I remember when I found out I was pregnant with my first child. I was seventeen years old….
As I started to write this post, I searched for a picture to go along with the blog entry and briefly my thoughts went to a picture of me at my senior picnic during my last year of high school. The picture captures myself along with high school classmates smiling with glee for the camera. The senior picnic was part of our week-long celebration preceding our big graduation day. I remember the photo so vividly because even though I wore a smile on my face that day, many of my classmates didn’t know the inner turmoil that raged inside of me. Many of them were planning to go away to college or to travel and have as much fun as possible now that they were finished with high school. I on the other hand was trying to make myself believe that the little one I was carrying in my womb would not keep me from achieving all the things I had planned pre-pregnancy. Before I could settle on posting the picture from senior picnic with my tiny baby bump, my mind then went to my prom picture. I remember getting many compliments about my prom picture and most of those compliments came from people who didn’t know that at senior prom I was two months pregnant. I remember eating strawberries that night at prom…thats it..strawberries. I had been so sick proceeding the positive result of the pregnancy test that I couldn’t hold much on my stomach. I remember smiling and having a good time with friends, knowing that what I was about to face was much more than I could handle and honestly I wished my senior year could go on forever; this way I could skip the pregnancy part and enjoy another year of being a kid.
Unfortunately that is not how the story goes and by the winter of that same year I had given birth to my son. I could go into the details of how much of a struggle it was for me to raise a child when I was yet a child myself. I could discuss how tumultuous my life was for the first few years of my son’s life, but this blog entry is more about the “how” instead of the “poor me.” The how of course is how did I get pregnant. I know as you read that you probably said “Duh, we all know how a child is conceived,” but so many times I hear people spewing venomous lectures at teenage girls for getting pregnant yet no one takes the time to dissect why they got pregnant. For many people the why and how is no longer important. Now that there is a pregnancy, now it is time to talk about what needs to be done. But wait, don’t you want to know how I let this happen?
When I first found out I was pregnant, I felt like a ton of bricks had been literally dropped down on me. After the pain of the bricks came the numbness of failure. I remember standing in the doctor’s office with my mother who had taken me in to see the doctor because she had a feeling I was pregnant after I had thrown up several times over the weekend. Normally that would have been assumed as a stomach bug but there must have been something my mother “felt” that led her to the pregnancy prediction because early Monday morning we were at the doctor’s office and within an hour the doctor returned with a positive result for my pregnancy test. When he said “Yes mom, she is pregnant,” my mother almost crumpled to the floor. Her eyes got teary and she made a sound that sounded like it was supposed to form a yell but came out more like a yelp. Sadness was written all over her face and I couldn’t concentrate on my own disappointment because my mother’s disappointment and sadness crowded the room. The doctor comforted her as I stood near the table looking lost and afraid. I will always remember that day in my life because it was the first time I had ever seen my mother crumple. It was the first time I had ever been so at a lost for words that I wished I could just vanish into thin air. It was the beginning of my adult life and I was only seventeen years old.
So how did I get pregnant? How did an honor roll student, which goals to attend college and own her own business end up knocked up her senior year of high school? It is simple, I was immature and irresponsible; very irresponsible. I had been doing all of the things I shouldn’t be doing and lying the whole time about it. All of the sneaking and lying was now out in the open. I won’t tip toe around words, I didnt’ t use condoms. Taking the precautions to not get pregnant was not a major part of my agenda and honestly even though I knew the risk of unprotected sex, I didn’t take heed to them. They may as well have been yesterday’s news because they went in one ear and out the other. I was in a serious, committed relationship, I was having sex and I was being a damn fool. Simply said I was what many young girls are today lost and irresponsible, and yes many of them too are damn fools.
I hate to sound so harsh, but we didn’t get pregnant by mistake. Anytime you make the conscious decision to have sex with no protection/birth control you are not making a mistake you are making a baby. People need to wake up and realize that you can give teenage girls and boys all of the sex education classes you want, but at the end of the day how many of them are going to practice safe sex each and every time they have sex? Hell how many adults are practicing safe sex each and every time they have sex. And for those that say what about abstinence, let’s just be real, with the number of teen pregnancies in the United States it is quite obvious that most teens are not abstaining from sex. If anything they are having more sex and more of it unprotected.
As I read this story today, straight from my hometown, about a high school here where ninety girls at the school are pregnant or have given birth this school year, I took a minute to digest the information. 90 girls at one school pregnant or have given birth this school year and this is just January…wow! This is shocking news, even to me, but it shouldn’t be because each and every day I see tons of pregnant teenage girls. I see them wobbling down the halls of the clinic waiting to be seen by the doctor. I see them walking slowing with their bellies poking out, some with other babies in tow. I see them with too little tops on laughing with friends who also have protruding bellies.
Teen pregnancy has become an epidemic. I hear people say that parents need to talk to their children earlier about sex and safe sex and that schools need to offer sex education classes earlier, but guess what? Most of these teenage girls who come up pregnant know about birth control, condoms and other forms of protection. If asked they could rattle off to you from the top of their heads all of the different forms of birth control that is available to them that unfortunately they have chosen not to use.
