Their recurrent theme: “My parents never talked to me about sex or birth control.”
These girls were now on a mission to break that cycle, talking to the assembled students about sex, birth control, and the gritty details of birth, motherhood and anatomy in an open, frank way that would make your average teenager die of embarrassment.
Morning sickness. Episiotomies. Placentas. Ripped labia. Blood loss. Stretch marks. Scars. Baby blues. Nothing was taboo.
“I was so scared I kept squeezing my legs together until my mom told me to stop, that I could suffocate my baby,” teen mom Hulita Delacruz recalled of her birth experience. “It was so hard to do, I just wanted to quit.” After the birth, Delacruz went on, “I didn’t stop bleeding for about two months. My body sagged. I hated it. And my boobs leaked for ever.”
As for Ana Nieto, “The worst part was when I had to go to the restroom (after giving birth),” she said. “It stung so bad, like thousands of bees were stinging me. This was the worst experience I’ve been through.”
The young mothers, who attend the Passages Charter School in Montrose, do outreach to middle schools and high schools throughout the region to spread the message that parenthood is tough, and that it’s important for teens to use birth control, should they decide to become sexually active.
And, they all stressed, the most effective means of birth control is abstinence.
“If other people around you are having sex, you may feel pressure, because everyone else is doing it,” one of the girls said. “Having unprotected sex one or two times can change your life forever.”
Interestingly, none of the young mothers had considered adoption or abortion. And three of the four are still in relationships with the fathers of their babies.
“We’re loving and caring with each other and most important, we have patience with each other,” Nieto said. “He is a really good boyfriend and dad. But we aren’t the perfect couple; we have our ups and downs but we make it through. For example, he goes out and gets drunk and comes home really late. It gets me really mad and sad. We argue about this all the time; I know he’s really young and everything, but he has a family now, and he has to make better choices.”
The outreach program is an integral part of the Passages Charter School curriculum. The school provides onsite daycare so teen moms (and in a few cases, dads) can complete their education. There are 32 students currently enrolled. The primary goal of the school is “no second pregnancies,” said teacher Anna Adams.
Without Passages, the four girls said, they would have dropped out long ago. Now, they all have clear career paths in front of them. Three of the four who visited Ouray School are taking part in a concurrent enrollment program to become Certified Nursing Assistants by the time they graduate from high school.
Ultimately, their message was a positive one. Each girl had been on a self-destructive path prior to becoming pregnant. Now, they all say that in spite of the hardships, becoming a parent has given them a sense of purpose and importance.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m not the same person, but I’m changing for the better,” said Maria Navarro, who became pregnant when she was only 14 and is now planning to become a doctor. “I can’t tell you not to have sex, but if you’re gonna have sex, take precautions and think about your future and goals. Are you willing to give up part of your life, just to have unsafe sex?”