As a pregnant teen, I was told a lot of things. "You won't be able to finish school. You'll never be able to support yourself. You've ruined your life. How could you let this happen? Are you not with the dad? No one wants a girl with baggage. You're damaged goods."
Encouraging stuff, no?
I also faced a lot of very real statistics that made these things seem depressingly true:
The list goes on.
These words and statistics permeated my brain and occupied my thoughts so much so that they slowly but surely settled in and became facts. The inevitable. The price I would pay. It's been said, "Whether you think you can, or think you can't, you're usually right."
So what if teen moms heard a different chorus? One that rallied for education and healthy relationships. One that advocated for growth, maturity, and making bold moves. A voice that acknowledged our dreams and showed up each week to help us get there. One that showed us that motherhood is not a slamming door on all we'd imagined for ourselves, but an alternate route.
A steep and turbulent route, but a route nonetheless.
This voice exists, and it has a name: Fristers. I arrived for my first meeting as a teenage college dropout, with a six-week-old I was trying to learn how to love, stringing along an unfaithful ex, and seemingly doomed to become what I was told I'd become. But... FRISTERS.
On day one we were setting goals, making dream boards, and sharing fears and experiences. In this group of girls who could relate to my experiences and hardships, I was no longer singled out, weird, or viewed as a disappointment.
In time, Fristers went from being my safety in a season of change and heartache, to being my advocate as I bet I could beat the odds. First with an Associates, then a Bachelors, then a job, an apartment, and my own Christmas tree to decorate with my daughter.
Fristers was my accountability partner and checked in at each step while I worked toward the goals I had set. They recognized my progress — academic, emotional, parental, you name it — no matter how small. Most importantly, they did not pity me; they celebrated me. They refused to coddle, and rather, challenged.
Today, as a self-sustaining college graduate, I represent less than 1% of teen moms. And throughout the years of endless setbacks and successes that got me to where I am today, I always found that whenever I lost momentum, lost ground, or even lost hope, Fristers was one of the few things that could not be lost.
Since taking the road less traveled with Fristers by my side, I've found myself at many places I had been told were out of reach. On business flights to San Francisco, standing atop the highest mountain in the lower 48 states, reading to my daughter each night before bed in a place we call our own.
But it's only because one Wednesday night, in the Fall of 2010, I decided to sit around a table with other young moms like myself and let the narrative of my life transform.
I became pregnant when I was 14 and my daughter was born when I was 15. Although my parents were supportive, I still felt ashamed for making the decisions I had. I felt that by having my daughter so young I would never be able to achieve what I originally wanted.
Naturally when I became pregnant all of my friends distanced themselves from me, and by the time my daughter was born I was very isolated.
When my daughter was about 6 months old on an absolute whim I walked into a Birth Choice pregnancy center and asked if they knew of any young mom support groups. They told me about Fristers, and I could not have been more excited.
From the second I walked in I felt at home. Over the first year I was able to meet so many strong and encouraging women. The moms who had been in the program for a few years showed me from their experience that there was in fact hope for my life. I learned that if they were able to overcome the obstacles of having their children young, so would I.
Fristers has motivated me to finish high school, and continue on to college. They rooted for me when I learned to drive, and they have provided resources for me to attend weekly counseling, obtain health insurance for me and my daughter, and have helped me create a resume and apply for jobs.
"Fristers has given me the guarantee that no matter what is going on in my life there is a safe and loving environment waiting for me."
Every time I walk in I’m greeted by multiple leaders, and there’s always someone there to talk about my week. They have shown me so much love and kindness. They have supported me through many rough times, and even when I’ve made huge mistakes they have continued to love and support me and I have never once heard an “I told you so.”
When I first came to Fristers I was very shy and broken, almost completely consumed by my depression and lack of self-worth. Each lesson at Fristers is so motivated by love, it took a while to sink in, but eventually it allowed me to break out of my shell.
I have so much more confidence and self-esteem now, than I did before I found Fristers. Over time all the feelings of shame I had went away, and for the first time in my life I learned to love myself.
When I discovered I was going to be a teenage mother, I was consumed with a whirlwind of emotions. I was terrified, anxious, ashamed, and lonely. I spent more than half of my pregnancy doubting my abilities and assuming that I had just ruined my life, and now I was about to ruin the life of an innocent, tiny human as well. I had limited emotional support and I was overwhelmed with the reality that I was now 100% responsible for the well-being of another person.
Fortunately, I was referred to Fristers during my pregnancy, and my life changed dramatically. When I attended Fristers for the first time, I was skeptical. It all seemed too good to be true. How could so many people care about teenage mothers? Why aren’t they judging us negatively as the rest of the world does? What is the catch? After 7 years of being a Frister, I am here to tell you that there isn’t one.
Fristers provides young moms, dads, and children endless resources and opportunities while asking for nothing in return. We are provided with love, support, and most importantly—hope. We are given hope that we are capable. We are given hope that we will achieve our goals. And we are given hope that our futures will be bright.
One of my favorite Bible verses is Jeremiah 29:11, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Fristers fulfills God’s words for us every week. They provide us with live resources to help us obtain job training, higher education, and low-cost childcare. They invite speakers to teach us about healthy relationships, nutrition, discipline, and communication. In the meantime, our children are being loved on and prepared to enter Kindergarten.
Seven years ago, I thought my life was over. At one point, I had no hope whatsoever and contemplated suicide as an option. Through Fristers, I found purpose, motivation, and inspiration. I’ve learned to love myself, embrace my shortcomings, and realize that I am enough.