Gloria Malone, a Teen Mom Who’s Making It
As soon as people hear that a teenager has gotten pregnant, they shake their heads. What a shame, they say. How is she going to provide a good home for her child? But there are plenty of women who have, and are, defying stereotypes, dedicating themselves to being good mothers. Gloria Malone, 23, is one of those women. The Florida native gave birth just days before her sixteenth birthday. A writer, advocate and student, she’s speaking out on behalf of teen mothers and young parents and offering them support with her blog Teen Mom NYC. She’s taken her message of empowerment and support to Fox News, NPR, Huffington Post Live and more. We got the advocate and mom to 7-year-old Leilani to take a break from changing the world to talk about how she did it and what’s next.
I started having unprotected sex with my boyfriend at 14 and by age 15 I was pregnant. While my family discussed what to do about my pregnancy I am very thankful to my family and more specifically my mother who told me it was ultimately my decision and they would all respect and support my decision–even if they didn’t personally agree with it.My sophomore year of high school was very difficult because I was pregnant the whole time. Then four days before my sixteenth birthday, I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl who is now seven years old. Two years later I graduated from high school,with an honors diploma, and then enrolled into a local college.Around my twentieth birthday I realized that the relationship I had with my daughter’s father went from good to abusive and I had to get out. After considering my options I made the best decision for myself and my daughter-which also happened to be the most difficult– and decided to move from Florida to New York City.
When I first started the blog it was a way to begin the emotional healing process, a way to let my friends and family know how we were doing, and something to do to pass the time. Now two years later it has grown into this amazing, supportive, empowering community.
In retrospect, the support I received. It took me years–and I’m still working on this-to realize that while my some of family, society, and “friends” did some horrible things to me,I have to and will always be eternally grateful for the support they provided even though it wasn’t always delivered correctly. Support like my mother who didn’t kick me out, my sisters who although they didn’t know what to do were always there for me, and the few teachers who supported and encouraged me.
All of them! Scholarships, support networks, blogs, websites and organizations of all types. For a while I limited myself to looking for organizations and programs that were only for teenage parents but have come to realize that you can get support from anywhere. While I absolutely love the organizations and programs specifically for teenage parents it’s vital for teenage parents to realize that is not all you are now and should look into organizations that suit all their interests and needs. Google things until your fingers feel like they are going to fall off, then Google some more. Look for an virtual community,and above all stay positive and confident.
#NoStigmaNoShame is a counter campaign to the New York City Human Resources Department’s highly offensive “Think Teenage Pregnancy Won’t Cost You” anti-teenage pregnancy campaign. A group of advocates, community organizers, artist, and essentially people who found the ads in bad taste got together and said we need to do something about this.After discussing how we felt about the ads, what we wanted to do about them, and how to do it we decided to name our campaign #NoStigmaNoShame because no person, regardless of age, should feel either of those things while they are pregnant and parenting their families. One component of the campaign is a conference I have been organizing with the team and several organizations that have chosen to come together to support and empower teenage parents. The conference is July 13th.
The phrase “teen mom” encapsulates all of my experiences and opportunities I have encountered in life. In one aspect, being a teen mom is so much of my identity and who I am that I can’t imagine not identifying as one. In another respect I want to (admittedly and perhaps selfishly) take back the phrase teen mom and be one of thousands of examples of how teen mom is not a bad word. Although I am no longer a teen I will always be a teen mom and I’m very proud to say that.