This project has been funded with the support by Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). For more information, visit Whitman-Walker Health (formerly Metro TeenAIDS) at www.realtalkdc.org.
I’m a 24-year-old mother of a six-year-old daughter. I’m also a full-time student majoring in exercise science. While juggling school and motherhood, I am also a Peer Ambassador for REALTalkDC Because of all that, I feel very accomplished for my age.
To be honest, I think I grew up fast. I lost my virginity at 14 and pregnancy and STIs were the least of my worries. My mom’s been HIV positive for over 20 years and works in HIV Prevention so I definitely knew better, but I was naïve and always unsure of how to bring up condom use.
My daughter’s father, Charles, was mysterious. He didn’t talk much. We were the same age and dated off and on for two years. During that time, we never really discussed using condoms. He didn’t talk much anyway and I just never knew what to say. So, at first, we used them occasionally. Then, as our relationship progressed, we didn’t use them at all.
I knew I was pregnant when I started throwing up. I never throw up. So I knew something was up right away. I told my older sister. We went to Planned Parenthood and I discovered I was four months pregnant. I knew I had to tell Charles, which I did. His response was pretty much just “OK.”
The only person I was really afraid to tell was my mother. When I did, I expected her to blow up, but she was surprisingly very supportive. Her only question was why I hadn’t told her sooner. That conversation allowed me to open up about sex to her and, afterward, I felt ok. I definitely felt a whole lot better about what was about to come. I was really going to be a mother.
Getting pregnant has been one of my biggest motivators to use condoms consistently. After getting pregnant I joined a teen pregnancy program. While there, Metro TeenAIDS did an HIV/STI 101 training. After the presentation, I decided to sign up for more information and applied to work with them.
I’ve been with MTA since October 2008. Working here has given me the confidence to talk about condoms, especially before we have sex. It is hard, at first, to have that conversation to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. I didn’t want to make either of us feel awkward, but working with MTA has given me plenty of practice in ways to bring it up. Also it has motivated me to be a positive role model and practice what I preach.
One of the biggest benefits that I feel now that I practice consistent condom use is the level of respect I feel. My partner and I respect ourselves and each other by choosing to wrap it up. And that feels really good.