Nfld. & Labrador·Point of View

I was just a kid myself when I became a mom, but my family and community made it easier

Having a child when you are still one yourself isn't easy, Kanani Davis says, but it's less difficult when you are surrounded by support.

Kanani Davis was just 17 when she found out she was pregnant for the first time

Kanani Davis and her son Nikashantess Penashue, who is now 26 years old. (Provided by Kanani Davis)

When I first heard the words, "it's positive," I thought my life was going to end.

"Hello, hello, Kanani — are you still there?"

It was the nurse on the other end of the phone. I was on the couch, phone still in my hand and lost for words.

I cried until I couldn't cry anymore. My mom was on her knees crying with me. I didn't have to say anything; she knew why I was bawling my eyes out. She held me like I was still in a cradle myself.

I was 17, still in high school and about to become a single mom. 

Fading dreams

What did I, a teenager, know about being a mom? Nothing. I had no idea what to do with myself.

All I could think was, "What choice do I have? Was I going to keep the baby? Was I going to drop out of school?"

At home I still had to follow strict rules, do my household chores and be back in time for my curfew. My friends would call to see if I could go out at night, so I asked my parents for permission.

What choice do I have? Was I going to keep the baby? Was I going to drop out of school?- Kanani Davis

If they were OK with it, then I would go out with friends walking around the community. But some evenings I would go home early because my feet were sore and started to swell.

Even as I got further along, my pregnancy seemed to me more like a dream than reality. I still wanted to do so much: play sports, go out with friends, meet new boyfriends and continue with my education. But with a baby on the way, those hopes all seemed to be fading.

There were many times I felt alone. I felt lost. It was going to be just me and my baby now.

Difficult early days

At the same time, my parents were so worried about me. I guess they had every right to be, as I was just a kid myself. 

Even now, my pregnancy is difficult for me to talk about. A first pregnancy is supposed to be a happy and exciting time, but that wasn't the case for me.

Instead, the early days of pregnancy were very difficult. As a young girl, I was hurting and most of all, I was very angry with myself.

I think I have blocked some of those days from my memory because it was a scary time for me. I was numb.

Continuing high school

Amidst all of this, I worked very hard at both school and home. Every morning, I walked to school, and every afternoon I made the walk back home.

Being around my teachers and friends at school was a relief during my pregnancy. My teachers were accommodating and helpful. 

Davis attended Memorial University, where she completed a degree in education, while raising her son, Nikashantess, and her daughter, Petshish. (Kanani Davis)

One of the things I remember clearly from my pregnancy is that I was often tired. Sometimes I fell asleep in class but my teachers understood that I needed the rest. Every now and then, I would be pulled out of class and sent to my counsellor's office, where I would be given time to nap.     

My guidance counsellor was wonderful, helping me through my classes and teaching me what to expect during my pregnancy and delivery. I poured my feelings, my hurt about being pregnant at such a young age, out to her many times. I blamed and tortured myself for getting pregnant at age 17. I felt my dreams were lost.

Despite the struggles, I continued to attend high school. My son was born two days after my exams ended in June 1992.

'The best mom I can be'

I went into labour early. My water broke while my friend and I were out for a walk late at night. Scared and unsure of what was happening, I ran home.

My parents rushed me to the hospital; when I arrived, the nurse told me I was in labour.

I didn't want to believe it. I was terrified. I was not ready.

But it was true, and I was in labour for two days. On June 20, 1992, my son was born.

I remember looking at this seven-pound, six-ounce baby and thinking, "I am going to be the best mom I can be."

Getting by with family support

It was up to me — my son's father had walked out of our lives when I was two months pregnant, leaving me both relieved and hurt.

I knew in my heart he was not the one for me, nor for my unborn child, but it still hurt that he did not want to be part of my child's life. I felt needy; I wanted someone to check up on me and my baby, to help us, to want us both.

After my son was born, I was in survival mode. I was going to love and protect my baby for as long as we were together.

Davis and her son were the 2015 champions at the Amaruk Golf Club in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (CBC)

Even though being a teenage mom was the scariest time in my life, it also brought so much joy. It gave me strength and courage to keep going as a mom and high school student.

My parents were so supportive during my difficult days. If it weren't for them I would have been a high school dropout with no future. They encouraged me to keep going to school and still care for my baby.

Today my son is 26 years old, a beautiful, respectful and strong young man.

It was a struggle watching him grow up without his dad. But we did it the way we knew best — being there for each other.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

About the Author

Kanani Davis

Contributor

Kanani Davis is a member of Sheshatshiu Innu Nation. She currently serves as the director of education for the Innu of Labrador. Her passions include writing, travel and her family.