Young mothers discuss their strategies to be successful

It was September and Briana Di Massimo was starting a new chapter in her life. She was in Grade 11 and had just celebrated her 17th birthday.

It was only weeks later that she found out she was pregnant.

When it was written on paper that I was pregnant, I was scared and had no idea what I was going to do,” Di Massimo said.

She would become a teen mom.

Di Massimo knew that although the odds were not in her favour, she was determined to be a young mom and be successful — to continue to pursue her goals.

“I decided I was going to keep him, raise him and be a mother,” she said.

Wendy Lowe, executive director at the Calgary Pregnancy Care Centre, said some of the common issues teen mothers face include lack of support, inadequate housing and challenges in education and poverty.

“The more support systems you can build into a teenage girl’s life when she becomes a mom, the more likely she is to be successful and overcome these obstacles,” Lowe said.

Lowe noted that there are educational institutions for teen mothers such as the Louise Dean Centre — which Di Massimo still attends — to provide support and aid teen mothers in finishing their education.

“The trick to having these forms of support is informing the teen moms about them, and making sure they access them at a young age,” Lowe said.

There are support groups, care centres and housing for teen mothers in town — but teenage mothers have also proven to be self-sufficient.

Ashley Macnab, 20, had her baby when she was 19.

Briana Di Massimo says even though Aidan was born so early in her life, it just gives her more time to love him.
Photo courtesy of: Briana Di Massimo.

“Everyone has the perception that you’re not going to succeed and you’re going to struggle,” Macnab said.

Although she often thinks about making a living, paying the rent and ensuring her one-year-old baby, Abigail, is fed, she knows she is in a good position.

“We do everything for ourselves,” she said.

Currently Macnab and her boyfriend, Ryan Geddes, 20, pay rent to live in a townhouse while she works full time and he pursues a degree in petroleum accounting. They have already put money towards Abigail’s education fund.

“In order to succeed, you need to want to succeed,” Macnab said.

Macnab can lean on her boyfriend, friends and family for support, which she said is an important part of getting through the birth of a child as a young woman.

Lowe added that she often sees teen moms who cannot cope, but that does not change the fact that being a successful teen mom can be accomplished.

“Teen mothers can go on to be professionals in the community,” Lowe said. She shared that there are women is the workforce today who people would never guess were teen mothers at the age of 15 or 16.

Lowe said that commitment to education, and finding a supportive environment — which is often not the original school the mother was attending — is an important decision that will increase a mother’s chances of success.

Di Massimo, who is attending the Louise Dean Centre, said, “Once you have a baby, what you need is a school that supports you.”

She added that although having a baby and trying to accomplish other goals is challenging, eventually the stress lessens.

Allison Geofroy, 40, became a mother at age 19, and agrees that having a solid support system is what a young mother needs.

“It gets easier,” she said. “Don’t give up. Don’t feel like nobody cares or you are on your own.”

dleonard@cjournal.ca