Book in one hand, baby in the other

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I visited my aunt a few months ago after one of my birthing and parenting classes. She informed me that a few of the younger girls (13-15 years old) from the neighborhood had been stopping by to see her. They come over to her house and talk to her about the pictures of my pregnancy that I have posted on my MySpace page. Up until now, I had not even thought about how I might be influencing the people viewing my page and the pictures posted. I believed what I had posted was for me to share my experience with my friends and not have young teens think how “cute” and “cool” this was.

After speaking with my aunt, I decided that I needed to write something about my experience as a pregnant teen. I feel like it is part of my responsibility to inform young girls and guys (it takes two!) about what being young and having a child is like. I just want young girls (and whoever else reads this) to have just a little taste of what this experience is like. It’s becoming a lot more common for teenage girls to become pregnant. There are so many influences that play a part in why girls think it is okay to have a baby at such a young age. Maybe it’s not that exactly, that they think it is “okay,” but they don’t fully understand the seriousness of it.

Cabbages and Kings is a multi-author TC Daily Planet blog that offers space to interesting but hard-to-categorize blog submissions, in the sole discretion of the editors.

Teen sex and pregnancy is influencing girls everywhere. Take a look at 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears, actress from Nickelodeon’s Zoey 101. She’s now pregnant and it’s a big deal because she’s a HUGE role model for a lot of young girls. I also recently saw Juno, a movie about a teenage girl who finds out she is pregnant and decides to give the child up for adoption. Teen pregnancy is showing up everywhere. I feel that people need to be more aware that they’re not invincible. Everybody needs to be informed and educated. Read a little more on tips for preventing teenage pregnancy, and teen pregnancy facts at: http://www.candiesfoundation.org/

A lot of girls who are friends with me via MySpace, or who view my MySpace profile looked at my pictures thinking, “Oh my gosh, she’s so cute”, and I can just tell that I was influencing them a lot more than they or myself thought I was. That is not what I wanted at all! If anything, I wanted these girls to look at me and perhaps learn something from my mistakes. They need to know that there is a whole lot more to it than just a cute little belly and a cute little baby. A lot more! Before I go on to say more, I want you to know this was my experience. It is different for everyone, as nobody is alike. It could be easier or it could be a lot harder for others.

Girls: Take a glimpse into your possible future…

-Imagine telling your parents and your family that you’re pregnant

Telling your parents will probably be the most heartbreaking, and nerve-wrecking thing you will have to do (other than raising a child). How would you tell your parents?

I wrote my mom a letter telling her that I was pregnant because I felt it was too hard for me to sit her down face-to-face and tell her I was pregnant. I gave her the letter the night I wrote it. I sat in my room for what had to be an hour, waiting by my door, trying to find the courage to walk over to her room and hand her the letter. I knew that once she read it she was going to be heartbroken. The last thing I wanted was to see my mom upset. My mom had been sleeping by the time I walked into her room to give her the letter. I set it on her bathroom sink so that when she woke up in the morning to get ready, it would be there waiting for her. I shook and I shivered all night long. I could not sleep. I knew that when I woke up my mom was going to know that I was pregnant. It was hard for me to imagine what would go through her mind, when it was something that didn’t even seem real to me.

My mom woke me up at 7:30 the next morning. She sat next to me in my bed, with tears welled up in her eyes. As tears dripped down her face she said, “I read your letter, I just want you to know that I love you but I am very, very angry.” I laid there feeling ashamed, but there wasn’t much for me to say. She didn’t have time to talk because she had to go to work. We discussed the situation more when she came home. My mom was a pregnant teen also. She was pregnant at the same age I am now. She knew what I was about to go through. She was looking at herself, a single, teenage mother. I thought my mom would take the whole situation better considering that she had been there before but she couldn’t help but be angry. I’m sure her experience played back in her mind. “In reality you know you’re going to be a single mother… You’re going to be up all night… You’re going to cry a lot… This is the rest of your life…” She went on for a while and it just crushed me to have to face the reality of everything I was about to go through. I never knew I would be pregnant by the time I was 17. But she made it through and I saw other people go through it, how hard could it really be?

