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The highs and lows of being a teenage mom

August 14, 2007|by EVA NEISSNER and FEDORA COPLEY/Pulse Correspondents

For Tasheena Landaker, 16, being a teen mother changed her life for the better. In a recent interview, she said, "Before I had my son, I got into a lot of trouble - I stole, I got into fights. When I had my son, I knew I would change."

The change came at a cost.

"Diapers, clothes, everything is expensive," Tasheena said. "It's not easy when you don't have a job."

She and her son, Leon, who is now 2, live with her parents in Hagerstown. Tasheena said her mother helps her only when absolutely necessary. It's not easy to be a parent. Taking care of a child involves long hours, lots of patience and hard work.

The hard work starts with pregnancy.

"You get tired, you gain a lot of weight, you get really sick," she said.

Fearful that she would be forced to abort the baby, Tasheena hid her pregnancy and told only the father, she said.

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"He wasn't happy about it," she said.

Tasheena's mother found out about the pregnancy the day Leon was born. He was born prematurely, weighing only 3 pounds.

"They said he wasn't going to make it past 2," she said. "He just had his second birthday, and he's completely healthy."

About being a mother, Tasheena said, "It's hard and it's fun. It's so cute when you see them so little, because you think that's what you did when you were that age."

But being 2, he can be a handful, and Tasheena said jokingly, "Sometimes I just want to strangle him."

A sense of humor helps.

One bad thing about being a teenage mom: Having a child can put a damper on your education.

"There's two things you can do - drop out or keep going," Tasheena said.

She chose to keep attending school, even though it meant night school. Tasheena hopes to return to South Hagerstown High School this fall. "I'm supposed to be in 11th grade, but I'll be in 10th."

Tasheena wants to graduate high school and attend college in order to become a nursing assistant.

Another disadvantage to being a teenage mom: You can't hang with friends like you used to, and sometimes friends stop hanging with you.

Tasheena takes Leon when she sees friends. That was not OK with all of her friends, Tasheena said.

"Some stayed, some went," she said. "Some of them abandoned me, but others stayed with me, bought my son stuff. They were really nice the whole time."

In the dating scene, Tasheena is upfront about her son. When she meets a guy, she says right away, "It's both of us or nothing. My son comes first." She won't date anyone who is bothered by the fact that she has a child. Mostly, it has not been a problem.

"Most of the guys I talk to, they love my son to death," she said.

On the whole, Tasheena is usually happy about being a mother, but sometimes she has second thoughts.

"Having a kid was a positive influence on my attitude. Having a kid makes you take responsibility," she said. "(But) wait for somebody who's going to treat you right, because these days they'll just leave."

Also, as much as she enjoys being a mother, she advised teenagers not to get pregnant. If she could do her pregnancy over, there's at least one thing she'd change.

"I would've waited till I was older," she said.

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