The Teen Pregnancy Thing

So, which is the bigger tragedy? That Sarah Palin's oldest daughter (age 17) is knocked up, or that Ms. Palin gives her children names like Track and Trig? My middle sister emailed me yesterday regarding the names - I had been blissfully ignorant until then. I was aware of the pregnancy, however, because well, it's hard to miss. I scan on my lunch break every day. I like to keep up on current events just in case I am ever called to be a contestant on my favorite game show, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me." You just never know.

The answer, of course, is that the names are the true blight on our country. I mean, who does that to their children? A lot of people, I guess. My mom watches "Maury" in order to collect unusual names. She calls me with new name suggestions from time to time, just in case I ever decide to change my daughter's name. "I've got one for you," she'll say. "Sha'Diamond."

Speaking of The Maury Show, though . . . teen pregnancy seems to be the main topic there. In the days before our living room TV stopped broadcasting anything except Noggin, Maury used to come on right before dinner so I would catch random shows from time to time. Random, and yet all the same. On virtually every episode, a young woman sits forlornly and tearfully on the stage, while Maury explains that three boys (sometimes as many as six or seven) will undergo a DNA test to see who is the father of the wee bastard sitting backstage. The woman says that she is "110 percent" sure that so-and-so is the father. So-and-so rants that he is "120 percent" sure that he is not. You have to wonder what kind of math they are teaching in school these days.

When it turns out that the guy in question is not the sperm donor, the young woman runs off stage in tears, as though her very honor has been compromised. Never mind that she has already gone on national television to announce that half a dozen young men gained carnal knowledge of her in a very short span of time (I mean, you can only get pregnant during a few days a month, right?)

What always bugged me about the show is that the word "adoption" was never uttered. Not once, not ever. Even if the hapless parents were only in the eighth grade, it is assumed that there is only one way to deal with this situation: to keep the baby and, in all likelihood, raise the child in poverty. Maury would always ask the alleged father what he would do if the child turns out to be his. "I'm gonna step up," he would say. Half the time, though, the parents aren't even old enough to work legally. That is not to say that there aren't young parents out there that are doing a great job and working hard at it. But sometimes when you read stories like this, you wonder why it has become such a badge of honor for every teen to keep her baby? Of course, my perception is colored by the fact that I cannot have biological children. The point is not lost on me, I can assure you.

But enough about Maury. Getting back to the Palin situation . . . see, I'm not going to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket regardless, because I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat. So, from that perspective, her situation is probably none of my business. Everyone seems to be weighing in on it, though. Some say that she can't possibly uphold the "conservative ideals" that McCain espouses. Others take more of a laissez faire attitude.

It's hard for me to squawk too loudly about teen pregnancy because . . . I was born to a teen mom. My parents met in high school and got married after my mom became pregnant. That's what you did in 1969. If you were pregnant, you got married. People did marry much younger back then. I didn't marry until 27, which is pretty average these days. When my mom got pregnant, there were no nurseries in her high school. No one counseled her not to drop out. Now, the pendulum has swung the other way, and pregnant teens receive lots of support. It's become more acceptable to be a pregnant high schooler, but part of me wonders if a little bit of social disapproval was such a bad thing.

I also have a daughter, of course, and I can't cast too many stones, lest I find myself living in that glass house someday. When my sisters and I were teenagers, our mom didn't say a lot about preventing pregnancy. But she did say this: "Just so you know, I've already raised three children and don't plan to raise any more. So, don't bring a baby home." Would she have been supportive if one of us had become pregnant? I suspect she would have been, but she would not have taken on the role of caregiver. She made that pretty clear, and I don't blame her one bit. I haven't decided what I'll say to my daughter when she becomes a teenager. It's a slippery slope, to be sure. For his part, her father is simply planning to head off any suitors by idly cleaning his Marine Corps sword when they come over.


Jen said…
Ah yes...the 17 year old pregnant teen. The conservative viewpoint is that this makes Sarah Palin "just like the rest of us". But we liberals know two things. 1. "The rest of us" don't usually have teenage daughters who nobly marry the father before the baby's birth, and 2. Guess that abstinence only stuff didn't really hit home. ha ha ha.

Seriously though, I was born to a teen mom too. I think what it did was allow a relationship with my mom that fostered early and honest discussions about sex. I knew that if I ever came home pregnant, my father (who adopted me as a teen) would want me to have an abortion but my mother would (having had the experience) support no matter what decision I made (including adoption or keeping the baby).

We see the world through new eyes when we look at our children. Picturing them as potential teen parents and how we would respond is something we all have to confront as a possiblity.

Adoption and teen parenting has been a part of my life, and I'm absolutely the better for it.

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