We can all support pregnant teens,and their parents, in choosing life

“I thought I raised you better than this,” my mom said as she left me standing alone in our living room. I was a 17-year-old senior in high school, and I had just told her I was pregnant.

I was told the following: “Your life is over.” “You ruined your future.” “You’ll never finish high school.” “You’re a failure.” “You’re never going to have a great life because of this mistake.” “You’ll never go to college, you’ll be stuck working as a grocery clerk the rest of your life.”

Seventeen years later, I am an author of two books, a columnist, a journalist, have a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and am the content director of one of Nebraska’s newest magazines, “HT Living: Inspiration for the way you live in Hub Territory.” I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Chris, and we now have three kids, Cheyenne, Elijah and Tori Grace.

My “mistake” is now 17. Cheyenne has dreams of college, traveling Europe and becoming an artist.

My husband and I are open and honest about our past, premarital sex, relationships, emotions, faith and life choices. 

We tell Cheyenne – well, all of the kids since stuff comes up at the dinner table – that sex is awesome, but it’s even better when you’re in a committed relationship for life (aka marriage). Our mantra is abstinence, but Cheyenne knows we are her support system, her cheerleaders and her anchor. 

When I look at my daughter, I remember the pressure and the hard conversations from family, friends and my doctor to consider abortion.

Even though Chris and I eventually married, and our families got used to the idea of us being parents, there were several months of being alone in my choice to birth and raise Cheyenne. I still remember the hollowness of what it felt like to be alone and unsupported in my choice.

That overwhelming feeling has been the motivation to reach out and mentor and support teenage and single moms in our community.

Four years ago, I started mentoring teen moms through a national organization called Mothers of Preschoolers. 

I put together a team of women who are dedicated to sharing their time through childcare, crafts, good food and life skills. Teens come to our meetings to learn about college applications, balancing a checkbook, parenting skills and even how to spot marriage material. Sometimes, these teen moms just need someone to baby-sit their kids so they can work, take a test or just take a break.

Many nights, these moms come sit in my kitchen and talk to me about their struggles and challenges while I juggle making supper and supervising the homework scene. I remember being in their shoes, so I tell them, “Yes, you can go to college.” “Yes, you can travel the world.” “Yes, there is a man in your future who will love you and your child.” “Yes, you can. It may take a little longer, but you can do it.”

And sometimes, their parents come sit in my kitchen, too. Overwhelmed with the news their 15-year-old is pregnant, they look at my life and see a future for their teen. They ask how they can support their child and I tell them what I wanted to hear when I first held that positive pregnancy test in my hands.

“Tell her she has a future. Tell her you will be there for her no matter what,” I tell them. “When she’s ready, ask her about motherhood. Find out if she wants to be a full-time mom, or if she wants to consider adoption. Support her decisions and go to counseling together.”

If you know of a teen mom or the parents of a teen mom, consider offering an ear and becoming part of their support system. You don’t have to create a Teen MOPS group; helping can be as a simple as a smile and an open door.

Heather Riggleman is a coffee addict without a recovery plan. She’s an author, journalist and magazine editor. She’s married to her high school sweetheart, is a mom to three kids and lives in Kearney, Nebraska. 

Reprinted with permission.