This young mother had her son at 14
‘You don’t know what strength is until you look into your child’s eyes’
Remember back to being a young teenage girl, on her way to becoming a beautiful young woman. You have hopes, dreams, and aspirations. You think about your future everyday, knowing that you have the potential to do something amazing.
Then, all at once, everything changes.
You are scared. You are so scared. All you want, more than anything else in the world, is for someone to tell you that it is going to be OK. That you are strong enough to do this – to raise a human being and not give up on yourself. Because the truth is, you are not sure if you are. How could you be?
It was early afternoon on a summer day that did not feel like summer. The door to the cafe I was in swung open and a tall brunette came rushing in, immediately fixing her hair from the gust of wind that had blown the door open. She smiled at me and sat down at my table. I couldn’t help but smile back. This woman has the potential to change the lives of so many girls who are going through something that she knows all too well; teen pregnancy.
In the short time that I talked to Sarah, she shared with me her incredible story, including how she felt at fourteen years old finding out that she was going to have a baby. How she felt when her friends and parents decided that she shouldn’t be a part of their lives. And how she overcame and not only made a life for her child, but also for herself.
We started out talking about her love for animals. She was glowing as she described her childhood dream of opening an animal shelter and veterinary service. She wanted white walls, a wooden door, and dark green dog bones painted everywhere. She wanted to accept all types of animals and give them the life that they couldn’t have anywhere else. Sarah had an amazing dream.
Sarah went to school in southern Pennsylvania. She was taking as many courses as she could to help with opening her own business and becoming a vet. She finished her freshman year of high school with a 4.0 GPA and lots of friends.
This is the first time I see Sarah get emotional. Her happy smile slowly fades.
I ask her what happened during the summer after her freshman year. She took about a minute to find the right words, and then she told me her amazing story.
“When I finished up my freshman year of high school, I felt on top of the world. I was popular, I was smart, and I felt like everyone loved me. I felt like nothing could go wrong.”
Sarah was incredibly confident in herself. She believed that she could do anything she put her mind to, and so did her family.
“I made a mistake. The first week of summer I made a big mistake. I met a guy at a friend’s house. We talked more and more over a short period of time, and he made me feel so special. I can’t tell you why I did it, I can’t tell you what I was thinking when I did it. But I did it. And I had to live with the consequences.”
The boy told her she was beautiful, smart, amazing – all of the things she thought about herself. He told her that she could trust him, and she should trust him. And she did.
“And it was the stupidest thing I had ever done. I slept with this boy that I barely knew. And a little over a month later I didn’t get my period.
“I have never been so scared in my life. I felt like it wasn’t real. That someone was playing some horrible joke on me. I thought that it might not mean I was pregnant. So I called the boy that I had slept with. I told him I didn’t get my period. All I remember next was him cursing, me crying, and darkness.”
I could tell that she was having a hard time keeping it together. She was quiet for what felt like five full minutes before she looked up at me and apologized.
“I was too scared to tell anyone else at first. I was too scared to talk to my friends, teachers, and even my parents. I became very closed off and started getting bad grades in all of my classes.”
She had a constant feeling of dread, constant knots in her stomach and an urge to cry.
“I was just so lost, I didn’t feel like I was walking around in my own body.”
She avoided seeing her friends and family as much as possible. Gradually, she grew more emotional as words spewed out. It was the first time Sarah had shared this story in such detail.
“I was sitting in my biology class. Before, biology was my favorite class. Everyday was filled with excitement and hope for my future – this was going to be something I dealt with everyday. But now, well, now it was even hard to make eye contact with my favorite teacher, Mr. Mark. He still smiled at me, helped with homework when I let him, and even pulled me aside after class one day to tell me he would be there if I ever needed to talk. I looked at him and said ‘OK. I need to talk’.
“I made him promise he wouldn’t tell anyone. Then I looked him in the eyes, told him that I was scared. ‘What are you scared for Sarah? I can help you.’ I trusted him so much. But I just couldn’t. I started crying and ran to the bathroom. That was probably my biggest mistake, because I know he would’ve been so supportive.”
Sarah looks at me. She knows she has to tell me the hard part of her story eventually, but I can feel that she is a little reluctant. So I suggested that she talk about her parents.
“My mom is an amazing woman. She is so beautiful. She worked at a bank at the time, and she loved me so much. She bought me little dresses all the time, and loved to take me shopping. She loved to watch movies with me and talk about my friends. She was the first one to notice something was wrong with me. I loved my dad. But he didn’t notice anything was wrong until I told him.
“I just couldn’t take it anymore. There was definitely a feeling of dread, and I was sick to my stomach. I sat down on the couch and called my mom into the living room. I was already crying. I remember the feeling of her hug, telling me it was going to be OK. That was before I told her why I was crying.”
Sarah has tears falling down her face. I pass her a tissue and nod for her to continue.
“I looked my mom in her eyes and told her I was pregnant. I have never seen so much emotion in a person’s face in such a short period of time. There was shock, anger, and so much disappointment. She didn’t say a word. She left the room. I curled up into a ball on the couch and just cried harder than I had throughout the whole experience. I remember biting the fabric on the armrest to keep myself from screaming.
“My dad walked in the room but I didn’t stop crying. I knew that he knew. I knew that she told him. And I wished that I hadn’t told her.”
Sarah tells me about her dad yelling at her, grabbing her hair with his hand and yanking her head off the couch to scream at her. She talks about the profanities he called her. She talks about the emptiness inside her after that moment, when her vision for a perfect future was shattered.
“I felt my world crashing down upon me. It literally felt like a 50-pound weight hit me over the head and I went down. When I was on the ground, I felt every ounce of hope deflate from my body. I thought my life was over.”
She was exiled from her childhood home with nowhere to go. “I wasn’t even old enough to get a job yet, how was I supposed to pay for somewhere to live and take care of a child?”
“My aunt took me in. She showed me the love and acceptance I had been craving. She was the one who told me it was going to be OK. She showed me that I could do it. And I did.
“I was fifteen at the time my child came. I was not prepared. I had the support of my aunt, but I had no other family and I had no friends. I was being homeschooled by my aunt so the other kids wouldn’t ridicule me. I didn’t leave her house. I was content in my solitude.
“As the pregnancy became closer and closer to the end, I became more and more frightened. But I also started feeling a connection to this unborn baby inside of me. I felt that I should be doing something more for him. So I got a job at a fast food joint to help support both of us.”
Sarah went into labor when she was 15 years old. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy and named him Austin.
“When Austin was born, there was a light inside of me. I wasn’t scared anymore. I took care of Austin, finished high school, and got my diploma. My son celebrated my high school graduation with me. At that moment I knew that everything I had gone through was worth it because I was able to set an example for my son and show him what determination was.”
Sarah’s face glowed with pride when she spoke about her son. Her happiness in being able to making him proud of her was evident.
“Austin is seven years old now. Time has gone by so fast. I cherish every moment I can with him. Sometimes he comes to work with me to see all the animals.”
Sarah shares her belief that the only reason she was able to make her life what it is is because she was working for her son. She talks about the sacrifices she made in order to be a mother, and how she wouldn’t change anything for the world. Even the feeling she had as a fourteen-year-old girl, alone, and pregnant.
“I have a message for anyone out there who is pregnant and thinks they can’t do it. Think again. It is going to be so scary, and sometimes you won’t have anyone to tell you it is going to be OK. So I will tell you. It is going to be OK. You don’t know what strength is until you look into your child’s eyes. Because of my son I was able to become a veterinarian and open my own practice. It has white walls, a wooden door, and dark green dog bones painted everywhere.”