Dealing with an Unexpected Life in the Dominican Republic

Pamela Pinales, 16 years old and 7 months pregnant. "I can't tell you what my baby's future is because I'm not even sure what my future is," Pinales said. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2014.

Yudeiqui Brito Guzman, 18, mother of 3-year-old Aleini and 4-month-old Yobel. "I don't know what to tell her or which age is appropriate to prevent my daughter from becoming a pregnant teenager," Guzman said. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2014.

Danet Pinales, 17, mother of 11-day-old Daneuris. "I did not want to have the baby now," Pinales said. "I should have waited, but it just happened." Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2014.

Maternidad Nuestra Señora la Altagracia. "They are kids having babies," Dr. Eudhy Estevez (not pictured) of Clinca Rural El Jamey in Jamey, San Cristobal, Dominican Republic. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2015.

"Teenagers are not prepared physically or mentally to have a baby," Dr. Lilian Guerrero (not pictured) a gynecologist at Maternidad Nuestra Señora la Altagracia in Santo Domingo. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2015.

Yesenia, 16 years old, 6 months pregnant and mother of 2-year-old Jason. "I think I should have paid attention to the doctor's and nurse's advice about getting birth control pills," Yesenia said. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2014.

Aallyah Michelle, 15 years old and 6 months pregnant. "I wish I were older before having a baby, but this is God's will," Michelle said. Image by Jennifer Gonzalez. Dominican Republic, 2015.

Photographer’s note—These images were taken through the social media applications Hipstamatic and Instagram. The text was then added in Photoshop to create a combination of visuals and words.

We had the opportunity to speak with young women in the Dominican Republic who have been living out their adolescent years while navigating the waters of motherhood.

Of the teenagers we spoke with, none planned their pregnancies. Some wish they had taken advice from doctors and nurses to use contraceptives, and others simply wish they had been older before having a child.

While most said they were not ready to become parents, one variable remained the same: the mothers have hopes and aspirations for their infants, unborn children and themselves.

Whether we were in a mountainous region of San Cristobal, a southern city of the Caribbean island, or Santo Domingo, the country’s capital, the juvenile mothers wanted their kids to have promising futures.

"I want my baby girl to become a doctor or an actress, and my baby boy to become a baseball player,” 18-year-old Yudeiqui Brito Guzman, who goes by Ariza, said of 3-year-old Aleini and 4-month-old Yobel.

Ariza, who lives on a tropical mountain in San Cristobal known as Jamey, is the only teenager we interviewed who graduated from high school. She sat just outside her pastel pink and green home, feeding Aleini and reading an elementary English book to learn the language.

“Even [though] I don’t have enough resources, I want to become a doctor or a nurse," said Ariza, whose partner Yosandi, 19, makes about 5,000 pesos—roughly equivalent to $113—each month by counting oranges at the market.

While others are not as educated and financially stable as Ariza, they one day hope to be.

Seventeen-year-old Danet Pinales, the mother of 11-day-old Daneuris, stopped attending school after completing the fifth grade. She said she plans to go back once her child is three months old, but for now, her focus is on tending to her newborn.

“I feed him, bathe him,” said Danet, who wants her baby boy to become an engineer. “I take care of him very good.”

A majority of the teenagers we spoke with left school after becoming pregnant, for numerous reasons, but are optimistic their children will prosper.

“Some of them feel determined to continue studying, to have a career and give their babies a good future,” said Pablo Wagner, 54, who has been the sub-director at maternity clinic in Santo Domingo for 10 years.