DIARY OF A TEEN MOM
Interview with DANIELLE VAUGHAN, 21
I am 21 years old. I got pregnant at the age of 14; I was in 8th grade. I did graduate high school, but it was extremely tough! I did not pursue my dream at a four-year university out of fear that my daughter would feel abandoned. I work hard in dead end jobs, while attending online courses, living paycheck to paycheck. I was luckier than most, I received large amounts of support from my mother and my grandmother. Eventually, my luck ran thin and I had to move out on my own, with my daughter. It's been she and I ever since!
Did it ever occur to you that you might become pregnant as a teen?
Growing up, I imagined my life so differently! I was going to take a year off after graduation and just travel the world. I definitely didn't see myself as a single, 15-year-old mom. I was always classified as the responsible one. I always felt untouchable, like teen pregnancy could NOT happen to me. I was so sure that it wouldn't.
How did your friends and family react when they found out about your pregnancy?
I just remember my Mom boo-hoo crying! She was devastated. Her first words were so encouraging, but what followed sent a tremble down my spine. I was terrified. My friends and I were so young! We didn't understand the depth of the situation at hand. They were excited! My life was changing drastically and they were excited! But, sooner rather than later, I started to get it. I was living a nightmare, and I was losing friends. I was now the walking, breathing "consequence of unprotected sex" and nobody’s parents wanted that form of influence around their daughters. Out of my many friends, I was left with ONE.
How is teen parenthood different than you thought it would be?
My Mother and Grandmother did everything humanly possible to mentally and emotionally prep me for the upcoming challenges, but they couldn't. It was much worse than they said, than I had imagined. I was sleep deprived, suffering from postpartum depression, and there was no one that I wanted to talk to talking to me. On the one hand, I loved this little girl with all of myself, but I resented her for stealing my childhood away from me. I remember looking out the window at my old girlfriends, standing in the street with the boys, having fun and laughing so loud. I cried.
What do you wish you knew before you got pregnant?
I wish I'd known how hard life would be, not only for me, but for everyone around me who supported my daughter and me financially. I wish I knew how my social life would diminish, and how every activity I participated in would have to be child friendly, or I would have NO part in it. But, more than anything, I wish I had known how tough life would be for my sweet little girl, how I wouldn't be able to get her what she wanted, when she wanted it. I wish I knew that she'd be so mature so early on, that she would see me struggle.
Why do you want to share your story with other teens?
I've always said that, if I could prevent a teen a day from making a decision that would increase her chances of getting pregnant, then that's a start. It's been said "if you know better, do better," and if my story can help make a difference, then I'll continue to share it. Teen pregnancy doesn't seem real until you have a REAL victim of it staring you in the face.
Do you think the way teen pregnancy is presented in pop culture is positive or negative (i.e. MTV Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant)?
Honestly, I look at how the girls [on the MTV shows] are living now and they are celebrities. There are girls out here with the "star quality" who are looking for anyway to get a foot in the door. These girls are desperate and they aren't thinking about how pregnancy alters the lifestyle, they're more concerned with being the next Teen Mom star.