15, Pregnant and Ecstatic? I'm As Hopeful As You Are Ecstatic
This is not a post about pro-life or pro-choice. This is a post about how confused I am. One of my students, who is a teen mom, advised me that a 15 year old classmate was pregnant and ecstatic about it. My student was not sure if she should talk to her and offer some words of support and encouragement. Before I could even respond, I had a million thoughts racing through my head as I recalled colic, late nights, no sleep, diapers, and doctor visits - not to mention, labor and delivery. Moreover, all of these memories stemmed from two planned pregnancies in my mid-thirties.
Once I moved passed my state of confusion, I asked about whether or not the young man was still in the picture. My student said, "Yes, and he's ecstatic too." Really? Again, this was not to say that they were not dealing with an unexpected situation with a positive outlook, but as my questions continued, it began to sound like this was a planned pregnancy and not an “uh-oh”!
Therefore, I have been struggling to determine if fault exists somewhere in our educational system or in our society. When did it become okay and exciting to be pregnant at 15, without a job, without an education and while still living under the roof of one’s parents? When did it become okay to assume that parents, soon to be grandparents, would simply step up and babysit the child while the parents continued their schooling? When did it become okay to assume that the social service programs were created to cover planned teen pregnancies? Did I miss something? Did the students misinterpret something?
I do not know this young woman, nor do I know the young man. A part of me wishes she would have been in the class and learned from her peers. Still, my hope is that in the 7 months she and her boyfriend have until the baby arrives, that they begin to get beyond how parenting has been glorified and glamorized as an easy task on television and in the media. I hope the two have honest discussions about how their apparently conscious decision has had a huge impact on an unborn life that had no say in this. I hope that they are as excited about completing their high school education, as they were about becoming teen parents as they are struggling to make ends meet, study over a crying child and find that their parents might not be ready to be built-in babysitters.
As I tried to explain to my students when we discussed teen pregnancy, teens often view the baby as filling a void that they are experiencing in their lives. Instead of getting to the root of the void, they simply seek to fill it with something else or someone else. Sadly, when the baby is born and the challenges emerge, the void that was covered has now reemerged with a completely new set of challenges.
When all the thoughts had raced through my head, I told my student that the best thing she could do was to offer support, to the young couple. While they might reject her insights, since the father of her child was no longer in the picture, she could at least let them know that what they were experiencing was going to have its high moments and its low moments. Moreover, she could remind them that when they felt like they wanted to break away from the reality of it all, they needed to remember the baby that they brought into this world.