Young parents carve new expectations

Young+parents+carve+new+expectations

Allie Pigg

Two weeks into her sophomore year, junior Alexa Alderete-Raygoza couldn’t shake off a nauseous feeling. For two months, she could only eat fruits and vegetables without getting sick. The feeling was similar to the jet lag she experienced over the summer after traveling via airplane to see her sister in Utah.
By mid-September, Alderete-Raygoza made an appointment with her pediatrician to figure out what was wrong. Twenty minutes into the appointment, the 15-year-old’s life changed forever. Alderete-Raygoza’s doctor announced she was three months pregnant.
Alderete-Raygoza was exhilarated, but she knew she had to break the news to her parents and the baby’s father. Since she and the baby’s father were not together at the time, they decided it was best to not force their relationship. After speaking with him, Alderete-Raygoza broke the news to her parents. Telling her mom went much smoother than telling her dad.
“My father was heartbroken and didn’t like to talk about the fact that I was pregnant,” Alderete-Raygoza said. “[But] after a few months, he became more understanding and more involved in the pregnancy.”

Her father’s initial bitter reaction may have been in response to the dire statistics for pregnant teenagers. Only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, and fewer than two percent finish college by age 30, the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) reported. Alderete-Raygoza, however, undoubtedly overstepped those statistics by working diligently with her teachers to finish her classes and take her finals before her daughter arrived at the end of the school year.
The first teacher Alderete-Raygoza told about her pregnancy was Daryl Moss, whom she had developed a close relationship with through her Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) class. Alderete-Raygoza said Moss was immediately ready to help her with whatever she needed and made telling the rest of her teachers much easier. Her teachers were stunned by the news but were ready to work with her around her schedule of preparing for motherhood.
After months of preparation with assistance from teachers and friends, Alderete-Raygoza gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Zaina Yanet Raygoza on May 17, 2017. Zaina is now eight months old, and Alderete-Raygoza loves every second she spends with her daughter.
“My favorite part of having [Zaina] in my life is just seeing her development,” Alderete-Raygoza said. “Every milestone she reaches is like an accomplishment to me as a mom. Although I’m so young, I feel like I have matured and figured out how to be there for my child and still continue to have a regular high school experience.”
Despite her efforts, raising her daughter sets Alderete-Raygoza’s reality apart from most of her peers. After school every day, she picks Zaina up from daycare and arrives home around 5 p.m.. She plays with, bathes and feeds her daughter until 8 p.m., then puts Zaina to sleep. Alderete-Raygoza can then temporarily transition from mother back to student. She also takes advantage of CubHub, which is a free after-school program located across the street from RBHS that provides child care while parents do homework. The service is available to all parents who are also students in Columbia. CubHub is not a daycare because parents do not drop their children off and leave; rather, CubHub requires its users to stay in the building to do schoolwork.
Although her average day leaves her little time for herself or her social life, Alderete-Raygoza says it’s important for an infant to have a regular schedule, and she will stay up later studying as long as her daughter has a healthy development.
“Having consistency with children is very important so that they begin to develop a routine,” Alderete-Raygoza said. “Putting homework into the equation isn’t just hard for me. It’s hard for Zaina as well.”
After high school, Alderete-Raygoza plans to attend Columbia College to obtain her degree in education and become a teacher. She believes this newfound desire to teach emerged because seeing Zaina’s development has inspired her to be a part of the same experience for other children.
“Even though I had Zaina so young, I don’t feel as if she’s a barrier between me and my goals,” Alderete-Raygoza said. “I feel she’s actually a huge part and motivation to get to where I want to be in life.”

