17 & Married: In the beginning...

If you’re here it’s probably for one of two reasons. The first is easy; you know me and you wanted to show your support. Hey, sis, bruh, cuz! I see you! The second reason; you saw the words 17 and married and had to see what that story is about.

Whichever reason brought you to my page today, I’m happy you’re here. This blog will detail my life. Giving you insight into how I went from a 17-year-old bride with a 5-day old baby, to a 28-year-old divorcee and mother of 3, starting over after nearly 10 years of marriage.

I know you’re all wondering; how does one become a 17-year-old bride? The answer to that is quite simple: religion.

Born into a baptist household I was no stranger to the Lord and church. Like most church kids, I remember going to church multiple times a week. Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday night bible class, Thursday night choir rehearsal, and sometimes a Friday night prayer. The church was a way of life. My grandmother made sure of that. Even with all of that church-going in my youth, it still did not prepare me for the cult-like environment I would face when I joined my high school sweetheart’s family church.

He was Pentecostal. For those of you unfamiliar with the Pentecostal religion, here’s the quick version of their belief system.

  1. The name of Jesus is key. There is no baptizing in the name of the father, son, and Holy Ghost, just the name of Jesus.

  2. Evidence of The Holy Ghost is shown through speaking in tongues. (This combined with baptism=salvation)

That doesn’t sound bad right? A little baptism and Holy Ghost never hurt nobody. But here’s where the Pentecostal religion gets a little, 1800 ish.

  1. Women are not permitted to wear pants.

  2. Women are not permitted to cut their hair. (I know what your thinking and no, not even to get your ends clipped.)

  3. Modesty is everything. (I.E. no tight-fitting clothing, men can’t wear shorts, women must wear sleeves, no adornments like makeup and jewelry are allowed.

  4. There are more rules but you get the gist at this point.

Side note: There are varying levels of strictness depending on which church you attend. My church was on the strict side.

Knowing this, you can imagine what it was like dating the son of a Pentecostal preacher. For the purpose of this storytelling adventure, we’ll call him B.

They say preacher’s kids or pk’s grow up to be the wildest of us all. That was true for B’s siblings, but not for him. His oldest sister had a less than desirable reputation. The middle sister had been in and out of jail, had 5 children, and was unmarried. The oldest brother lived a double life. And the second to last brother was a wild card with multiple children outside of his marriage. They were quite the collection of PKs.

I know y’all think I’m being shady, but the facts are the facts.

You can imagine the immense pressure on B to become and remain the perfect Pentecostal son when the rest of his siblings were living wild. B was the most steadfast Christian I had ever met. He didn’t smoke or drink. Yes at the time we were teenagers, but he’d never even tried anything. He didn’t go to parties, or dances because he didn’t listen to mainstream music which he referred to as “worldly music.” Perhaps the rarest of all, he was a high school boy that was a virgin and proud. He wanted to remain chaste until he was married. B was an all-around good guy. And after ending a relationship with a drug-dealing hoodlum who cheated on and abused me, I was in desperate need of someone safe, predictable, and BORING. He fit the bill perfectly.

In hindsight, I can see that B was supposed to be a temporary step in my journey like most high school boyfriends are. But, that all changed once I got pregnant.

I know what you’re thinking. “ Wait a minute, ain’t he supposed to be saved? How did you end up pregnant if he was abstinent?” Come on y’all, he was still a heterosexual boy in highschool.

I can count on one hand how many times B and I were intimate before marriage. Four, only four. And on that fourth time that’s when we created Gab. Our first little bundle of joy.

I want to take a moment from the story to interject how important it is for us parents to talk to our children about sex. If I had known about contraceptives back then, I would’ve just taken a morning-after pill. If I weren’t scared out of my mind to talk to my mom or dad about my personal life, I may not have wound up pregnant.

But like they say, everything happens for a reason, and here I am sharing my story with you, so it had to happen.

