Introduction | Trigger warning | Contact 0:00
Please be aware that the content in this podcast may be unsettling for some listeners at discusses teen pregnancy family challenges and contains references to depression. If the story brings up anything for you, please talk to someone you trust. You can also free call or text one 737 to connect with the train counsellor day or night. Welcome to hear me see me a chance to hear young New Zealanders share their stories, speak their minds, and maybe even change yours. I'd like to introduce you to Ali, a young woman who shares how she navigated being a teen mom, while following her dream of becoming a scientist.
I am Ali. And I'm currently in like my last month of my degree, I feel very lucky to be like have made it to a point where I can study something that I just like, absolutely love. And I'm passionate for. I got here by doing a bachelor's like everyone else. But I just happened to be someone who was doing that with a child the whole time. I loved performing I loved dancing, I was on stage. From the time I was like three on and I think it gave me a lot of opportunities. And so, my second favourites, like career option was being a doctor had always been super into science. And that had always been my second from the time I was like five, I was like, I'm going to be a ballerina. Or maybe a doctor, if that doesn't work out. There was lots of like, positive memories of my surroundings and the people in my life. Like, I mean, I adore my mum and dad. And so, I think, you know, in a lot of ways, the personality traits were like the perfect mix for me because I'm a little bit like, nerdy and introverted. But then I'm also very artsy and creative. And like, I don't know, they managed to foster both sides for me, which was cool. I remember asking my parents, will you guys stay together? Like I remember, at some point questioning, like, are you guys, okay? Like, even that early. So, my parents split up when I was 10. So, it was in my last year of primary school. And I remember at the time, like, to some degree, being grateful, because things are being, like, not nice at home. You know, like, my parents were trying hard to, like, do it the right way. Like, I'd kind of listen to advice. They got us counselling and things like that. These always like discomforts, that comes with a family breaking up, they'd just suffered through it. And we suffered through it with them, because we loved them. Family history wise, you know, like, I think that there have been some like passed down a generational challenge that mental health issues, I think running our family, there's been many generations of people who've been through depression and anxiety and going into teenage years already, kind of not feeling your best, there was a lot to process and deal with. So, I was pretty like depressed and down by the time I was 13. And I really struggled for a few years there. And now, I had kind of like, given up my dream of being a dancer for so many complexes for reasons, including an injury that did stop me for, like, at least a year, but it still kind of has impact to this day. And I had quite bad anxiety at the time as well. And I was struggling to sleep. So, I ended up like sleeping on my mom's bed for an entire year as a teenager, like I just wouldn't sleep in my own bed and she everything that I threw at her, she was like, Alright, this is what we're going to work with. Now. I was going through a lot of therapy. And I was like, my depression was starting to get under control. He I started like, just trying to set myself up to be the kind of person who could get into university and go through university. And even though I really have always been very nerdy, very into learning, like, I found hard, there was so many things out of my control there. And so, suddenly, like, a priority shift in my life happened where I need to make a change. I went away on holiday, and I met my daughter's dad, and I was like, I want a piece of that. Like that had really motivated me because I was 16 and I was there, right? I'm
not coming up. I literally like on holiday, right? My mom was like I can legally move out right? And she was like, yeah, like really confused not knowing what's going on cuz I'm just staying with my brother. And I was like, I'm coming I'm on this day and I'm going to pack my bag and then I'm coming to live up here, I've never been so smitten with someone as him like, I've met him outside Oh, to rain during boy is beautiful and intelligent and kind-hearted and just everything I've ever wanted in a man. When you're a teenager, you just come up with all of these, like, extraordinary ideas. It's like you have the imagination of a child. But like, some of a lot of the capacity of an adult. I watched this documentary The other day, and they were talking about how like the teenage brain starts developing from the back and bottom up and over. So, like, it's, it's like your physical capacities developed first you like coordination and ability to do things. And then like your frontal lobe where you make all the like, reasonable and emotional regulation decisions. It's like, years off still. So yeah, I still had this like, vivid imagination of what life would be like, when I talked to my baby daddy, who wasn't my baby daddy at the time, but, you know, my, like, hunky new man. I was like, hey, like, would you be okay with sharing a room with me in this flat? Because that's the only way I can move. Like, do you want to explore maybe like this relationship more, and maybe find a flare together? And he was like, Yeah, I was like, alright, opportunity of a lifetime. Baby Daddy and I had been living together for about a year at this point. Like, by the time I turned 18, and like any young couple, we had our trials and tribulations. And we didn't yet have like, the communication skills, or the emotional, like stability to like really to get through the challenges we were having. So, we broke up. And I mean, I think it was clear that we both still loved each other. But like, it was also clear that we weren't, like good for each other at the time, and that we needed some time and space to figure out what was going on.
