Beat the Statistics
by Yvonne Fide
My best friend waited in the lobby as I was brought into the small but comfy office of the family planning clinic. I thought I was too hasty in making the appointment. I just knew that they would tell me that I'm not pregnant, give me some protection, tell me to talk to my parents and send me on my way. But that wasn't their intent when they called me in the office. I sat in a large chair to the right of a small desk. On the desk was a disc. The woman sat down with me and asked a couple of general questions like "If you are pregnant what do you plan on doing with the child?" She explained the responsibilities of being a mother and how hard it will be for a sixteen-year-old girl. She rambled off some statistics, and finally she asked if I was ready to find out if I was pregnant. She dropped 5 drops of urine from a sample I handed her less than a minute ago, as she informed me that only one blue dot will appear if I'm not pregnant and two will appear if I am. Within ten seconds there was one dot, within thirty seconds there were clearly two blue dots. No mistaking it; my life was permanently altered.
I was strangely happy. My best friend walked with me, dumbfounded, to my boyfriend's apartment, all the while asking if I was going to get an abortion. At the time there was no way I was getting rid of the little worm developing in my tummy, but soon I would doubt my ability as a mother.
I had left home to live with my nineteen year old boyfriend a month earlier. I thought that he would be happy about our little creation. At first he was, but things got steadily worse. From arguments came violent fights and fits of tears. Finally I was ready to go home.
Telling my father was not an easy task. I skirted around the issue for about an hour before finally coming out with the secret. He asked me what I wanted to do. If abortion were a choice, he would bring me right away. I told him I thought my baby was dead. I couldn't see how such a little thing could have survived the emotional roller coaster I rode for the last month and a half, and I had been bleeding. My father scheduled an appointment with our family practitioner that confirmed that I was still pregnant. That tenacious little worm was not ready to go.
I would have gone through with the abortion if it weren't for the reconciliation with my boyfriend. I told my father I was moving back in with him. The sadness that I saw on my father's face stayed with me forever. His little girl was living in an adult world. I had no idea what was in store. I was na?e and young, but I was ready to learn.
I had my child, a baby girl and, fifteen months later, I had a baby boy. My boyfriend and I moved to a small Northern California city, and my father soon moved up to be close to me and help with the children. For four years I suffered extreme abuse from my boyfriend. My father and I formed an allegiance and plotted my escape almost daily. It was a strange circumstance. The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that my babies, my sole existence, depended on me. Finally we came back home to Los Angeles, where I gained enough strength to break it off with my boyfriend.
Being a young mother I was used to the stares. I was used to the lectures from all aspects of the "adult" world. I heard it from doctors and social service workers. I heard it from schools and family. I was treated like I couldn't possible take care of my children and I proved them wrong. I was used to it and had the rhetoric down to a tee. Being a twenty-one-year-old single mother was much different. I now had to learn new inequalities and hear new rhetoric. I prepared myself for the battles ahead.
I was determined not to become a statistic. I quit my full time job and took a part time one so that I could return to school. I worked hard to get straight A's. I joined all of the honor societies and finally accepted UCLA's offer to attend their fine university. I am still trudging my way toward a degree, and I'll admit, it hasn't been easy.
Being a young single mother means suffering enormous inequities. When I received cash aid the bad mother label immediately found me. I hear complaints because my children wear baggy clothes (It happens to be their style. One that I won't take away from them.) The principal of my children's school actually had the nerve to tell me to quit school (I wonder what message that would give to my children?). I have been told things like "You don1t look like a mother" and I have seen astonished looks when I told them my age after already telling them how old my children are (I can see brain cells popping as they attempt to make the math work in such a way that would not require them to place me in the teenage mother category.) But I wouldn't trade it for the world.
I have a unique relationship with my children. My daughter and I have reached a point of constant argument, but somehow I believe our relationship only gets better. She can be open with me in a way that sometimes not available to children with a larger age gap between them and their parents. She tells me her troubles with her friends because she respects my opinions. She knows I'm not her best friend, but she is also aware that I won't blow things out of proportion. I partly credit my father for this quality of parenting, but I also know my age and the era I grew up in has to do with it. My son is an intelligent little man. He reads everything and talks to me about current affairs in such a way that it makes me forget his young age. Sometimes it frightens me, not in a negative way, but more awe inspiring. I can't believe that I've brought such intelligence in the world in the midst of turmoil and frustration, and I'm glad. My daughter is a wonderful and confident artist. I hang her pictures on the wall with as much importance as I would a Man Ray lithograph.
The many episodes of drama that entered my family's life have affected us. Wounds need healing, but those that have healed made us stronger. My daughter learned to stand up for herself due to this experience. My son learned to be gentle and forgiving. We are a young family, learning the ways of the world together. Each time we suffer a blow, we trudge on harder, faster and longer. Because of this my family WILL succeed. I know we (teenage mothers) can beat the statistics. I know we possess the strength and intelligence to foster the next generation of geniuses.