recently I gave another presentation at a youth group I attend on Wednesday nights. It’s part of a church called, The Journey. When I first started going a year ago, I was relieved to be around people my age, but I felt excluded because I had a son. When I got pregnant my “friends” were nowhere to be found. It was like having a kid was contagious, like if they befriended me they would get pregnant too. I talked to the youth leader, and he approved of me giving a presentation about myself. I talked to them about my risky sexual behaviors and the result of those actions. After speaking, the young people gave me a standing ovation. They cheered and congratulated me, and since then I have been able to make real friends.

I chose not to listen in my sexuality education class my freshman year. I chose to have unprotected sex when I was 14 years old, and as a result I am a teen mom. When I started going to the school I am currently attending in Sonora, California, I was mortified by the statistics. I was unaware that a sexually active teen that does not use a contraceptive has a 90-percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. I have become a statistic. I love my son to death; however, not a day goes by that I don’t see the other teenagers walking home from school and I wish that I could be one of them. From experiences and talking to others, I have discovered that not many teens fully understand the consequences of having unprotected sex.

I never believed that I could ever make a difference. However, after speaking at the high school and at the church I realized how many public speakers such as myself are needed. How it only takes one person to change the life of thousands. I dream that one day I will be able to speak in other counties in California, and maybe throughout the country. I hope that one day young people decide to listen in their sexuality education classes. And maybe we can lessen, even prevent unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases and other tragic effects of uneducated sex.

Erin is a 17-year-old teen who lives in California.

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