So, when I found out I was pregnant, I had already well actually, like a week before broken up with my daughter's dad. And so, it was kind of it was a weird spot. I like moved out of the house we were sharing. So, I thought it was important that I have conversation with him about it and see how he felt about it. And he just kind of like took it in for a little while. It was very quick and so very blurry, because it's very, like emotional. Like I'm sitting there expecting to have an argument with him where he's like, I want you to keep the baby and I cannot put into words how grateful I am for her and for everything. One friend who had grown up with my whole life, just like message me and be like, oh my God, you're going to have a baby. I'm so proud of you, you're going to be an amazing mom. I'm so happy for you to this day. Like when I think about that was all I needed to hear. And I just mean the most to me, I like cried my eyes out. So much after that. What I expected to get was a bunch of people being like, teen mums have ruined their lives think it was meant as a caring way to say like, don't have it baby young because you'll go through all these things are hard to deal with. And we love you and we don't want you to and it's easier to just say that things are bad thing to do than it is to like, really break down. Like all societal issues. You know, teenager, I expected my mom to be like, upset and disappointed in me. She was so happy though. Like, which really surprised me. I mean, she tried to hold back how happy she was. I mean, I know my parents like the back of my hand like I could tell even over the phone in a different part of the country. I could tell she was excited even though she was trying hard to be like, you know, because it was very early on and we're very prochoice in my family. So, both of my parents respected that I might choose to have an abortion or adopt the baby out. So, she tried to like, keep her voice very calm and be like, oh, and how do you feel about that? You know, she was like, very respectful, but I could tell she was very excited. And how do you feel about, like, you know, keeping you thinking of, you know, do
you feel any way? And I was like, I don't really know. And she's like,
my kid, can you please, cuz I really want to be a grandma, she got excited. And so that was, like, nice and encouraging and completely the opposite of what I thought I would get. And my dad like, Okay, well, how are you feeling about this? And are you okay? And well, I guess, like, now I'm going to be a great father. And it was just very matter of fact. And, yeah, they were both very supportive from the get-go. But also, very mindful of the fact that I might be feeling way about it that they weren't aware of, when you have a foundation of support behind you, it's a lot easier to be resilient to those few who have something negative to say, I moved back. And that was weird. Because I like, gone off being like, I am out, I'm moving, I'm going to go make myself alive. I'm an adult now. And I left with all this ambition. And then I came back, just this like, confused, scared, pregnant, 18-year-old, like, you know, crawling my way back to my old bedroom that I grow up and just, like, locked myself in and was like, What the fuck to do now. I was so like, overwhelmed with anxiety about. I mean, I was I was happy, like, I was, like, over the moon, that I was going to have a baby. Because I just thought there is no better thing in this world than having this pure little ball of joy that just loves you for who you are. Like, I was really, like soul searching for something to just love me for me. What could do that more purely been a child, you know. And if I just show this child respect, and love, it's just going to love me back. Like it's so simple and easy and in concept.
