Freeman, 29 | full-time student | Tempe, Ariz. Children: DeVion, 11; Donovan, 7; and David-Anthony, 4
I was a young mother—pregnant at 17—but I took care of my health and had phenomenal prenatal care. My oldest son’s rare medical condition isn’t due to anything I did or didn’t do. He has a chromosomal defect. My middle son showed signs of autism early on but was not diagnosed until after he started kindergarten. My youngest child is perfectly healthy, and I didn’t do anything different with my last pregnancy.
Once I learned that something was wrong with my first pregnancy, I got busy finding out what my baby was facing. He would end up being diagnosed only after years of my fighting to have him seen by the best doctors, doing research, joining support groups and educating myself on what he would need to survive. My firstborn arrived a month after I turned 18, and by the time I was 19, I had earned others’ respect as an advocate [mom who was] educated about my child’s condition.
DeVion has Klippel Trenaunay syndrome, a rare disorder affecting the lymphatic and vascular systems, which causes soft tissue and muscle overgrowth, internal organ overgrowth, bone overgrowth or undergrowth, bleeding disorders and vascular birthmarks. His right middle finger is enlarged; he’s had his left arm below the elbow amputated in one of nine surgeries. He’s not currently able to wear a prosthesis, so he uses his right hand and his left foot for a lot of things. He plays video games with his toes—and he’s really good!
My children make me smile. The three are supportive and loving, and they help each other, such as when DeVion needs assistance, or when my autistic middle son, Donovan, becomes overwhelmed and has a crying episode. If I am ill, DeVion takes care of the home.
I was determined not to become a statistic and reflect all the reasons why teens should not become mothers. I finished high school and attended college to study nursing, but I fell in love with emergency medicine and became certified as an EMT. I’ve kept my GPA above 3.7 and will complete my associate’s degree and paramedic certification in a few weeks!
My kids are my little heroes. Without them, I don’t think I would have found my passion in medicine or really understood the importance of advocacy and fighting for what’s right.
I have had discussions with all three of my boys about calling 911 and what to do should one of them, or I, become ill. Well, DeVion had a bad morning on which he began to show signs of severe blood loss, so I had to call 911. I woke Donovan, and he and David-Anthony went into action, grabbing their clothes. My middle son called their dad—I’m a single mom—and my youngest looked out the window to let me know when the fire truck arrived. It wasn’t until later that evening that I realized just how seamlessly they did their tasks. I felt so proud of them.
I have my moments when no one is looking, and I break down and cry—not from being overwhelmed, but out of concern and fear: fear for my oldest and his health and concern for how they’ll fare as they become men. I want my boys to have the same opportunities as everyone else’s children as they become adults. But the reality is that things are going to be different for my oldest two.
I have very strong, intelligent young men. My mother and I taught them using an online/homeschooling program for a while, but they will transition into public school soon. We have a beautiful connection, and I thank God every day to be blessed with such wonderful children!
Real-Life Resources for Moms
> Just Let Me Lie Down: Necessary Terms for the Half-Insane Working Mom by Kristin van Ogtrop (Little, Brown and Company).
Wit and wisdom from the editor of Real Simple
> Balance Is a Crock, Sleep Is for the Weak: An Indispensable Guide to Surviving Working Motherhood by Amy Eschliman and Leigh Oshirak (Avery Trade)
Survival guide with a funny side
Time-saving tips, at work and at home
Raising Safe Kids
> National Domestic Violence Hotline (thehotline.org; 1-800-799-SAFE)
> ACT for Strong Families (actagainstviolence.apa.org)
Program mission “to mobilize communities and educate families to create safe, nurturing, healthy environments that protect children and youth from violence and its consequences”
> The Black Book for Single Moms: 30 Days of Inspiration by Alana D. C. Fenton (CreateSpace)
Finding grace one day at a time
Smart advice on careers, relationships, finances
> RaisingHim Alone.com
Empowerment activities, resources, expert advice for women raising sons
> Girl, Get That Child Support by Cathy Middleton, Esq. (Smart Mom Publishing)
Track down a deadbeat, prove paternity, increase your current award
Articles on how to afford staying home, beating stress and what to do if you miss your