‘It’s really hard’ an interview with Michelle
I interviewed Michelle so teens could learn from her experience. I thought that with her mom’s help, things were pretty easy. But she has worked harder than I ever imagined. Solange: When you decided to have sex did it ever cross your mind that you could get pregnant? Michelle: I thought, it’s not easy to [...]
I interviewed Michelle so teens could learn from her experience. I thought that with her mom’s help, things were pretty easy. But she has worked harder than I ever imagined.
Solange: When you decided to have sex did it ever cross your mind that you could get pregnant?
Michelle: I thought, it’s not easy to get pregnant. I thought most of the time when you do get pregnant you plan for it to happen. The first time we did use a condom but then after a while we kinda got comfortable and then we stopped [using a condom] and that’s when it happened.
What about birth control pills?
I didn’t use birth control at all. I didn’t know about birth control.
Did you ever think about not having the baby or giving it up for adoption?
No, I always thought of keeping the baby. I never had a doubt about aborting or adoption or anything. My mom and the dad’s side of the family both wanted me to abort the baby. And when we found out, I was five months [pregnant] already. It was too late to abort the baby.
How did your family react?
I’m pretty sure they were disappointed, but then I proved them wrong when I continued with school. I just kept bringing home the good grades.
Why did you hide it at first?
I was in denial, because I was really scared. I did tell my boyfriend but we were both young and didn’t know any better. I kinda hid it because of shame.
How did your friends treat you when they found out that you were pregnant?
My closest friends were the only ones that noticed, and they were very open with me. They came up a couple times and asked me if I was pregnant. But I was kinda in denial and told them that I wasn’t. As true friends they didn’t say anything to anybody. They kept it to themselves and they were there to support me until I was ready to tell them and they kinda told me, “oh yeah, I knew, but I didn’t say anything.”
Did you lose any friends or change your mind about any friends?
Actually I gained friends. Loosing friends, they weren’t the close ones so it didn’t really matter to me.
How was being pregnant and giving birth?
Being pregnant was not that bad. I would walk to school and walk home from school because my doctor told me that if you walk a lot it’s easier to give birth. And being pregnant was joyful. Everywhere I’d go people would move for me, I could eat all I wanted and people wouldn’t think I’m fat.
Giving birth was hard because I was kinda by myself. My boyfriend and his family both weren’t there for me when I was giving birth. I called them but they didn’t come until I was finished giving birth. In the labor room my grandmother was in there with me. My mom was in the waiting room because she said she was too scared to come in. The only thing that really was hard was the contractions. Being in the labor room and thinking, “Oh the baby’s daddy isn’t here” brought tears to my eyes, but to see that I had my grandma there was really a joy for me.
How are you able to go to school?
My mom has to take care of the baby for me when school starts and after [school] she’ll pick me up and then I’ll have to watch the baby and do homework. So I’ll basically come home and play with the baby for a bit, feed her, hang out with her then wait until she falls asleep then do homework late at night.
What is it like raising a child and being a student?
It’s really hard. I can’t join as many clubs as I wish I could. I did join a dance team—the Filipino dance team—at my school and every time I had practice I had to bring the baby. It was such a hassle because after practice I would come home with the baby and my mom would yell at me because she thinks that if I dance and bring the baby I’m not going to be into my schoolwork. I proved her wrong, but toward the end of the school year I had to stop dancing because of AP exams and finals.
How do you feel about sex education?
I didn’t have sex education. I didn’t know what birth control was. Sex education should be forced in middle school because that’s when we really don’t think about it. When you hit high school, that’s when they tell you about sex, but at that point it’s already too late—everyone’s already doing it.
How did you feel during anatomy class last year when our teacher brought up condoms?
When he finally told us I was like, “You know you could have saved my life if you would have told me this earlier?” Why are you going to wait until junior year when I’m like 16 or 17? Then you’re going to tell me how to put a condom on or that having sex is bad? Why did they wait to say that until the end of our high school years?
Are there times when you feel like you’re too young to have a baby?
All the time. I take the baby everywhere. I’m not ashamed of people seeing her. People always ask me, “Is that your baby?” I’m like, “Yeah, of course that’s my baby.” And they’re like, “How old are you? Aren’t you too young?” I’m young but there’s not really an age limit. No one is ever ready to have a baby. You could be 30-something years old, successful and [if] a baby is unexpected, you’re not always going to be ready for it.
