Teen parenthood

On Friday, I had my eyes opened. And I cried.

In my work as a photographer, I meet lots of people and go many places. I recently went to a high school that was started in 1970 for pregnant teens. As of yesterday, there were 93 of them enrolled.

I guess the concept of teen pregnancy doesn't really crush me. I don't mean to sound callous, but I've grown up with teen pregnancy my entire life. It's not the best scenario for motherhood, but from my experience, it doesn't have to be the end of the world. My mom was a teen mom. My grandmother was a teen mom. My sister was a teen mom. My niece is a teen mom. There's others in our family too, and there is no commonality between how each of them ended up.

Some worked out well, and others not so well. There are so many variables--the girl's personality, age at pregnancy, support from family members, community support, etc.

I couldn't quit thinking of those teen moms from my family as I walked the halls of this school. After my mom had me, she wasn't allowed to return to school. She had to walk the halls, with her big tummy, maybe feeling ashamed or embarrased.

Here the girls aren't judged or mocked for their pregnancy by other students because everyone around them is also pregnant. They are given tools that they need to finish their education, but also learn skills that they will need immediately like parenting classes, nutrition, etc. There is a full-time nurse there to monitor their pregnancy and answer health questions. In health class, they learn about the changes they may experience. In English, they read texts and literature about pregnancy. There is a quiet room decorated with soft purple comforters,  where they can go and lie down if they are feeling ill. This is great for the girls, and also for the babies they will have.

I know that most of these girls will not likely stay and finish their coursework. That's just the odds. They have the babies and probably plan to return with the best of intentions. But Real Life gets in the way. Lining up daycare. Trying to finish homework while the baby is crying. Finding a place to live if their family kicks them out. Or missing school for too many days because the baby is sick.

That part is sad, knowing that they are already so limited in their education, which limits what and how they can provide for their children. One girl I met is 18 and pregnant with her second child--the first is 15-months old.

What really crushed me though, was visiting the junior high portion of this school. Yes, junior high. A classroom full of 7th & 8th grade students who were pregnant. Their ages ranged from 13-15. Two of the girls said their mothers attended the same school just 14 years before them. The principal said she had been contacted about accepting a 10 year old into the program. My heart sank.

Scott and I talked about this a lot last night at dinner. Here we are trying to bring a baby into our lives and that's the last thing most of these girls were planning on. And then we tried to imagine if one of the young ladies was our child, coming to us with such life-changing news.  What would we say? What would we do? But more importantly, how to parent them to try and prevent ever being in that situation?

I wonder if any of them are choosing adoption. Statistics show that teen moms do not choose this option very often (read here for more on this adoption myth). Sadly, for both the baby and the mothers, I think the answer to that is no.


  1. That's such a difficult situation and topic. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Your post is wonderful. I just found your blog (from the adopt korea forum). We're pretty early in the process still. Thinking of you.

  2. Wow. 10???!!! My goodness. What an incredible experience. Thank you for sharing it.
    (And sorry I fell so far behind - your posts weren't appearing in my reader, so I've got some catching up to do!)

  3. Wow...10 years old...
    My sister knew a girl in the 7th grade who was pregnant by her much-older boyfriend. She had 4 (yes, 4) kids by the time she was 20. All with the same guy, who she had married as soon as she was legally able. And my best friend, a teen mom at 17, has a 9 year old daughter now. And she's terrified because of the insanely high teen pregnancy rate where she lives; it's not uncommon for 13/14 year old girls to get pregnant in her town. While a person can't generalize and say teen moms are all bad, it is sad when you see it seemingly passed down from generation to generation (2 of their moms attended the school 14 years ago? Wow.) I only hope, for the kids' sakes, that these girls can get the help that they need. Too much time is spent criminalizing young moms, and the people who suffer are the children.
    Sorry, I guess I kind of went on a mini-rant. Happy ICLW!

  4. Thanks Christy! So glad you found our blog. The best part about doing this is making connections with other people who are in the same position as us. Looking forward to sharing the progress of our adoptions!

  5. Thanks for catching up Elizabeth. And yes, 10. I didn't even know that was possible! That poor baby must have been scared to death...both of them.


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