RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Catherine Magaoay, 31, got pregnant at 14. She later finished college and now works at Kapiolani Medical Center.
Isle mom struggled through 2 pregnancies as a teenager
Being a teen parent is "really a hard struggle," says Catherine Magaoay, 31, who was 14 when her first child was born.
She was 19 when she had her second child, "and it was even harder than when I was younger," she said.
"My parents thought I should have learned my lesson and I wasn't ready for another child, even if I was 19. They made me go back to school and better my life."
May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, and Magaoay told her story in an interview to describe the difficulties and long-term outcomes of teen pregnancy.
She was 23 when she and her childhood sweetheart, father of her children, married. He was two years older. "We pretty much grew up together," she said. They have three sons, 16, 11 and 3.
She was hospitalized for two months before giving birth to her first son because of pre-term labor, she said. He was born a month early and was in intensive care for about 10 days.
"I think it was because I didn't have proper prenatal care right away, and I guess my body wasn't ready for a child," she said. "I wasn't physically or mentally ready for a child."
Her parents both worked, so her grandmother took care of the baby while she went back to school, she said. She dropped out in her senior year when her grandmother died, because she did not want anyone else caring for him, she said.
Magaoay continued her education, however, earning a General Educational Development (GED) diploma and majoring in medical office administration for an associate degree at Heald College. She graduated with honors. "I wanted to be a role model for my son," she said.
She worked at Straub Clinic & Hospital as an outpatient service representative and financial counselor for 2 1/2 years before becoming a patient services representative a year ago at the OBGYN outpatient clinic at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.
After learning the Teen Intervention Program has a teen clinic there on Wednesday afternoons, "even more, I wanted to work here," she said. "I want to be able to make a difference, to let them (teens) know it's not the end of the world to be a teen mom."
Sex education was taught in schools, and she and her then-boyfriend knew about contraceptives, Magaoay said. "But it was just something we never thought about, being so young."
She said they did not know how to find resources and did not know they could get confidential help when she became pregnant. "I didn't even know there was a teen program. ... Now we have brochures, pamphlets and phone numbers."
Magaoay said she was "really, really scared" of her parents' reaction, but her mother "just grabbed me and held me in her arms and said she loved me and was going to help me do it, and I needed to finish school." Her father also was very supportive, she said.
But other people "called me names," she said. "I was the slut of the school. Hardly anyone got pregnant then. It was terrible. I was isolated. No one wanted to be around me. For a guy it's different. He's a man, macho."
She learned of the Teen Intervention Program when she was in the hospital waiting to give birth, she said. "They had a girl come in who had a child at 17. She talked to me about her life and made me feel better, that I'm not the only one. That helped me."
Magaoay said she does not regret being a teen parent. "I think having my children has made me a better person. I don't know where I would be without them."
She and her husband are honest with their two older sons, she said. "They know we had them at an early age, and they've seen our struggles."
She tells them "they can be whatever they want to be as long as they believe in themselves. They need to have goals and, most important, have a dream. ... That's the only way they can be successful in life. They must work hard."
She and her husband bought a home two years ago at Ewa Beach, "which is really an accomplishment for a teen mom," she said.
She said she tells her oldest son "to enjoy his teenage life" because she and her husband missed out on having fun in their teen years. But she also tells him, "There are consequences to the choices he makes, to be responsible and think twice before doing anything.
"We don't want him to go down the same path we did, because it's really a hard struggle. Now we're doing really good, but it was with a lot of hard work, sweat and tears. ... I thought of giving up but the kids kept me going."