Vena Priestly ’06
March 19, 2016
Vena Priestly ‘06 had her first child when she was 18 years old. She now has two sons and is currently pregnant with her third child. Priestly said that she was surprised when she found out she was pregnant for the first time. After missing her period, she went to the doctor and and took a pregnancy test that showed a negative result. Priestly said she only found out after taking a blood test when she was over two months along in her pregnancy.
Priestly said that people reacted judgmentally to the news of her pregnancy, partly due to the negative connotations around teen pregnancy in the town of Brookline.
“When I started telling people I was really ashamed and scared because Brookline is a very high-class town,” Priestly said. “I didn’t want people to judge me. When I said I was pregnant, people would say, ‘Oh, are you giving it up for adoption?’ That would be the first thing. Then people would be like, ‘Oh, do you know who the dad is?’”
Despite the reactions of others, according to Priestly, the lack of a mother figure in her childhood made her want to be a present, supportive parent.
“My mom has severe bipolar disorder, so she didn’t raise me,” Priestly said. “My dad did. I think that without realizing it, I wanted to be a mom. It was an unconscious type of thing. I was really excited about being a mom and actually nurturing a baby. I wanted to be there for my kid and that was important to me. When I was pregnant, I stopped everything, made sure I did well in school so I could go to college and be the best mother I could be for my baby.”
Priestly said that her father was disappointed in her, at first.
“I think was just really disappointed because he worked so hard on raising my sister and I,” Priestly said. “I think he was just scared and upset that I was making really bad decisions and that I was going to give up my life.”
However, according to Priestly, her father’s views on her pregnancy soon changed after the birth of her first son, when he realized that that was the time that his daughter needed him the most.
“I think that once I actually had the baby he started being more supportive,” Priestly said. “He was like, ‘I need to help this girl get out of this relationship. I need to help this girl because she’s not seeing it.’ I think that he stopped stressing about it and tried to help me instead of being mad. I think that’s what changed. He changed his energy, and it eventually worked.”
Priestly, who had postpartum depression after her first pregnancy, said that her condition was caused because of the changes in responsibility from being pregnant with a child to actually having the child.
“After my first pregnancy, when I had my son, I was really depressed,” Priestly said. “I had postpartum depression. That normally that happens with your first kid because you being pregnant, you can walk around, you can do things by youself. Do you want to get your hair done? OK, then get your hair done by yourself. Then, when you have your baby, it’s a wake up call, like, ‘Oh my god, this thing is with me all the time.’ It doesn’t sleep. It doesn’t talk. You have no one to talk to because everyone is at work or doing something else and you lose your mind.”
Priestly also said that she was in abusive relationship with the father of her two sons. According to Priestly, the reason she did not break off the relationship for so long was because she had not often seen functional relationships between parents, given that she came from a single-parent home. Also, she said that she believed her sons’ father when he would say that he was going to change.
“The reason I stayed in the relationship was because he would hit me and then lie to me and say how sorry he was,” Priestly said. “He’d say that he cares about me so much that it would hurt him. He was very controlling, but I thought that it meant that he cared so much about me. I’d think, ‘Oh, he’s going through my phone because he cares. I thought at the time that I was in love, that he was in love with me and that we would have a family. It was a fantasy in my head. I really think he had love for me, but it wasn’t an “OK” love. It was unhealthy and dysfunctional.”
Priestly said that she finally hit a breaking point, after an abusive altercation, that encouraged her to finally break up with her sons’ father.
“I refused to go to the hospital because I had the baby with me,” Priestly said. “I had to think about my children. I was like, ‘Do I want my kids to grow up and think that it’s ok to hit women?’ That’s really what changed my mind. If they see that, they’re gonna do that. That’s why I broke up with him.”
According to Priestly, she and the father of her sons have not seen each other for four years. He does not have visitation rights with his children because Priestly put a restraining order on him after the incident, which he also went to prison for.
While Priestly said that she made risky decisions as a teen mom, she also believes it has made her a better mom and made her eldest son very independent.
“I didn’t think a lot as a teen mom,” Priestly said. “I took a lot of risks. After I had my kid, I did go to school and stuff, but I still made stupid mistakes because I was a teenager. Now I don’t have people to my house and chill and smoke and drink and stuff. Now I don’t do that. When you’re younger you tend to make those type of mistakes. I know I was not making the best choices as a mom, but I learned from them. The older you get, the more cautious you are.”
Priestly said that she is thankful for the support her father gave in caring for her son. This support allowed her to get a college education.
“I used to go to school in the morning and would go to daycare,” Priestly said. “Then, I worked at a hotel at night being a busser and my dad would babysit all the time for me at night. A bus would come and pick up my baby, and then my dad would go and pick up my baby from the bus stop. Without my father, I really don’t think I would have graduated from college.”
Priestly said that growing up along with her first child fostered a special relationship between the two of them.
“I’m really close with my kids in different ways,” Priestly said. “My older son and I, we’re really close. We have a special bond because he was always with me if I wasn’t at work or at school. He was such a well-natured boy. He went to anybody. He was such a good kid. Because he was my first kid and I messed up with him sometimes, I am so close to him. I think that both of my kids can approach me with any issues or problems. I think that because I was forced to grow up with them we have such a strong bond. I grew up with them. We are more friends than parent-child.”