Young Mothers Who Defy the Stereotypes

Natali Hernandez and her son Adam at her high school graduation

Late one fall evening in 2011, after two pregnancy tests, 16-year-old Natali Hernandez trembled in the bathroom. She glanced at the test gripped in her hands and took in a deep breath. Her heart dropped at the sight of the results. Two lines it read. The test was positive. Hernandez was pregnant.

“What am I going to do now?”

Hernandez and her son Adam, his first day of school

Today, Hernandez is working full-time, continuing her studies in college and focused on being a good mother to her 5-year-old son Adam. Her goals include a degree in psychology and a career that will support the lifestyle she wants for herself and her son.

Hernandez and her son Adam, the day she gave birth

At 16, she was a good student, determined to finish school and defy the stereotypes of teen pregnancy. While her classmates studied for tests or headed out to football games, Hernandez was busy changing diapers and breast-feeding. Her hands were full being a mother, but that didn’t stop Hernandez from graduating Santiago High School in Corona, CA.

“My pregnancy motivated me more to finish school,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to prove people wrong and to show my family that I was going to graduate despite the stereotypes.”

Teenage pregnancies and young mothers have stigmas surrounding them. According to Planned Parenthood, teen mothers are more likely to drop out from school and rely on welfare. These negative stereotypes cause people to automatically assume young mothers have set themselves up for failure. As stated by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma.

Natali Hernandez, Naomi Love and Crystal Bello have used their struggles as young mothers to defy these statistics and accomplish their goals.

When 23-year-old Naomi Love found out she was pregnant, she was 19 years old and unprepared.

“I wanted to have an abortion,” Love said. “I was scared and I didn’t feel ready to be a mom.”

Once Love realized she had support from her parents and her now-husband Simon, she felt confident in her pregnancy.

(left to right) Simon, daughter Violet, Naomi

Today, Love has a 3-year-old daughter named Violet. While her pregnancy caused her to put a pause on school, it was only for half a year. Currently, Love is continuing her studies towards her goal as a certified nursing assistant.

During the week, Love’s daughter stays at a daycare. This gives Love and her husband time for their academics. Love said her biggest challenge is managing her time.

“I do what I can in the amount of time I have,” Love said. “It’s hard to find time to study, but I prioritize my child over everything.”

Crystal Bello with her son Alex

Crystal Bello was 20 years old when she found out she was pregnant.

“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Bello said. “It was very unexpected.”

Like Hernandez and Love, Bello said she received plenty of support that she was not expecting.

Before her pregnancy, she had goals to graduate, work her dream job, and travel all the world.

Having a child shifted some of her goals, but it didn’t stop her from continuing to achieve them.

“Without him [son — Alex] my mentality was different,” Bello said. “I didn’t have anyone to do it for but myself. But now it is more for him than for me.”

(left to right) Crystal Bello, son Alex, and fiancé Ramon

Today, Bello’s son Alex is 18 months old. She is attending college studying business and engaged to Alex’s father Ramon.

For these girls, motherhood was an unexpected challenge that changed their lives. With this challenge, it only motivated them to further their education and career path in life. Ultimately, they all agreed they wanted to provide the best possible life for their children.

“I never would have actually known what motherhood was like until I accepted it,” Hernandez said. “I’m still learning, not just from life itself but also from my son. You’re never really prepared or ready for this experience, but I wouldn’t be the strong mother I am today.”