PPIL Patient Story:
Growing up as the youngest in a large, strict Mexican family in Chicago, sex and birth control were never discussed, even with my older sisters and brothers. I was so naive as a teenager that I didn’t know how to prevent having a baby or even realize having sex led to pregnancy. When I found myself pregnant at 15 years old, I was surprised but also, in some sense, relieved. My home life felt very chaotic and I saw the pregnancy as a way out of the house.
I ran away from home in order to not tell my parents about the pregnancy. My older sister, who I was living with at the time, ended up breaking the news to them. I was worried about how my parents would react—especially my dad because he had such strict views. When he found out, he told me I wouldn’t amount to anything if I had the baby. My parents then made an abortion appointment for me.
With my dad’s words ringing in my ears, I relied on my own inner strength to make the decision that was right for me. When my sister drove me to my appointment, I didn’t even get out of the car. After my father found out I didn’t have the abortion, he was so furious he disowned me and I was not allowed to return home.
And so I made my way in the world as a teenage mother. I ended up living with my older sister until I was able to settle into my own apartment. I had to work hard to stay in high school and try to provide for a new baby. My mom offered as much support as she could without alerting my dad to what she was doing. She brought me food and clothing when she could and she watched my son so I could attend classes and stay on track to graduate with my peers.
Looking back, I don’t know how I found the strength I needed every day. Yet the challenges of being a young parent changed my life for the better because I had been heading down a dark path. Before I became pregnant, one of my older brothers passed away from AIDS. While it was never discussed in my family, we all experienced different levels of grief, anger, and depression as a result. I coped with my grief by engaging in unhealthy activities like drugs and sex. Having my son made me become responsible in a hurry and I wanted to be the best person I could for him.
When I was 17, I found out I was pregnant again. This time, I better understood the challenges of raising a child. I took a hard look at my resources and knew I wouldn’t be able to support two kids on my own. This time I was the one to make the decision to make an appointment for an abortion at Planned Parenthood of Illinois. I felt supported and cared for at PPIL and I’ve never regretted my decision.
Even though all of this happened more than 20 years ago, I’ve come forward now to help break the cycle of silence and shame, and encourage other Latinx women to share their stories, too. People shouldn’t feel ashamed about the personal decisions they make.
When I needed them, Planned Parenthood was there for me. As a scared teenager, PPIL offered resources and helped me get prenatal care and regular check-ups. And as a young adult, I returned to Planned Parenthood for birth control and pap smears. I’ve always felt accepted and respected at PPIL and am so thankful for the care they provide.