It couldn’t be. I must be seeing things. This test was the crystal ball foretelling my future, and those two pink parallel lines symbolized complete and utter doom. How ironic that the start of a new life somehow felt like death. My life had changed in a matter of minutes. I felt like I had to waive goodbye to all my dreams as they slipped under the cracks of the bathroom window. I was just a lost teenager grasping at the seams of my being, trying to piece myself together and make sense of who I really was. How was I going to raise a child when I still felt like one? Where was my time to be irresponsible and irrational? Where were all those years I could be young and selfish? Where did my opportunity to grow up go? I felt I skipped 10 years of my life, landing straight smack dab into adulthood. I was not ready for that kind of sacrifice. I could only wish that rolling some dice, drawing a card or two and moving 10 steps backwards could fix all of this.
My news was met with disappointment. I was continuously asked what I was going to do? Everything seemed to have to come to a screeching halt. Having a child inevitably seemed to lead to a big red STOP sign in which I couldn’t continue through. How limiting the title of being a mother can be, how constraining. It wrapped around me, suffocating me. As though because I was pregnant, I could only focus on my unborn child. Or because I was so young I could never understand how to juggle numerous responsibilities. But my age did not depict my capabilities or reflect my potential. It was then that I realized I was more than just a womb. I was more than just a statistic. I was more, so much more than just another “good girl gone bad,” or one more “fallen victim of teenage pregnancy.”
All those offensive, discriminative terms only empowered me. I still had the same goals and aspirations. I could continue to go to school, work part-time, and find myself amidst these challenges. Why did I have to lose myself in order to become a mother? And though I was young, why couldn’t I use these experiences as lessons to teach my daughter about resilience, independence and persistence? Why couldn’t I still be a good mother, despite my age? I wanted to use these obstacles as stepping-stones to aim for the stars, show my daughter how hard work pays off and not to stop at anything she truly wants. In many ways I found myself through her existence.
Those two pink parallel lines were my foundation to takeoff into bigger and better things, and I’ve only just begun. The start of her life was also the beginning of mine. I am continually finding myself, allowing myself room to grow. I still make mistakes. I am still young and sometimes selfish. I am human and completely perfect in all my imperfection. I never stop trying to break the stereotype of young mothers. I am a mama, but I am also a social worker. I am a graduate student. I am a dreamer. I am a fighter. I am a believer, and most importantly I am my own woman.
Kathleen Burns is a social work masters student at the University of Texas at El Paso, hoping to work within corrections. I currently work with domestic violence offenders and advocate for their survivors. I have been able to use tools and techniques provided by Choice USA to continue to stand up against violence against women on my campus as well as within my own personal work.