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My name is Tina, I am 40 years old, and I was a teen mom…….When I was a teenager my parents never talked to me about sex. They didn’t bring it up and I sure wasn’t going to. If I hadn’t been so afraid to talk to them, I might not have been a teen mom. They were both teen parents and dropped out of high school. I was going to be just like them.  I was 16 years old the first time I got pregnant. I miscarried. You would think I would have learned from that experience but I was pregnant again at 17 and gave birth to my daughter Ashley at age 18.

I was really scared and I felt alone. I was already living on my own. I was working and going to high school. How was I going to fit raising a baby in my life too? I could barely support myself and babies needed a lot. It got to be too much and I dropped out of high school. The job I had was part of a program through the school so I lost my job too. I ended up living on assistance. I worked on and off whenever I had someone to babysit for me. Without a college education I never made enough money to fully get off assistance.

I missed out on a lot. I didn’t get to graduate with my friends. We didn’t hang out any more. I had to stay home and take care of my daughter. My wants and my needs were irrelevant. The baby’s wants and needs came first. I did go back to high school a couple of years later when I was pregnant with my second child. I was only able to do that because I had a family friend that transported me every day and she watched Ashley for me until I graduated. I still wasn’t able to go to college at that point in my life.

Family support was minimal. My mother didn’t turn her back on me but I was definitely on my own. She made it very clear that she was not going to babysit and she didn’t have the money to help me financially. It was my decision to have a baby so it would be my responsibility to take care of her. However hard it was; I did just that. To say life was a struggle would be an understatement.

I could hardly pay the rent let alone anything else. There were no extras like cable TV. My daughter and I both had to wear other people’s hand-me-downs because there was no money for new clothes. I can’t tell you how many times I stood in line to get a box of food from a food pantry because I couldn’t make the food we did have last. I had no money to buy Christmas gifts so I would stand in long lines out in the freezing cold just so my daughter would have a couple of presents to open on Christmas morning.

For the most part I raised her alone. It wasn’t easy not having someone to lean on; someone there for moral support.   I am finally able to go to college. Had I went a long time ago my children would have had a better life. They had to suffer because of the choices I made. It wasn’t fair to them.  I want better for my children but the daughter I had as a teenager was a teen mom herself. I pray she doesn’t wait as long as I did to get herself together. I am there to help her in any way I can so she and my granddaughter won’t face as many hardships and struggles as I did. 

The message I have for you is; Wait….. If you choose not to wait ALWAYS use condoms, no exceptions. You not only want to prevent pregnancy but STD’s. Go to college. Get your education now while you’re young. You can’t make it without it. If you do it right the first time you have no regrets. My children went without because I did everything backwards. They had to suffer because of the choices I made. Talk to your parents about sex. It will be a lot harder telling them you’re going to have a baby than it will be to talk to them about preventing it. Times were hard in my day….they’re even harder now.