While teen pregnancy rates are declining, teenagers still get pregnant. Just two weeks ago I sat in an OB/GYN office across from a pregnant high school girl. I couldn’t help but hurt for her while I thought back to my own struggles.
I became a teen mom just three days after my sixteenth birthday. As my son nears his thirteenth birthday and I am raising a 15-year-old bonus daughter, my thoughts reflect back to my own teenage years. While I was very blessed to have the help and support of my family then and now, my life changed forever at a very young age.
When I was fifteen years old I decided to keep my baby. Looking back I sometimes wonder how he would have turned out if I chose adoption instead. I was essentially a child raising a child, and I feel like I have failed him at times. We grew up together, and like most people I learned a lot in my twenties … and made a lot of mistakes. If he had two responsible adult parents from the beginning, how different would his life be?
As a result of my experience, one day I would like to be an advocate for teen moms. I want to spread my message to raise awareness for teenage girls to wait or to at least use proper methods to protect themselves from pregnancy. So here’s my first step towards that goal…
An Open Letter To Teenage Girls
Dear Teenage Girls,
Teenage boys who want to have unprotected sex only care about their own selfish wants and desires. They are not looking out for you or your future.
A 15-18 year old young man or woman is not financially able to take care of a baby. Many teenagers who become pregnant have to be on welfare. While I 100% support the help of the government and used it as a young parent, I do not want that life for my children. I’m sure your parents do not want that kind of life for you either. In my area, a decent daycare costs $150-200 weekly for an infant. Baby formula costs around $100 a month. Diapers are estimated at around $30-45 a month. This doesn’t include clothes, housing, or the many other items an infant (or you) needs to live. As a teenager do you want to be financially responsible for a baby? That is why I encourage you to wait to have sex or use protection. Talk to your parents or a responsible adult who you trust if you plan on having sex. Condoms alone are not 100% effective.
When you’re a teen mom you miss out on the authentic teenage experience. I’ll always wonder what it would be like to get ready and go to a prom or graduate high school. Thankfully I did get my GED and graduated from a community college with an Associate Degree. However, I did not graduate high school. Attending school, having a child, and a job are all very difficult to juggle alone. I had a lot of help from my mom, but maybe your mom has a job herself and can’t help you. Raising your child is not your mom’s responsibility – it is yours.
Then there is the extreme guilt you feel leaving your baby with family or a sitter while you attend school and your job. Most adults who have children work 40 hours a week and get to come home to their babies. You would have to attend school for 35 hours a week plus work enough hours to provide for your baby and yourself. That is a lot of time away from your baby.
Being a single parent is hard. I know you would like to think that your high school sweetheart will marry you and you will live happily ever after as a family, but nine times out of ten that is not the case. In fact, many teenage boys who get girls pregnant never have anything to do with their baby.
Depending on the laws where you live and you and your partner’s age, one of you could be charged with statutory rape – even if you are 15 and your partner is 17. In certain states, 15-year-olds are not old enough to consent to sex. According to research from the University of Rochester, the part of the human brain responsible for our rational thinking is not developed until you are around the age of 25. I used to think I knew everything, as most teenagers do, and I really was doing the best I could with my son. But now as I am in my very late 20s I realize I made some pretty stupid and very irrational decisions in my teens and early 20s.
Please know you are worthy of the whole teenage experience. You are worthy of graduating high school and going to college. And you are worthy of graduating college. These are the years you SHOULD be selfish. I want you to put YOUR educational wants and dreams first. There is no problem with being attracted to and liking boys, but please wait to have sex or at least use two forms of protection. Talk to your mom or another responsible adult who you trust, and be open about your relationships so that you can be protected against teenage pregnancy.
Some local resources if you need help are:
A former teenage mom