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Ayala overcomes struggles of teen pregnancy to pursue education

Senior+Brenda+Ayala+unwraps+gifts+with+her+son%2C+Liam.
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Ayala overcomes struggles of teen pregnancy to pursue education

Senior Brenda Ayala unwraps gifts with her son, Liam.

Senior Brenda Ayala unwraps gifts with her son, Liam.

Photo courtesy of Brenda Ayala

Senior Brenda Ayala unwraps gifts with her son, Liam.

Photo courtesy of Brenda Ayala

Photo courtesy of Brenda Ayala

Senior Brenda Ayala unwraps gifts with her son, Liam.

By Holly Bill, Harrisonburg High School

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“I thought my life was over.”

It was Feb. 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, when senior Brenda Ayala discovered she was pregnant. It was her sophomore year.

“I was too scared to [take the pregnancy test] at school or anywhere else. It was one of those 89¢ ones from Walmart,” Ayala said. “I was like, ‘This is it. I’m just another statistic, another girl who got pregnant in high school from a mistake.’”

When Ayala told her parents, they were not supportive, so much so that she left home to live with a relative for a week before working things out. Once she returned home, she had a difficult pregnancy in store for her.

Photo courtesy of Brenda Ayala
Liam plays in the snow.

“My dad was not very happy [and] my mother wasn’t very supportive at the beginning either,” Ayala said. “The pregnancy was pretty bad. I had a lot of bleeding.”

However, the tough pregnancy was cut short for Ayala. Her son Liam was born earlier than expected on Sept. 29, 2017.

“He was actually a month early due to complications,” Ayala said. “The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck twice and his heart wasn’t beating the way it should have, so we had a lot of complications.”

The complications didn’t end there. After Liam was born, Ayala contracted an infection due to breastfeeding. This ended up lengthening her time away from school and had an impact on Ayala’s future plans.

“I was actually planning to graduate early with my advanced diploma,” Ayala said. “That ended up not happening because the same year I got pregnant, I had a withdraw/fail from my AP English 11 class due to the fact that I wasn’t there because of all of the complications and how sick I was.”

While Ayala has had to adjust her courses around her pregnancy and caring for Liam, it doesn’t change the fact that she is dedicated to her schoolwork and is graduating with her advanced diploma.

“I’m going to MTC right now for the two year LPN program,” Ayala said. “I’ve applied to multiple places [and] have gotten some responses [and] some yeses, so [I’m] thinking about going to college.”

In addition to maintaining her grades and caring for Liam, Ayala also works long hours six to seven days a week at Best Buy to support her son.

“I usually work until 9:30-10 p.m., and I only get Wednesdays, sometimes Tuesdays, off,” Ayala said. “Sometimes I try to do [homework] at work, [but] most nights I’m up [until] 2-3 a.m. doing homework and I have to get up at 7 a.m. to start my day over.”

The busy schedule and planning for the future has been hard for Ayala, but according to her, carrying on with life post-pregnancy isn’t impossible.

Photo courtesy of Brenda Ayala
Liam plays with his toys.

“There are more challenges because it’s not just you you have to think about, but also about your little one. It’s not cheap,” Ayala said, “I’ve been working since my freshman year… I worked through my pregnancy and I’m working now. You need money, you need time, [and] you need to be very dedicated.”

When Ayala is at school, she leaves Liam with the school nursery. However, Ayala also has to find someone to care for him while she’s working. To avoid the expensive costs that come with childcare, Ayala’s mother cares for Liam while Ayala is at work. Ayala’s mother was her biggest supporter during through her pregnancy and now as a mother.

“After the whole fall out at the beginning, she definitely helped me a lot more and was more understanding, especially once he was born,” Ayala said. “She was like, ‘There’s actually a little human being here,’ and she didn’t want me to get out of school.”

According to the American Pregnancy Association, there are 500,000 pregnant teenagers every year, thousands of girls that find themselves in Ayala’s position. When Ayala first found out she was pregnant, she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life. But there are still opportunities for single mothers. Ayala’s biggest piece of advice for teenagers in her position is to not feel alone.

“If you’re scared and you haven’t told anybody, definitely go to AVA Care. They’ll take care of you, but don’t be scared,” Ayala said. “There’s people here to help you [and] a big support system here at school with the nursery. Don’t do something you’ll end up regretting in the future, because there’s definitely help out there for you.”

This story was originally published on The Newsstreak on January 31, 2019.

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