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María’s Story

On the morning of August 1st, María and her infant son Jacob walked across the graduation stage of Morton East High’s 2020 socially distanced graduation. With her son in her arms, a sarape and National Honors Society stole around her shoulders, and a decorated cap on her head, María was awarded her high school diploma.

On the top of her graduation cap was the phrase “¡Mi puse las pilas por ti!” María said she chose this saying because as a young, working mom, finishing school was challenging but she “gave it her all” for her son.

“When we were small, my parents always said “ponte las pilas” it’s like saying put in the batteries, so you could get energy,” Maria explained. “[My cap says] I put the batteries in for you, so mi puse las pilas para mi bebé – for my baby.”

María found out she was pregnant when she was a 16-year-old high school sophomore. Her school counselor referred her to New Moms and she was connected with one of our doulas—an advocate who helps young women with physical, informational, and emotional support as they prepare for birth and early parenthood—and one of our personal coaches called family support specialists.

New Moms has a long-standing relationship with Morton East High School and has run a young mother’s support group there for several years. María joined the group and said it was an important place where she could take a break and share her experience with other young moms.

“You can get an idea of what other moms go through,” María said. “There are all these changes that are going on through the pregnancy, so sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh is this normal?’ Google doesn’t always have those answers, and it’s better to have those other moms who went through that and have the experience instead of just asking Google.”

In addition to participating in the young mothers support group, María was also involved in the National Honor Society and Bilingual Club, and took several advanced classes. She said her family put a strong emphasis on education when she was growing up which motivated her to get involved in extracurriculars and to take A.P. classes.

Even when it became difficult to balance school responsibilities and work with motherhood, she said she still dedicated herself to her educational goals.

“Since I was off junior year, I was behind in all of these classes, and my G.P.A. went down, so senior year was a really tough year,” María said. “I was going through [post-partum] depression and lots of anxiety and stress, but I was able to pull my grades up lastminute so I could graduate on time.”

Because of her commitment to her academics as well as her school community, María had a positive relationship with her teachers and school administration. She said therefore she was able to bring her son Jacob on stage with her.

“They knew I had a baby and I was taking pictures with him, and instead of putting him in the car, they allowed me to walk on stage with my baby,” María said. “A lot of moms have their baby during graduation, but they don’t walk on stage with their baby and I believe I was the first one!”

María said her plans are to apply to college in the spring, but right now she’s working and enjoying spending time with Jacob. She said she’s grateful for the New Moms support group and feels empowered to share her own birth story and what she learned from the experience with others.

“After having the support from the group, I started helping other people that go through the same situation,” María said. “It made me compassionate towards other teen parents, teen moms, and it makes me want to help them out.”