Updated: Jun 1, 2020
Katlyn was 16 years old when she got pregnant. Now, at 19, she’s an incredible mom to an adorable daughter, a thriving college student, and an ambitious #goalgetter who doesn’t let anything hold her back.
Katlyn and her daughter, Brooklyn. Used with permission.
I had the privilege of watching Katlyn transform from a scared high school student facing an unplanned pregnancy to the inspirational and determined young woman she is today, so in honor of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, I interviewed her to shed light on what is possible even when the unthinkable happens.
What was your first reaction when you found out you were pregnant?
I was in complete shock. I had only done anything sexual once. Once the shock wore off, I cried for days. I slipped into a bad depression and wanted to end my life, but I was too scared to do so.
So you got pregnant the first time you had sex? I can’t imagine how scared you must have been. When did you finally come to terms with your pregnancy?
Yes, I did. It was terrifying. Honestly I didn’t come to terms with it until I was about 6 months in. I hid my bump for as long as I could until I couldn’t anymore. Then I started coming to terms, but in a way I was still pretty embarrassed.
What was your experience like, being pregnant in high school?
I got bullied a lot but I also had good friends that had my back.
You said you got bullied a lot. Can you tell me more about that?
I was pretty much called the slut of the school even though I had only been with one person for a year before that. I got called names, I got pushed in the hallway, I was told that some girls were going to fight me after I had my baby even though I didn’t know who they were. Rumors started that I didn’t know who my baby daddy was, even though he was my first kiss.
How did you get prepared to become a mom? That's a huge adjustment to make in such a short time.
I went to Full Circle. That’s basically all I did. I didn’t have any clue what to do.
(For readers who don’t know, Full Circle is a pregnancy resource center in Athens, Tennessee. They provide free pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, options counseling, parenting classes, and other support services for pregnant women and their families.)
Hooray! I'm so glad you found Full Circle! Could you describe your personal experience a little bit? How did Full Circle help you get ready for parenthood?
Not only did I meet a few of my mentors that expanded my support system, but I went through courses that taught me about how to lay a baby in a crib and prevent suffocation, what foods are good for babies, breastfeeding methods, and I got free clothes and supplies and diapers. When I graduate college I want to come around and help at Full Circle, too.
YES! We'd LOVE to have you come back and serve. You bring so much wisdom, insight, and experience! How would you encourage any young mothers today?
Don’t let anyone say you can’t do something. Let their negativity be the reason you thrive.
What is the realest piece of advice that you could give to any teenager who has not found themselves in an unplanned pregnancy situation?
Be careful. I’m not going to push abstinence because I know most teenagers wouldn’t listen to that. But I will push protection. I will push being smart and I will push that girls are able to say no and that they should not be talked into things they don’t truly want to do.
Why do you think abstinence doesn’t resonate with teenagers? And do you think protection is enough?
No protection isn’t enough, but it is better than nothing. I think society has changed so much that if a female says no to sex, they are called stuck up and lame and not worth anything. If a guy doesn’t pursue sex, he is made fun of for having his virginity. High school is really rough sexually now days.
I agree—students are facing an enormous amount of pressure when it comes to sex. How do we change that?
It needs to be talked about more among young men and women. They all need to learn that pushing others when they obviously aren’t ready is not okay. And how to stand your ground when you aren’t ready. We are in a huge “hookup culture” period right now.
You hit on a few really good points there—the pressure teens feel concerning sex from their partners/peers/culture, setting boundaries, and understanding consent. I agree with you—it’s something we actually have to talk about. It’s not enough just to say, “Don’t have sex” or “Be careful.” We’ve got to have hard conversations that challenge the status quo and ultimately help young people make informed decisions. Thank you for sharing your perspective on that!
How has life been since Brooklyn was born?
I had some postpartum [depression] but I didn’t really talk about it. I’d advise against that; you should talk about it. It has been really hard, but honestly I wouldn’t change a thing. I gained the truest earthly love there is and I’m so happy.
What else have you gained from this experience?
I gained a best friend. I gained maturity and responsibility. I gained the ability to not care what others think as much. I gained independence.
What did you lose from this experience?
I lost my freedom. I lost some friends. I can’t go do whatever I want anymore and I lost my “teenage carefree years.”
SO much maturity and responsibility! Very proud of you. You’re such a good mom. How have you been able to balance parenthood with being a student/young person and still stay sane?
I have a lot of help from others. As much as I would like to think that I did it all on my own, I definitely didn’t. You also have to keep in mind that money isn’t everything. Yes, having money to go do fun things is important, but what’s more important is that you have enough to pay your bills and survive without putting the relationship with your kids at risk. In other words, don’t get so caught up in making money that you miss spending time with your kid. I do my homework during her nap times. I work around her and try to not make her feel like she’s a burden.
Working, going to college, paying bills, being a rockstar mom, and still having a social life—that’s no small feat. I know you said you have a lot of help from others, but at the end of the day, you’re the one making the sacrifices and doing the hard work to achieve your goals. When and how did you decide you weren’t going to let your unplanned pregnancy ruin your life?
Honestly I have always had the “I’m going to break the cycle” attitude. My family has never had higher education and such. I have always had huge goals. Just because I had Brooklyn doesn’t mean my goals go away. [Being a mom] is just another obstacle to reach them. It just makes my accomplishments greater in the end. I want her to say, "Mommy did that."
Girl, you make me wanna stand up and cheer. You are ABSOLUTELY breaking the cycle, and you are such a beautiful example of resilience and determination. To say I’m proud of you is an understatement. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with us. It’s so important to hear this perspective!
Interviewing a teenage parent for Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month may seem like a weird flex, but let me tell you why it matters: because Katlyn's truth is powerful.
On one hand, you've got shows like "Teen Mom" and "16 and Pregnant" that glamorize teen pregnancy without accurately portraying the struggle. On the other hand, you've got lots of voices out there talking about how teen pregnancy is basically a life ruiner. Somewhere in the middle is the truth that Katlyn's story demonstrates so well. Experiencing an unplanned pregnancy—especially as a teenager—is scary, and hard, and it changes everything, but it isn't a death sentence. Katlyn faced the news of her pregnancy and chose not to give up. Now she's not just surviving, but thriving. We can all learn a lot from that.
Our message at OneLife has, and always will be, one of risk avoidance. Completely avoiding risk behavior is the only 100% effective way of protecting yourself from the consequences. But what happens if you mess up? You own the choices that got you where you are, and you keep moving forward. Every day is a brand new opportunity to move in the direction of your goals. You just need the courage to put one foot in front of the other.