My mom told me about this, like teen parent unit, when she told me I was like, 10 per unit sounds dumb. Laters! You're my mom, you probably know nothing, you know? And she was like, just please. And I was like, fine. So, I like met up with my mom's friend's daughter in law had been her the teen parent unit. And I was like, was it lame? And she was like, no, it was great. I think a lot of it was like, anxiety about like, not knowing what was to come. But I didn't want to sign up to this team parent unit, and then find out like, oh, they take your baby for the whole day, and you don't get to see them. And, you know, I was already feeling like very protective. And talking to her really helped me. And I was like, sounds too good to be true. It probably is. Anyway, I managed to get enough courage to like to make the trip out to the team parent unit, when they had an open day. Everything was exactly how it had been portrayed to me. And yeah, I lift being like, very relieved. In some sense. I think like a subconscious sense. I was like, wow, there's a place on this planet where I belong full of people who not only accept me for who I am, but value me for who I am and want to not only see me succeed, but help me get there and have like, specifically made this whole premise and group of people just for people like me, and that like, I was amazing. It was so healing; it was quite incredible. I enrolled and I, I started, like getting into the habits of getting up every morning again. I mean, it's a simple thing and a lot of ways that they really help you achieve, like it's hard to motivate yourself when you're down and you don't know who you are. And what you're doing is how to motivate yourself to get up and get ready by 9am and get out the door. And even if you don't feel completely ready. I mean, to be fair, I spent like five years never feeling ready for a day. But they built that habit of like you get up and get out the door who was nice, you'd see people and like before that I'd been like incredibly lonely, cripplingly lonely. And suddenly, there was a group of people that I got to see every day and I mean, I didn't make a whole heap of like close friends’ straightaway. Like I still felt very awkward. I still felt a lot of social anxiety, but like, everyone was lovely. Everyone was in the same position. And I still felt like I belonged even though I didn't know how to open to people yet. There is no stigma about being a teen parent to them. And so, they are genuinely just excited for you. And so, suddenly, like you feel that in the way that they talk to you. You really feel that I don't think I fully understood how like pivotal. The team parent unit was for my wellbeing until the day I had to leave. I mean I was excited I was going to go to uni I felt like proud of myself. I got all this kind of like award from the team parent unit, I got University interest. And I got introduced into first year health sigh, which I thought like, oh my god, that's amazing. You know, I was so proud of myself, I had no reservations about leaving the TPU. You know, we were all packing up. And I was like trying to find reasons to still be there, because I just couldn't face knowing like it was my last moment there. And then I walked out of the day-care, and I stood on the deck and like all these teachers who have been like, the most amazing people in the whole world, to me standing there all lined up, and I like, just broke down, I was like, oh, my God, I can't do this. And I just stood there crying for like, 10 minutes, one of the hardest things I've ever had to do is leave that place that they've just changed my life completely. Before I went to the team, parent unit, and before I went through university, I had the will in the want to have a career. But I don't think that I could have made the kinds of decisions on my own, with only myself to reflect on it that I needed to get there. Something that I've reflected on a lot is that like, this is gonna be like a grind. For the next five years, I want it to be a grind that's worth doing. I want it to like, give me something that I'm passionate about, if going to work is going to be a grind. I don't want to do that job I hate. I want to have something meaningful in my career. So, I might as well feel that pain for something worth feeling it forward, you know what I mean? And it wasn't immediately obvious what to do. University felt like a good step in that direction. And then there was also the self-awareness of like, this last year has been crazy, like living away from home having jobs, like learning what it means to be an adult without my parents around. And like realizing just how much I didn't know, like, being an 18-year-old, who just experienced a year on my own. I was like, how can I expect myself to be able to give this baby a good life? Finding How to Survive was so hard.
