I was 15 years old when I walked into a local Planned Parenthood to get a pregnancy test. A close friend accompanied me as I waited. Upon receiving the results, I called my boyfriend to pick me up. I got home and, as expected, my mother was distraught, expressing a few unpleasant words. My father was present in my life but did not live in the home I resided. He told me he supported whatever decision I made concerning my future. The options of abortion and adoption briefly raced through my mind. I was young and had no idea what I was going to do. I kept my baby.
Every day was a challenge – from being young and pregnant, to dealing with the stigma of being "fast", not to mention the pressure of being able to provide for a child while trying to also take care of myself proved to be too much, yet I persisted. I graduated from high school, able to attend classes since childcare was provided by my school. It wasn’t until years later that kept a promise to myself and graduated from college.
I was able to cope with the difficulties of raising a child by praying a lot and I never stopped working. I kept my eyes on my goals. I was determined to not become another statistic. I refused to allow the reality of being a young black teenage single parent define my existence nor stop me from pursuing my purpose in life. I, like many adolescents, had career plans and goals before prematurely becoming a mother. I wanted to attend Howard University, pledge Delta Sigma Theta, and hold a professional degree. I vacillated between wanting to be a physician or an attorney. However, without anyone to encourage my desires and provide the mentorship and guidance needed to steer me in the right direction, I viewed my dreams as fairytales that were unattainable.
I was suddenly responsible for the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of another person yet didn't have a grip on those areas myself. I was alone in the overall raising of my child. Society puts so much pressure on women, yet ironically does not support women particularly when it comes to childbearing. Oftentimes, the lives of males rarely change after the birth of a child because our culture does not require it. Therefore, the father of my child wasn't much help nor was his family. The rare times I asked for assistance from the paternal side, namely from the grandparent, it was received but I didn’t ask often because I felt it wasn't their responsibility. There was, however, support from my own immediate family members - some babysat while I worked two jobs and one of my brother’s would often give me money as well as splurge on Christmas gifts. I wanted so much for my family. Although none of us had much, I never went without what I needed. In fact, there was a time when I didn’t have much to eat and didn't tell anyone out of embarrassment. A friend happened to call and asked me to come to her home and pick up food items. She had overspent on groceries and had way too much to fit in her freezer – one of the countless ways God provided.
I gave birth to a second child two years later. It was already difficult with one, but it got even more real. I then made some choices that ensured I wouldn't get pregnant again and committed to living the rest of my life so that my daughters had someone to look up to - the main thing I lacked, perhaps in due part because my mother was also a teenage parent. Honestly, if I could go back in time and I had to do it all over again, I would tell myself to live my best life. I would remind myself that all those dreams were not fairytales, that I can have it all. I would read more, learn new things, be unafraid to grow, travel often, and let no one determine my future but me.
Now as a parent to young adults, I am most proud of my daughters for being phenomenal, beautiful, kind women – one a graduate with a degree in chemical engineering and another who is a flourishing entrepreneur and successful businesswoman. More importantly, they are prosperous in their relationships with God, family, friends, education, and professions. They love one another, always help when and where it is needed, and they see no ceiling!
I am who I am because of God. I am a praying woman. I set goals and I talk to God about them. I not only set goals for myself, but I kept my children productive by providing them opportunities that were not afforded to me. In some ways, I lived vicariously through them. God deposited a richness inside of me and these two girls that I had as a teenager, raised alone, struggled with, took to early morning church services every Sunday, and now have the privilege of being in close relationship with, not only as mother but as trusted confidant, are the fruit of that labor. The fullness of God and His grace have provided me favor and gives me a continual reason for praise. I am grateful to be alive to tell my story and I give honor to God - my sustainer and promise keeper.
Author: Nadia Howard