Back to the story. So there I was 16 and pregnant. We went through the whole ordeal of telling our parents and dealing with the shame of our bad decisions, which were really decisions made out of ignorance. At church, we were “sat down.” Meaning we could no longer serve in any type of leadership role because of our visible sin. No more singing in the choir, or being an usher. We wore the shame of our ignorance like scarlet letters for the duration of my pregnancy.

I often look back and feel incredible guilt for bringing my daughter into a body so filled with shame. She stewed in my shame, disappointment in myself, feelings of failure for letting down God, and my family. She grew in my regret.

I was a teenager, unmarried, and looked like I was destined to end up a single mother just like my own mom did before me. My mom was so disappointed in me, we didn’t talk for months. I fell into a deep depression. I stopped going to school, I withdrew from everyone, and because we were being punished, I only saw B at church on Sunday and Wednesday nights. It was a dark time in my life.

Two things happened to pull me out of that depression.

1. My best friend’s mom who worked as a secretary at my high school forced me to come to school. One day she called me and said, “Get ready, I’m on my way to get you.” I tried to decline and tell her I didn’t feel good, but she wasn’t having it. She came to my house and all but dragged me to school. She saved my life.

If you’re reading this today Momma Williams, thank you. I thank God for you.

I finished my junior year of high school thanks to her, and I was around my friends again. Life started to look up.

2. B’s parents sat us down when I was about 4 weeks from my due date. I remember his dad, (my pastor) saying to B “You don’t want your baby to be born without your last name do you?” My 17-year-old brain not picking up on what he meant responded saying, “She can have his last name.” To which his father reworded his message. “You don’t want your baby to be born a bastard do you?” To which I’m thinking, “oh my God, a bastard, no, of course not.” B shook his head no quietly. Thinking back, I wonder if B saw it coming, the next thing out of my pastor's mouth surely took me by surprise. “Well, why don’t you two go ahead and get married?” I don’t remember exactly what came next, but one week after that conversation we had a date set to get married.

We were to be wed two weeks later. We wanted to make sure we tied the knot before our daughter was born, but she had other plans. My pregnancy had become high risk in my third trimester, so I was on intermittent bed rest. The day B and I were getting all the paperwork ready to get our marriage license, I stood up to go to the bathroom and my water broke!

Gab was born 8 hours later, a beautiful, and healthy baby girl. But she was a bastard. I couldn’t shake the guilt of that title my pastor gave me for my child. Bastard.

Gab was born Monday, the wedding was set for Saturday, and to make matters worse, B left for college the following Monday.

I walked down the aisle, 5 days after giving birth. Under the black and grey dress my brother in law picked for me, I wore a bulky pad, because the bleeding hadn’t stopped yet, huge and engorged breasts, as my milk had just come in, and a tired smile, because I was exhausted.

I don’t remember much of that day, it’s all kind of a blur. I only remember feeling so tired, so afraid, but relieved because us getting married would legitimize my baby’s existence in this world, and I wouldn’t be a single mom.

And that’s it folks, that how I wound up 17 and married (with a 5-day old baby).

We spent Sunday together as a family, then B left for school. He moved 6 1/2 hours away to play basketball for a junior college in Maryland. While I stayed in Ohio to raise our daughter and finish my senior year of high school as the married mom.

My journey to self-discovery as a woman has been wrought with pain, trials, and triumph. I have gained strength, determination, and resilience that have helped me overcome all obstacles. If you are going through a tough time, I encourage you to purchase my E-Book entitled Resilience. It is available for purchase under the shop section of my site. You will learn effective and applicable strategies to help you navigate your own difficulties, and come out triumphant.

Double tap on any book to check it out!


My hope with this blog is to inspire. Maybe you see yourself in my story, maybe you need a reminder that you’re not alone, or maybe you’re just tuning in for the juicy tea (cuz trust, there’s more tea to come). Whatever your reason, thank you for being here. Come back next week for a new installment of my story.

Until then, stay blessed.


Dina Shanae

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