Teens make parenting a choice

This story was written by Oliver Conroy, 12; Nazli Kfoury, 17; Hector Rivera, 16; Anthony Rodriguez, 16 and Trent Spiner, 16.

Every year 900,000 teens become pregnant. While that number is 39 percent lower than it used to be a decade ago, the number of kids becoming parents each year puts young people at risk for poverty, disease and homelessness. CPL talked to Candy, 17, who goes to the MIC-Women’s Health Service at Manhattanville for support and parenting guidance on a regular basis. The center also provided her with prenatal checkups and nutrition education while she was pregnant.

Candy, 17

I started having sex when I was 12 and got pregnant at 17. I was having sex without condoms. I have no excuses. When I saw a pregnancy test I wasn’t shocked. I knew it would happen sooner or later.

I’m young and I live by myself and have to pay bills and do so many things you’re not supposed to have to do when you’re 17. But I’m doing it. I always thought that abortion was wrong. But, then I found myself in that situation and you understand why people do it, why they give up [their babies] for adoption and why people go crazy. I didn’t understand why but now I do. It was harder for me, because the baby’s father wasn’t there 100 percent. I was all by myself.

I wasn’t asking anybody for help. I was going to do it, so it really didn’t matter to me whether [my family] liked it or not. I had a couple of people tell me, you’re too young, have an abortion. I even had a cousin who made an appointment for me and everything, but I couldn’t do it. As time goes by, you start loving what you have inside.

I haven’t been in school for about two years now. I worked a lot. I worked from nine in the morning until 1 a.m. But I can’t do it anymore. I was getting home at three, going to sleep and then coming back at 10 p.m. My body was different then. You think about yourself and you want to be greedy. You don’t want to have a baby. You want to be you. But then you think about your baby, and it’s your baby.

I lived in the Bronx for three years. When I was eight, we moved to Long Island. That just goes to show that some people have quick judgment. “Oh, she’s pregnant, she’s young, how did she grow up?” I grew up like a little princess. I had it all. I grew up in Long Island in a three-story house with a 16-foot pool. Things happen. It’s not the way you grow up or the kind of parents you have or nothing like that, because my mom was the best.

Sometimes it does have to do with your family and your background, but sometimes it doesn’t, because I had a perfect life. I had all I needed, everything I wanted. It was my choice. I left it all. I left my mother and left my house. It’s not who you are or where you come from.

After I left my house it was all on me. I always had boyfriends with lots of money, but it was always on me. I’ve always been very independent. The baby’s father has a lot of money. Not like he’s giving me any. Now it’s hard because I’m not working. It’s tight. I can’t do everything I want and I want to do a lot. My mother could help me and she would help me, but I won’t let her. My father tries to help, but I won’t let him. When you leave your house, you can’t go back.

My baby’s father is 36 and we still speak. We’re not together, but we still speak. He gave me $250 three weeks ago. This morning we talked and I’m talking to him about the crib and stroller. I’m not getting a stroller that’s $50. I want the one that’s $400. That’s the one I want and that’s the one I’m getting. He has the money to get it for me, so he’s getting me the stroller. I feel like I’m begging him for money. If he didn’t have money I wouldn’t put so much pressure on him, but he has money?a lot?so he’s the one that’s going to do it. My boyfriend now is the one who’s helping me. He got me my pregnancy clothes. He’s helping me. He’s doing everything that the baby’s father is supposed to be doing.

As for my baby’s father, if he’s going to be there, he has to be there 100 percent. I don’t want him there when he can be there. I don’t want “Hey mommy, where’s daddy?” when he hasn’t been there in three months. If he’s going to be there he’s going to be there all of the time. I don’t want him one day here and then two years gone. I’m not having that. That’s what he did to me when I got pregnant. All of a sudden he didn’t have any time. When I wasn’t pregnant he had time, I could call him at 1 a.m. in the morning. Now he has no time. He has to have time. It’s 100 percent or nothing.

I’m going to lie to my daughter. If she asks why daddy isn’t here, I’m going to say, “He loves you, but he can’t. He tried, but he can’t. He wants to, but he can’t. He does love you.” That’s what I’m going to say. I can’t tell my daughter that her father is irresponsible.

Everybody has their opinion, but I’m going to lie. Whatever makes her smile and keeps her mind straight, whatever it takes. That’s what I’m going to tell her. If I have to tell her the sky is yellow or red. A child’s mind is very delicate. You can’t tell a child that your daddy doesn’t love you. She’s not going to grow up with those words, so I’m going to lie to her if that’s what I have to do. When she grows up she’ll understand why I lied to her and why he wasn’t there. I can’t tell her, “Your daddy doesn’t love you.” She’s going to hurt, I’m going to hurt and it’s his fault.

When you grow up the way I grew up, you don’t think about your life being abnormal. When you’re 17 and you’re pregnant, that’s abnormal. I would be in 12th grade and a senior. I don’t think about boys now, I think about men. Now I think about old people stuff.

Young fathers are finding their way through parenthood at the Parenting Awareness Prevents Abandonment (P.A.P.A.) program at Loisaida in the Lowe East Side. The dads and dads-to-be gather for support, guidance, job advice and internship referrals. Below, one father shares his story.

Vision, 19

I have a son that’s two months old.

I’m pretty sure we all know how it came about! It was a decision that I made, that I wanted to have a child at a young age, just for the simple fact my father had me when he was in his late 30s. And as I got older, he got older, and there wasn’t much he could do with me.

I wanted to take care of my kid at a young age to be able to still be in my youth. So I can run around with him, take him to basketball courts and play ball. When I’m in my 40s and 50s, and my knees go bad, I can’t do all that.

What I would say for young fathers coming up right now is, number one, be patient, very, very patient, and things will come to you as they come. Two, take everything one day at a time, and, three, don’t let the minor things stress you out. Don’t stay focused on the problems, look ahead of all that, just let it blow right over you, and do what you gotta do.

Editor’s note: This story came to the Amsterdam News through Children’s PressLine, the former New York bureau of Children’s Express. More information is available at www.cplmedia.org.

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