I know for many of you, it is hard to believe, or you would rather believe that these girls are just so uneducated about sex and misinformed about the outcomes of unprotected sex that they slip up and get knocked up all because they didn’t know any better. I’m not buying it, you want to know why, because I can speak from personal experience and say that I knew exactly what condoms were, how to use them and how to get a hold of them if I cared to do so. I knew the various forms of birth control and yes I knew that the withdrawal method was not considered an effective form of contraception; but do you think that stopped me from using it as my main form of birth control? No it didn’t. And do you honestly believe that the one in three girls in the U.S. who are estimated to get pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20 don’t know about birth control? I would say that the majority of them do know about birth control, and I would even go as far as to say that they have even been offered it by their parent/s and many of them lied and said they were not having sex. I was one of those teens who lied. I was in no way going to incriminate myself by telling my mother that yes I needed birth control. If I admitted that I needed birth control then that meant I was having sex and if I was having sex that mean I was doing what she had forbidden me to do, which meant my freedom would then be decreased because now she would keep an even tighter rein on me because she knew I was having the sex that she had warned me not to have…the same sex that I thought I was enjoying…
Other times girls are getting pregnant because they think it is cute. Don’t believe me, look at how so many of them are prancing around proclaiming to the world that they are pregnant. Backpack in tow, they smile from ear to ear and say that they are pregnant with such a such’s baby and that they are in loooove. Yes, the big “L” word. Sadly, when it strikes, the condoms get scarce and the sex gets to be more often. So many young girls think that the sudden burst of happiness they feel when they see their boyfriends is love and they think that sex is an acceptable way to show that love. They could care less that this boy won’t give a damn about them six months from now, they are living in the “right now” and right now they are in love and with love comes sex…doesn’t it?
Of course it does! Isn’t that what almost every show on television and the majority of the songs on the radio are telling them? These programs are saying sex now, then and later and it is a-ok to have sex because everybody does it and that is just how it goes. Teenagers cannot turn on the television without seeing and hearing sex. It is hard not to hear songs about sex, sexing and sexcapades. Sex is everywhere and for those teenagers who want to abstain the media will try to force sex down their throat and make them feel as if something is wrong with them if they are not having sex, after all sex is popular and who doesn’t want to be popular?
I do agree with the organizations that say that sex education classes need to start before middle school for students. However I do not feel that having these classes earlier in the schools will tremendously decrease the amount of teen pregnancies that we are seeing. In order to see a large drop in those numbers teens are going to have to do something that many of them have so far refused to do and that is be responsible. You can provide them with the information all you want, but the brochure you hand them or the demonstration done in the classroom will not magically place a condom on a penis or drop a birth control pill into her mouth daily.
Sex education needs to deal with the facts. Teenagers need to know just how many of them are having babies and just how many of them have sexually transmitted diseases. They need to know the proper way to use birth control and they need to know that it has to be used properly each and every time. Teenagers need to learn how to deal with their emotions because too many of them are lusting for love and they have grown to believe that love automatically involves sex.
We should not be so naive as to believe that our teens do not know what birth control is. We should not dare pretend that teenagers don’t know how or where to get condoms. We definitely should not fool ourselves into thinking that they don’t know the changes that an unplanned pregnancy can bring, after all many of their friends have babies so they know what having a baby is like.
Let’s be realistic and teach our children about sex. Parents be open to discussing sex with your children because if you don’t they will have it anyway and you will be the only one in the dark about who they are having it with. Sex education classes should include more than books and demonstrations. Bring in speakers who have AIDS or HIV to talk to the children. Let them hear firsthand from someone who made the mistake of taking unprotected sex lightly and ended up with a deadly disease. Bring in single mothers who can tell these young people face to face how hard it is to raise a child when you have nothing. Hell, bring me in, I will talk to them about running in the rain to catch buses while pushing a stroller and dodging puddles at the same time. I will tell them how your social life can be nonexistent and you can work Monday thru Friday only to receive a paycheck that is laughable. I will also tell them that there is no need to rush to have sex, yes it seems that everyone is doing it but guess what, you aren’t everyone else.
These children need goals. They need plans for their lives before high school. These plans need to be detailed and laid out and teachers, parents and the community need to help these children make their plans become reality. They need activities to keep them busy and organizations to be a part of. They need a village that cares enough about them to frown upon sex before marriage and let them know that it is not their only option. We as the village need to show these children that what they see on television is just that; television. It is entertainment and they cannot base their lives upon what looks good on television. It is made to entertain you and not shape your decisions and direct your path in life.
We as the village need to help turn this around starting with ourselves because so many of us are still lost in the world of loveless lust that portrays to our young people that sex is the best thing smokin’ and that without sex there is no existence…
More from Black Girl Thinking on Teen Pregnancy
- Teen Pregnancy Rates Rise Again (brighthub.com)
- If The “16 & Pregnant” Girls Are Glamorizing Teen Pregnancy, They’re Doing A Crap Job (thefrisky.com)
- Letter: The key to reducing teen pregnancy (commercialappeal.com)