Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
My name is Mariana Pasillas. I live in Houston, Texas, and I am 27 years old. I have a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston and have a daughter who is 8 years old.
What is your experience with teen pregnancy?
I got pregnant when I was 18 years old, and had just completed my first year of college. I got pregnant from my high school sweetheart – not something that I wanted, but it happened. My daughter’s dad was scared because he was young and ran away from the situation, but he is now in the picture and we co-parent very well.
It was very hard for me, but I did not want to give up on my dreams or school. I did not want to be a mom without a future, and I wanted to be someone for my daughter. That did come with a lot of sacrifices such as not spending a lot of time with my daughter because I was going to school and working.
Luckily, my mom and family were very supportive. They helped me in many ways, but it was hard. I remember being pregnant while going to college. Once I gave birth, I only waited four months and went right back to school. I wanted to breastfeed, but it was hard to finish essays while also breastfeeding. It was a lot of work.
I did feel different going to school because everyone else around me was not having kids, and I felt like an outsider. People would say “why isn’t she wanting to party” and it would be followed by “it’s because she’s a mom.” Even though we were all the same age and were in the same school, I still felt like an outsider.
Not making the best decisions came with a lot of work and sacrifices. I was able to go through all that, and now I am able to provide for my daughter and give her a good education despite being a single mom.
What would you want teens who have not lived this experience to know?
When you make decisions and do not think of what could happen, it comes with a price. I had to give up on my dreams of having kids until I was 30 and traveling the world. I wanted to go to Paris, Europe, and live somewhere else, but when you have a kid you cannot do that.
I love my daughter and I love having her, but I sometimes wonder what if my life had been different, and I was able to travel the world and live in another city. Those are things I had to give up.
I can say I had a pretty good life because of the support I had from my parents. I was able to go to college, but I had to change a lot. I had to carry with me a big responsibility and gave up on a lot of my dreams. I felt like I missed a lot of things and did not have the same friends. When you are in college, everyone wants to go have fun, but as a teen parent, I couldn’t. I went to school and went back home – so I felt like I gave up on a lot of my younger years and myself.
After giving birth to my daughter, I had postpartum depression, and it was really hard. Being surrounded by people who are not having babies, being stuck at home, and not having support from my daughter’s father led me to have postpartum depression. That is something I am not proud of, but it was something that I was going through at that time. I felt like I was at the lowest time of my life.
What are some tips you would give to teens right now who are sexually active that you would have wanted to know when you were a teen?
I did not receive a lot of information because I come from a Hispanic family and sex is not something you talk about. My mom tried teaching me, but she only mentioned condoms and did not explain further.
A tip I would give would be to research. Nowadays, we have phones and access to the internet. Learning how not to get pregnant is not the only thing needed, but also learning about STDs. When I was a teen, I was not aware of anything relating to STDs and I did not know how bad they can be.
Something I tell my cousins is, “you do not need a boyfriend in high school or to worry about boys in high school. Focus on your education first.” I am a big advocate of going to school because education opens a lot of doors.
If you are going to be sexually active, educate yourself. And, always find someone who you feel comfortable going to that you trust and ask them questions.
What would you want to tell your younger self (before you became pregnant or around sex/relationships?)
I would tell myself to become more educated before becoming sexually active.
I wish I had used birth control. I could have, but I didn’t because it was embarrassing to talk about. With so much technology we have now, you can now become educated. You shouldn’t be scared or embarrassed because this is normal. I would tell myself to become more aware and educated and not make crazy decisions without really thinking about them.
What could have been offered to you as a teen to make you feel more supported in making decisions about sex and relationships?
More sex education, especially about STDs. Having my dad around also would have been helpful. I never saw the traditional “waiting for marriage and then having kids,” so that had an impact on my views and decisions.
Can you share a memory about a person or service who was most helpful to you when you were pregnant, working through these decisions?
When I was pregnant, my family and I went to church and I started helping at the front office of the church. I met a lot of good people within the church, and they would help me feel welcomed and accepted. They made me feel like it was okay to make mistakes. They helped me a lot mentally while pregnant and even after I gave birth.
Having support from close people was helpful. When I expressed to my mom, “I don’t know if I want to have this kid” and “I don’t know what to do,” she gave me the choice of her helping me with my kid with the one condition of me finishing school. Ever since then, she has been super supportive.
What support do you think was missing that would have been most helpful to you?
I grew up without a dad, but it would have been nice to have him around. After giving birth, my daughter’s father was not around, and my dad being around would have been nice and helpful.
How do you wish to help others in your community?
Despite my story not being the same as other teens’ experiences, I want to share my story of what happened to me and what I had to give up. I want to help others by sharing that experience of being a teen mom.
It is beautiful watching my daughter grow up, and I don’t regret anything about my life now. I love my daughter so much, but it is hard if you are not prepared.