Search Results for: teen pregnancy

Here’s Why There’s No Such Thing As “Glamorizing” Teen Pregnancy

“Yes, we should support teen mothers, but we shouldn’t, really, glamorize teen pregnancy, you know…” 

Let me be blunt: It’s not possible to glamorize teen pregnancy. It’s not. It’s like glamorizing 40+ pregnancy, or a pregnancy of multiples. Teen pregnancy just IS.

What people are really concerned about is whether we make teen pregnancy look easy. Fun. Worthwhile.

But these are all the things that we associate with “traditional” parenthood. We want parents to feel like their job as parents is doable. That they are not being set up to fail. We want them to smile at their babies and find joy in their roles as Mom and Dad. We want them to think that if they had the choice, they would choose their kids all over again.

But with teen parents, the narrative couldn’t be further from this. Teen moms have to hide their belly under large shirts or be accused of “being happy” about their pregnancy if they dare to wear a tight T-shirt. Teen parents are discouraged from asking for help and support because “they made their bed, now they must lie in it.” They are marched into high schools and asked to tell their non-pregnant peers how difficult their life is and how they wished they had made smarter choices.

Hard to find the glamour in that.

“Glamorizing teen pregnancy” is really code for “showcasing successful teen parenting.” The “g” word gets thrown around whenever people talk about a high school with a daycare on its grounds, or a young mom is profiled on a reality show  and magazine covers simply being pregnant In short, whenever a teen parent is happy with her lot in life.

The fact of the matter is that we need teen parents to be happy and successful. We want them to feel content with their decisions and to feel supported in their needs, whether it’s quality and affordable childcare, school staff that is well versed in Title IX accommodations for pregnant and parenting students, or safe spaces to discuss their relationship questions.

Next time you overhear someone talking about “glamorizing” teen pregnancy, take the conversation a step further and ask them what they mean. Let’s change how we talk about teen parenting and perhaps we can change how teen parents talk about themselves.

Stop Basing Everything You Know About Teen Pregnancy Off “16 & Pregnant”


When MTV first decided to make a show about teen pregnancy, I applauded.

Yes, I know. Call me naive. But that was in 2009. Back when I didn’t know as much as I do now about the media’s reluctance to show teen parents as anything but screw-ups. I tend to think positively about situations so I figured that shining a light on teen pregnancy and its complications could be a good thing for everyone. We could start a new conversation about teen pregnancy and prevention but this time have the voices of teen parents included.

How wrong I was.

I’m not at all happy about the fact that teen parents are left out to dry, as always. I even called for MTV to cancel the show because between Amber and Gary’s domestic violence being played up for the cameras, all of whatever Janelle was going through and even the vitrol experienced by Christinna, the show stopped being about education and turned into exploitation.

That’s why media images are so important, even when you think, “Oh, it’s just entertainment.”

It’s never just entertainment.

People watching this with the idea that teen parents suck (and will always suck, no matter what) only have their views validated. “See, look at the poor decisions they make. Look at how they struggle to have effective communication with their partners. Look how they fail.”

But it’s hard to argue for the opposite treatment, isn’t it? How difficult would it have been to pitch a show about teen mothers that showed struggles, yes, but kept a positive outlook on these girls’ lives? Maybe something like High School Moms, a show that only received a handful of episodes as it took viewers through the halls of a school dedicated solely to pregnant and parenting teens.

Because that would be too much like making teen pregnancy seem “normal.” But guess what? It is normal in the sense that there are more than 700,000 teen pregnancies each year. This is not six or seven girls that America found and can poke fun at for their poor decision-making skills. These are women you see every day—making silly faces at their kids as they shop for groceries, waiting in doctor’s offices with their children, cheering on the sidelines at their child’s soccer games. They are mothers just like everyone else.

