Every year I make holiday gift baskets for a teen mom shelter. I do ask friends and family for small donations, and I’m grateful for their help, because without them these baskets wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful.
When I was seventeen years old I got pregnant. I was a “nice” girl. I didn’t drink, I didn’t do drugs, I got decent grades and I kept out of trouble. Which was remarkable because my childhood was rough. I also had low self-esteem and thought I was unlovable. I thought no one would ever want to be around me, no one could ever love me. I was lonely. Then I managed to snag a boyfriend. A couple months later and guess what?
I had a bun in the oven. I managed to keep it a secret for quite a while. Even from myself. I got pregnant in March, but didn’t take a test until the middle of May. I remember wondering if maybe I could be- I told my boyfriend (sometime in April) that I thought maybe… He hugged me and told me that if I was “it would be ok.” That he would be there for me because he knew I never had a dad and wouldn’t want that for my baby. I refused to take a test- I was so scared, and if I didn’t take the test then I could still pretend that it was likely I wasn’t.
My boyfriend started acting funny. Distant. One week he stopped holding my hand in the halls. The next week he was busy whenever I called. The next he stopped saying “I love you”. By May we were barely speaking.
Finally I did it. Peed on the little stick and waited with bated breath for the result. I was alone in my room. Two little lines. I called the boyfriend- he answered the phone, and I could hear he his friends talking and laughing in the background.
“I’m pregnant” I said.
“Oh. Ok. I have to go- I’m busy right now.” he replied.
I didn’t talk to him again for months.
Meanwhile, word was getting around school. I managed to keep it from my grandparents (who I lived with) until June. But the gossip got around. It got back to my grandparents and they weren’t very happy, of course. It was a horrible time, and lots of things were said that I will never forget. The day before my junior year ended I suddenly had no where to live. It was scary. I was seventeen (and a VERY young seventeen at that) pregnant, homeless, and had never even held a job.
I ended up at a shelter for teen moms. It was a good setup. I had my own apartment, and as long as I followed the rules it was a good place to be. I finished high school whilst living there, and learned how to be a mom.
I nursed her. I was painfully shy about it, but my mother took a photo because she said someday I would be glad to have it, and I’d regret it if I didn’t let her. And she is right. There are almost NO pictures of me holding baby Hannah, because I hated myself and didn’t want to capture me on film.
I always thought it would be nice to go back and visit. Several years ago I started thinking about how it would be cool if I could do something for the girls that lived there. So for the past four years I have given the current moms gift baskets every Christmas. It makes me happy to give back, especially since I know from experience that they might not get ANYTHING for Christmas-even though they are still just kids themselves.
I’ve come pretty far from that.