I live in a small town that many teenagers don't hesitate to call "boring" and "lame". I actually only moved here ten months ago, but I was quick to realize as my social life gradually grew that a huge protion of the young people here have a child or at least been pregnant all before the age of 18. The shocking part was, when I did a little bit of "snooping" on several of my friends "pregnancy cases" most of them had gotten pregnant on purpose!
I have an 18-year-old friend Tabby, who is the mommy of a fast-growing 2-year-old girl. She has another friend, Kayla, who is only 19-years-old who is the mommy of a 4-year-old, a 6-month-old and is already three months pregnant again. They also know a 17-year-old named Heather who has a 3-year-old daughter and a 5-month-old son. I have another friend, Samantha, who just had a baby last week and just turned 17-years-old the week before. My 20-year-old friend, Lisa, is also 8-months pregnant. What do all of these friends have in common? Not just the fact that they are high-school drop-outs and aren't married, but that they all got pregnant on purpose. A lot to take in, huh?
I couldn't understand any of this. I was raised in a family who taught to "save sex for marriage" and had relatives who would educate me on safe sex. I read Seventeen magazine since the age of 13, who were always printing atricles in the Health Section on how to use protection and ways to say no to sex. When my sister got pregnant at the age of 19 to a beautiful daughter (she married the month before she gave birth) it started such an uproar in my family. Then when I move out to an collage in a small city only 45 minutes away, I was surrounded by so many young mommies. I remember reading a story in one issue of Seventeen magazine about how the pregnancy rate was high in this one high school, but the number of teenage parents in that "story" didn't even come close to how many of the young parents I've met in the ten months of living in this city.
As a college buddy of mine told me, it also seems impossible to find a date who isn't a daddy. She was saying she wanted to stay away from "anyone with a baby mama", but then added jokingly that that cut off 9/10ths of the single guys in the city. I realized that this joke is, in fact, very true. I'm constantly being blown away with surprise by how one date after another shyly shows me pictures of his beautiful 4-year-old child on his cell phone or how I accidently discover her on his MySpace. I even had one guy who, on the third date with, blurted out: "Yeah, I'm dealing with a lot of drama right now. My ex is six weeks pregnant with my kid."
So why are so many young adults getting pregnant, esepcially on purpose? Is it the lack of sex education in schools? Broken families and homes? Sex-driven media that they grew up on? Actually, the #1 reason is neither of the answers above.
As a harmless conversation with my dear friend Tabby and her friend Kayla, while she is baby-sitting her daughter in a small, messy room she rents out, she told me: "In this town, you have to fight for your man. If you have a baby with him, he is forever yours. At least, he is suppose to be. Even if he goes off and dates another girl, he would eventually always have to come back to you."
Kayla replied with a roll to her eyes: "I'm on my third dude, remember. My first one is locked up for robbing a liquor store and my other dude cheated on me with some trashy ho. Now this dude is claiming the baby ain't his."
"So why did you get pregnant with him?" I asked her.
"I didn't graduate from high school and no way am I able to now. I don't have a job and I've never had one. When you get pregnant by a guy, he is suppose to take care of you and the baby. He is suppose to support you. I can't do anything all by myself."
I realized that, when my friends are at their most honest selves, they are willing to admit they get pregnant on purpose in thinking that that is what they have to do to live their life and to get by. Lack of education? True. Not so much intelligence? Obviously. But the real reason why their getting pregnant on purpose is how they were raised thinking about life, men, and marriage. These girls are raised to be as dependable on men as much as possible, not in how to take care of themselves and to support themsevles.
The #1 reason I realized about Tabby, Kayla and several of other my friends is that it's independence they lack the most of. They think that they have to depend on a man to be happy. It's their #1 goal once they enter the dating life. Ss they grow into a long-term relationship, they think they need to do whatever it takes to keep him in their lives and make sure he takes care of them. They think that being with a man is a key to their happiness, so why not start a family with him as soon as possible? After all, if you have his baby he has to support the both of you, take care of the both of you and he is always be in your lives, won't he? Of course, they don't realize that that is not to way to go. These girls feel insurcure about themselves and love the idea of having a man to forever take care of them. It is also known as "trapping guys" into staying in a relationship with you, which even though none of my friends have come down to admitting it's quiet obvious what they do in hoping for their "Happily Ever After".
When you take a peak at their family life, it's not surprising to see that their parents had them at a young age. Even if their parents weren't that young, had them outside of marriage and never had much of a sucessful marriage. With no father figure and usually a promiscious mother it's not surprising to see them fallowing in the exact same footsteps. None of my friends seem to have any strong parental role model in their lives.
As for a fourteen-year-old who said she had already gotten two abortions and was strongly thinking about keeping the baby the next time she got pregnant, she told me with lots of hesitation and shyness: "My mom never cares about how late I stay out, who my friends are or what I do. She never asks questions or seems to care about anything. At first I thought that was cool, then I met another girl my age in school who has parents who do put restrictions on her. She never gets in trouble with the school or with the police (for shoplifting, dating guys far to old, underage drinking, etc.) and she is still a virgin. Being a virgin at my age is, like, non-exsistent in my school. She just moved here last year, by the way."
I asked her why she has sex still and she replied: "I like the feeling of a guy loving me and caring for me. My boyfriend is seventeen-years-old and his birthday is in three weeks. He has a car and he takes me places and buys me little things. I'm afraid if I don't have sex with him, he will break up with me for a girl who would. And he doesn't like to wear condoms."
"I was tired of dating one guy after another" my friend, Lisa, told me as she rubbed her very-pregnant belly. "The guys in this city can be very immature. I feel like every boyfriend I've dated cheated on me. I just wanted to stick with one guy, which is why I got pregnant by my last boyfriend. We were engaged once I told him I was pregnant, but a month later he called it off saying that he heard rumors by our friends that the baby could be someone elses, which is complete bull. Once he finds out the baby is his, though, he will come running back to me."
Sadly, these girls have got it backwards. It's well-known that a good 80% of men who become teen daddies don't marry their baby mamas. I know this is true, since I have yet to meet a teen parent who is still with her baby's daddy. He may forever be in her life, after all it is his job to take care of the baby as well, but that doesn't mean it's a "Happily Ever After". With my friends, it's nothing but fighting and drama and chaos when it comes to their baby's daddy.
As an added note, one friend recently told me: "In this city, in the high schools here, getting pregnant isn't a big deal. I've had five abortions all before the age of fifteen, my sister had her 'first' abortion right before she turned twelve and I know several girls who've had dozens of abortions. Nobody makes a big deal out of it. I'm so use to seeing 16-year-old mothers and 12-year-olds having sex on a daily basis. Like I said, in this city it's a normal thing. At least, to us teens it is."
So what do you think of all this? What is your opinon on why so many young women (and only getting younger) are getting pregnant in my city? How do you think it can be put to a stop? I would love to hear from you!