Walking to take out the compost the other night, I passed by a young man (16, 17, 0r 18 years old?) lounging on the steps with a gaggle of young 1-2 year old children playing on the grass. The young guy on the steps says to another young man roughly the same age, “Hey man, this your kid?”
“And you got another one on the way?”
“Yeah, heh heh heh.”
“I know how you feel. I’m in the same situation myself.”
Floored me. I know that the local high school around here has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the area. I know that young women and men are having children together all of the time. I guess I was a bit surprised by the nonchalance and underlying machismo with which this conversation happened.
When I worked at Teen Clinic, I met teen parents were often ashamed and embarrassed to be in their situation. I also met teen mothers who were fierce and amazing mamas, hooked into the zine community surrounding teen motherhood and websites like Girl-Mom. This casual acceptance that being a young parent is a typical and expected fact of life surprising to me.
But then, what options are there here? There’s not a Planned Parenthood or family planning clinic for miles and no reliable public transportation system to speak of to even get there. In this deeply conservative Catholic community (we have Italian Catholics, Latino Catholics, and Eastern European Catholics in our city to name a few), there’s often not enough education or opportunity for pregnancy prevention and choice. It makes my activist side rear its ornery head and want to do something to change it all.
I haven’t spoken with any young women here, but I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be struggling to grow up in an atmosphere where the men in your life just take it as a matter of fact that sex leads to babies and that’s that. And again, I can’t imagine being in the extremely difficult situation of being a teen parent. In our American society and culture where teen girls are hyper-sexualized and teen parents are vilified, and resources in this economically depressed area are scarce, I cannot even picture the strength, courage, guts, and wherewithal you must have to be a teen parent.
I want to continue to explore the lives of truly extraordinary teen mothers like Allison Crews who have stood up to the system, taken matters into their own hands, and set out to change the face of teen motherhood and help her inspirational and informative essays find their way into the hands of other teen parents. I want to find ways to be a support and resource for other teen mothers.
Do you know any amazing current or former teen parents?