One thing that I did to help myself was I made like a vision board got out this like piece of paper. And I was like, right, what do I want to see in my future things that like stood out to me as like my goals of what I wanted. And again, I still had no idea how I was going to get there. I have lectured every day now. And that's a very different environment to a classroom environment as well. So, suddenly, you've gone from this tiny School of like 30 Girls, where everyone knows each other. And you know that everyone cares about you succeeding to this. Like, you can fall asleep on the desk through your lecture, and they don't give a shit. And in fact, they work so much, it was not their main job to get information into your head, it was your job to find out what information you needed to get, and then put it in your own head. And that is so far from the environment that a high school provides you. And then suddenly, you must be your own advocate for every issue. And you must learn the time management skills that maybe you've never had to learn before university is full of other people who often do not have the same challenges i.e., have a child at home that they must work an extra like 20 hours a week to support. It was quite a shock. Though, suddenly, I'm like, the only 20-year-old mom can be very hard to find some common ground with other people your age, your value set, just completely changes when you have a child like you know, you're trying to figure out how to run a home so that your kid has a good life. And then there's all these like working moms her, to me just look like they have all their shit together. They're on the other side of the journey that I'm trying to get. And so that can be like really intimidating. society expects teen moms to kind of be loses. I didn't want to talk about the fact that I was a teen mom at the time because I was so uncomfortable in going through this new experience and like trying to figure out like, how to be an adult. There were also lots of times along that journey that I didn't know if it was going to work, and I didn't know how I was going to make it work. There were times that I couldn't really afford to live. And I was like, God, like Who can I talk to? Where can I get help from? For this, like my first year of university for example, I was like, over $100 in deficit each week after like, paying rent, like petrol power exedra like it was like my food budget was like, I didn't have one. I never like 100% believed that I was going to get a degree like a while I was going through the process. It was always taking a deep breath and just focus on what you can do now. I remember like handing in my last exam. him, and I just broke down and I just cried. And I called my mom, and I called my dad, and I bawled my eyes out, and I hid in my bed for a week. And I like was just almost like entirely dysfunctional, because there was like, all this pent-up anxiety and fear about, can I do this, that I'd never fully believed that I would get to the end of it, there is some validity for me. Yeah. I do wish that I'd had, like, people who had been through it that I could have talked to like a mentor, I do think that it would have been nice to me, I would ask someone who had the perspective of being like a young mom in that environment, what were you, like specific challenges and experiences? So, I could kind of like mentally to prepare for what was to come or, or just probe for, like, how did you deal with that in a healthy way, like now it's like, I must move into the workforce and parent and how does that look and having someone else who had gone through that and seeing what had helped them would have been so helpful. It also just proved you can get there in the end of that as your goal and if you're willing to just keep trying to find ways to make it work. It might take years and years and years, but you can get to the place you want to be. There was some power in my hands.
I think that Ali's story was very eye opening. Becoming a teen mom is probably one of the scariest things which could happen to you when you had so many big dreams, she thought she couldn't achieve. But she managed to do that. Ali story is very inspiring to me because my mom was a teen mom as well. She got pregnant, very young. And she went through the struggles of like growing up with a child which also needed love and support. It was cool to hear somebody almost from my generation, sharing her struggles with being a teen mom, and wanting to go to university and like, achieve lots of different things. She went from being so unhappy to going to university having a baby like finding like a support group. When Ali reflected on her whole story that she could see how much happier she became. And the starch wasn't very happy, and she just wanted someone to love her. She ended up becoming a scientist having a child that she loves and loves her. I feel like she would be very proud of what she accomplished when she thought she could never stop
Closing Ali 22:44
if la story has brought anything up for you, please talk to someone you trust. You can also free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor day or night. Hear me see me is a safe space for young New Zealanders to share their stories. Please encourage others to listen to them. If you or anyone you know would like to share a story, please email Kyoto at hear me see me.in Zed or search hear me see me instead on Facebook, Instagram or Tik Tok and send us a message to find ways to support young people and see what others are doing good to hear me see me in said Kia kaha - Ka kite ano.