Teen Parenting, Against the Odds


After hearing the news of Bristol Palin’s pregnancy, I
looked at pictures of her posted on various websites and blogs. I was attempting
to relate by studying her face for signs of desperation, fear and shame. We
are two very different women linked by becoming pregnant at a young age, but this
is where our similarities end.

I became pregnant near the beginning of my senior year at an
alternative high school for the arts. Without thinking about it, the first
thing I did after seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test was call Planned
Parenthood. When asked if I wanted to schedule an abortion I froze on the spot.
I said I wasn’t sure and was told they could only help me if that’s what I
wanted. I apologized and hung up.

A month later I made an appointment for my boyfriend and me
to see a pregnancy and parenting counselor through Catholic Community Services.
We were told that abortion could not be discussed but encouraged to read thick
packets of information about adoption.

In the two and a half years since becoming pregnant I have
discovered resources which provide inclusive options counseling. But at the
time, I was far too frazzled from perpetual morning sickness as well as
emotional turmoil to continue to search out resources. I was lucky enough to
have an amazing school guidance counselor who was very encouraging and
supportive. But readily available options counseling in schools, offered as a
part the comprehensive sex education badly needed in this country, would have been
extremely beneficial to me.

Ultimately I made the decision to drop out of school just
months before graduation. Attempting to keep up with school and working as the
manager of an independent concessions vendor became too overwhelming and
frustrating. Shortly after I left school the company I worked for went under.

I spent the majority of my last trimester isolated inside of
my apartment. Why? I was embarrassed by my pregnant condition and I didn’t want
to see the reactions of some people I knew finding out about it. Also contributing
to my increasing isolation was developing pre-eclampsia that put me on bed rest.
By far the most challenging part of being pregnant at 18 was receiving heaping
piles of judgment – from family members, friends, acquaintances and teachers
but even more so from absolute strangers. I was hyper aware of people staring
at my empty ring finger and my pregnant belly. I was verbally rebuked when I
had the audacity to go grocery shopping while being unmarried, young, pregnant
and later with my newborn in tow.

No matter your age, raising children is difficult. It can be
so much harder to reach out for help and support as a young parent because
you’re already wading through dealing with harsh judgment as it is. As a result
of this I have put far too much time and energy since my son was born two years
ago into portraying everything as going so wonderfully in my life when frankly,
sometimes it just isn’t. Guilt from this resulted in spending a lot of time
searching out facts, studies and blogs stating disadvantages for children
raised by young parents. Throughout this time I started creating game plans on
how I would beat these odds and all of the strategies I would use to give my
son the most fulfilling and happy childhood possible.

A bill like Reducing
the Need for Abortion and Supporting Parents Act
could have helped me
out.  The bill provides funds for teen
pregnancy prevention programming but also excludes pregnancy as a pre-existing
condition for insurance, increases funding for health care for low-income women
with children, provides no-cost visits from nurses to teens and women who have
given birth for the first time, expands a tax credit for adoption and funds
child care services for parents in college – all measures that would have made
it easier for me to parent once I decided to do so.  The bill was introduced in Congress in June
of 2007, and has been referred to the Subcommittee on Healthy Families and
Communities.

I am now pursuing an education and working part time
in retail. This year I will be working on getting my Para-educators certification to teach Head Start kindergarten and will go on to earn
a degree to teach elementary school, while working in a Head Start program. I am
starting with one online class this quarter and hope to be in the classroom
this winter. My partner and I are sharing the childcare responsibility for now
as we are working separate shifts. This isn’t an easy or permanent situation. Once
I am in school full time my son will start going to daycare, a move which I think will
benefit him greatly – he wants to interact with other children.

This has been a topic difficult for me to write about as I
feel so emotional about it. I believe it is past time for our
country to begin establishing programs and policies that benefit all people – young
parents and women in need of reproductive healthcare and education included. Furthermore:
we should be passing on the respect Bristol Palin is receiving from those who previously
were so opposed to sex and pregnancy before marriage to average, non-celebrity
young women.

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  • invalid-0

    Years ago I was a volunteer ‘pregnancy options counselor’ at Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia. When we talked to a pregnant woman/teen, we tried to present ALL the options, not just abortion. I hope that is still the case and Alice’s experience of being told they could help only if she wanted an abortion was just a fluke. We tried our best to be non-judgemental and encourage a teen to come into the center so she could talk about options in an atmosphere of relative calm and knowledge. We were trained not to push a teen in any one particular direction since obviously we were not the ones who had to live with the ultimate decision. As Alice has experienced, there is way too much judgement on teenage moms regardless of the choice they make and the choice is rarely an easy one to arrive at. Teens need support not judgement.

