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Having a Baby Saved My Life

YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia, Commentary, Valerie Klinker Posted: Aug 15, 2008

Editor's Note: A recent report shows that teen pregnancy has risen for the first time in 15 years, citing it as a signifier for teenagers poor overall health. Valerie Klinker, 17, argues that having a child was the healthiest thing that ever happened to her. Klinker is a participant in the Changing The Odds/YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia summer internship.

SAN FRANCISCO -- I am a young, beautiful mother of color. My son, Terry, is five months old and if it werent for him, I would be smoked out, in jail or dead. My son saved my life.

My mom had me when she was 12 years old. She kept me for about a month and then took me to my grandmothers office and left me. My grandmother is full-blooded Native American. She was born on a reservation and came to the city when she was young. She was traditional and strict, so my mother ended up doing her own thing when she was growing up. She was always getting into trouble with the law, people in our neighborhood, and dope dealers.

After my mother left me with my grandmother, I rarely got to see her. One of my earliest memories was going to see my mom in jail. My mom was using drugs, drinking, stealing and fighting. For as long as I can remember, she has never been employed.

As for my father, he used to treat my mother like she was his queen. But after a while he started treating her badly. My father taught my mother how to fight. Im talking about the type of fighting where you can really hurt someone. He also taught her to do drugs and drink. Im not sure how old my father was when he got my mom pregnant, but I do know he was a lot older than she was. He cheated on my mom after she had me and my mother went crazy. She slit her wrists really deep. She has almost died so many times, and she still hasnt had a revelation. I swear shes a cat with nine lives.

After my mom left me, I became my grandmothers child. For a long time, it was just the two of us. She had five children, but two of them passed away. My grandmother was strict. She used to tell me not to cry in front of people, or open up to people or trust them. I know she told me these things because thats how she was raised and she wanted me to be as strong as she was. I was always open with my grandmother, so as I grew up, she was more lenient.

My father and mother eventually stopped messing with each other and my father had visiting rights. I saw him once a month. Then his girlfriend got jealous and told him to pick her or me. Do you know what he did? He picked her. I was only seven years old and he didnt even take me home. He just left me at a fast food restaurant. Later, he disowned me. When I got older, I tried to get his address or number but he did not want to give it to me. He does not even know that I have a son.

Whenever I saw my mom or spent time with her out of an institution, people thought we were sisters. For a while, she tried to be a mother, but it didnt work. She would come and go, then try to be an authority figure in my life. Now she acts like were friends. Well, let me put it like this: She chills with me, blows with me and drinks with me.

The first time I smoked weed, I was nine years old. The first time I tried alcohol, I was 11 years old. By time I was 11 and a half, I started selling weed, then went to Montana (cocaine), and then crystal meth. I was boosting clothes, stealing cars, and chilling with the big homies by 12. I always looked older, so I could easily lie about my age. Ive been able to buy alcohol since I was young. My grandmother didnt find out about the trouble I was getting into until later, and she was hard on me. But I was always honest with her, so she trusted me.

When I was out on the block getting money, I really didnt care about s---. I didnt care about my friends, my family, or even my life. I was fighting a lot. I got jumped, shot at, almost stabbed. I had my Right Hand with me everyday. She had my back. We were together so much people thought we were sisters. But when I really needed her, she didnt come through. I got jumped and I needed her to come with me just to have my back. There is power in numbers, but she couldnt come, so I went alone and got f----- up.

When I was in the seventh grade, I started doing badly in life, school and at home. Then that summer, I met a sweet, genuine gentlemen. I fell in love with him over the next few years. He never really knew that I was hustling, but he knew that I had money. He was so different from everyone else, he never tried to make me do things I didnt want to.

After three years, I told my man what I used to do. At first, he had nothing to say, but a year later he told me he wanted me to get a job. He said that my life was too important to throw away, and he did not want to see me end up in jail or dead. So I slowed down and stopped going out so much.

The next point in my life was the most drastic experience I ever had to go through. I was at the doctors for something else entirely and then the doctor said, You are pregnant. When she said that, my heart stopped. After that, I told my man the news. We already knew it was over we were about to have a baby because I didnt believe in abortions. I was 16 years old.

I waited until I was three months pregnant before I told my grandmother. She didnt say anything, but I could see on her face how disappointed she was.

I didnt tell my mother, but she found out. When she found out, she went crazy crying, yelling and trying to fight me. She tried to kick me in my stomach and push me down the steps. It was the biggest fight wed ever gotten into, and it was the final one in my eyes. I know it probably breaks her heart, but I cant put up with her s--- anymore. Shes been fist fighting with me ever since I can remember. I wont put myself in a situation where she disrespects me.

Throughout my pregnancy, I stopped selling, drinking, stealing, fighting and finally, the thing I thought I could never stop doing: smoking ganja. My man supported me to the fullest, came to my appointments, made me go to school, and eat. I started doing well, stopped illegal trafficking and started working. My whole mind frame is different now. Dont get me wrong I still want to do stuff hella bad, but now I think to myself, How will it benefit my son? Or if it does benefit him, for how long will it?

I am now in the process of getting my own apartment with my man and son. I am about to finish school and I am also working. I am trying to save money for my son. I want to start college and become a registered nurse. My future consists of my man and I working, doing things that will better us, and still making time for each other. With our love, dedication and honesty, well make the perfect family that everyone wants.

Related Articles:

Eight Months Pregnant and Writing

Fostering My Own Family

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