Tag Archives: teen pregnancy

Where Are The Boys?

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.

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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?

Public Education in America: Raising a Nation Without Morality

Martin Luther stirred the world with his bold stand against the Pope and the known leaders of his time. With one letter, the reformation had begun. Christian against Christian – the war was bloody, brutal and long. Most people know and understand that this was the beginnings of migration to America. Europeans were in search of a land that offered a chance to worship and live as one saw right in their own heart, instead of the experience of religion dominated by government. Fast forward to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Religion was such a touchy, personally discerned topic among the many colonists, that our forefathers’ knew they could not give any one church authority over education. Education was not even mentioned in our first governmental documents. The revolutionary war had left the newborn United States $75 million in debt. It would be the 1830’s and the industrial revolution that would spark a mass movement towards free public education for every American child.

State copied state and one by one communities with public schools emerged. Laws were written and taxes were assigned. From the beginning, and for over one hundred years after, the Bible was a part of the curriculum taught across the country.

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Today we have come so far as to ban the Bible and most religion from public education. This is all done in the name of “separation of church and state”. Interesting that we as Americans fall for that one.

—Jefferson wrote, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”

A simple read on the first Amendment to the Constitution will again show my earlier point, the goal of the document’s authors was to eliminate any one church from having power over the state, not to completely do away with the tolerance of religion in daily life. This was to assure all citizens the freedom of Faith.

Not without consequences do we bring up generations of children in a system that is forbidden to teach and debate morality and spirituality. I can’t help but think of the large numbers of school shootings and terrorist attacks on home soil we have seen in the past ten years; have we forgotten to mention the value of human life to our young people? Have we missed this important lesson, are we not making it clear in public education? I propose that children survive what is forced upon them to the best of their ability. I purpose that we are failing to prepare our youth if we cannot train them to have a moral compass. Because I myself grew up in this system. I was exposed to my peers becoming sexually active when I was 12 years old and in the seventh grade. I was exposed to drinking and drugs, simply because I took the bus to school like I was told. Then when I became pregnant at 15, everyone turned on me like I had really blew it. When I became involved with the use of alcohol and drug as a part of my high school social scene, my best possible future was compromised. Statistics of failure were attached to me everywhere I went. It’s wrong and I’m telling you it’s wrong. Those who possess the authority must also take up the responsibility. We must be willing to help our children through peer pressure and bullying by offering them an understanding of good and evil, right and wrong. The youth of America need a solid sense that choosing good pays off. I am not against public education, by no means. I am asking for parents and educators to take a good look at what children are facing. What I’m calling for is better education. An education that treats the whole child: body, soul and spirit. We have advocates for proper nutrition and parents would shudder at the thought of sending their children to public school without some type of planned source for physical nutrients – Yet no measures are in place for their spiritual needs? With all of our modern technology, resources and the progression of our understanding, how can we not advance? America, how can we not respond to the call for help from our youth? #pleasingabba

“About 77 percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned. In other words, they are unwanted or occurred “too soon,” according to a national survey of adolescents.[6] In 2010, the majority of pregnancies to adolescent females ages 15-19 in the United States—an estimated 60 percent—ended in a live birth; 15 percent ended in a miscarriage; and 30 percent ended in an abortion.”

References

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state_in_the_United_States

https://archive.org/details/publiceducationi00cubbuoft

http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html

Combating Shame and Other Akward Questions

Maybe you are like me. Perhaps finding out that you are pregnant and you want to keep your child has turned your life into chaos. You’re not sure how things are going to work out and maybe you are feeling some regret – or a lot of regret. I really wanted to escape the consequences of my actions. I had been pretty careless doing whatever I wanted. Now that those voices of “sex can wait” were right, I was really hurting. I was embarrassed, overwhelmed, even scared. But I have to tell you, all of these feelings were different from shame. See, I felt remorse because I couldn’t perform under the pressures I had faced, and I had let my mother and family down. This is a natural response when we make a mistake. Yet always remember this point, mistakes are a part of being human and living. No one escapes this. When people try to shame you for making a mistake, it is just flat-out wrong. If you are facing teen pregnancy, rejecting shame from your peers and society may be something you have to confront often.

