Teenage Parent Story – Leora was 17 when she had her first child
My name is Leora.
Tell me what your life was like before you got pregnant.
I was in school. I had plans. I had goals. I guess we all have things we want to do. We always say, “I want to be somebody. I want to be a teacher; I want to be a doctor”. Some things just kind of stall us, don’t actually stop us. We just have to get over a hill, I guess. I wanted to be a nurse. I was a C.N.A. when I was sixteen. I worked with mentally handicapped kids and it was hard, so I didn’t want to do that anymore.
After I got pregnant I went to Booth and stayed there for a while. My son was born prematurely, You don’t expect it to happen but it happens. That was a hard thing. My son was in the hospital for a while. After he got out we moved to Boise for about two months and we moved back to Caldwell. We stayed there. I didn’t plan to go back to school and about six months later I was pregnant with my second child. Something I really did not expect. It just happened.
So we had her and I tried to go back to school maybe when I was 19? 20? I tried and I couldn’t make it. I always had people telling me stuff and putting me down and finally some people just told me you can do it. You can do whatever you want and I finally understand that now. I finally understand. I can do anything I plan.
I’ve graduated now. I’m enrolled at BSU and I now have changed the career that I want. I don’t want nursing any more. I actually want to be a teacher. I want to do something with children, something that inspires young people’s lives. I have a third child now and it seems harder but it’s no harder than the first. It’s just a tad bit bigger.
I’m now planning to get my college degree. I can’t say when or put a date on it. I just know somewhere along in my lifetime I can still do it. I will do it. I don’t know when. It took me four years to get a high school diploma but I’ve done it.
Now, as a mom and as a person, I do job seeking and try to live on my own. I don’t have any one to take care of me. It’s just me. My parents help me out as much as they can. I don’t want people to look at me and say, “What does she do”, you know? I want to be able to say I’m not on welfare. I’m taking care of myself and my three children. I do it on my own and I’m very proud of myself. Someday I’ll be able to say that. Right now I can’t but some day.
Tell me about what it feels like to be a teen mom. How did you compare that with what you thought your life was going to be like?
It’s hard. It’s changed. When you’re older you’ve kind of done things that you wanted to do. When you have a baby when you’re young, it’s hard. It’s hard because you have to go to school, you have to go to work and some don’t but some do.
I had to quit school. I had bigger plans. I wanted to live in a foreign country. I had been studying the language. I didn’t get to do it. I didn’t get to go.
What did your friends say?
I didn’t have friends after I got pregnant. It was just me. There was no one else. It was just me and what I was carrying. I didn’t get to go out. I couldn’t go to the movies with my friends because they didn’t want me to bring along my baby. “Don’t bring that along” and I turn around and say,” it’s not a “that”, it’s a child you know. If she doesn’t go, I don’t go”. Your life just goes in a total direction that no one expects. Something different and it’s actually, how would I say, it’s a new experience. Different. Very, very different.
You talked a little bit earlier about not wanting people looking down on you because you were on welfare. Tell me about that feeling. What would people do or how did you feel?
It’s hard when people ask what you do. How many kids do you have? First, I work a part time job. That’s all I can do. Yeah, I get food stamps. I’m on welfare and I’m not going to stay there for long. They look at you like, “yeah right. We know your kind. You never get out of there”. That’s not true. I’ve actually snapped back at some people and said, “You don’t know me so don’t judge me”. You just see me and that’s fine but in a couple of years I can go back and tell you I’ve done this and this and this.
When we walk into the welfare office I look at people in there that are much older than I am and I think I don’t want to be there. I don’t. I want to be somewhere else. I don’t want to have to come and respond to someone. I want to be able to go shopping you know, with money. Actually go cash a $600.00 paycheck. Go to the mall and buy what I want to buy and not have to think about it. Do I really need this because as a young teen you have to think about what you buy and what you spend your money on and what you waste each month and make sure you have gas money. Make sure that you buy your diapers and make sure that you buy everything. It’s hard. It’s hard to live on a limited budget but I’m not saying the welfare system is bad but just use it when you need it. Don’t abuse it. It’s there to help us. And I know some people say “I can’t, I can’t”. I was one of those people. I can’t do it, but I can. I can do anything I want.
Sometimes I just go in my room and I think about it. What do I do now? I’m the type of person who has hard time thinking about my actions. It’s like what do I do now? Where do I go you know? And right now in my life I’m having a lot of problems. It just seems like it gets harder and harder. And sometimes I blame it on God. Why, why does He have to make it harder for me? It’s not Him. It’s the way we do things.
A lot of people say “Well I’m in my position because of this and this person. No you’re not. You’re in the position because you put yourself there”. I used to blame my mom because I got pregnant at seventeen. It’s my mom’s fault. She let me go to the carnival.
No it’s not. It’s my own. It’s taken me a long time to realize that.
You know we have to stop blaming everybody for the things that we do.
What message do you want to give to teenagers who are not teen parents, who will see this and learn from you? What do you want to teach them?
I want them to think about what they do. Just don’t go do it. I’m not going to say something bad, but something that’s unexpected is going to happen and then what are you going to do? Put yourself in that position. You don’t want to be there. I’m there. I would never, ever trade my kids for anything in the world but in another lifetime or if I could make time go back I would actually change things. I would change a lot of things in my life. Make better choices and think before we do it.
Do you think teens just don’t understand that there are limits on how much welfare you can get and that you have to live with your parents?
I don’t think they understand. I used to go to Caldwell Alternative and I spoke to a girl there. I talked to her quite a few times. One that was pregnant. She was six months pregnant. She had her baby prematurely. I told her whatever you do, make the right decisions for yourself and for your child.
There was another one there. “I want to get pregnant; I want to get pregnant. I want to have a baby”. I turned around and I looked her and said, “What? You’ve got to be out of your mind. You don’t know what you’re talking about”. She says, “Why”? Not because you have to carry a baby for nine months. That’s not the only thing. This is a baby you’re going to have for the rest of your life. She says, “Well my mom’s going to help me”. No. Your mom’s not going to help you. This is your baby. And I was upset when I was telling her because it’s like she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand what I was trying to tell her. That’s not her mom’s baby. It’s hers. She’s the ones who is going to have to get up and feed it. She’s the one who is going to have to change it in the middle of the night at three in the morning. She is the one who is going to have to do this. And I remember her telling me “Oh I’m pregnant”. “You didn’t listen. You know what? If you make it, call me. Here’s my phone number. Call me and tell me” I said. “But if you don’t, just remember what I told you because don’t say some one didn’t tell you because someone did. You didn’t listen”. And she actually thought about it that time. And I can’t say I’m sorry for her. I feel for her but I just hope in the future she thinks and that other people think about what they do, because it’s not easy.
It’s easy being a teen and not having a baby. That’s easy. And keeping a job and being able to go to school and being able to go shopping and buy what you have to buy. Not having to buy diapers when you’re sixteen, fifteen. We always think every one’s going to be there for us, but sometimes it doesn’t work out that way.
And I don’t think a lot of us teens understand that. We don’t see it at that time. We see it years later. I’ve realized how many mistakes I’ve made and I try to change them. Sometimes a little too late but I try.
We’re not all perfect you know but just really listen to what people tell you.