‘I’m pregnant’ trembled out of my mouth. I was 16. My mom looked at me with shame, told me to move out.’: 16-year-old teen mom works 3 jobs to make ends meet, graduates nursing school with honors

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“At 16 I sat on my bed crying to my sister with a positive pregnancy test in hand. I had been with a boy on and off for a year, I was young and in love. That day, I became a statistic. This was not something I was prepared for. I planned on going away to college and doing stuff normal teenagers do. I realized at that very second my whole life was about to change. I cried for hours on hours. My little sister held my hand and kept telling me it was going to be okay. When I could barely breathe, she squeezed tighter reassuring me I could do it, that I helped raise her and she believed in me. My mom walked in the room and knew something was wrong. The words, ‘I’m pregnant’ trembled out of my mouth. She looked at me with disappointment and shame. I felt my heart sink into the floor. My step dad then came into the room screaming and told me I had to get an abortion and did not have a choice because I was under 18. I knew that this was not true and I knew I could make my own choice. I made the conscious decision to keep the baby. When I went to my first ultrasound and I heard the heartbeat, I knew this was the right choice for me.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

I was told by my parents if I was going to keep the baby I needed to move out. So I did. I was a junior in high school. I was living with my boyfriend’s family at the time. As word spread, I could no longer bear to go to school. I would walk through the hallways and people would mutter ‘slut’ under their breath. One person said, ‘you might as well have an abortion now and save your unborn child the misery of growing up with you as their mom.’ I lost the majority of my friends instantly. No one wanted to hang out with the pregnant girl.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

I was due in November so I started taking online classes over the Summer. I was working at a fast food restaurant and trying to save up as much as I could. November 13th I gave birth to a little girl named Ella. I was absolutely terrified. The nurse in the room with me had a similar story of being a teen mom. She stayed with me the whole time. She said, ‘I see something special in you, you can do this.’ The moment she was placed on my chest, I felt complete. I realized it did not matter what anyone else said at that point. I knew I was going to be a good mom. I knew I would give Ella the life she deserved.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

40% of teen moms do not graduate high school. I was able to graduate a semester early, December of my senior year. I was the first person in my family to ever graduate. Working at the fast food restaurant. I saved up $1,000 over 6 months. I wanted to take my certified nursing assistant class and that’s what the money went to. I wanted to start a decent job and be able to afford my bills. When I turned 18 I started working in a hospital. I was waitressing at a restaurant 4 nights a week and then working 12-hour shifts at the hospital 3 days a week. I decided it was time to start college classes. I met with the counselor and told her how badly I wanted to become a nurse. She told me, ‘Lots of people have that dream, it takes time, money and good grades. Are you sure you want to choose that pathway, especially being a teen mom?’ I knew she wasn’t wrong. I knew less than 2% of teen moms graduate college. I also knew I wanted to follow my dreams. I wanted to make my daughter proud.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

So I did, I started taking pre- requisites for nursing school. Nursing became my passion. Right when I started taking classes I found out Ella’s dad was cheating on me. I was mortified and I moved out on my own. My whole life turned upside down. The next two years I continued waitressing and working at a hospital. I would get home from work, put Ella to bed and stay up until I couldn’t keep my eyes open to study; Every night.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

After applying for what felt like forever, I was offered a job at my dream hospital, working in pediatrics. I was frequently asked my age by coworkers and families I was assisting. ‘You’re still a baby, what makes you think you can take care of these babies?,’ they’d say. Little did people know, I was raising one at home as well. January of 2018 I began nursing school at 21 years old. I was not close with my mother after I had Ella. I wanted to make amends and I wanted to let her know my plan for nursing school. After a little while I asked her for help with paying for school and she told me no. She had no interest in helping me or in me finishing school. My student loans were maxed out for the year and I was out of options. I thought I was going to have to quit. I was absolutely terrified. I reached out to whoever I could for help. My aunt fortunately was able to help me a little.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

A couple months into my program, everyone in my class had quit working. Our schedule was rigorous and working on top of it was extremely hard. I did not have the option to quit my job, I was struggling and still needed money. There were nights I would stay up and cry because I physically did not think I could keep going. I thought about giving up so many times. Every time I had that thought I looked Ella in the eyes and knew I couldn’t. The next two years were a cycle of working, raising Ella, going to school and clinical shifts. I went three to four weeks at a time without a day off. I was exhausted and felt defeated. I second guessed myself and if this was all worth it. I did not give up, I kept pushing. September 13, 2019, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing with honors. I walked across the stage ugly crying knowing I beat the statistic. I was now able to give my daughter the life she deserved.

Courtesy of Teale Kelley

Being a teen mom did not define my future. It motivated me to do better, to be better. There is not a single thing I would go back and change. The tears, the lack of sleep, the endless hours of studying. For Ella I would do it all over again. I truly do not know where I would be if it weren’t for her. If you have a dream, chase it. Regardless of what people say. You can do whatever you want with your life. If the cards you are dealt in life are not what you want, then you have the ability to change it. Through hard work, dedication and perseverance. I want anyone who is feeling defeated and feeling lost to know they can do it. It may seem impossible now, but it will be worth it.”

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Courtesy of Teale Kelley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Teale Kelley of Denver. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful from teen moms:

‘Kids shouldn’t have kids.’ Shame spread over me. As a teen, I couldn’t hide my big belly.’: Teen mom explains why she ‘kept her baby’ at 16-years-old

‘At 18, I hid an entire pregnancy all the way up to delivery. I refused to tell anyone. I was ashamed and afraid.’: Teen birth mom’s candid lessons learned after choosing adoption for her daughter, reuniting with her 18 years later

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