Financially do you think it’s hard to be a teenage mother?
I have to share a room, I have to cut back on shopping. And all the prices are going up, the powdered milk is expensive and [so are] diapers. Having my mom here we’re going to get through it. And there’s government programs out there, like WIC (Women, Infants and Children). WIC [which provides food and healthcare to low-income moms] helped me a lot. As long as you have your family then you’re going to be happy.
Tell me about when the school tried to put you in the special school for pregnant teens.
I felt like, yeah, I have a belly and I’m pregnant but why do they have to segregate me from everybody else? They told me that being in the pregnancy school you could earn more credits, graduate faster. What if I don’t want to do that? Being separated from everyone they say is to protect us, but people at school where nice enough to move out the way and to ask me about my day and if I ever needed anything. I felt like if you separate all the [pregnant] girls how can they help other girls who are not pregnant. After giving birth and being pregnant and stuff, a lot of girls that I don’t even know would walk up to me and ask me, “oh how do you know if you’re pregnant” and they ask me all these private questions and I was happy that they were comfortable to come up to me. I felt like all those girls that are trapped in the pregnancy school they could’ve changed many lives. I’m happy I didn’t go to that pregnancy school because I helped many people when they came up to me and asked me, “how do you know you’re pregnant” or “what’s the consequence.” If I wasn’t there to tell them then they would have never known.
Do you think becoming a mom brought you closer to your mom?
Me and my mom have always been close, but this has brought us even closer. I came to the point where I can actually talk to her about sex. She told me, “Whenever you have a boyfriend tell me so we can get birth control.” At first I didn’t want to get near the sex talk. I’d tell her I have a boyfriend and stuff but me talking about having sex was hard because she’s really old fashioned and traditional. But this really brought me and my mom really close.
What about your teachers? Were you nervous about their reaction?
Oh yes. The only teacher that I really cared what he was going to think was Mr. Cardenas. He was my algebra teacher and my honors algebra two teacher. He would always pull me aside outside class and he would be like, “Yeah, so what are these rumors that I’m hearing about? What’s going on?” and I was in denial so I told him that I had had surgery and I had a swollen belly but it was all a lie. One day we were walking to an assembly and he asked me, “are you really pregnant?” and I finally told him I was and he asked me why I hid it. I was scared of what he was going to think of me. And he was the only teacher that I got scared of his own opinion and having him there to support me was such a big honor because he then helped me out a lot. After having the baby he bought a couple presents. I had other teachers’ [support] too. Ms. McDonald always asked me how was I feeling, all of my teachers were really supportive. I’m thankful for my family my friends and my teachers. I didn’t think I was going to have that support because in movies they show if you’re a teen and pregnant you’re not going to have support and you’re mom is going to kick you out. That’s not true. You’re mom is always your mom and she’s always going to be there no matter what people say. When I became a mom I grew mother instincts. Being a mother now I understand everything that my mother told me.
What about dating? Has it been hard?
In the beginning I’d cry to my mom, “Mom, I’m never going to have a husband. I’m not going to have my dream wedding, and I’m not going to have the dream guy, and blah blah blah.” And then, I had a friend—he was really supportive and always there for me. He told me that if a guy really likes you he wouldn’t care if you have a kid; it’s a part of you. He has to accept it. Dating-wise, it’s not hard you just have to be yourself. And before even starting to talk to a guy let them know you have a kid. Some guys would judge and say, “Oh she has a kid I’m not going to talk to her.” But then I guess he’s just not meant for you. When a guy comes along and actually accepts your baby it feels really good. For him to be there and be supportive, it feels really good.
Do you doubt your future plans at times?
Every night when I go to sleep I think about it. Like, man am I really going to make it to college? What am I going to do with the baby when I’m in college? Who’s going to take care of her? I think about it every night and it does hurt, it hurts a lot.
If you have a baby [when you’re] young then you should stay in school for the baby, not just for yourself but for the baby. I know school’s not for everyone, but if you have a kid, school is your only choice. It’s your only key to life, to success. If you make the baby, take responsibility for it—guys and girls. It’s your baby, your own blood.