Between my sixth and seventh birthdays, my parents separated and divorced, I moved into a new house, I switched schools, and I said goodbye to my friends. My family of five divided into two even smaller families. While I understand the reasons today, my parents’ divorce was tough for me at the time. Many times I wondered if relationships were meant to last or if people were just meant to get sick of each other. Too often, I told myself that if two people who once loved each other can end up hating each other, then love cannot be real.
My life as a teen was wonderful; I was an honor roll student, dance team captain, volleyball player, and member of numerous extracurricular activities. As an active teen, I had many games for my parents to attend and many activities for them to support…but they rarely did. Their dislike for each other was so strong that it was hard to have them to be in the same room and not feel awkward. They missed out on a lot of the wonderful things I did. I wish they saw how great I was because at the age of seventeen, I gave birth to my daughter and all those wonderful things I'd been doing came to an end. I no longer held the title of “example student”; I became the “example problem.”
On that day I gave birth, I discovered love was real again. My heart genuinely felt true and genuine love for someone who would soon call me mama. I knew that all the excuses I had been giving myself for being weak, breaking down, and giving up were useless now. This was an opportunity to find the strength in myself that I knew I carried.
When my daughter was a baby, she was more than just my child. She was my therapist. As I looked into her eyes, I saw hope and I saw a future that I never imagined before. I always knew that I would do something great with my life, but now I had someone else watching me every step of the way. Every night in bed, I would ask myself, “How do I want to be remembered?” or “What will my daughter tell her grandchildren about me?” While it seems stressful to think about, I saw it as an opportunity to change our lives and create a story based on strength and love.
Within my daughter’s first year of life, I graduated from high school, left an abusive relationship, moved out into the world on my own, enrolled in college, and started working to support my two-person family. Many times, I had valid reasons to break down and cry, but each time I saw my challenges as opportunities to build my strength—and I did get stronger. Every time I felt like the world was against me and my chances were low, I thought about the future and how that challenging moment would become a great memory of strength.
Now that my daughter is in kindergarten, I have regular meetings with her teacher to follow up on her progress. At my first meeting, her teacher made a comment that really touched me, “Nelly is a strong girl.” It brought tears to my eyes and I knew at that very moment that everything I was doing, I was doing right. All of the qualities I was trying to build into my child were sticking: her ability to understand and relate to other children, her love and care for others, her desire to learn and teach others, and her courage. With strength in place, there is very little my daughter won’t accomplish. And for this, I am thankful for all the challenges I have experienced, as they have created a joyous life today.
After giving birth to a daughter at the age of seventeen, Natasha dedicated her life to becoming an amazing parent, finding happiness, overcoming society's stereotypes, and conquering her own definition of success. Through blogging, mentorship programs, public speaking, and many other platforms, Natasha aims to use her story to prevent teen pregnancy, undo the negative image of teen moms, and empower and motivate teen parents to beat the odds.
This post is part of our series on supporting young moms, as a follow-up to our Mama's Day Our Way blog series.