A chocolate-eyed, silly ball of curls is how I’d describe myself as a child. My childhood was full of struggles and challenges. My father left by the time I was one, my stepfather battled alcoholism, and my mother was barely able to provide for my siblings and me. My mother was always smiling, always singing, and always happy for us. She made every day an exciting adventure. We were never aware of the grass growing through the apartment carpet, the cockroaches in the kitchen cupboards, or the fact that she had no room or bed. My mother is the strongest person I know. She is my rock, my safe place, and my hero.
The person who has been the biggest influence in my life is my mother, by far, but after her I would have to say my father, even though I barely knew him. His absence is the only thing he gave me, and in a way I am grateful for that. His involvement would have given him too many opportunities to disappoint. His leaving may have been for his own selfish reasons, but it was also the best thing for my family.
I will never forget the life-changing moment when I learned I was pregnant. I remember staring blankly at a tiny pink line—a life-changing line. I never thought something so simple as a line could become something so complicated. Suddenly my body wasn’t my own. My body was occupied by someone else. That moment lasted for two weeks. I couldn’t focus on anything but the situation going on inside of my belly.
It’s crazy how drastically a girl’s high school experience changes when she becomes pregnant. School became more of a challenge for me. I was sick a lot, I missed school for doctor appointments, and when I started to show people began to talk and stare. My belly became a public display. People suddenly thought it was okay, not only to talk about my belly but also to touch it. My personal space was constantly violated and that wasn’t the only way I was violated. Quite quickly my name went from Alexis to “the pregnant girl.” People I had never spoken to decided that they felt comfortable asking me for advice on anything and everything. Girls asked me questions about birth control, sex, and pregnancy because obviously I, the pregnant girl, should know all about these things. And of course there were several “Your Life Is About to Change” pep talks from high school staff members. All of these experiences actually served a purpose. They prepared me for the difficult task of being a teen mom.
The worst feeling as a parent is to feel you are inadequate: that your parenting is wrong, that your parenting is not good enough, or that you are failing at caring for the one thing you care about most in the entire world—your child. When you are a teen parent, adults think that they are helping you by telling you how to parent. Sometimes they aren’t even parents. They just blurt out facts or personal opinions about parenting, not taking into consideration how their words might affect you. I can’t remember how many times my son’s grandma tried to tell me what to feed my son, or how to dress my son. She never asked me what was okay with me. She just did it. It’s almost as if adults assumed that I didn’t want to take on the role of being a mother, or maybe that I wasn’t doing it right.
Everyone had an opinion on the right way of parenting, and so for some time I was trying to please everyone. I thought that if I could please everyone, it would prove that I was a good mother. I didn’t realize that there was nothing to prove. There is no single right way of parenting. Every situation is different because every mother and child is different. All you can do is try your absolute best to love, care for, and appreciate your child because a good parent is a selfless parent. I know I am an amazing mother because I love my son with all of my heart. He will always come first, and above all. And I will always be the best version of me possible for my son.