I’ve been raising my son, Kane, since I was seventeen years old. My life has revolved around him since that cold Christmas Eve when he came home from the hospital.
I discovered that I was pregnant in my junior year at a rigorous honors high school. Saying “Congratulations” to a woman who announces she’s pregnant still feels foreign to me. My aunts, parents, grandparents all shared that same dejected look, as if bidding farewell to a close friend. No diplomas hung in any of their homes then, and all their hopes were pinned on me. When they found out I was pregnant, they figured I could probably finish high school, but no one even discussed college at that point. They thought my future had just taken a turn for the worse.
I ended up receiving a complete educational scholarship to our local university and raised my son on campus between classes. I had no bills then, no plans. I just wanted to be a college graduate, be a good mom, and make a difference in the world. My college years were spent enjoying my son’s milestones and adjusting to the chasm that had grown between his father and me.
Kane cried for his bottle at my high school graduation and played patiently with his Matchbox cars at my college graduation four years later. Raising him inspired me to become a teacher. I thought I had accomplished it all, setting straight those looks of dismay and not becoming another statistic. But now he’s twelve, and his mother is unmarried and often mistaken for his older sister.
When administrators, colleagues, or parents of my students discover that I have a son, I get the familiar question, “How old is he?” And when I answer them, I see their entire perception of me change. Then I can mouth in sync with them, “You don’t look old enough to have a child that age.” They want me to tell them exactly how old I am. It’s as if they want to know how someone could let that happen, how it’s possible for someone like me, a professional, to have had a storied past. I just answer, “Well, I am. And he’s phenomenal.”
It has been tough at times, but I have relied on my family and a handful of true friends. It’s also complicated to justify my past to a boy who is coming of age. But as he grows older, I realize that he’s become a caring, conscientious person, and I know that I had something to do with that.
Of course I don’t advocate teen pregnancy, but I’ve been on a beautiful ride since giving birth to Kane. I believe that a teenage mother is still a mother. I am not a statistic. I am not a burden to society. Being a teenage mother did not force me to quit school—or anything, ever. Because I did it. I’m still doing it. I will always be raising Kane.
Shannon Blady is an educator in San Antonio, Texas. She is currently pursuing a PhD in interdisciplinary learning and teaching at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her son, Kane, is now a freshman at the same university.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.