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In ‘Pregnant Lady,’ Nicole Lynn Lewis Confronts the Stigma of Being a Teen Mother

Nicole Lynn Lewis had some tough experiences as a first-time mother. There have been occasions Nicole, then 18, was homeless whereas making an attempt to graduate from highschool. (She did, with honors, regardless of the percentages.) Then there was making an attempt to attend and afford school whereas taking good care of her toddler daughter Nerissa.

These challenges have knowledgeable her life’s work. In 2010 she based Era Hope, a nonprofit “devoted to making sure teen and pupil mother and father have the alternatives they should succeed and expertise financial mobility.” And now she’s written a memoir, Pregnant Lady: A Story of Teen Motherhood, Faculty, and Making a Higher Future for Younger Households.

In Pregnant Lady, Nicole makes use of her personal expertise as a Black teen mother to discover the various methods methods are set as much as drawback Black and brown teen mother and father. On this excerpt, she displays on the second she came upon she was going to be a mother when she was 18 years outdated and a highschool senior.

You will get your copy of Pregnant Lady, written by Nicole Lynn Lewis, at Amazon and Bookshop.

The 2 pink strains shaped shortly and clearly. My interval was two weeks late, and my breasts have been sore. My different makes an attempt to find out if I used to be pregnant—like making an attempt out Bree’s idea that there are extra bubbles in your pee if you’re anticipating—didn’t appear dependable, so I went to Kmart and acquired a check. Wanting via the several types of checks, making an attempt to keep away from eye contact with different prospects and the cashier, and dashing again to my mother and father’ station wagon within the almost empty parking zone was an out-of-body expertise.

It was three o’clock within the afternoon, proper after college. I’d paged Rakheim and advised him to fulfill me at my home. He had swung his Cadillac into my mother and father’ driveway, Nas emanating from the large subwoofers put in in his trunk.

It was odd to be there, collectively, at the moment of day. The home was quiet. The intense afternoon daylight made patterns on the partitions and on the furnishings within the household room behind us. He stood subsequent to me, smelling acquainted. The shampoo he used to scrub his dreads that morning was nonetheless aromatic, and if I had dug my fingers into his scalp, I’d most likely have felt his roots have been nonetheless damp. The scent of Newports, and Black & Milds too, all the time on his breath and seeped into the material of his garments.

He was a combination of candy and bitter, endearing and repelling. I held the small white plastic sq. in my fingers, and the 2 of us watched the pink strains floor, gentle at first after which darker—like watching magic.

Nicole Lynn Lewis in high school
Nicole Lynn Lewis as a highschool pupil.


A sizzling, fleshy, intense aching. That’s what I felt. Like somebody had shot me proper the place the infant was imagined to be.

I exhaled slowly, letting my chest sit empty for a second, virtually as a punishment. I wanted to really feel the bodily sting of what had simply ripped via my coronary heart. The painful readability that I used to be now instantaneously completely different—inherently unhealthy. Different. I used to be one in all these women, eroding the American household and American society and disappointing everybody who ever cared about me. It occurred shortly and with out query or hesitation—the transformation from good to unhealthy woman, from proper to mistaken, from destined for greatness to destined for failure.

The second—even in its swiftness—despatched a shock wave via me, defining me wholly and fully.

Turning into a Statistic—and ‘an Enemy of the State’

With out figuring out it, I used to be feeling the impression of a president’s phrases and a rustic’s fears. It was 1998—simply three years after President Invoice Clinton, in his State of the Union deal with, known as teenage childbearing “our most severe social drawback.”

Not the height of crime charges within the early Nineties, which had been on the rise because the Lyndon B. Johnson presidency. Not the crack-cocaine epidemic of the mid-Eighties. Not the mass incarceration that exploded underneath President Ronald Reagan, decimating households and disproportionately affecting communities of shade. No, younger moms have been the best risk to our nation. These two pink strains meant that I used to be now an enemy of the state.

I assumed teen being pregnant was all the time an epidemic as a result of, from the time I used to be conscious of those sorts of issues, it was. There was no starting to it, no emergence. It was understood and accepted as a perpetual plague. I’d later study that, like all issues, there was a starting. Teen being pregnant wasn’t on the general public’s radar till the Nineteen Fifties and Nineteen Sixties when teen childbearing reached its highest charges. Then, President Jimmy Carter and almost each president after him recognized it as a precedence of their home agenda. However it was President Clinton’s proclamation that appeared to hurl it into overdrive. It didn’t matter that on the time, teen being pregnant charges have been drastically decrease than twenty-five years earlier—almost 50 % decrease.

Nicole Lynn Lewis pregnant
Nicole Lynn Lewis when she was pregnant along with her firstborn daughter, Nerissa.

‘This Might Not Be Occurring’

The nationwide marketing campaign to Stop Teen and Unplanned Being pregnant was shaped only one 12 months after Clinton’s State of the Union deal with. Ballot after ballot confirmed that People considered teen being pregnant as a rising drawback regardless of its general decline. Cash was poured into ineffective, fear-based teen being pregnant prevention campaigns that targeted on shaming and stigmatizing younger ladies. Few addressed the complexities of juvenile being pregnant, the problems usually in place in a teen’s life earlier than a being pregnant, the destructive assumptions about folks of shade that pervade our narrative and considering on this problem, our personal failures in working with households in poverty, or the essential premise that every one younger folks ought to know they matter no matter their choices.

I keep in mind our slender, blonde PE trainer displaying a few of the advertisements warning towards changing into pregnant on a projector in our sex-ed class together with images of her personal untimely child in a NICU incubator hooked as much as tubes. She warned us that youngsters usually tend to have untimely infants and requested if we wished this identical destiny for our kids.

I don’t keep in mind feeling an amazing aversion to intercourse after I watched her slip a brand new translucent slide on the buzzing projector. I do keep in mind, nonetheless, feeling that she—just like the advertisements—appeared fully disconnected from me and everybody I knew.

I suppose all of this was weighing on me as we stood so shut in that rest room, with the partitions feeling tight round us and the fact of what I held in my fingers dashing in all of sudden. I caught a glimpse of myself within the mirror and wished to imagine that I used to be watching another person have a look at a optimistic check. A special Nicole. However there I used to be staring again, with the colour drained from my face, each acquainted and unusually unfamiliar. I dropped the check on the counter and stumbled again right into a ray of sunshine from one of many home windows within the household room. I felt its warmth on my arm and face, and I might see Rakheim reaching for me via the obvious white.

Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder of nonprofit Generation Hope
Nicole Lynn Lewis at present.

This might not be occurring. I used to be president of the gospel choir. I used to be an honor pupil. I used to be in AP lessons. I had a stack of congratulatory school acceptance letters on my dresser upstairs. I had a plan for my life. I didn’t really feel pregnant. Wouldn’t I really feel one thing? Why couldn’t I really feel something?

I lastly checked out Rakheim, now sitting throughout from me on the black sofa. He was reclining on a cushion, twisting one in all his dreads between his two fingers with an incredulous look on his face. He appeared boyish and awkward in his outsized Avirex jacket, saggy denims, and untied camel-colored Timberland boots. He was not a father, and I used to be not a mom.

Get a replica of Pregnant Lady at Amazon and Bookshop.

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