  • truth

    is only interested in providing abortions. There really isn’t much help in the way of other resources there. They might refer you to other resources if you ask them but you have to be assertive with them, which is hard for most teenage expectant mothers. Planned Parenthood prides themselves on being "The Authority" for young women so they tend to try to have girls hurry up and make a decision – they don’t want the girl thinking too long because that will make an abortion harder to do. Plus, statistics show the longer the girl waits to make a decision the less likely for an abortion. Planned Parenthood knows this and so they "need" for the pregnant teenager to make a decision quickly. The people who work there (as you can imagine) are downtrodden, unhappy and seem to have clouds of depair hanging over their heads. You can imagine why they do – Planned Parenthood is a Culture of Death. Not many people could be happy in that environment. They are usually pretty rude and will force a teen to "get to the point" – "Do you want an abortion or not?" That’s pretty much the extent of Planned Parenthood’s available services to pregnant women. If you are young and pregnant seek out a Culture of Life.

  • mellankelly1

    Without thinking about it, the first thing I did after seeing the plus sign on the pregnancy test was call Planned Parenthood. When asked if I wanted to schedule an abortion I froze on the spot. I said I wasn’t sure and was told they could only help me if that’s what I wanted. I apologized and hung up.

     and

    A month later I made an appointment for my boyfriend and me to see a pregnancy and parenting counselor through Catholic Community Services. We were told that abortion could not be discussed but encouraged to read thick packets of information about adoption

    I think it’s terrible that you couldn’t get all of your options explained to you from one source.  I know that PP has prenatal clinics for teens in some area’s and information regarding referral for prenatal care is listed on their website so I guess that I assumed that each office would have no problem dealing with any choice a person makes.  I think it is irresponsible not to counsel a woman on all of her options.  When we moved to WNY I became pregnant before I’d even taken the time to find an OB/GYN and went to PP for a pregnancy test.  Thankfully, I had no problem getting a referral from them (they didn’t handle prenatal care) and was very happy with the care that I received from that doctor, she helped with both of my pregnancy and births.  However, I wasn’t an upset and/or scared teen at that time and my pregnancy was very much wanted so I don’t  know how difficult it would be to be unsure and attempting to research options in that state of mind.  I hope teens (and adult women alike) are aware of the many resources available to them, such as The Pregnancy Options Workbook

  • heather-corinna

    Alice: I am so freaking proud of you, per usual.

     

    It’s so great to see your name here, and so wonderful to see you be able to speak your experience bravely and be heard.

     

    You rock my socks, gal.

  • emily-douglas

    Whether or not you have a personal issue with how some Planned Parenthood’s handle options counseling (which I think Alice is brave to bring up), Planned Parenthood offers crucial SRH issues to millions of women each year. If a young woman is faced with an unplanned pregnancy and wants unbiased, nonjudgmental counseling she should be able to get it — of course. Some Senators have attempted to introduce legislation that provide funds for adequate teen pregnancy prevention measures but so-called “anti-choice” legislators block these types of legislation again and again. PP also provides crucial sex ed in communities around the country. But, again, too many anti-choice legislators do not want comprehensive sex ed taught. It is not Planned Parenthood’s fault that we, as a society, have turned our backs on young women who attempt to prevent pregnancies or STIs or young women who are pregnant and need help with unbiased care that allows them information and counseling about ALL of their options.

  • http://feministe.us/blog/ invalid-0

    Also contributing to my increasing isolation was developing pre-eclampsia that put me on bed rest. By far the most challenging part of being pregnant at 18 was receiving heaping piles of judgment – from family members, friends, acquaintances and teachers but even more so from absolute strangers. I was hyper aware of people staring at my empty ring finger and my pregnant belly. I was verbally rebuked when I had the audacity to go grocery shopping while being unmarried, young, pregnant and later with my newborn in tow.

    Ditto. Ditto, ditto, and ditto. Man, do I hear you on this.

    It does get better. I’m almost ten years in on the teen pregnancy experience and still the good and the bad get all rolled up in the same weird burrito and it’s hard to tease out the better experiences from the worse. But it does get better. Keep your head up and keep writing.

  • alice-bacon

    Good to hear that it gets better. I’ve been a parent for 2 years now and I’ve definitely noticed a small difference already in how people react to me/us now, but I think a part of that is just me learning how to let it roll off my back better than I used to.

  • rachel-roth

    Thank you for sharing your story, Alice. It’s so important to hear directly from women about their lives.

     

    Backline is a resource for women and also men who want to talk about pregnancy, parenting, abortion, adoption — basically, any reproductive decision-making. You can call toll-free from anywhere in the U.S. or Canada.

     

    Check Backline out at www.yourbackline.org