-Imagine telling the father of the baby that you’re pregnant

I was with the father when we got the pregnancy test. We both found out together. Luckily, he didn’t run, at least not right away. I have friends who are pregnant and the father has just walked away. They don’t have to deal with being pregnant! They sometimes make the choice to walk away; in fact, many teen fathers do. Many young guys don’t want to, nor know how to, deal with the situation let alone have the maturity for it. Sure it should be their responsibility too, but in this day and age the reality of it is that they only need to be responsible for the financial part of raising a child. Sometimes they say they’ll be there, but at any time they can separate themselves and change their mind.

If you think the guy you’re with loves you, then he should love you enough to use protection and protect both of your futures. For the most part, girls, do be prepared that in most teen pregnancy situations, you will be a single parent as the father probably won’t stick around for long.

-Imagine the dirty looks and stares

For the most part I could ignore the dirty looks and stares. But it still gets to me from time to time. People will whisper underneath their breath and it can be humiliating. As if your hormones weren’t making you more emotional on their own, just imagine having to deal with all of these other things on top of that. People judge from the minute they lay their eyes on you. It’s only natural, but it’s still makes you feel awful.

-Imagine dating

If you’re single, there may be a time that you will want to date again. It’s probably not going to be as easy. Guys seem very easily turned off by pregnant girls, or girls with children. When you finally find someone you want to go out with, you have to try to find a responsible baby sitter. This is not always easy on a Friday night! -Imagine what going to school is going to be likeI’m a senior this year. Before I was pregnant I made the choice to go to Anoka Ramsey Community College. I was doing really well. Once school started, the hormones and pregnancy started taking its toll. I didn’t even go to school from 7:30-2:30 like most High School students. I was starting my first class by 8am, second class at 10am; I would take a nap in the student lounge when class got out at 10:50am until my last class started at 1pm. I was constantly exhausted. Most teenage girls are going to high school (or junior high). Your days are a lot longer. When I would get home at about 2:30pm everyday, I would go straight to sleep. I didn’t want to do anything else but sleep. So that obviously means, I wasn’t doing my homework or studying. Bad choice. School is important, no matter how much you may hate it.

My body was constantly changing and I didn’t have any energy and motivation. People constantly looked at me and said, “You’re doing PSEO?! You must be really smart!” or act all proud of me for going to college. But really, my schoolwork slipped because I was too tired and I had a lot of other things to worry about. School was so important to me a few months ago and is still, but it is a lot more difficult to stay focused. I was no longer only concerned about schooling but I had to worry about being healthy, eating all of the right things and sleeping enough; it was no longer all about me.

-Imagine not having a social life

This is the real hard part. Weekends always consisted of partying, hanging out with friends, staying up late and being an irresponsible teenager. But once you’re pregnant, it all changes. If you drank, you can’t drink. If you smoked, you can’t smoke, and so on. Some people continue to do that stuff, but not me. I was no longer responsible for just myself. So instead of partying, I stayed home. I sometimes invited a friend over to hang out or watch movies, but the friends are having fun being a teen. They don’t care that if I can’t do what I used to. They carried on without me. This wasn’t their deal. They’re concerned with having fun–not particularly concerned with coming over and spending time with you.

Your weekends don’t consist of having fun anymore when you’re pregnant. They consist of staying home, homework, sleeping, and probably watching T.V. Imagine when the baby comes, not only are you staying home all the time but you’re taking care of a helpless baby who is relying on you to take care of it. You’re no longer young and free. You’ve used your freedom, and had it taken away.

-Imagine not having anybody to talk to

Just like staying home on the weekends, your friends seem too busy for you. You kind of just disappear. You don’t want to complain and have people feel sorry for you but you just want someone to talk to. Even if you could talk to your friends, most of them probably haven’t been in your situation so they have no idea what you’re going through. But all the same, it’s really hard to not be able to let people know how you’re really feeling. I’ve cried a lot of nights because I feel like nobody cares. “She did this to herself…” I have no doubt that’s what they were thinking. You will soon find out who your real friends are. You may be wrong about the people you thought were your friends. Maybe they cared a little, but not enough to be called your ‘true friends’.