shame

It was hard enough facing my new world being pregnant, but being judged and questioned felt unbearable. I didn’t want to talk about my situation. I definitely didn’t want to explain myself either. People are curious and gossip is enjoyed, but this was definitely one of the worst parts of being a teen mom: Facing rude people with nosey questions. To tell you the truth it still happens. When people ask the age of my children, I usually get some kind of further probing questions that follow when my first answer doesn’t satisfy.
In many ways I have gotten used to it, but I definitely carry myself differently then I did when I was a teen mother. As young mothers, be prepared and know your worth. Own your current situation with responsibility and self-forgiveness for any mistakes you have made. Know that when people come at you with rude put downs or demeaning questions that they have no reason to ask, they are in the wrong. You have every right not answer questions that make you uncomfortable. Truthfully you are more than worthy of love and support. Do not feel bad about giving yourself time to adjust to your new life as a mom. Maybe you will not get the kindness you deserve from everyone in your reach of the world, but you can choose to embrace it where it is available. Support groups, social media, your family or friends, a teen mom community where other moms get what you’re going through – all good sources to fuel up on love. Soak up all the support and positive material you can find. Be ready for stereotypes and judgment, just never accept them for your life.
I heard a wonderful speaker from the civil rights era give a talk recently. She had lived and worked in a time when she had good reason to fear judgement and cruelty. She pursued her education and, step by step, she had lived a successful life. She said something that day that struck into my core,

“Never let others make you feel inferior, let someone else wear that label.”

How many times as a teen mom did I put my head down and wear what someone else said I was? I was hurting and overwhelmed, unsure and stressed out. I needed support, not judgement. Let’s strive as a culture to end the hurt. #Youngmamas, keep your head up! #pleasingabba

Need some suggestions on how to respond to rude questions or people? I found this post to be helpful:

 http://www.levo.com/articles/lifestyle/12-comebacks-for-dealing-with-rude-people

How Do I Tell My Parents I’m Pregnant? Top 5 Things To Consider

One of the most difficult moments of my teen mom experience was telling my mom and family that I was pregnant. I was able to lie my way through what was really going on for about three months. To be fair, I was in complete denial and I did not know I was pregnant. But I did know that I had been sexually active, something I wasn’t ready to admit. So How do you talk to your parents honestly and openly, maybe for the first time?

Let us just acknowledge that it’s scary. Talking about your private life and relationships with a parent or adult can feel like there is too much of a gap for understanding. Maybe your parent(s) used scare tactics or fear based consequences when talking to you about sex in the past. Can I tell you from a parents point of view, this was done with your best interest in mind. Adults want to prevent trauma from happening to their children. Your parents have lived and seen struggle. They do not want that for you. Go into this talk knowing their feelings and emotions are rooted in wanting the best for your life. I know some teens may be thinking something like, “You don’t know my father” or “You have no idea what it’s like in my family”. I understand some situations can be harder than others, and I will give you my best ideas for handling those extreme cases. It will be emotional and it may be hard, but honesty is the only way you can move forward for the better.

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Bringing any situation into the light allows for the best possible outcome. Only then can you gather all the knowledge you need to make the best choices.

1. If you fear for your safety or you believe things could become too high stress, plan for the conversation to be in a safe place. Your church, school, or a family members home may be the best place to come clean. This allows for a cool down period knowing your parent will maintain a level of self control while in public.

2. Consider having a support person present. This could be a trusted counselor or group leader or coach. It could be a friend, but make sure it is someone mature enough to be neutral. Don’t turn this talk into sides. This is about being honest with people who are responsible for your provision and well being.

3. Do your research. Look into what support is available for teens/teen parents in your area. Be educated and aware of all your options, then present them to your parent(s).

4. Write it down on paper. One of the best ways to be prepared is to get everything you want to say out on paper and then take a step back. Have you explained yourself? Is there something you said that was unnecessary or hurtful? Be ready by making sure you’ve said what you needed to say in a clear manner.

5. Take a deep breathe and be patient with yourself. Talking to your parents about sex is not easy. You need to have a sense that what you are doing is for the best. Know that like any good choice, once you’ve made it, the rewards will follow.

Resources
http://www.judyringer.com/resources/articles/we-have-to-talk-a-stepbystep-checklist-for-difficult-conversations.php

Judy Ringer is a conflict and communication skills trainer, black belt in Aikido, and founder of Power & Presence Training and Portsmouth Aikido. Would you like free tips and articles every month? Subscribe to Ki Moments!

The Clinic

I do not know if it was fear, self-doubt or the cruel way in which my parents had spoken to me that made me snap, but an unrelenting spirit took over my mind and again and again it began to confess, “I cannot do this, I can’t have this baby!” I thought of my dance team. It was January, basketball season was beginning. I would have to quit.

“No!”

I couldn’t imagine quitting my favorite part of school. My Mother had found out the truth about my pregnancy shortly after I had, at a physical check-up. Life had been filled with panic since that day. My mom and step-father said I would choose what course to take about the pregnancy. I approached my mother at the computer in her office.

