STAFF OPINION: '16 and Pregnant' saved my life, literally

By Elizabeth Lyons-Best | October 29, 2019 10:16pm

Elizabeth Lyons-Best, video producer for The Beacon.

Media Credit: Annika Gordon / The Beacon

Picture this: You are a 15-year-old girl in high school. Raised in a Catholic family. You go to church on the weekends. College is in a few years, and you’re pretty excited, but not too worried yet because your future is bright, and you have options. You have a good group of friends and are active in your school clubs, the choir in particular. 

You have a boyfriend. He says he loves you very much. After all, what is more real than a high school relationship at this point in your life? He tells you that if you don’t give him what he wants, he will leave you for more popular and prettier girls at school. You feel pressured to do anything and everything you can to make him stay. Anything and everything.

You’re used to passing tests in school. After all, you get straight As. You just passed a test today but this time, it’s different. It is much worse than getting a bad grade on a math test. You sit on the bathroom floor sobbing, looking at a test that you passed. You shake your head and your heart is beating out of your chest. “No.” You don’t want this. You’re too young. You have your whole life ahead of you. 

People tell you the loopholes out of your problem because you are just “too young” for this responsibility. They tell you to just go to a health center and have them handle it. They tell you to give it up once it is born. They tell you if you keep it, you are destined to not succeed in life. They tell you, “You will fail.”

That was my mom and here we are today. I am 19 and she is 35. Typically, when I tell people our ages, their eyes get wide and they don’t know what to say. I usually get responses that range from “Oh wow” to “That’s incredible!” One constant that almost everyone asks me is, “So what happened after that? Did she just drop out of high school?” I kind of giggle and brag about how rockin’ my mom is because she graduated not only from high school, but also college, with me alongside her. She would work nights to provide for me, and she graduated with a four-year degree. If I were in her shoes, I would have a three-year-old at this point in my life. College is stressful enough with studying, working, student teaching, clubs and attempting to have a social life. Add a child into that? Absolutely not. 

My mother, Karen, and I on her college graduation day, June 2006. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lyons-Best.

It’s amazing how flawlessly my mother seemed to do the whole single parent, teen mother thing. Most people doubted her and continue to doubt her when we first mention our story. I feel that many of these judgments come from TV shows such as “Teen Mom” or “16 and Pregnant” that display women becoming famous for having a child at a young age, but then not doing much with their lives after. Because of the stereotypes these shows seem to depict, people form an idea of what they believe teen moms are, how they look and how their children turn out. If you ask me, they seem pretty trashy, based on these TV depictions. 

But that’s just not the truth. If shows like that are the truth, then I suppose we should start turning to “The Bachelor” for our ideas of love and “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” for our ideas of success.

It was not easy. It was not normal. It was real. It was life. It was the truth. 

Unfortunately, some teen moms do not have our same experience. Some believe they are not capable of this responsibility and take matters into their own hands. Some become famous and live off of MTV’s money for the rest of their lives. After all, as Katie Lowrey from “16 and Pregnant” said, “I did get two awesome blessings, but I haven’t gotten my bachelor’s degree yet because one, daycare is so expensive and two, how do you balance studying and having little ones at home?” 

I’ll tell you, Katie, while it might be difficult to persevere, it can be done with a lot of hard work. After all, I have witnessed teen motherhood firsthand, and I promise it is not nearly the end of the world. I get it. Like I said, if this happened to me, I would probably feel the same way. I would feel hopeless. With that, I know and have seen that it is possible. If you have the mindset and determination, you will get through it, just like anything else in life.

My mom and I right before she dropped off for my freshman year of college, August 2018. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Lyons-Best.

For the current teen mothers, you got this. For the people who know teen mothers, please do not be quick to judge. For girls pregnant and worried, it will be okay. Lastly, for teen mothers who got through it, cheers to you. You are amazing. 

If you are experiencing unexpected pregnancy and do not know where to go, here are some resources I would recommend: