By Amelia Kurk
When her alarm rings at 5:00 a.m., senior Kayla Salazar knows hitting snooze is no longer an option. Since the birth of her son, Landon, her morning routine has become complicated.
“I have to get him up, feed him breakfast, and get him ready for daycare before I even get dressed,” Salazar said. “I drop him at daycare by eight, and then I drive to school and spend most of the day yawning and trying to accomplish as much as possible in every class.”
While most students have their afternoons and evenings available for homework and activities, Salazar fills that time caring for her 9-month-old son, doing laundry, washing bottles and making sure Landon is full and happy.
“I don’t even have time for homework and studying until he is in bed at night,” Salazar said. “It’s hard to balance both, but I manage to make sure I salvage every moment with both my school work and Landon.”
Salazar’s hard work has not gone unnoticed. She was inducted into the National Honor Society four days before she delivered her baby, and she has maintained her eligibility with grades that qualify her as an honor student.
“Becoming a mom at such a young age has made me a stronger person,” Salazar said. “It’s helped me see that hard work goes a long way and that I can really do anything as long as I believe I can.”
Salazar’s strength has turned a difficult situation into a positive one, but this is not always the case for teenagers who deal with a pregnancy. The difference, she said, is her supportive family.
“Telling my family was the hardest thing that I have ever had to do,” Salazar said. “I knew how disappointed they would be. I cried before I could even get the words out.”
Salazar’s mother, Krista Salazar, has been amazed by Salazar’s ability to overcome and adapt.
“It was Kayla who told her coaches and teammates and teachers,” Krista Salazar said. “She refused to let anyone face the music for her. She was adamant about taking care of her own responsibilities.”
The Salazar family had always been close, but having Landon in the family has reaffirmed that bond. Krista Salazar hopes to be able to help other families who are dealing with a teen pregnancy.
“I’ve had several moms contact me asking for advice,” Krista Salazar said. “I tell them this: support your child. This might be a scary moment in your life, but it’s an even scarier moment in your child’s life.”
One of the most difficult things to handle for teen moms is the school rumor mill. For girls facing an unplanned pregnancy, gossip can become a constant in their lives.
“I never had to actually tell my friends about my pregnancy,” Salazar said. “We still, to this day, have no idea how the whole student body found out. I hadn’t said anything to anyone yet, but I guess that is just how high school works.”
Rumors are not the only difficult reality that teens face with pregnancy. Lisa Sicilio, the school nurse, formerly worked as a neonatal intensive care RN, and knows the challenges that are unique to teen moms.
“Teen mothers are more likely to give birth prematurely, before 37 weeks, than mothers who are over 20 years old,” Sicilio said. “And babies born prematurely face an increased risk of newborn health problems, long-term disabilities, and even death.”
These teens must navigate a new reality that includes pre-natal care, insurance issues, labor and delivery fears, and childcare. That, plus the negative reactions and hurtful words, pregnancy and parenthood can feel almost impossible.
“Through all of this, I have never let what people say about me change the way I feel about my son or the decisions that I have made,” Salazar said. “There have been times in the last few months when I’ve been told that I couldn’t do something because I’m a student mom, and of course it hurt.”
But the Salazar family agrees that, for the most part, CSHS and CSISD provided good support to Kayla and helped her navigate the complex issues of being a pregnant student and now a student mom.
“Teachers and leaders at CSHS never doubted my ability to maintain my school work and care for my son,” Salazar said. “They showed me helpful options that made getting assistance a little easier, and they supported my decision to stay at school.”
After high school, Salazar plans to work on becoming a physical therapy assistant.
“Hopefully next semester, I will be starting dual enrollment/early admissions at Blinn,” Salazar said. “I will be entering the physical therapy assistance program there.
Even with all of the difficulties she’s faced, Salazar says she has experienced real joy every day since the first time she saw Landon during an ultrasound.
“The day I saw him for the first time on the screen, the tiny little person inside me, was a day I’ll never forget,” she said. “It was such an emotional day. It was the first time I felt like a mom.”