“I got pregnant when I was 12 and my mother was angry, and she would beat me. She would go out and drink and when she come back she would beat me and one time she pelt me in my tummy with a padlock and another time with a Guinness bottle because she wanted to get rid of the baby.”
The above was said by a 22-year-old mother of a ten-year-old son and a seven-year-old daughter, in a matter-of-fact manner with little or no emotion shown.
“That is my story. I am strong now and I tell my story many times,” she said.
I met the self-assured mother of two through Women Across Differences (WAD) and even though she has long since completed the teenage mothers’ empowerment programme organised by the NGO she remains in close contact.
“I don’t mind telling my story…. I am over that. It does not bother me,” she said.
“My mother had three children, three daughters and I was the second one. And I think she was just shame that I get pregnant and so instead of helping me, she would beat me. When I came to WAD, I was very depressed. I didn’t know what to do. My mother even tried abortion, but it did not work because I did not insert the second tablet she give me so while I bled for a few days, I was just feeling sick…
“I tried to hide the belly for a while because my mother did not want it. I think she was more ashamed of what people would say. My child father also did not want the abortion because he said that is like murder and his father said the same thing so his father use to help us for a while.”
I asked her how old the father of the baby was.
“He was 15…,” she answered.
“When I get the baby, I had to get a C-section and my mother didn’t even come to the hospital to sign the consent form. She and my aunt took me to the hospital and is after they said I had to get the operation and when they called my mother she told them she was at work and couldn’t come. So, I had to sign the form myself because I didn’t want to die. And the treatment at the hospital was terrible. The nurses and the doctors were not kind, I think because I was so young, but they treat me bad,” she continued.
“And when I come home it was not better. I had to do everything for myself, wash cook and take care of the baby. My mother said, ‘This is what you want, so you have to be a woman’. It was so hard. I got so frustrated and angry… I only get pregnant because I was raped by my father for a year when I was eight and when I told my mother she did not listen. The boy was the only one who use to listen to me and I felt if I had sex with him things would be better.
“I was home for a whole year because we had come back from Venezuela and is then this thing happen; and my mother just did not listen to me that my father was raping me.”
I asked her if her father had also raped her sisters.
“He raped my big sister, but I don’t think he get to rape my little sister. My mother finally left him after many times trying and he is now back in Venezuela still alive. But my mother never did anything about him raping me,” she said, showing some anger.
“And the relationship with my child father did not work out because he got involved with my little sister. To be honest I don’t know if they had sex because they said no, but one day I was sleeping and when I wake up he was kissing her. I was 13 and she was 12.
“I left him and when my baby was one I started to work really hard, selling food at a shop. My baby was at day care and I was working and going to school in the afternoon. I was getting somewhere, but my mother and sisters were not treating me well and when I was 18, I went back to Venezuela.
“I was working there, and I met a childhood friend. We got involved and I got pregnant with my second child. But he was addicted to drugs, and by the time I found out about it and how serious it was I already had the baby. I tried to get him help but it was not making sense, so I come back to Guyana.
“But when I come back my mother did not accept me… She let me live with her but was like she just helping me because of because. Look, I never felt loved by my mother; I never believe my mother loved me,” she said with no emotion.
“Today I am a manager at a hotel and my children go to school every day. But I live by myself. I still see and talk to my mother and sisters, but I can’t live with them. I have to be away. I am single. I don’t have a partner. I need to give myself a break from men. I had started with someone for six months only to find out he was living with someone, so now I just need a break.
“At WAD I did wedding decoration and floral arrangement and for a while I used what I learnt there to help support myself. I am also a certified bilingual, I speak Spanish fluently and at one time I worked at the airport as a translator.
“Right now, I am looking to find another job because this one is very demanding, and I want to spend more time with my children. When I pick them up from school they come with me at work, but it is not the best thing. I am looking to go teach Spanish at a private school and then have lessons in the afternoon,” she said.
“I had taught some of the girls in the programme basic Spanish and they did well. I even won an award for that,” she said smiling.
“Right now, I just want what is best for my children. I have to live for them and ensure they get the best. I respect my mother and I love my mom, but I need to be away from her.
“My mother failed me. I don’t blame her. I guess she did what she felt was best, but it was not enough. Right now, I have to do me and find more time for my children.”
The conversation was more of a monologue as she seldom gave me the opportunity to ask question or make a comment. It seemed like she just wanted to tell her story her way without interruptions. I allowed her that space.
“I must tell you having WAD in my life is like a God sent. When I came here I was depressed and they made me into the person I am today. I am bold and strong now and could talk and Miss Clonel [Samuels-Boston the coordinator of WAD] is like my mom. She is always on the lookout for me and WAD is like my second home. It does things that parents should be doing for their children.
“I want to say too that the authorities need to go into the homes and find out the root cause of children getting pregnant; the problem is bigger than we think,” she said.
“My children fathers don’t play a part in their lives, but I am doing my part to ensure they turn out well. Despite my father was not there for me I am still now able to make strong and wise decisions.
“I want to say to teenage mothers, if I can do it you can do it. Don’t give up because you got pregnant. Limits are your limits, don’t limit yourself. And when something does not work out for you, it was not meant for you.
“Thank you for speaking to me I have to go back to work now,” she said with a smile, ending the conversation.
As she walked away, confidence in her every step, it was clear to me that she would be just fine. She had demonstrated the inner strength and grit needed.