“I’ve made up my mind. I’m going to have an abortion.”

The conversation needed to be brief. I felt numb. The need to shelter my thoughts from the stress was instinctual; I was in survival mode. There was no way to make out a solution in my mind. I was fifteen, in the middle of my sophomore year and everything revolved around my friends. I didn’t really understand my body, or sex for that matter. It had been something all my peers were doing. I was longing to find acceptance and sex was a huge pressure for those of us in the most popular circles. Naively, I believed pregnancy would not happen to me. My mother handled everything from there and before I knew it, the morning of the appointment had arrived. When my mom saw I was dressed in jeans she asked me to pack a comfortable change of clothes, some sweatpants perhaps. I was indifferent to my mother’s advice. I could only operate like a machine. I couldn’t think about what I was about to do. “I can’t handle it, I can’t have this baby!” I told myself and angrily marched to the car.

The clinic was across the state line. An average office building in an office park. Once there, I noticed women in nurse uniforms waiting out front to escort girls in. My heart sank into my stomach and I began to panic. “Please don’t let there be protesters!” I thought. “I’ll pass out!” Fortunately, we were able to make our way inside without any event. There were single chairs in rows not secured into the floor and a receptionist sat behind a glass window. Other young ladies were coming and going through the process as I was. Still in the trance of determination to save my “normal” life and image, I tried to ignore them. My mother and I were quickly called back to a private office. A petite women looked up from a large ornate desk. She was thin, dressed in business attire with some type of ID badge clipped to her suit jacket. She stood to introduce herself when we entered, then sat down and began the discussion of payment. Again I found it impossible to engage. I wanted it to all be over with. Like a bad dream, I wanted out. My mom assured the women we were able to pay cash. Once more we waited briefly, this time to be placed into an examination room which resembled the kind you wait in at the E.R.. Each room was really only three walls of fabric ran on a track. I laid down on the exam table. Soon an ultra sound tech entered, pushing a monitor on wheels. The tech said little and made no eye contact. She touched a tool to my belly with a dab of cold lubricant on the end and began to stare intently into the screen. As I felt the mouse inch slowly across my abdomen, I kept my eyes locked on hers. As if on a cliff I waited, hoping for any kind of information.

“That’s my baby she’s looking at..”

A small voice rose up inside of me as a single tear fell down my face. “That’s my baby, right there!” I could not see what the ultrasound tech saw. I could not see the image of my unborn baby on the computer screen, but in that moment my heart ached for my child. She seemed to have seen everything she needed, and abruptly ended the ultrasound to excuse herself. Soon after a nurse returned with the tech. The two women began to inform us that the baby was 13 weeks along and I was already in the second trimester of my pregnancy. The nurse explained how a normal abortion would no longer be possible. I would have to endure a two-day procedure. Her words hung in the air. We sat there in a state of frozen horror until once again we were alone. My mother looked into my face to scan my thoughts. “I can’t handle this! I just want to be put to sleep so I don’t remember anything!” I blurted out what my mind wanted with emotion and began to sob.

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My mom was calm and still. “I know,” she said holding onto to me, “But that’s not an option, honey.” It was as if this was the moment she was waiting for. I had to face the reality of my circumstances. In a peaceful relieved way, my mom seemed to know I didn’t have it in me to abort the baby. This was the break in the insanity were I had a way out. From the moment I had begun the day, I had just wanted it to be over. Now it was. There was no way to proceed as planned. We decided to leave before making a final choice.

I didn’t understand all the terms the nurses had used, but I understood what she had described. I couldn’t do that. It was too terrible! The symptoms of pregnancy and the return to the safety of my own room were enough reasons to go to bed early that day. As I lay in my bed pondering the future, I felt the presence of God.

“Jennifer, will you have this baby?”

The Holy Spirit was direct and to the point.

“But Lord, there’s no father, I’m fifteen…. how can this work?”

“I Will Be There.”

The answer came quickly. It was so clear, so certain,  I didn’t want to argue or question this voice of wisdom. Without any further reasoning, I knew I couldn’t deny God. “Yes!” I answered in my heart. A slow peace rushed over me for the first time in a long time. My thoughts began to wonder at motherhood and having a baby. Just like that my mind was made. No one would change it. No one would control my choice, fate was sealed. I would face many obstacles from that moment. I would lose my friends, social status and almost everything I had know as normal. Yet I would never question my choice to become a mother versus having an abortion. With every disappointment and heartache I came across, I clung to the promise of God. I carried it in my heart. I believed that the God of the universe would be with me and my child. Someday, somehow, it would all be ok.