For some strange reason, teen mothers get a bad rap. Becoming a teen mother is not the end of your life. Your dreams and goals should not and do not have to become old news just because your life has turned in a direction that was not anticipated.
Oprah Williams, a 32 year-old entrepreneur, mother of one, and a wife, is testament to that. She got pregnant at 16 and gave birth to her son when she was 17.
She was just about getting ready to sit her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) exams when she found out that she was with child. The gravity of her situation was so much that it negatively impacted her grades.
“I sat seven subjects in fifth form and I did terribly in most of them. I distinctly remember getting a grade 5 in mathematics. It was my lowest scoring grade and it was my least favourite subject,” she said.
“With my son on the way and my poor performance in CSEC, I recall many people telling me terrible things about myself. I heard that I was dunce and that I wouldn’t be able to make much out of life all because I got pregnant. So much so that I felt little support when I needed it the most. At the end of the day, I muted all those negative energies and focused on my child and being a better person,” she continued.
As a child, Williams always had a clear vision of what she wanted to be. She wanted to become a beauty therapist and stayed true to that dream despite not doing well in the latter part of her high school career. After pregnancy, she worked hard through failure, disappointments, and limited support to now being a co-owner and operator of her salon alongside her business partner and husband, Ricardo Williams.
BACK TO SCHOOL
In 2012, Williams, on the road to pursuing her dreams, enrolled in the Dornid’s School of Beauty Culture where studied various levels of beauty therapy. From that experience, she earned levels 1, 2, and 3 in cosmetology and then gained a level 1 in cosmetology from HEART.
It is from that experience that she officially started her journey in hair care. She worked under the guidance of other people in the field until 2017. The following year, Williams and her husband opened up their business, ProperlyGuided Natural HairCare & Beauty Salon, where she has been ever since. Though she received certifications to officially practice, Williams had a yearning to do more within the hair-care industry.
“I’ve always had a yearning to go back to school. This is based on the notion that I wanted to do more than be a beauty therapist who enjoys taking care of my clients’ hair. At the end of the day, I hope to work towards a medical degree from which I would then specialise in hair and scalp care. I want to focus on trichology and dermatology. I am passionate about hair health and I was growing weary of clients and potential clients doubting my ability and knowledge of hair care because I currently can’t speak with much authority from a medical perspective. Based on that, I know the direction I need to go. But before getting to that point with the ‘Dr’ in front of my name, I knew I had to go back to the basics of high school external exams. One step at a time before I get to my ultimate goal,” she said.
She shared that being back in the classroom with teenagers was an odd feeling at first and she questioned if she was doing the right thing. “Being an adult student with teenagers as my classmates was a very weird experience when I started,” she said. “But now I’m not fazed by it. I actually feel empowered knowing that I am in a position to better myself and perhaps even be a driving force of focus for these kids. I know for sure that my son, who is now 15, is motivated by me studying and doing courses that he will do in the near future. Perhaps we will even study together,” she continued.
Williams registered for some CSEC classes in 2021 and in 2022, she was successful in the four courses that she sat. Currently, Williams is preparing to sit four Unit 1 Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects and CSEC level Mathematics, which she is hoping to pass and seek redemption after an unsuccessful first attempt in high school.
In sharing the excitement she felt when she passed her CSEC exams in 2022, Williams shared, “I was so used to seeing failure, it was just so surprising that I actually passed!” she exclaimed. “And then all those times when people would speak negatively over my life and call me dunce and told me that I would never be able to manage, shows how wrong they were. I did it and I am doing it,” she said.
“It just proves to me that people need to be careful how they speak over others’ lives because you just don’t know what God can do. Maybe 5th form was not my timing. Maybe if I had passed my subjects then, I wouldn’t have had a story to tell now. I think that God used it as a story to basically share with someone else as a ministry. The purpose of them saying that I couldn’t do it never mek nuh sense, and it’s a good thing I never internalise all of those negativity cause I wouldn’t be here in this position today,” Williams continued.
A ‘PROPERLYGUIDED’ SUPPORT SYSTEM
“My support system starts out with God. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for God pointing me in the right direction,” said Williams. She also credits support from her husband, her son, her mother, her niece and a few of her friends who have supported her along the journey.
In expressing his support for his wife, Ricardo Williams said that at the end of the day, he knows that if she puts her mind to it she will make it through. “I also know that God is with her throughout this situation,” he said. “I am definitely there with her 100%. So, all I have to do is be there even though sometimes it may get confusing or disorienting,” he continued.
Beaming with pride, he said that it is often pleasing watching his wife as she pursues her dreams. “When the results come, it leaves us humbled to know that after everything we faced together, after all that she has been through, and everything she has overcome was worth it. To know that she did it and continues to do it means that all the effort was not in vain. Even if the effort gets thwarted somehow, I know that whatever God had prepared in the first place would lead to a greater good,” he said.
“My stance will always be to support her and ensure that she knows she has many people in her corner,” he concluded.
WORDS OF ENCOURAGEMENT FOR CURRENT TEEN MOMS
For the teenage mothers out there, Williams wants you to believe that your new reality has given you an opportunity to go on a straight path.
“You’ll come to the realisation that you have a child to take care of and you can’t stay home and look inna d chyle face and wonder how you’re gonna feed and take care of the child. You have to take the right steps to reorder your future. Your life hasn’t ended, it’s just being reordered and restructured.
In a sort of stern big-sister tone with an issuance of a little bit of tough love, Williams urges teen mothers to move away from what has already taken place.
“Listen to me, it already happened and you cannot undo it. Your only alternative is to keep moving forward and don’t allow the situation to hinder your life and take away your dreams. If anything, it should allow you to become more wise and smarter in your decision making,” she said.
“Don’t listen to all of the nonsense that people might have to say about you. Many people will have the worst words to use when you’re a pregnant teen. People are mean and nasty. I encourage you to mute the negativity and continue with a newfound appreciation of what your life will be like. I am a living testament to that. None of the horrible things people said actually happened to me. They were wrong,” she continued.
Lastly, “trust God, move on, and consider Jeremiah 1: 5 which says, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’,” she said.
To get in touch with Oprah, find her @properlyguidednatural on Instagram
Send feedback to [email protected]