I feel she’s actually a huge part and motivation to get to where I want to be in life.” – Alexa Alderete-Raygoza, junior

Alderete-Raygoza is not the only student at RBHS simultaneously managing high school and parenthood, rather 750,000 teenagers get pregnant in America every year. Junior Cherokee Cobb is also one of these teenagers; she is expecting a baby boy March 1, 2018. Similarly to Alderete-Raygoza, the primary critic of Cobb’s young pregnancy was her parent.
“The only person who was hard on me was my mom,” Cobb said. “She knows motherhood is very difficult, so she is helping me stay focused on school and getting me ready to be the best mom I can.”
Cobb is succeeding in school with her mother’s encouragement, as her grades are higher now than they were before she got pregnant. She feels more motivated to do well in school now that she has a son to succeed for. Although there are days when the fatigue of pregnancy makes it hard to continue, Cobb said her teachers are understanding and always excuse her to take a quick nap in the nurse’s office during those times.
Additionally, the father, Joey Martin, is involved in the pregnancy, which has made the experience easier for Cobb. She said the father is “giddy” about having a son, and that encourages her to stay positive through the uncomfortable aspects of pregnancy. Martin said he and his family were shocked to learn of Cobb’s pregnancy, but immediately starting saving up for diapers.
“The most exciting part about fatherhood [will be] being able to be a role model for the little one,” Martin said.
Overall, with the help from the father, being pregnant has given Cobb a happier, more hopeful outlook on life.
Both Alderete-Raygoza and Cobb have both defied the American social clock, which is the culturally preferred timing of social events such as marriage, parenthood and retirement. Marriage tends to occur before childbearing on this clock, according to psychologenie.com.
This sequence of events, however, has become less of a tradition in American culture than before in history. In an article on parents.com, author Patty Adams Martinez claims that putting “carriage before marriage” seems to be the new trend. As of 2012, Martinez noted, more than half of the babies born to American women under 30 are born out of wedlock. Child Development teacher Deanna Fancher believes this changing tradition may be because there is no longer a negative stigma toward women who have children before marriage.
“Hollywood stars, professional athletes, etc. are having children out of wedlock,” Fancher said. “This group of individuals drive a lot of people’s decisions about what and how they want to live their lives.”
Additionally, Fancher said it is usually most beneficial to have two parents in a newborn’s life, as each parent serves a special purpose, but ensuring the child will grow up with two parents is harder for high schoolers in younger relationships. It is more challenging for teenagers to raise children because they tend to have less emotional and financial maturity than an older, married parent would. Teenage parents are more likely to rely on public assistance and to be poor as adults, according to HHS.gov, but with the right support, babies of young mothers can grow up to be just as stable and healthy as babies from older mothers.

“There is always the exception to the statistics and what the experts believe,” Fancher said. “In the end it’s about what’s best for the baby and giving the child every chance for a good life.”
Cobb’s biggest hope is to provide this good life for her son, but first, she has to overcome the obstacles of teen pregnancy. She said the hardest parts of her pregnancy thus far are the “stairs and the stares,” referring to the back pain from walking up flights of stairs and the feeling of her peers always looking at her growing stomach.
“I know my adorable son will make me forget all the negatives from pregnancy. Feeling him move around in my stomach brings me to tears knowing I created an amazing human, and I can’t wait to see him out in this world,” Cobb said. “I have no regrets after knowing that my son is the best thing I could have created.”
While Alderete-Raygoza experienced a rather easy pregnancy in terms of pain and nausea, it was some of the people surrounding her and her unborn daughter that made being a pregnant teenager so uncomfortable. Her daughter’s grandmother made it difficult to maintain a positive attitude about bringing such a miracle into the world. The father’s mother was suspicious as to whether or not the child was her son’s, and therefore refused to let her son be involved in his daughter’s life. Despite efforts to find a connection between Zaina and her father, he has lost contact with Alderete-Raygoza, and she filed for full custody of her daughter. She said it is heartbreaking to know that Zaina’s father isn’t there for his daughter.
“He claims that Zaina isn’t his daughter anymore, and that I don’t allow him to see her,” Alderete-Raygoza said. “The doors have always been open.”
But despite the turmoil and judgment during her pregnancy and the hassles of being a full time student and mother, the struggles are all worth it once she comes home to her sweet Zaina.
“A lot of people ask me this question: ‘If you could go back in time and not get pregnant so young, would you?’” Alderete-Raygoza said. “Honestly, at this point in my life, if I had the choice to go back in time and decide whether or not to get pregnant, I️ wouldn’t change anything.”