A recent article I read reminded me of an important truth I faced as a teen mom. It was this really cool article in Lens on NYtimes.com – “Teenage Motherhood in Latin America” written by David Gonzalez. Really interesting, to me, because it was research from the field on a topic I am most passionate about – teen moms and their real life stories. As I looked through some of the photographs shown for the article from the collection entitled “Teen Mom” (www.christian-rodriguez.com) I was saddened. I felt compassion for these young girls. I recognized the look in their faces and behind their composure: They were experiencing the unknown, they were in a struggle. This gifted photographer, Christian Rodriguez, spent time capturing images of birth and then the following day. He also wanted to shed light on the poverty some girls were coming from by photographing them in their homes. It is a powerful work that shows the reality of teen sex. This story reminded me of a detail I had overlooked in my own writings, a fact many of these young mothers are combating alongside stereotypes and poverty. It was noted in this article that,
“At a Montevideo hospital where he photographed the girls in labor, the majority showed up with their mothers, as the boyfriends had long left the scene.”
As I read the words I was overcome with the familiarities of my own background. I knew I faced birth alone, but the thought never occurred to me that the majority of teen moms do the same. I was so moved by the sheer poverty and lack of support these girls were facing in Latin America; giving birth in a plastic bed with plastic sheets, a line of nursing students watching their every contraction and pain induced cry. Alone. No boyfriend or spouse, just their mother. I too walked into labor and delivery with my mother when I was only 16. She was the one who went to Lamaze classes with me. She waited on call those last days and she was there as I gave birth. I saw this in my teen mom program at an alternative high school as well. Out of all the teen moms, few still had contact and support from the father of their baby. The boyfriends/fathers were long gone.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to have some men talk frankly with me about this topic. More than one have confessed that after sex a man walks away free and clear, only the females are left to face the consequences of a child. That perhaps it was unfair, but that this is the way it is. I always thought these types of attitudes that dismiss the male role in caring for an unplanned pregnancy and child to be a complete cop-out.
Anyone can walk away, but we are still ultimately responsible for the life we create
How can anyone have a child in this world and just not care? How can the majority of boys and men really believe it is not their concern, or that it is okay to simply have sex with a female and leave aftermath behind? I believe many do care. It’s time to stop using the excuses and demand more from our boys. It’s time we raise them to understand sex creates life and it’s a huge responsibility. Lifelong issue can come with sex and we can no longer afford to cast the full load upon our teen girls, their families and the government. This may mean having more difficult conversations and holding our young men accountable. This may mean taking a more active role in who are daughters spend time with and holding those individuals liable if an unplanned pregnancy occurs. Where are the boys, free world? More importantly – where are their leaders?