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The sudden news of a love child unexpectedly conceived with her first love struck her like lightning. Though her first love had always been there to support her through her battle with epilepsy — it was already a year and a half into the relationship when things were already becoming difficult.
By Jennie Nguyen
Fights would break out, a lack of communication set in, and by the time she broke the news to him, he had already committed his decision to join the military.
She was 18.
Panic began to set in.
“How am I supposed to raise him while he’s gone?” she thought to herself.
“Going through the pregnancy alone was tough. I didn’t know what to do, how I was going to do it, or what kind of future was in store for us.” Jessica needed him here, but he had to leave.
The scenario unfolding before her did not fit the portrait she had always envisioned in her head— a dream wedding and a happily ever after. Not long after he left, Jessica found herself at the mercy of depression and anxiety.
Though fortunate enough to have her family and friends to support her, it was challenging and painful for her to let go of that priceless ideal of the perfect family.
Soon enough, she turned towards the cold comfort of self-isolation.
The next nine months would prove to be one of the most difficult and dark periods of her life.
“I spent countless nights just thinking about what I should do. I knew that I wanted happiness for my son, my son’s dad, and myself,” she said. Despite entertaining the thought of giving up, she made the effort to start reaching out—first to FRISTERS, a nonprofit organization founded on Christian principles dedicated to supporting teenage mothers and their children, to a therapist who helped her understand co-dependency and coping mechanisms.
She soon started volunteering for the Child Abuse Prevention Center.
Even after the pregnancy, Jessica was dealing with post-partum depression during the first year of raising him. However, she continued her program at FRISTERS, community outreach, and with the help of family from both sides and the incommunicable bond between mother and child, she was able to overcome.
Even though it proved to be challenging to leave behind a past love, Jessica explained that her love loss was simply an end to one type of relationship and a beginning to a life-long partnership with the father of her son.
“We’re still friends and the ‘love’ we have for each other is different,” she explains, “[My son] has enriched my life in numerous ways. He has taught me so many things about being selfless, patient, and kind. I can’t narrow down to just one thing he does that makes me smile. Just thinking about him brings a smile to my face.”
“All his life, Theodore could sense all of my emotions. When I was holding him as an infant and he sensed I was sad, he would cry or comfort me.” Since she wanted her son to be happy, she tried to be happy too. “Once I stopped stressing out about the past AND the future, I felt happier.
Of course I still think about my goals and what [my son’s] lunch is going to be tomorrow, but those aren’t so damaging to my mind.” By letting go of the notion of a picture-perfect family in her mind, Jessica was able to forge the space needed for a new narrative. Now, at 22, Jessica studies Human Development at Cal State Long Beach, on track to obtaining her PhD with aspirations of becoming a college professor. Inspired by her experience as a teen mom and raising her 2-year-old son, Jessica currently works as an Outreach and Engagement Educator for Teen Voices Teen Choices at the Child Abuse Prevention Center. Her experience as a teenage mother blessed her with the compassion to help other teenage mothers who are currently experiencing the stress of raising a child alone at a young age.
“I feel like I’m right where I’m meant to be,” Jessica ruminates, “and it’s because of the love I used to have.”
The love Jessica and her first love now nurture is one of mutual respect and friendship. It is built upon the foundation of the life-long journey that allows them to raise a beautiful son together. Jessica’s definition of the ultimate Love Story is this: “It’s about not taking the things we have for granted. There is no way of going to the past and changing.
“It’s about not taking the things we have for granted. There is no way of going to the past and changing. True love is wanting happiness for both parties—whether it means to be together or apart.”