When I sat in my bathroom looking at the pregnancy test, all my worst fears were realized. Two pink lines stared back at me. I was numb.
The next few weeks were filled with conflicting emotions about the pregnancy. The things I knew about unwed young mothers weren’t good things. I knew how I looked upon girls I knew that got pregnant and it wasn’t how I wanted to be looked at.
As my pregnancy continued and then as my son grew I got use to the stares and the remarks, “You look to young to be his mother!” But as I talked with people they always ended up saying how “different” I was then other teenagers that got pregnant. I was unlike them because I went to a good school, I lived on my own, made things work with my son’s father, took care of my child and responsibilities, worked three jobs, and had a plan for the future. Part of me believed them to a certain point. I did what I had to do for my child and I and the images of teen motherhood that society wants us to see were much different.
My senior year of college I had to do an internship. As a human service major, I got to choose a local agency to work with. As I looked down the list of potential agencies a local teen parenting program caught my eye. I jumped at the chance to intern there as a case manager. For four months I went on home visits, sat in on parenting classes, went on job searches with the girls, doctors appointments and we went to public agencies to for or with the girls. I also helped set up their at-risk program. I was very lucky to have so much interaction with the girls.
Most of the things I did there are things that only graduate interns get to do. Being around the girls and their kids so much helped me see their concerns and feelings. I got to know many of them on a personal level. While many of them were younger then I was when I found out I was pregnant, I saw myself in them. I saw the same fears because of a positive pregnancy test. The worry of what it would hold for their future. The fear of what would happen when they told their parents and the reaction to the pregnancy.
They wondered what kind of parents they would be and how they would support a child. Would the father stick around? They felt the same first kicks from deep within. They also loved their children before they were born. Many of the same worries, fears and concerns I had were felt by the girls. They sat in the same courtrooms fighting for custody and child support. We stood in grocery lines holding the same WIC checks. We got the same looks from strangers and heard the same lines over and over again, “Is he yours!?” “You look too young to be his mother!”
We lived with our parents because we couldn’t afford to live on our own or we struggled to make the rent and raise our kids. We sat up with our kids at night when they were sick or just to watch them sleep. We saw the same goofy smiles that made us fall in love with our kids over and over again. We watched them take their first steps and say their first words. We were their parents no matter what our age. We felt the same joys and concerns for our children.
Working there showed me I was the same. I had privileges that some of them didn’t – parents that were supportive and helped me with childcare, already being into my second year of college when I found out. I needed to recognize how lucky I was but still remember how much more I am like them then I how we are different. While we may have had different upbringings or different circumstances surrounding our pregnancies we still had the same fears, joys and feelings. We were more alike then we are different.
While I did receive six credits for my internship I also took away much more. I learned and unlearned from the girls. I’m sure without them even knowing how much we were alike.