March 1, 2012
By Holly Menino
EUGENE, Ore. — Becoming parents in the teenage years isn’t something many people plan on doing. But for thousands of American teens, parenthood is very much a reality.
Numbers from the CDC show about 400,000 American girls between the ages of 15 to 19 give birth each year. While the U.S. has seen a decline in teen births, we still have the highest teen pregnancy rate of any developed country.
At 18 years old, becoming parents was not what Yesika Navarro and Devante Smith had planned.
“I was scared at first because I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. They wanted me to wait until I was older,” Navarro said.
Just seniors in high school, they found themselves preparing for parenthood. On August 11, Navarro and Smith welcomed their son Jose into the world.
“When I first saw him, I just teared up and cried,” Navarro said.
“I liked the feeling of being able to see him for the first time. It was just amazing,” Smith said.
And with that first sight of their baby came a new world of responsibilities for these young parents.
“Once I saw him and I was like, okay he’s here, and then there’s just like a light bulb went off and I was trying to be the greatest father I could be,” Smith said.
Navarro and Smith started attending young parenting programs at Birth to Three. They learned about a baby’s development, methods of discipline and developed a support network.
“I think that we’ve matured faster than what people are age are, and I noticed that Devante grew up a lot,” Navarro said.
They don’t sugar coat it. What they’re doing isn’t easy.
“It’s exciting, but hard. It is really hard,” Navarro said.
Navarro and Smith live on their own. Navarro attends Lane Community College and is studying to become a nurse. Smith works at Subway while trying to figure out what career to pursue. They put Jose in daycare part of the time, but they rely on their family a lot for help.
“If I didn’t have them, I don’t think I would be in school right now or being the mother I am to Jose,” Navarro said.
The young parents talk about their future and how they plan to parent their son and what they want for him when he’s their age.
“I want to be somebody that he can look up to and can come to for any kind of problem,” Smith said.
They plan to start talking to Jose early about sex and the consequences that come with it. They do have some words of advice for other teen parents.
“Just work together. It’s going to be hard, but you gotta work and don’t give up. If something goes wrong, don’t give up, just keep going and it’ll get better,” Navarro said.
Navarro and Smith aren’t giving up. They’re determined to be good parents to Jose and determined to go down this road together. Navarro and Smith are engaged. They plan to get married on June 30.