My visitor was late. I knew right then I was pregnant because just like clock work, my visitor was always on time. However, I knew it would have to be confirmed by my gynecologist. So, with droplets of sweat trickling down my forehead, I reached for the receiver with trembling hands and dialed my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment. There I was, at the vulnerable age of seventeen sitting on the examination table, white paper gown wrapped around my body awaiting my test results. I can still remember what I was wearing on that warm afternoon: my favorite white T-shirt with a pale pink V-shaped collar and red school-issued gym shorts with “North Central High School” embroidered on the bottom right side.
After a short while, Dr. Brown walked in the room and gently relayed the results to me: “You’re eight weeks pregnant, Michelle.”
I, in return, broke into tears and began sobbing like a newborn baby screaming out for their next feeding. Through watery eyes, I looked at her as she proceeded.
“Now, you know I don’t do abortions, but if you decide to keep your baby, I would be more than happy to provide your care”.
I left her office feeling all kinds of emotions, from anger, to sadness, to fear and shame for this was not the first time I found myself in this predicament. At fifteen, I became pregnant by a guy living in a nearby neighborhood, but chose to end the pregnancy. Consequently, breaking the news to my parents was something I didn’t want to relive. However, the necessity of them knowing right away took precedence. My relationship with my child’s father had fizzled as quickly as it had begun, thus after going our separate ways I discovered I was carrying his baby. Sadly, I was keenly aware that he was not the kind of man that would do the right thing. Therefore, I honestly didn’t want to have the tiny, fragile human being that was nestled within my womb. The thought of becoming a single mother frightened me and being in high school only compounded my anxiety.
One day, as my father was preparing for work, I mustered up what little nerve I had and told him about my pregnancy.
With regretful tears welling up in his sable eyes, he cried out: “I shouldn’t have listened to your mom and kept buying those birth control pills! Now, your life is ruined forever! His chilling words cut through me like a double-edged sword. “Did he just say that my life was ruined forever? Why does it have to be forever? At that very moment, I made the clear decision to first ask the Lord for guidance and, second, take control of my destiny.
Like so many teen girls, I fashioned myself into believing I was invincible and would not get pregnant again. Ultimately, I realized I had to take full responsibility for my actions. In discerning what being pregnant meant, I knew I had to make some changes in my life so that I could be a “good mommy”. My ever-changing body and sporadic mood swings raised a lot of questions in me. My thirst for knowledge took on a life of its own as I delved into books on pregnancy, breastfeeding and child labor at my high school’s library. Soon, the door of acceptance opened along with the awareness that I was going to be a mommy whether I liked it or not.
In various ways, I felt extremely alone because my friends and relatives did not understand my emotional state of mind. But, I was not afraid or ashamed of being pregnant in high school for the simple fact that I knew I would not be the only one. There were about fifteen other girls who became pregnant that year. My beautiful daughter was born into this world on December 18, 1987 weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces and was 20 1/2 inches long. There were no complications with my newborn baby or myself. And, I turned 18 years old a few hours after giving birth. My brazen mother, with her candid words promptly informed me that my daughter was my birthday present.
In reflection, I have fond memories of that time in my life. For example, classmates whom I did not know approached me and asked if they could touch my protruding stomach. Several others asked questions concerning my pregnancy. It quickly became clear that these fellow students were genuinely curious; so I felt compelled to answer their questions and granted them permission to feel my unborn child’s tiny feet kick against my stomach wall. Witnessing their astonishment after feeling life inside my body always made me feel special.
During my senior year, I enrolled in a psychology class. We were about to begin the chapter on child development. Much to my amazement, my teacher, Jamie Martindale asked if I would be willing to be a guest speaker and talk about my experience as a teen mother and the realities of caring for my newborn baby. Additionally, he requested my then two month-old daughter be present as well. After talking it over with my parents, my dad agreed to bring her to my school. Jamie got permission on my behalf to remain in his classroom the entire day, thus providing the opportunity for me to speak to all of his classes.
I recall feeling somewhat inadequate and nervous shortly after accepting the invitation to speak to Jamie’s students. I mean, there I was, an inexperienced young mother about to be placed in front of a firing squad of students teeming with questions for me to answer. Instead of lecturing them, I decided to have an “open forum” where they were allowed to pose the questions. They ranged from how it felt to be pregnant in high school, to how my family reacted to the news and whether or not I was still involved with the father. After the initial speaking engagement, word spread like wild flower among the student body. Others wanted the opportunity to hear me speak and visit with my daughter. It became an instant hit and led to regular visits to North Central over a period of about five years after I completed my diploma.
After high school, I focused on being a mother and working in various odd jobs. It didn’t take long to see that I needed some kind of training or higher education if I was to become financially independent. Therefore, in 1990, I decided to obtain certification as a nurse aid and home health aide at Ivy Tech State College. Working with elderly persons, the disabled and physically challenged children helped me discover that my “calling” in life was to help people. Memories of that time still bring me much joy for it allowed me to get to know and learn from exceptional people of diverse socioeconomic and racial backgrounds. I found myself assisting affluent patients residing in wealthy neighborhoods to those less fortunate living in impoverished housing additions.
Though I enjoyed working as a nurse aide, I yearned for a higher education that would allow a more prosperous future for my family. So, for the second time around, I attended Ivy Tech State College and earned an Associate’s degree in Human Services Technology in April 1996. I went on to work in case management for a local mental health agency, but still felt incomplete.
Again, I turned to God for guidance. I researched programs at various colleges in my hometown and decided to major in Social Work at Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis. For six years I juggled classes, motherhood, full-time employment and family. Finally, on May 9, 2004 the light at the end of the tunnel shone brightly as I proudly accepted my Bachelor’s degree.
Presently, I work as a Program Director and Qualified Mental Health Professional for a residential company. Additionally, I have embarked on my budding writing career. From November 2005 to November 2006, I served as a contributing writer for The Indianapolis Star’s on-line blog “IN Touch”. My articles focused on topics such as the healthcare crux in the United States, abortion, child abuse and senseless killings that took place in Indianapolis last year. It was very liberating to share my thoughts with the readers and it also solidified my desire to pursue my passion for writing.
Since the unexpected birth of my daughter, my life has taken me on a sometimes blustery and intriguing journey. Notwithstanding, I feel fortunate for all the blessings God has bestowed upon me and I am eternally grateful to my parents for their unwavering support over the years, for without their sacrifices, I would not be where I am today.