Pregnant at 15. There is, of course, a how and why it happened, but in the end, it doesn’t matter. There was a baby on the way and now decisions had to be made. Here’s Tammy's story and teen pregnancy resources in New Orleans if you ever find yourself pregnant or parenting a teen that is pregnant.
Tammy's Teen Pregnancy Story
I told my father to take me to the doctor because I wasn’t feeling well. Once alone with my doctor, I told him the same thing, but followed it with a question: could it be because I was pregnant? He looked shocked, and asked if I had reason to believe I might be. Of course, I already knew. I had not taken a test, but I knew. The doctor did a blood test and told me to call the next day for the results.
The next day, sitting at the payphone at my high school, I made that call. When the doctor finally came to the phone, he confirmed what I already knew and told me that I had to tell my parents. He said that if I hadn’t told them in a week, he was going to call them himself. Looking back, I appreciate the way he handled the situation. He gave me the room to tell my parents on my own terms, but also made sure that I wouldn’t be able to hide it.
I told my father that evening. I told him first because he was easy to talk to and I trusted him. I had a tenuous relationship with my mother and was hesitant to tell her. As expected, he was very disappointed, but he was also understanding. He offered to help me tell my mother. At the kitchen table, my mother sat there with the reaction I had expected. She was very angry and upset. There was lots of discussion that night about what they were going to do about the situation but very little concern for what I wanted. My own feelings were so conflicted that I didn’t have much time to dwell on their reactions. There was a life growing inside of me and I was overwhelmed with the decisions and responsibility. My mother was a very religious person, so anything other than keeping the baby was never an option and I wanted to keep the baby. The baby made me feel hopeful and responsible to someone greater than myself. In that moment, I was no longer a child. I was happy that, though they were upset and disappointed, both of my parents had agreed to support my decision to keep the baby.
I was in the first few months of my sophomore year of high school, and not exactly a great student. I was unruly, disrespectful at times, and my grades left much to be desired. I attended a local Catholic school, and we had a closed-door meeting there to decide my fate. We were told by administration that if I decided to keep the baby, I would not be allowed back to their school. However, they did have a small, discreet school located in Uptown New Orleans for pregnant girls who attended Catholic high schools to continue their education until their babies were born. The schools sent work for the girls to complete and turn in for grades. We were also ordered to speak to a therapist who came once a week. I was very nervous to go to this school. I had no idea what to expect and felt like the school and my parents were hiding me away.
Much to my surprise, this school saved me. The social and emotional support was was I needed. There were lots of girls my age in similar situations. I no longer felt alone and scared. The therapist helped me realize I was in an abusive situation with my boyfriend and I was able to remove myself from that relationship. My grades were suddenly As and Bs. This baby had given me a reason to fight for myself, a higher purpose. I was working for something bigger than myself. I could no longer afford to be the selfish child I had been.
My parents continued to be extremely supportive and by the time the baby was born, we were ready to care for her. She was born the summer between my sophomore and junior year. We had another meeting at my high school, and I am pretty sure my mother begged and made lots of promises. After seeing my grades and hard work from the alternative school, my high school agreed that I could return with a promise from me to make no mention of the baby, which was very difficult. My friends all knew, however, and were supportive, and soon everyone else knew, too. A baby isn’t something that can easily be kept a secret.
Still, the school let me stay. My teachers knew about my daughter, as well, and were surprisingly open. Many asked me about the baby and gave me an outlet, although under the radar, if I needed to talk. My theology teachers even let me write about her for assignments, which allowed me to work through some of the difficulties of being a teenage mother. It was often hard to balance the feelings of wanting to be a teenager with the desire to be a good mother. I struggled constantly, knowing that all decisions I made now affected the two of us. Financially, even with the help of my parents, I required many resources. There are lots of resources available and it helped take the burden from my parents. I often felt guilty about using the resources, but I consoled myself with the belief that I would eventually help give back to the system that was helping me. Without my parents, friends, family and these resources, this story may be very different.
I graduated in the top ten percent of my class and went on to get a degree in education and a master’s degree in special education. My daughter is now in her twenties and we are very close. We truly grew up together.
I know that my story is rare, and I am lucky that I was able to raise an amazing daughter, with lots of help from many people along the way. Still, the path was difficult, and everyone’s experience will vary. If you find yourself in a similar situation to mine, however, and are unsure of where to turn or lack family support, I have included many local resources below.