So if you’re basing your entire knowledge of teen pregnancy off the handful of episodes you’ve seen of 16 & Pregnant, here’s some more facts/information for you:

  1. Read up on Title IX. It’s a federal mandate that protects pregnant and parenting students and guarantees equal access and protection. It’s been on the books since 1972. However, we all know it’s not enforced. For example, look at how pregnant and parenting students in Michigan were denied access to homebound instruction while recovering from childbirth. Title IX was designed to prevent this type of discrimination but it happens every day. And you wonder why teen parents don’t graduate at the same rates as their non-parenting peers.
  2. If you think teen pregnancy happens because girls are sluts and boys don’t know better, please read this. Linda Bryant, executive director at Inwood House, a facility in NYC that works with pregnant and parenting teens, breaks it all the way down in a way that everyone understands: “Far too many teen moms have been victims of sexual abuse — an issue often overlooked when we talk about teen pregnancy. Many young women are involved in violent relationships where they don’t have the choice to decide whether or not to become pregnant. Other young parents seek to create their own families because they do not have families who can care for them.”
  3. Teen pregnancy rates are decreasing. Some believe (probably because teen mothers have never been more visible in the media) that teen pregnancy rates are increasing and are out of control and 20 years from now we’ll just have a country of uneducated, poverty-striken, violent, unemployed folks running around due to the current rate of teen pregnancy. But it’s not true. See the infographic below:
  4. national campaignAre people scared to talk to teen/young parents? Really talk to them? I used to be scared to let people know I was a young mother because I didn’t want people to judge me. But I have since learned that if you don’t speak up, people will continue to judge people just like you. So we need to counter those stereotypes. Gloria from Teen Mom NYC just launched a new project, Real Teenage Families, to showcase their stories and to shine light on the fact that when people look at teen parent statistics, it’s best if you don’t believe the hype.



Supporting Teen Parents Decreases Teen Pregnancy (The More You Know)

It’s a fine line I walk here on the site. Some have accused me of promoting teen pregnancy and that’s not the case. I support mothers, women who are somewhere on path of peeing on the pregnancy test, visiting their doctor, surviving 10 months of gestation and graduating into the throes of motherhood. We’re way past teen pregnancy once you land on my site. We’re into parenting.

A recent NYC teen pregnancy prevention campaign caught my eye and the eye of several other young mothers I know.

NYC ads

How nice. So while young mothers are out and about, walking down the street, catching the bus and minding their business, they get assaulted with something like this. There are more ads like this (some directed at the dads) at bus shelters and subways citywide.

But what really got me was the “Text ‘ NOTNOW ’ to 877877 for the real cost of teen pregnancy” at the bottom of each ad. I decided to play along and signed up to receive the texts. I was expecting something more concrete and useful.

Instead I got this:

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I just don’t get it. I understand that 16-year-olds care about things like prom and what their friends think but does this effectively prevent teen pregnancy? The city already has the No Kidding program, where teen parents go into high schools to talk about their lives and to help teens understand what it’s like to be a teen parent, so why did they decide to go this route?

What bothers me most about this (and all the folks who believe that teen parents don’t deserve support) is that it effectively shuts teen parents out from being successful. And what happens when teen parents aren’t successful? Their kids suffer and it becomes a cycle.

If you work with a teen mother, make her feel she’s still worthy of encouragement and —gasp!— praise, that changes things. It changes how she sees herself and whether she thinks she can accomplish the goals she’s set for herself. Treat her like crap and she begins to internalize it. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. I’ll write about my school work and I’ll get three emails from moms who say they believe they can go back to school because they’ve seen someone do it, they know it’s possible.

One thing I tell teen parents when they come to me for advice is that you won’t be _____ (fill in the blank age here) forever. You won’t be 16 forever. You won’t be 18 forever. Kids grow up, you get smarter and tough times don’t last always, especially if you’re working as hard as you can to improve your life. I had no idea that I’d be a homeowner by 23 and be walking across the stage to get my Master’s at 27 when I stared down the pregnancy test. Yes, it’s hard being a teen parent but shit, it’s hard being a parent in this country period. No one can do it alone and no one should have to.

Plus, teen pregnancy is more than a matter of “you need to keep your legs closed and pants on your waist.” There’s more to it than just “fast ass girls” and boys who only want to hit it and bounce. There’s a number of factors that make this discussion much more complicated than an ad in the subway can even begin to address. Take a look at the Adverse Childhood Experiences study from the Crittenton Foundation and see what percentage of the young mothers they serve have suffered from alcoholic parents and physical abuse

Teen parents are people too. They are parents. And they deserve that respect. Miss me with that “they should have thought about that before they got pregnant.”  Because what’s the alternative? Are we really saying that we want those statistics to be true?  Do we want to watch teen parents struggle, generation after generation? How is that good for our communities, for those children who didn’t ask to be here?

