Confession of an Ex-Teenage Mom

I was 15 years old when I gave birth to my first child, a son. He was born in 1989, and there was a phenomenon that was happening to teenage girls in the late 80s. I had known 2-3 girls who were pregnant right along with me. I realized that the numbers were far greater when I enrolled in the Teen Parent program at a high school where I spent one semester catching up on the courses that I missed during the first part of my HS sophomore year. I was grateful for that program because I went back into the mainstream classroom and graduated on schedule with my fellow classmates in 1992.

To be a teen mom was a stigma and one I never to use to disclose to people. I let them figure it out on their own. They often ask the following questions:

  • Wait, how old is Tommy?
  • But, you’re only (insert my age at the time the question was raised here).
  • You and your husband look so young!

And, when they come to the realization, the following response is often said:

  • Ohh, you were sooo young!

This response is of course followed by a million thoughts that may have been running in their minds. Whatever thoughts they were, it was fascinating to me that the stigma of having a “child” having a child never gets old. Because I remembered what the nurse at the hospital had said when she thought I was asleep in between contractions, “Sadly, this is a child about to give birth to a child.”

My confession is this: throughout the years, I don’t boast about being a mom at a young age, and I only do whenever I and/or my son hit a milestone. When I gave birth to him, I made a promise to myself that I will never be a statistic, and that he will never succumb to being a product of that statistic. It was this “fuck you to all you doubters” mentality that got me through the following:

  • When I walked on that high school graduation stage with my diploma.
  • The little Tommy milestones in his childhood.
  • When Tommy graduated from high school and in his speech to his classmates acknowledged how at two years old, he attended my own high school graduation.
  • When I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree, and Tommy (along with my husband and my second son who was 5 years old at that time) cheered me on. I was also 3-months pregnant with my daughter during commencement.
  • When I graduated with my Master of Arts in English.
  • When Tommy graduated from one of the best Journalism school at KU.
  • When he was nominated for a regional Emmy in the field of journalism. And, all other recognitions bestowed upon him in his field.

And, just yesterday at the 2017 University of Alaska commencement, when it was official that I succeeded in receiving my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing–parallel to that, Tommy was contemplating, excitedly, of the next station that he will be working for since his contract will be up at his current station in El Paso, Texas. In my mind, as these two events were unfolding, I was still flipping off those people whoever doubted that the 15 year-old in me could ever achieve anything in this world.

However, while I may think that I have not come full circle entirely and there are still more that needs to be accomplished, I realized yesterday that I have, and have always been accomplishing them all along. They don’t have to be these magnificent milestones of achievements; each day is filled with successes and failures (an amazing learning experience, by the way), and they are in their own way full circles.

TOMMY at work
Tommy Hoppough, multi-media journalist. Photo credit by KFOX News. El Paso, Texas

4 thoughts on “Confession of an Ex-Teenage Mom

  1. Dear Jen,

    Wow! No wonder that working full time for the Provost, writing your thesis, and TA’ing was no problem for you after becoming a mother at 15! Tommy certainly looks a lot like you and shares your drive and determination.

    I’m impressed with your writing productivity and it certainly motivates me. Congratulations on your MFA!

    Take care,


    Liked by 1 person

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