On October 28, 2010, Estella Arciniega’s life as a typical high school student changed forever. Being a senior at Niles West last year, Estella went to the hospital, thinking she had an erupted hernia, but the doctors had another idea, so they decided to perform an ultrasound. The results were undeniable: Estella was six months pregnant, and she had no prior knowledge to that fact before her appointment.
“The doctor and my mom had concerned looks on their faces. A few minutes later my mom said, ‘you’re going to be a mommy.’ The doctor had told me that I was six months pregnant and that I would be delivering a baby boy February 11. I immediately started crying. I heard his heartbeat and, in all honesty, I was terrified.”
Having a baby isn’t easy for anyone of any age, but it’s especially difficult for a teenage girl. Imagine being forced to give up something you have a passion for. Estella was an avid cheerleader, and she knew that tumbling and lifting girls wasn’t exactly a safe activity for a pregnant woman. “I had to give up cheerleading, which was one of the hardest things I had to do. Just thinking about it makes me upset,” she said.
Transitioning from the life that she had before to the life of a mother wasn’t a task that could be easily done overnight. “I was concerned about graduating and missing out on my senior year. The following day, I didn’t want to go to school, everyone would just stare at me,” she said.
When one thinks of having a baby at such a young age, they usually think of the long-term effects: how will I take care of an infant while going to school full time? How am I going to afford diapers, clothes, hospital bills, and everything else? Does anyone ever think of the short term effects, though? Imagine walking through the halls at school with your stomach stretched out a good 12 inches beyond the rest of your body.
To avoid judgmental looks or question after question from her classmates, Estella spoke with her counselor about transferring to Ombudsman High School. “I wanted to finish school without feeling ashamed or being bombarded with question. It was hard to face my friends because I didn’t want to feel judged just because I was pregnant. I wanted to be treated the same,” she said.
Although Estella’s life changed drastically within a matter of weeks, she still had the same goals. She was determined to become something in life, despite the obvious obstacles standing in her way. “In all honesty I did consider adoption. I decided to keep my son because I would not have the heart to give him up.”
With this decision came another challenge: telling the rest of her family. Estella was terrified that her family would be ashamed of her, or even disown her, but they were, in fact, very supportive. “Once I told them they said that I should not have anything to be ashamed of and that family is always going to be there for me no matter the situation. I was so relieved when they told me that.”
Her family’s endless support is probably the reason that she was able to accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. Since she was so used to being active, not being able to do much physically was very difficult for her. To keep herself busy, Estella found a job right away and saved a significant amount of money to prepare for her new baby.
Once most of the logistics were taken care of, there was just one more thing to get ready for: giving birth. “I was so scared to experience labor and everything that comes with pregnancy. On February 9, 2011, I delivered Benjamin at 6:17 a.m. After having Benjamin, I had a whole new view of life. It was no longer about me, it was all about him.”
Estella’s experience gave her a new found sense of responsibility and determination. She wanted to prove the people who told her that she wasn’t going to become anything because she was a teen mom that they were wrong. “I had a lot of people telling me that I couldn’t graduate or be a successful teen mom, but I did graduate with my class and now I am in college earning my dental assistant certification.”
Although Estella broke the stereotype of teen moms dropping out of school and not making anything out of their lives, she admits that it is one of the most difficult things that she has ever done. “Being a teen mom is hard. It’s all school and work and taking care of Benjamin. For all the girls who think having a baby right now is a good idea, finish school first. Finish being a kid and being young. Don’t get me wrong, I love Benjamin to death and I would do anything for him, I just wish I was able to give him more. If you can’t handle taking responsibility for your actions, don’t lay down and do the deed. Being a teen mom is hard work.”
MTV’s ‘Teen Mom,’ ’16 and Pregnant,’ ABC Family’s ‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’—we’ve all seen the shows and heard the stories, but no one thinks it’ll happen to them. No one ever dreams that they could turn out to be one of the 750,000 American teenage girls that become pregnant annually.
“‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ makes sex and pregnancy seem great, like it’s something to be respected, but ‘Teen Mom’ shows the hardships of having a baby; it shows that it’s actual work. By watching ‘Teen Mom,’ it makes me never want to be one,” says sophomore Isabel Ramirez.
Teen pregnancy can easily be prevented with a quick phone call or even a 10-minute drive to a local health clinic. Condoms are an even simpler option, all you need to do is make a stop at your local drugstore. Just think, if you think condoms are expensive, or hard to get, imagine the expenses and responsibilities of an actual baby.
To be extra safe, Planned Parenthood has six clinics in Chicago, and they keep everything confidential. (Addresses are listed below). They have resources to inform and support teenagers facing pregnancy whether they chose abortion, adoption, or keeping the child.
Health teachers here at Niles West are experts on how to prevent teen pregnancy and take necessary precautions, and if there is anyone you need to talk to, social worker, Jacqueline Lipka is available in room 2946. Remember, all of the resources listed are required to keep your information confidential, so there’s no need to worry about being judged or ridiculed. They can provide you with important information about contraceptives and where to get them from.
Locations for Planned Parenthood:
- 18 S. Michigan Avenue, 6th Floor, Chicago
- 1152 North Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago
- 1200 N LaSalle Street, Chicago
- 5937 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago
- 6059 South Ashland Avenue, Chicago
- 6353 North Broadway Street, Chicago
- 11250 South Halsted Street, Chicago
Estella Acrinega has fully participated in this story and has willingly shared the information published here.