I got pregnant at the end of my sophomore year and had Malayah Isabella in November 2013. It is not easy being a single teen mom: People judge you even when they have no idea who you are. The stereotypes I face are harsh. People feel that because I am a teen mom my life is ruined. They think I will not graduate from high school. They assume I have had multiple partners. They predict I’ll never find a person who loves me. They say I will never amount to anything. Their judgments are rude, ignorant and untrue. I want to be the person to prove everyone wrong.

Because I’m a teen mom, the odds are against me, even more so because I am raising my daughter on my own. I have always been a smart student and responsible. The only relevant statistics for me are that I got pregnant at 16 and that I’m not with the father of my child. I am not with him because I did not want to be in an unhealthy relationship.

My ex-boyfriend and I were together on and off for a year. We would date for a couple of months, then he would get bored and date other girls. This made me feel like I wasn't good enough for him. He yelled at me, embarrassed me and told friends that I was annoying and not as pretty as other girls he dated. He would brag about finding new girls and only use me when he needed me. It made me feel worthless, alone, and depressed. Even though he did abusive things, however, I went back to him because I loved him.

On March 27, 2013, I was waiting to meet him after school, and he wasn't answering my phone calls or texts. I had a gut feeling that something wasn't right. A voice in my head said, "You need to take a pregnancy test." I drove to CareNet, which offers free pregnancy tests, and I nervously went into the bathroom with the test that would change my life. As I waited for the results, I had butterflies in my stomach and a hundred thoughts crossing my mind: "What is my family going to say? What is my boyfriend going to say? What am I going to do if I'm pregnant?" Finally, the time was up. The test was positive.

My family did not freak out like I expected them to. They were very supportive. I was most nervous to tell my boyfriend, and, when I finally did, he said, "You need to get an abortion. I do not want to be a dad." I refused to get an abortion. We argued because I wanted to have the baby and he didn't. I begged him to be there for his own child, but his exact words were, "I will not be a dad. If you won't get an abortion, all I will be is a check in the mail."

He wasn't there for me during my pregnancy. When people asked if he was having a baby, he denied it. I knew my child and I deserved better, so I ended it with him. I made the decisions for my baby. I decided on her name when I found out I was having a girl, and I got everything ready for her arrival. It was hard going through a beautiful time in my life without a partner, but the moment I saw my daughter, nothing else mattered. I was in love: She was like the bright light at the end of a dark tunnel.

Malayah is eight months old. From the day she was born, I have been her only parent, and her needs come before anything else. We are lucky to have my family: My mom, grandma, sister and aunts help us with what we need and make being a single teen mom easier for me. My mom gives us a home, and she and my grandma help care for Malayah so that I can stay in school, be a cheerleader, and maintain a life outside of being a mom. My mom was a single parent, too, so she gives me advice about parenting alone.

Malayah's dad visits once or twice a month for a couple hours, but that is the extent of his involvement. I am the one who meets Malayah's emotional, mental, physical and financial needs. I get up with her in the middle of the night. I take care of her when she is sick. I bathe her. I get her ready for the day. I read books to her so she can learn. I nurture her when she cries. I buy what she needs. I do the work of raising her; and, in my opinion, I am doing an amazing job. Malayah is as healthy as she can be. She is so smart, and she is the happiest baby I've ever seen.

She and I will grow together. I do and will make mistakes, but that comes with being a parent. I may have to be her mommy and her daddy, even though I don't know what it's like to have a dad myself. I do know I will be a parent who guides her through confusion and comforts her in times of pain. She will be able to trust me. I will have to discipline her at times, but I will always be there for her. She will know I love her. At the end of the day, I want her to admire the person and mother I am and will become. I also want other girls in similar predicaments, who look up to me, to know it is okay to be a single teen mom. I want to show everyone that I graduated, got a degree, and married someone I love, all while parenting at a young age. I hope Malayah will be proud to call me her mom.