There is a girl in my homeroom who just turned 16 and is 7 months pregnant. Her belly is small for her stage but very round, like a watermelon in June. She gave me a nurse’s note to sign, letting me know that she’s allowed food and drink in class, frequent bathroom breaks, and elevator access. These are small privileges, but she’s excited and her friends are a little jealous of the special treatment. When she speaks, it’s with the whiny upward lilt of most teenage girls, and the content of her conversations is mostly gossip and drama. She glares if I don’t bend to her every whim (“No, you really do have to put away your cell phone”) and rolls her eyes while muttering Spanish profanities. She’s hardly reached average maturity for her age; I can’t imagine her as a mother.
There are so many more examples of babies having babies. Grandmothers who are 33. These are not uncommon occurrences here in PPSD.
Teenage pregnancy is a symptom of a systematic problem in the United States. It is representative of poverty, poor access to health care, and a shoddy education system. It is a vicious cycle. Who is to blame? Can blame be apportioned? We can’t simply cross our fingers and hope that teens will stop getting pregnant/getting each other pregnant. The rate of teenage pregnancy in the United States means that there are more single parent households–and there’s nothing wrong with strong women (or men!) taking care of their children. That doesn’t mean it’s easy or financially feasible for many of these young, barely educated teen moms. They struggle to make it on their own, so they go on welfare to ease their burden. Some turn to more dubious means of making money.
Seeing the bitter reality makes me despise the glorification–or really, exploitation–that happens on reality tv shows like Teen Mom. I’ve never actually watched the show, but the idea that MTV features poor teenage mothers as protagonists makes me sick. This isn’t something that should be glorified; it should be remedied. I wish we could all just agree on how it should be remedied so we can fix the issue at hand instead of fighting circuitous political battles when there are real lives at stake.
I have another girl in one of my science classes who is 15 and has a 9 month old son. She proudly pulled out her cell phone to show me a picture of a very adorable curly-haired baby, whose laughter exudes even from a camera phone photo. I’m not sure why she’s in my class; some staff members tell me she’s “low level” but she seems quite bright, although she has a tendency to miss school. I’m not yet sure why, although I suspect it’s because her son’s been colicky lately. Her goal for herself is to stay in school, become a nurse, and to create a better life for herself and her son than the one she has now. I hope she achieves what she wants. The odds are definitely against her.