Teen Pregnancy Resources In New Orleans : Medical Services
Prenatal care is important throughout your pregnancy. Here are some medical services that can help.
LaMOMS (Medicaid) will pay for pregnancy-related services, including doctor visits, lab work, prescription medicines, delivery, and hospital care. It may provide coverage for up to 60 days following the end of your pregnancy. You can call toll-free 1-888-342-6207 Monday – Friday 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or apply online
Planned Parenthood provides abortion services or referrals, birth control, emergency contraception, general health care, HIV services, STD testing and treatment, pregnancy testing and services. Located at: 4636 S. Claiborne Ave., New Orleans, LA 70125
Partners for Healthy Babies
Partners for Healthy Babies works with the Bureau of Family Health. The Bureau of Family Health is a section of the Louisiana Department of Health. The Bureau administers programs that work to advance the health and well-being of women, children, adolescents, and families throughout the state. Find out which programs and services may be most helpful for you at PartnersforFamilyHealth.org. The Reproductive Health Program provides reproductive health resources and services for men and women. Through a network of clinics, the program provides disease screening, health education, counseling and contraceptive methods. http://healthychoicesla.org/
St. Vincent Maternity Clinic
St. Vincent Maternity Clinic provides affordable, private medical care, education, and counseling to low- to moderate-income women during pregnancy and delivery and provides up to three days stay at Touro Infirmary. The clinic accepts Medicaid and is a Medicaid application center.
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans provides care for women facing an unplanned or troubled pregnancy. They provide a wide variety of free, confidential, and caring pregnancy assistance services through the ACCESS program. Along with case management and pregnancy education, the comprehensive programs and certified Medicaid Application Centers are there to support you during your time of need and assist you through a healthy pregnancy.
Adoption Services For Pregnant Teens In New Orleans
Volunteers of America
Volunteers of America is a licensed adoption agency that works with birth parents and adoptive parents through all aspects of adoption – offering openness in adoption, assistance with accessing medical care, free counseling and follow-up support.
The St. Elizabeth Foundation
The St. Elizabeth Foundation is a small, family-like organization specializing in adoptions in Baton Rouge, Lafayette, New Orleans and across Louisiana.
Adoption Services of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
Adoption Services of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans is a full-service, non-profit, child placing program that seeks to link children of all ages to their forever families.
Other Helpful Programs For Teen Moms In New Orleans
WIC Nutrition Program is a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, infants, and children (under 5 years old). WIC provides nutritious foods, nutrition information, breastfeeding promotion, breastfeeding support and referrals to other health and social services.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides monthly benefits that help eligible low-income households buy the food they need for good health.
LaCHIP is Louisiana’s program for children ages 0-19. t is a no-cost health program that pays for hospital care, doctor visits, prescription drugs, shots. It also provides dental care, eye care and more.
Early Steps provides services to families with infants and toddlers aged birth to three years (36 months) who have a medical condition likely to result in a developmental delay, or who have developmental delays.
Single Mother Grants
Single mother grants offer largest directory of single mother grants that help with rent, utility bills, child care, education, medication, housing, medical bills, and mortgage, among others. Many of these financial assistance programs have limited funding, and some might not be available for single mothers who do not meet specific income requirements.
Child Support Enforcement
Child Support is an obligation of a parent to provide emotional, financial, and medical support for a child or children. DCFS offers parent locator and paternity establishment services, as well as assistance to establish and enforce child support orders and collection and distribution of child support payments. Child support and information online through CAFÉ or call Customer Service Center – 1-888-LAHELP-U (1-888-524-3578)
Safe Haven Law
Louisiana is a Safe Haven State. Safe Haven provides a safe, legal, last resort to abandonment. If you find yourself with no other alternative and are considering abandoning your baby, Louisiana’s Safe Haven Law provides a safe place for your child. If you are unable to care for your baby and the baby’s well-being is in danger, you can bring the newborn up to 60 days old to an emergency designated facility or Safe Haven site. By leaving the baby in the care of an employee at a Safe Haven facility, parents can give up custody of the newborn with no questions asked.
If you know any other local resources for pregnant teens in New Orleans please list them in the comments. Thanks