I was 13 years old and in seventh grade when I found out I was pregnant. I was terrified and asking myself, “How could this happen?” Certainly, I knew what I was doing, but I never expected to get pregnant – after all, I was still a baby myself.

My son, Naythan, is 4 years old, and in some ways we have grown up together. It’s no secret that being a mother at a young age is hard. I have learned many lessons on life, parenting and self-worth, and I hope that by sharing my experience, another young mom out there will read this and realize that they can get through it too.

Get Your Education
Finding out I was pregnant came at a very difficult time in my life. There was some trouble at home and my sister and I were under the custody of child protective services. Unable to return to my home, I leaned on my son’s father, but by the time I was about five months pregnant, he started hitting me and I had to move into a group home.

These experiences were awful, I felt homesick and scared; but, these experiences are what motivated me to want to finish school. I knew that if I was going to be able to provide a safe home for my child, I would need my education.

Like many of the young moms I know, I was out of school for a long time and I was far behind on my credits. I started coming to school at Ombudsman Charter, and with a lot of hard work, I have been able to get back up-to-speed. At Ombudsman they have a flexible schedule and a shorter school day, which really helps me to balance being a mom and a student. I know that it might seem impossible at times, but getting an education is non-negotiable.

Find the Support You Need
The news that I was pregnant came as a big shock to my family, but they were in for an even bigger surprise when my older sister shared the same news, only days later. My son and my nephew are only 10 days apart, and going through this experience with my sister made things a little bit easier because I knew we would get through it together.

I encourage every mom to find the support they need. Emotional support can come from a lot of different places and there are resources available that can also give you parenting classes, financial support and access to some of the things you are going to need for the baby, like free diapers. It can be hard to ask for help, but realize that it is out there.

Understand that Change is Inevitable
Your social life is going to change, and when you have a child at a young age you have to think about being there for them. If you try to live your life the way you did before you had the baby, you are losing precious time with them. Going out once in a while is ok, but being there for your child is far more important. It is possible that the relationship you had with your child’s father might change too, and if they are not a part of your child’s life, you are going to have to play both roles. I have seen some friends who have taken a lot of time away from their children to try to find them a new father. Someday the right man might come into your life as a father figure for your child, but right now, your child needs you.

Stay Positive
Always believe that you can make it, even when the odds seem stacked against you. It is going to be hard and there are going to be times where you feel stressed out and overwhelmed – know that it will get easier. With all that I have been through, I have found that keeping a positive attitude has been the most helpful thing that I could do in difficult situations. Find positive ways to distract yourself from your worries and also make sure that you are taking care of your body by eating healthy foods, getting the sleep you need and staying active while you are pregnant.

Growing up I saw abuse, and it took me a while to realize that I did not deserve that and that nobody deserves that. This realization made me take a closer look at myself and appreciate who I am and what I have accomplished. I know that I want more in life and I believe that I will achieve it. I have 10 credits left to finish high school and after that I want to go to college. I want my children to understand that education is important, and I will show them by my example. It is going to be hard, but I am worth it.

Kimberly is an 18 year old high school senior at Ombudsman Arizona Charter Metro