-Imagine watching your body go from something cute and petite to something that will never go back to being the same

I’m a small girl. I’m used to being called cute, and although I was very large, people still thought I was cute. But I’ll tell you what… these stretch marks that are on my body now, tell me how cute they are? They are forever. When you go out on the beach in your bathing suit and you see the people your age, their bodies are probably going to look a lot better than yours. You now have these lovely squiggly lines permanently engraved into your skin. You may lose your baby weight but you will never completely lose your stretch marks. Self-image is important to a lot of girls–it’s important to me. I’m scared for the day I have to jump back into a bathing suit. Hopefully I’ll accept it, but I’m still going to feel embarrassed.

-Imagine people trying to influence you and question if you’re going to keep the baby or give it up for adoption?

A lot of pregnant girls get pressured into keeping, or not keeping, their baby. Many people ask, “are you keeping the baby?” Sometimes people don’t like your answer. If the answer is yes, they think you’re too young, immature and irresponsible to have a child. There are a lot of things people have to say about your pregnancy. They have their opinions and many times express them. When it comes down to it, it is your decision, your life and your baby. However, the pressures are difficult to deal with. It can go the other way too. Some people look at you like you’re wrong for wanting to give your child up for adoption. I can tell you that giving your baby up for adoption is probably the most selfless thing you could ever do. There were times when other peoples’ opinions would start to influence me, but I had to try and ignore that and focus on what I thought was best.

I personally juggled the option of keeping my baby or giving him up for adoption. Abortion was not an option for me. Abortion is selfish. Adoption is selfless. So many families can’t have children and are looking to adopt. You can give the baby a chance at life and still get yours back when you choose adoption. Whereas with abortion you steal the baby’s life, only to steal yours back.

I made a list of how life would be if I kept him and how life would be different if I gave him up for adoption. Life between those two choices would be completely different. Although I considered giving my baby up for adoption, I chose to keep my baby. I believe strongly that because I made the choice to have sex, I would take complete responsibility for my actions and the consequences. This included taking on the great responsibility of raising a child.

-Imagine going to school, working and being pregnant

I chose to continue on with school. I also chose to work 20 hours a week. It’s not easy being pregnant, let alone trying to finish school while working a part-time job. I was constantly tired, sore and emotional. Does this seem easy to you?

-Imagine when the baby’s born

Your teenage years were practically over when you got pregnant, but now you have to take care of a fragile, helpless baby-24/7. At least there was a little freedom during the pregnancy, but once they’re born, they completely rely on you. It’s hard because you’re still growing up yourself and now you have to raise a baby and teach it about life.

My experience with my pregnancy was just that, my experience. I can honestly say that I LOVED being pregnant. I loved my body and I could almost care less if I was alone and didn’t have many friends. I don’t want to lie to you and tell you that it’s the worst thing that could happen just because I don’t want you take this path.

I didn’t write this to get sympathy or pity for my struggles either. I wrote this to be real. To let girls know what the reality of pregnancy can be. Sex leads to unwanted pregnancy and STDs. I don’t want to scare you but I want to warn you. You’re not invincible. Pregnancy and STDs can happen to you.

If I could go back, I would. Both for the sake of my future and for the sake of my child. You should wonder, “If I got pregnant could I give the baby all that it deserves?” Chances are you may not be able to give it all that it deserves. I know this isn’t true for everyone. I’m lucky that I have a caring mother. I’m lucky that my baby’s dad wants to be a part of our child’s life. I’m lucky that I came from a good family and a good home. A lot of girls aren’t as lucky and as blessed as I am.

If you’re sexually active use protection!!! Let your parents know you’re sexually active. If you’re not going to allow them to help you, help yourself. Go to Planned Parenthood, or a local clinic. People are willing to help. Protect yourself and your future. Sex can lead to STDS and PREGNANCY. Take control of your life and be smart about it. Set goals, have dreams, stay young as long as you can. You have plenty of time to grow up, don’t rush it! If you find yourself pregnant one day don’t think that you can’t do it and don’t let people tell you that you can’t. Believe in yourself because you are strong enough to get through it. Whatever choices you make, whether adoption or keeping your child, it will be the hardest choice you will ever make. Please, consider your life. Think about how different your life would be with a child. Now is the time to worry about school, working, or just being a kid yourself. Not about being a parent.

This post was written as part of an on-line journalism course at Anoka Ramsey Community College.

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