Lauren Reuther

Sitting in the bathroom with my two friends, I felt all the blood drain from my face as I saw that bold pink plus sign. “Oh my God, I’m pregnant!” I was 16. I was rebellious. I was doing terribly in school. And then I was pregnant. I hadn’t talked to the guy I’d been seeing for a while. We were heading our separate ways and I knew he wouldn’t be thrilled. Still, I told him. It didn’t go well and I knew I’d be going on this adventure on my own.

My friends surrounded me for days, all of us full of shock. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t have my baby. When a friend said, “So you’re actually gonna go through with this?” I was completely thrown off. “Yes, I’m going to have a baby.” There were no other options for me. I was going to be a mom. And I made up my mind right then, I was going to be a good one.

I was terrified to tell my mom. At first I planned to wait until I was at least five months along to break the news. I’m glad I didn’t wait. I had the older sister of a friend tell her and, after the initial shock and upset, my mom took amazing care of me. She helped me through some awful morning sickness. She took me to all of my appointments and fed me well. She signed me up for WIC and we shopped together for baby clothes. She kept me home from school. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the very best choice. I’d stay home and care for my baby and worry about school later. And I did.

Time flew by. We found out it was a girl and my whole family was excited. I couldn’t have asked for more support, all of us growing more and more anxious as months passed. Then, on a sunny and beautiful February 28th, 2008, my amazing Shayla Sofia-Grace was born after 10 hours of labor. My 70-year-old grandmother flew down I-5 and ran into the room just as her first great-grandchild’s head was emerging. Shayla was perfect: a full head of dark hair and the most beautiful brown eyes any of us had ever seen.

One of my best friends, Uriel, was there at the hospital with us. My parents left late that night but he stayed with me all through my very first night with my new baby: both of us only 16 years old, but he stayed. I didn’t realize it then, but he would continue to stay with me and we would build a life together. Now, 10 years later, he has been the best dad to Shayla and also to our two-year-old son, Sebastian. With his support, and the support of my family, I got my GED and am in my third year of college.

If there is one choice in my life that I could say was the very best, it was Shayla. One day I will make sure she knows just how much she has done for me. She motivates me to be a better person every single day. I was a teen mom. I had and raised my baby, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.