Re: When Children Have Children Article

Mama Logan's picture

I am writing in response to the Article "When Children Have Children"...

I am somewhat offended at the attitude that all teen parents are unfit to properly care for and raise their children. Becoming pregnant while you are still living at home, when your focus should be on school and starting your life, is not an ideal situation. But most pregnancies come unexpectedly. Some after trying for years, and some when you were being very careful not to become pregnant. None of us are ever truly prepared for it.

My mother was 15 and found herself pregnant with twins. She and my father chose not to get married until they were sure they were doing it for the right reasons (namely NOT "for the sake of the children") and so I was several months old when they did marry. They are still happily married 24 years later with all 3 of their children out of the house, and my both my mother and my father were amazing parents, albeit a bit strict and overprotective.

I found myself pregnant at 17 despite using condoms, spermicides, films, foams and the birth-control pill. It is not as simple as making sure everyone goes through a sex-ed course and uses prophylactics. Sometimes fate has other ideas. While unlike many teen parents I had already graduated high school and was in my sophomore year of college at 17, it was still something I was unprepared for. I think when the time comes no-one is ever truly ready for the anxieties and decisions they will face after that little strip turns pink.

The article begins with this statement:
"Babies born in the U.S. to teenage mothers are at risk for long-term problems in many major areas of life, including school failure, poverty, and physical or mental illness. The teenage mothers themselves are also at risk for these problems."

-- But isn't that true of children born to parents of any age? It makes just as much sense to say that "children born to white people will live a pampered existence" or "children born to African-Americans will become criminals". I concede that the term used was "are at risk for" but we are ALL at risk for these problems. Being in your early 30s in a stable marriage to a Doctor, living in a little house in rural-suburbia will still not make your child any less "at risk" for having physical or mental-illness, falling into poverty, or failing at school.

It continues:
"Teenage pregnancy is usually a crisis for the pregnant girl and her family. Common reactions include anger, guilt, and denial. If the father is young and involved, similar reactions can occur in his family."

-- This is true, most teenage pregnancies are regarded as a crisis, but so too is any unplanned pregnancy that comes at a time when the mother and/or father are not emotionally, financially, or physically prepared. When I became pregnant at 17, my reaction was one of crisis. I had gone through every precaution to avoid becoming a mother. I had plans and goals and desires of my own, and the moment that test came back positive I was no longer a young woman seeking to carve out a picturesque existence. I was now a mom. I was terrified, but not because of my age. I didn't know if I would be a good mother. I didn't know if I wanted to marry my child's father despite how both of our families pushed for it (he was 23). There were a great many things going on in my mind but not ONE of them was "do I even want this child?". Before that strip turned pink I didn't want children. At least not for another 5years or more. But I changed forever in that moment, I became a mother.

It gets better:
"Adolescents who become pregnant may not seek proper medical care during their pregnancy, leading to an increased risk for medical complications. Pregnant teenagers require special understanding, medical care, and education -- particularly about nutrition, infections, substance abuse, and complications of pregnancy. They also need to learn that using tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs, can damage the developing fetus. All pregnant teenagers should have medical care beginning early in their pregnancy."

-- Anyone who becomes pregnant regardless of age, race or any other denominating factor, may not seek proper medical care. Pregnant teenagers do in fact require additional nutrition, because their bodies are not yet stable in adulthood. The extra strain put in their bodies can be quite harmful, which in turn may be harmful to their unborn child. The same can be said of mothers over 35, as their bodies prepare for pre-menopause, they need better nutrition to provide for both their unborn child and for themselves. Pregnancy during puberty is extremely physically demanding, and the increased hormones can do a lot of damage. To the remarks about substance abuse, for a professional article that was not worded very tactfully. "they also need to learn..." Is it just me or did that statement sound very patronizing? Not every teenager smokes or uses illegal substances. For that matter the majority of habitual drug-users, smokers and alcoholics in the U.S. are over the age of 21. Addressing drug-use as a teen-only epidemic is ignorant and for lack of a better terminology it is "age-ist", just like the rest of this article and far too many others that I have read on the topic. "All pregnant teenagers should have medical care beginning early in their pregnancies". This is very true. ALL pregnant women should have adequate medical care particularly during the first and last trimesters. This is unfortunately not always the case, whether by choice or lack of options in your area.

the article states that Pregnant teens can have many different emotional reactions:

* Some may not want their babies
* Some may want them for idealized and unrealistic ways
* Others may view the creation of a child as an achievement and not recognize the serious responsibilities
* Some may keep a child to please another family member
* Some may want a baby to have someone to love, but not recognize the amount of care the baby needs
* Many do not anticipate that their adorable baby can also be demanding and sometimes irritating
* Some become overwhelmed by guilt, anxiety, and fears about the future
* Depression is also common among pregnant teens

"There may be times when the pregnant teenager's emotional reactions and mental state will require referral to a qualified mental health professional."

-- Regarding this, I'd like to repeat my popular reply: The same is true of parents of any age, race, socioeconomic status or other denominating factors. There is almost always a sense of apprehension, fear, excitement and unrealistic expectations. Not all pregnancies are wanted or come at the right time for the individuals involved. This is unfortunate, but a reality. Some mothers, and fathers, may simply not want their baby. (In these events it is my strong belief that the child should be put up for adoption). Some parents want the child for idealized reasons, at times a woman will want a child to reassure her that her partner will stay with her (men do this as well). Some people feel that having a baby will fix their relationship problems, and fail to realize that they will just add more. Some adults I know have kept children that they did not want in order to please family members or partners. Many people want children for the wrong reasons, and most don't realize how taxing the life of a parent can be. Depression and fears however are quite common for anyone who becomes pregnant, whether unexpected or planned. But I urge anyone who thinks they need psychiatric help to seek it. Particularly during the delicate time of pregnancy.

"Babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse because their young mothers are uncertain about their roles and may be frustrated by the constant demands of caretaking"

-- THIS is what really hit my hot-button. I don't even know how to respond to that except to say that I am extremely offended and as a teen mother myself, who had a teen mother, I am appalled at the generalizing, stereotyping and patronizing tone of this article. Child abuse and neglect are very serious issues, but the dangers are in fact higher in cases of women who are living with an abuser or grew up in abusive homes. There is NO evidence supporting any kind of statistically blind accusatory statement like this. Again the words were "at risk", but in this case semantics are not self-redeeming.

Let me just stand up for a moment in defense and support of all of the teen-parents who have made those hard choices. Whether it was raising your child yourself or giving them up for adoption, both are difficult decisions. Abortion was mentioned in the article in a more clinical sense, but I won't push about that. But I personally find very few instances where it is acceptable. For me, there was no choice. And now I look over at my children, ages 5, 4 and 3, and I look down at my twins barely making a bump under my shirt, and I wouldn't change it for the world. All of the fear, all of the joy, all of the emotional turmoil that comes with motherhood, I look back and even though it deviated from my plans, I am thankful.