We miss out on the bigger picture when we paint teen parents are failures before they’ve had a chance to prove themselves. If you’re a teen parent reading this, please know that *I* believe in you.



Preventing teen pregnancy with your iPhone

One of my new passions is teen pregnancy prevention and teen parenting. I love helping teen parents figure out a game plan for their life, reaching goals they thought they would never reach.

But I also think that a lot of the teens who are “at-risk” (I hate that term) for getting pregnant are the ones who do so for the wrong reasons. So if I can help those girls (and guys) figure out a way to avoid what is most certainly an 18 years to life sentence, all the better.

When I saw this little tidbit from the LilSugar blog, about a new iPhone app called “Crying Baby,” it made me stop and wonder what the heck is this trying to accomplish? Read more:

The Candie’s Foundation is introducing a free 30-second “Crying Baby” iPhone app featuring a crying baby that cannot be turned off. The app, ending with taglines such as “Now imagine this in the middle of the night,” is aimed at educating teens that a baby is a lifelong commitment. They are issuing a call to action on May 5 to download the app and are aiming to get 100,000 teens to download “Crying Baby.”

Really. An iPhone app is going to prevent teenage pregnancy? Okay, if you say so.

What really makes me upset, though, is this ad:

“I never thought I would be a statistic”? UGH!!!!! Girl, no. Just.stop. Do not pass Go. Go straight to Alaska and stay there and don’t come out until you learn the difference between effective and ineffective teenage pregnancy prevention campaigns, okay? Don’t lend your name to this foolishness.

I have no problem with Bristol being outspoken about abstinence. But this is pushing my buttons. Calling yourself a statistic? Girl, ANYONE can be a statistic about anything.

Heck, I bought a house – now I’m a statistic. I belong to the group of people who own homes in the US.

I have a college degree – STATISTIC! I have an IUD – STATISTIC!  

Not wanting to be a teen parent shouldn’t be about statistics. Being a “statistic” implies shame and wrongdoing and a hopelessness about your situation. This is not right. I don’t want to encourage teens to be pregnant, but at the same time, teen pregnancy will always be an issue. I firmly believe that.

So how do we help the girls who are already parents? Do we shame them and hold them up as examples of what NOT to do? Which is basically what happens all over. Look at the ad above.

What could be effective? The new iPhone app is basically just the 2010 version of the high schoolers carrying around eggs as their “babies” – was that effective?

Also, my other gripe – where are the ads and nationwide campaigns aimed squarely at teen boys? What are we doing so that they think twice before they impregnate someone? How can we stress to the guys that sex is not to be taken lightly, that every time you lay down with someone, a baby could (and probably will) result?

For all the teen moms who read the blog (and even those who aren’t), is there anything that would have made you think twice about having sex?

#FeminismIsForTeenMomsToo: When Do We Stop Treating Pregnancy Like A Punishment?

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It’s the reason I hid my first pregnancy, scrambling to find loose shirts to camuflage what could have been one of the happiest times of my life. But I didn’t feel happy. I wasn’t in awe of what my body could do. Instead I was ashamed and fearful, and I carried that well into my daughter’s first year. I only have a handful of pregnancy photos from my first pregnancy, because most of my time was spent in the mirror playing “I guess this hides my bump” before I left the house each morning.

When you heap shame onto a pregnant woman, you’re doing more than just projecting your own issues. You’re creating an atmosphere where failure is the norm. It’s expected. But it’s not okay to lull people into thinking that statistics are absolutes. They’re not.

I was largely silent during the #FeminismIsForTeenMomsToo Twitter discussion (started by @NatashaVianna) yesterday because I was not, in fact, a teen mother. A 20-year-old with a baby face almost qualifies by the way people treat you, but to truly walk in the shoes of a woman who was pregnant at 15? I can not do that.

So instead I was silent. It wasn’t until the hashtag took over my Twitter stream that I realized that a good 70% of the women I adore and admire are in fact teen mothers. I made a conscious decision to only surround myself with people who can lift me higher and this is the crew I found myself in. They are amazing people, not the exception to the rule, but the new blueprint for what early motherhood can look like if people just stop finger-pointing and blaming and instead focus on treating young parents with respect. Can I get an Amen? 

Because in 2013, we’re still having conversations like this….




See the continuing conversation here on Twitter and add your voice.