Breaking My Family’s Teen Mom Tradition

Jul. 24, 2013 / By

Karla Martinez/COACHELLA UNINCORPORATED

While there are many family traditions I hope to pass down to my children one day, there is one tradition I hope ends with me.

My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother were all teen moms.

I was born when my parents were only 15, which is just a year older than I am now. I can’t imagine the responsibility of becoming a parent at such a young age.

The reality is that my parents were kids themselves when they had me, and as a result I was forced to grow up fast.

My childhood was very unstable. My parents ended up getting divorced after my brother and sister were born. When I was nine, my mother and stepfather took my siblings and me to live in Las Vegas, the beginning of a rough period. By that time I’d already attended many schools as a child, and it was always difficult switching environments. This time, though, was even harder because Las Vegas was so far away from everyone and everything familiar to me.

I felt as if a hole had been punched through my stomach. It was a feeling of emptiness — the fear of being alone. Living with strangers, as we often did, kept me up at night and often drove me to tears.

My mother lost her childhood when I was born. She didn’t know what it was like to go out with friends and have fun. Instead, she was at home changing diapers, making bottles and wondering how her life would be if I hadn’t been born.

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Coachella Unincorporated

Coachella Unincorporated is a Youth Media Startup in the East Coachella Valley, funded by the Building Healthy Communities Initiative of The California Endowment and operated by New America Media in San Francisco. The purpose of the project is to report on issues in the community that can bring about change. Coachella Unincorporated refers to the region youth journalists cover but also to the unincorporated communities of the Eastern Valley with the idea to “incorporate” the East Valley into the mainstream Coachella Valley mindset.