Beyond the Statistics: Being a Teen Mom
‘It won’t happen to me’ is a philosophy many girls have when it comes to sex and getting pregnant. Yet, the numbers prove otherwise.
Nearly, eight in ten teen pregnancies in the United Sates are not planned, and are more likely to depend on government assistance for support. Among industrialized nations the United States has the most cases of teen pregnancy. The U.S. is at its lowest level in 30 years declining 36% since its peak in 1990.
At Murrow, there are a few students every year who find themselves in this situation but not many as relative to Murrow’s large population, as noted by Health and Physical Education Department Assistant Principal Dr. John Roberts.
“When a young girl gets pregnant she has four options: abortion, adoption, single parent hood, or marriage, depending on her age,” said health instructor Mrs. Paula Boyd.
Many girls do not find out that they are pregnant until their options are limited.
“Most girls initially are in denial. Luckily [in Murrow] you have an open environment. Most of the girls have someone bring them in,” said Mrs. Boyd. “I never give them an answer. That’s not my job to give them an answer. They ask me for places they can go and I tell them where they can go.”
The Network sat down with three girls to take you beyond the statistics and reveal their experiences of how they faced the shock of learning they were pregnant and their decisions to take on the responsibility of motherhood.
Photos of Dugar as a baby line the walls of her first floor apartment. Kindergarten pictures, baby pictures and family portraits hang proudly on the walls of Dugar’s apartment in Coney Island. Next to her baby pictures are similar ones of another little girl. That little girl is her daughter.
“When she first used to call me ‘ma,’ I was like ‘ma?’…it felt weird, but then I was like ‘Oh yea I’m a mother.’”
Her daughter, now a year old, is the priority in her life as she juggles school, friends and family. While at school, Dugar’s boyfriend and his family or her mother takes care of her daughter. She has support from her family and her child’s father, who is two years older than Dugar.
“Sometimes I feel like I can’t do it,” said Dugar. “It’s hard trying to do my homework and still have her and everything. Going to school and coming home is fine but when you got to do projects and stuff, that’s when it gets hard. I have to take time from homework to take care of her.”
Besides taking time away from school projects Dugar has adjusted to the delicate balance of motherhood and still being a child herself. Her grades have been steady throughout, only missing school occasionally for doctor’s visits and for a period while pregnant.
“It’s not that bad,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m held down. I didn’t think that I would get pregnant because I used protection but it broke.”
Dugar learned of her pregnancy almost four months into her term. She had been getting her period for three months and only became suspicious of her pregnancy when her last and third period only lasted for two days instead of the usual eight.
“I noticed my stomach was getting bigger but I kept getting my period so I was like ‘No, it can’t be.’” Yet, Dugar admits she was partially in denial. “You know when you kind of know but you don’t want it to be true?”
Dugar’s aunt noticed the signs of pregnancy and convinced her to take a home pregnancy test.
“My mother found out because of the test,” she said. “She was crying at first but then she was like ‘You know what, things happen.’ She would rather that I came to her first, but we are closer now.”
Dugar is not letting motherhood hinder her and plans to go to college to study psychology.
Pregnancy completely caught senior LaShanda Green off guard and shocked her family. An only child who had always done well in school and not much experience with boys, getting pregnant was something that was completely unexpected.
It was her first time, and she says she hardly even remembers it. “It happened so fast.” Green and her partner did not use any protection and she was not on birth control.
“It was an accident. I wouldn’t say I was ready.”
For thirty-nine weeks she was in denial. Green did not show any signs of pregnancy and did not get the typical morning sickness or anything of the sort. Green continued her normal routines of playing double-dutch and eating hot wings everyday after school, even recalling frequent visits to Coney Island. She ignored her missed period, hoping it would come eventually.
After becoming sick after her return from a trip to Atlantic City, Green was taken to the hospital. After a full exam, the doctor informed her that she was pregnant only five days before she was expected to have the baby. Green had her daughter two weeks later, on what was supposed to be the first day of her senior year.
Seeing her daughter for the first time was when Green could not deny her situation any longer. “I was shocked, like wow, it’s actually a baby. I don’t even know what came across my mind. I didn’t want to believe it.”
Green is continuing her high school education while raising her daughter with the support of her family. Her grandmother watches her daughter during the day and as soon as Green gets home she takes charge. She has adjusted to the new responsibilities but there is one obstacle she had not yet been able to overcome.
“Being late for school…I’m late every day for A band,” said Green. After staying up and doing homework until two in the morning and waking up at 6:30, Green attempts to leave her house at 7:30 to make it to school at 8:05. But her grandmother inevitably asks her to run to get diapers or fix the baby’s breakfast at the last second.
“It stresses me out a lot,” she said. “The last thing I need is to go to summer school because of bad attendance.”
Before going out with friends or accepting an invitation to the biggest party, senior Stephanie Bamfield has to consider something more important than what outfit she will wear or how she will fix her hair. She must think about who will watch her daughter.
“Parties will always be there,” said Bamfield. “But I have a child to take care of.”
Bamfield’s daughter, now about 6 months, has shifted her priorities socially and educationally.
Bamfield also heeds that she has to be careful who she allows to watch her daughter. “You can’t trust just anyone,” said Bamfield.
With this in mind, she says she chooses carefully which events she goes to and does not hang out as much as she used to.
“If it’s not necessary for me to go then I won’t go. As a mother you have to take care of your own because you shouldn’t have to depend on nobody.”
However, Bamfield does have support if she should ever need it.
“My family helps me out and stuff but when I have projects and homework to do; sometimes it’s hard to manage.”
Bamfield takes care of her daughter as soon as she comes home after her aunt- who watches her during the day-leaves for work. She stays with her all night.
Throughout her experience she has grown into her role and can even recognize what her daughter wants based on her cry.
“It’s different cries. I know the cry for when she’s hungry or when she wants to go to sleep. There are different pitches.”
Bamfield, like many young girls who become pregnant, did not have any symptoms and did not know she was pregnant until she was about three months.
“I was in shock. Until you see your stomach start getting big you don’t think it’s really happening,” said Bamfield.
She did not get her period and was suspicious but hopeful that her period would come eventually. Yet, suspicion still lingered in her mind after the condom her partner used broke. Finally a friend convinced her that she should take a home pregnancy test and that is when she had to make the decision of whether or not she could take on the responsibility of motherhood at seventeen.
For the rest of her term she became extremely sick and had to take time off from school for a month.
“In the beginning you can’t even walk down the street without wanting to throw up,”she said.
Bamfield never regretted her decision to carry her baby full term however and has strong views against abortion. She withstood the judgment of others and tried to ignore the negative comments that were made about her pregnancy.
“I don’t believe in abortion and I feel like I have to take the responsibility. If God really wanted me to have this baby he would prepare me for it. But if I had a choice I would have waited until after I finished school. But I am still going to college.”